McAdam: Sox armed to make a deal for bat

McAdam: Sox armed to make a deal for bat
June 20, 2014, 11:45 am
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OAKLAND -- If there's any consolation to the Red Sox and their epic offensive drought -- a stretch that saw them fail to top two runs for the sixth straight time Thursday night and ninth time in the past 11 games -- it's the fact that they do have the wherewithal to address their need at the trade deadline.

The only thing worse than not having any offensive punch is knowing that you can't do anything to fix it. That's not the case with the Sox.

Sometime between now and the third week of July, however, the Red Sox will have a decision to make: do they dip into their precious supply of pitching prospects to make a deal? Or do they take a more conservative course and move a more veteran pitcher.

That's more options that some teams have, but it's far from a simple choice.

The Sox could, say, decide to move Jake Peavy for some offensive help. Despite being winless in his past 10 starts, dating back almost two months to his only win of the season in Toronto, Peavy has actually pitched fairly well this season.

Certainly, with any support at all Thursday in the team's road trip opener, Peavy could have been on the other side of the decision. He had allowed just two earned runs through six innings before issuing a one-out walk in the seventh. Chris Capuano, who has seen his season bottom out in the past five weeks, then allowed an inherited run to score, leaving Peavy with a pitching line of three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.

That's fairly typical of the kind of outings that Peavy has provided this season. He's regularly pitched the Sox into the seventh, while usually allowing two or three runs.

If that doesn't suggest a stopper, it does at least offer evidence that that Peavy regularly gives his team a chance to win. For a team in the National League, looking to add to its starting rotation, Peavy represents a decent upgrade, who would fetch a bat in return.

He would not, however, be enough to land a real impact player for the Red Sox lineup, perhaps someone they could control for another season or two beyond the current one.

For that, the Sox would need to deal a prospect or two, a younger arm with a higher ceiling. And that's where it starts to get interesting.

The general assumption around baseball is that the Sox consider two young players -- Xander Bogaerts and Henry Owens -- to be untouchable. Bogaerts has shown flashes of being a potential franchise player, regardless of his position, while Owens, a 6-foot-6 lefthander, has the kind of talent and body to be a front-line starter in time.

But the Sox have pitching prospects stacked up like firewood in their system. In the past few weeks alone, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa demonstrated the ability to win now at the major league level.

Right below them are Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster, who are each enjoying success at Triple A. In 20 starts, dating back to late last season, Ranaudo is 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA, while Webster is 11-8 with a 3.30 ERA in 36 starts at Pawtucket.

For the right return, the Sox could package both Ranaudo and Webster and toss in a position player prospect and land a hitter who could make a difference in the lineup this season and a few seasons to come.

Presented with the opportunity to land two starters and more, some teams would jump. Offense may be at a premium in today's game, but few organizations would turn up their nose at the chance to address 40 percent of their starting rotation.

Even giving the uncertainty of Jon Lester, the Sox would seem to have adequate pitching depth to project past this season. In a worst-case scenario in which Lester leaves as a free agent, the Sox could still go into next year with Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Workman and De La Rosa representing their starting five, with Matt Barnes and Owens not far from being ready for the big leagues.

Whether the Sox make this kind of bold move next month or not, they face the realization that they're going to have to do something to obtain a bat for their lineup -- either at the deadline or this winter.

There are few players who answer that description on the free agent market, so a trade seems the likely avenue.

It's possible the Sox could seek a middle ground in July: move someone like Peavy for a smaller, shorter-term boost before addressing their long-term needs in the off-season.

What path they choose may well be determined by their ability to hang around in the playoff picture over the next month.