The Boston Red Sox are nearing a crossroads.
The Major League Baseball trade deadline is Aug. 2, and yet it’s still unclear whether the Red Sox will be buyers, sellers or some combination of both. Boston entered Friday with a .500 record (50-50) and 3 1/2 games back of the third and final wild card spot in the American League.
The Red Sox have been good in spurts, most notably in June, but they’ve also endured their fair share of struggles. Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom therefore needs to make an honest assessment of the roster and the club’s potential (or lack thereof) to seriously push for a playoff berth in 2022.
Nevertheless, we asked several members of the NESN Digital team a simple question: Who should be the Red Sox’s top trade target before the MLB deadline?
Here are the responses, with one player emerging as the clear favorite.
Lauren Campbell: Josh Bell, 1B, Washington Nationals
It’s clear the Red Sox need help at first base, as Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero have struggled offensively and defensively at the corner position. Bell would be a nice fit and provide a boost to the lineup.
Mike Cole: Carlos Rodón, LHP, San Francisco Giants
Rodón has been a bright spot for the Giants with a league-best 2.42 FIP amid relative good health. With a few more innings, he’ll trigger an opt-out, essentially making him a rental. Taking the rest of his $21.5 million off the Giants’ hands could lower the return price. Adding an All-Star like Rodón to the rotation also could trigger a chain of events within the Boston roster that allows the Red Sox to move a starter (Kutter Crawford, for instance) to the bullpen to strengthen that unit.
Ricky Doyle: Ramón Laureano, OF, Oakland Athletics
The Red Sox really need a first baseman. They also could use bullpen help or even a starter. Boston’s search for controllable pitching should be extensive. But Kiké Hernández’s lost season — first struggling and then landing on the injured list — has been understated. The outfield wasn’t exactly on stable footing to begin with, and his absence has only compounded the problem. Laureano would give the Red Sox a true center fielder who’s under contract through 2024, an important stretch of club control given the dearth of outfield prospects in the upper levels of Boston’s system.
Greg Dudek: Josh Bell, 1B, Washington Nationals
Even after trading for help at first base last year, the Red Sox still are in need of assistance at the position. Bell would be a terrific fit, giving Boston’s lineup even more depth once it’s fully healthy. And just maybe he can play a tick better defense than what the Red Sox have received lately at the position.
Adam London: Josh Bell, 1B, Washington Nationals
This admittedly is a boring answer, but Boston’s first base woes have lingered for too long. Bell would be a significant upgrade over the tandem of Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero, and his switch-hitting ability would provide the Red Sox with a bit more lineup flexibility.
Sean McGuire: Josh Bell, 1B, Washington Nationals
Injuries have plagued the rotation and the bullpen, but the Red Sox sorely need help at first base. The Nationals first baseman not only would provide added pop in the lineup in place of the struggling Franchy Cordero and Bobby Dalbec, but he also would give the Red Sox a capable major league contributor on the bag. Boston’s defensive woes have been brutal of late.
Scott Neville: Josh Bell, 1B, Washington Nationals
While Reds starter Luis Castillo would be a great addition, the current roster hasn’t really earned a move of that caliber. And it could impact the Red Sox’s future if Boston wins a bidding war for Castillo. Bell, on the other hand, would be a rental that would improve the team immediately and impactfully.
The switch-hitting slugger should be placed in the lineup right after the combination of Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts, where he can heavily add to his already impressive RBI total. If he jells with the Red Sox as Kyle Schwarber did a season ago, he’d be much easier to re-sign in the offseason.
Jason Ounpraseuth: Joe Jiménez, RHP, Detroit Tigers
The Red Sox need depth in their bullpen. The Tigers’ reported fire sale provides opportunity. And Jiménez would be beneficial in alleviating the stress on Boston’s starters while overall adding more versatility to the Red Sox’s pitching staff.
Keagan Stiefel: Dominic Smith, 1B/LF, New York Mets
The Red Sox are caught in a weird space, sitting around .500 but still in the hunt for a wild card spot. Adding Smith might be the most cost-effective option to upgrade at first base. He’s arbitration eligible for two more years and proved to be a solid hitter before Pete Alonso swooped in and stole his job.
Ben Watanabe: David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
The modest three-year deal Peralta signed in 2020 expires at the end of this season, which makes him exactly the type of moderate-cost, low-risk veteran acquisition Chaim Bloom has shown he’s willing to target (see Kyle Schwarber and Kiké Hernández). He can’t play anywhere but left field and DH, but the Red Sox have shown they’re not really worried about positional fidelity.