As Red Sox bullpen stabilises, outfield looms as MLB trading deadline is needed

Tomase: Outfield remains a Red Sox need; here are five possible fits originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox’s trade deadline needs seemed clear for months: bullpen, bullpen and bullpen† But what if that is no longer the case?

Of Chris Sale‘s return is imminent and Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Whitlock expected from the injured list, the Red Sox may suddenly have options in relief, and that’s before considering how willing they’ll be to push some of their top prospects.

Imagine a rotation fronted by Eovaldi and Sale, with Whitlock back in the bullpen alongside rehabilitating lefthander Josh Taylor and Prospect X, be it Brayan Bello, Bryan Mata, Frank German or even Josh Winckowski who is 3-1 starts in fourth place.

Add those arms to John Schreiber, Tanner Houck, Matt Strahm, Jake Diekmanand Austin Davis, and the Red Sox may have plenty to contend with there, especially because once the playoffs begin, Michael Wacha could set up and Nick Pivetta can close on the days they don’t start.

I won’t complain if Chaim Bloom adds another arm, preferably one with slot experience. But if he decides that the bullpen is, in fact, okay, there’s another upgrade area worth exploring: outfield.

Ranking of the top 10 potential trade deadline targets for Red Sox

Despite all the strides the Red Sox have made since a frigid April, the outfield hasn’t really contributed. The Red Sox are in the bottom five in baseball in outfield home runs (15), steals (eight) and OPS (.651), and those numbers would be even worse without recent boosts from Jarren Duran and Rob Refsnyder.

Before centerfielder Kiké Hernández hit the injured list, he batted just .209. His place can be upgraded. Rightfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. posted an OPS of just 0.595. His place can be upgraded. Even Alex Verdugo, who came alive this weekend in Cleveland, hits .260 with five home runs. His place can be upgraded.

With relatively little in the pipeline of outfielders — most of their top prospects are pitchers or infielders — Bloom has the opportunity to add an outfield bat in the corner, not just for the stretch run, but also as he wants that. So who might be available?

The biggest fish is Juan Sotobut the Nationals have publicly stated that they will not trade the face of their franchise, which posted numbers early in his career that put him in a class with Ted Williams.

Since the Red Sox have yet to renew Rafael Devers or Xander BogaertsIt’s hard to imagine Bloom shelling out the prospects needed to land Soto (who has already turned down a $350 million renewal offer) and then trying to keep him in Boston. But if there’s one young batter in the game, I’d take Devers — and it can only be one — it’s Soto.

Pipe dreams aside, here are some other possible fits.

Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs

This would be a possible move for the future. The versatile 27-year-old switch hitter reaches a career high .279 with a .835 OPS. He’s played every position except catcher and shortstop, and he kills left-handed pitching (.352 average).

He’s also a homegrown cub eager to stay in Chicago. He could be the litmus test for rebuilding Jed Hoyer. Trading All-Star catcher Willson Contreras or closer David Robertson is one thing, but moving on with a piece that could still be viable when the Cubs are good again is another.

Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates

An All-Star who posted a .912 OPS last year en route to an 11th-place MVP finish, 27-year-old Reynolds would tick a lot of boxes. He is under team control until 2025, he is a medley player and he is an everyday center fielder.

After a rocky start, he came to life this month with a .319 average and five home runs. He won’t be cheap, but he could potentially be here for three plus prime years.

Andrew Benintendi, Kansas City Royals

Reunion, anyone?!? Benintendi will likely be Kansas City’s All-Star representative, assuming he isn’t traded first. He won a gold glove in left field last year, hitting .299, albeit with negligible net worth.

Kansas City has already started the sale by trading first baseman Carlos Santana to the Mariners. If Benintendi doesn’t go, super utilityman Whit Merrifield could be on the block along with veteran centre-fielder Michael Taylor. It’s not clear that an upgrade would be enough to warrant a move, but at least they’ll be available.

David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks

Peralta, a former Gold Glover and Silver Slugger, is in the final year of his contract and is said to be a direct hire. He already has more home runs this year (nine) than last year (eight), and he provides some potential pop from the left.

Tommy Pham, Cincinnati Reds

Maybe he’s too much of a loose cannon after that gonzo story about Giving Joc Pederson a slap over a fantasy football beef, but Pham is a veteran outfielder who has already influenced a pennant race for Bloom; the Rays acquired him in 2018, and he hit .343 with seven home runs in 39 games on his way to 90 wins. He hits .245 this year with 10 home runs.

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