The Minnesota Twins will likely take calls from front offices across baseball this week, and it wouldn’t be surprising for a “617” area code to show up on Derek Falvey’s caller ID.
The small-market Twins are having a disappointing season, 16 games below .500 entering play Monday and 17.5 games back in the American League Central. They started selling off pieces just a few days ago by dealing slugger Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Minnesota’s biggest decision might revolve around center fielder Byron Buxton, who is having a fine season even despite cooling off after a torrid start to the campaign. If the two sides can’t find common ground on a contract extension, it would certainly make sense to deal the slick-fielding outfielder.
If you’re a team like the Boston Red Sox, Buxton makes a little bit of sense, although probably less at this point after promoting Jarren Duran.
But what about a starting pitcher Jose Berrios?
The right-handed pitcher, according to reports, is already coming up in trade talks. The Padres and Dodgers have spoken with Minnesota about Berrios, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (with a tip of the cap to MLB Trade Rumors).
Interestingly, Morosi also included the Red Sox among a seven-team group of contenders who have been “active” in the starting pitching market thus far.
You can see where we’re going with this one.
The two-time All-Star has tantalizing talent, and when he’s pitching his best, he’s borderline unhittable. He’s currently 7-5 with a 3.48 ERA while striking out more than a batter per nine innings. His 2.4 walks per nine innings would be just a hair above a career best. His 3.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio would be the best of his career.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are a first-place team albeit one battling like hell with the aforementioned Rays, and the two teams will play 12 more times over the final two months of the season. The Red Sox rotation has outperformed expectations this spring and summer, but they have been remarkably healthy. That seems unlikely to last.
Boston is expected to get Chris Sale back in the rotation soon. Adding Berrios to the top of a pitching staff with Sale and Nathan Eovaldi would instantly put the Sox at or near the top of World Series contenders. And if Sale stumbled in his return from Tommy John surgery a la Noah Syndergaard, Berrios would serve as one tremendous insurance plan.
The question, though, is obvious: At what price?
The Athletic reported earlier this month the Twins were asking for a pre-arbitration player and two top-100 prospects for Berrios. That’s a hefty asking price, but Berrios is cost-controlled. He won’t hit free agency until after the 2022 season, so you’re getting him for the stretch run and next year — at least. Is that enough of a return to part with that sort of bounty?
For what it’s worth, the Red Sox landed three prospects on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list: Triston Casas, Duran and Marcelo Mayer. They’re not trading Mayer, and both Casas and Duran feel like franchise cornerstones as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom continues his rebuild on the fly. As would any arbitration-eligible player already on the roster.
So unless the price were to come down, it feels like the Red Sox would and probably should sit this one out. Unless they’re confident in their chances to win a World Series this year, Bloom can probably find more creative ways to reinforce potential needs without having to mortgage the future.
If Minnesota did slash the price before Friday’s deadline, though, that would be a different story.