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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
6 Jan 2024
Mac Cerullo


NextImg:Which young arms could Red Sox target in trade?

Every time he’s spoken publicly this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow has extolled the importance of bolstering the club’s starting rotation. And not just for this season, but for many years to come.

Translation, he’s not looking for a one-year rental, but an up-and-comer who offers multiple years of team control.

Trading for that kind of young standout would be the biggest move the franchise could possibly make, but getting a deal done won’t be easy. Acquiring anyone like that would be costly, likely necessitating at least one of Boston’s top young players — Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, Kyle Teel — plus a lot more on top of that.

But if Breslow were to swing a franchise-altering blockbuster, who could he actually get? There aren’t that many young, controllable starting pitchers out there who’d really move the needle, but if the Red Sox were to take the plunge, here are a few arms who might be worth the price.

One of the names most frequently bandied as a potential Red Sox trade target is Luzardo, a Miami Marlins lefty. Luzardo is among a handful of talented young arms in the Marlins rotation. The 26-year-old from Peru debuted in Oakland in 2019 and last season enjoyed a breakout campaign, posting a 3.58 ERA with 208 strikeouts over 178.2 innings. He also boasts one of the best fastballs in the game and has been on an upwards trajectory ever since coming to Miami in the Starling Marte trade in 2021.

Luzardo would immediately slot in at the front of Boston’s rotation and has three seasons of team control remaining before hitting free agency ahead of the 2027 season. Theoretically, Boston and Miami match up well as trade partners too, given that the Marlins have a plethora of young pitching but less in the way of position player talent, which the Red Sox have in abundance.

Other Marlins pitchers the Red Sox could target include Braxton Garrett (3.66 ERA, 159.2 innings) and Edward Cabrera (4.24, 99.2), though if the Red Sox wanted to get really ambitious they could take a shot at 20-year-old wunderkind Eury Perez as well.

The other team commonly linked to Boston as a potential trade partner is Seattle, and Kirby would be the most obvious target.

The 25-year-old righty came up as one of the top prospects in baseball and has quickly lived up to the hype, posting a 3.37 ERA over 320.2 innings in his first two MLB seasons. Last year he threw 190.2 innings and boasted the best walk rate in the majors, and according to Statcast he also has a dominant fastball, an excellent breaking ball and is generally pitching at an elite level across the board.

Because he is both a year younger than Luzardo and has five years of team control remaining, Kirby would likely be even more expensive to acquire. If he turned out to be simply unattainable, the Red Sox could also make a pitch for fellow Mariners righty Logan Gilbert (3.73, 190.2).

Cease is regarded as the best pitcher who might actually be on the trade block this winter, and while the White Sox are reportedly asking for an arm and a leg for the righty, he’d probably be more attainable than any of the Marlins or Mariners’ pitchers.

One, Cease is a little bit older at 28 and only offers two more seasons of team control as opposed to three-plus. He’s also coming off a bit of a down season, posting a 4.58 ERA in 2023 after finishing second in the AL Cy Young vote in 2022 with a 2.20 ERA.

Still, Cease has been both durable and overpowering throughout his career, topping 165 innings and 214 strikeouts in each of his last three seasons. He has not missed a start since joining Chicago’s rotation full-time in 2020, and if he came to Boston he would immediately slot in as a clear-cut No. 1 for the Red Sox. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic also reported Friday that Boston is among the teams in on Cease, so that will be worth watching in the coming weeks.

Cleveland hasn’t been discussed as a potential Red Sox trading partner to the same extent as the aforementioned clubs, but the Guardians are loaded with young pitching talent too.

One arm in particular who would make sense for the Red Sox is Allen, who just completed a strong rookie season in which he posted a 3.81 ERA over 125.1 innings after starting the year in Triple-A. The 25-year-old lefty still has a full six years of team control remaining, making him a more sensible target than Shane Bieber (a one-year rental) and a more attainable one than Tanner Bibee, the fellow Guardians rookie who finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year vote.

Gray was one of the prospects Washington got back in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade, and last season the righty took a big step towards establishing himself as the Nationals’ ace.

After an up-and-down 2022 in which he led the National League in home runs and walks allowed, Gray was much more effective in 2023, driving his ERA down to 3.91 from 5.02 while throwing a career-high 159 innings. He’s always had an excellent breaking ball, but this past year his overall metrics took a huge leap forward. It’s reasonable to imagine he’ll continue to improve with experience.

The 25-year-old still has four years of team control remaining, so on paper it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the rebuilding Nationals to give him up. That being said, Washington is still a long way from contention in a brutal NL East, so if they can flip Gray for even more premium talent it’s not impossible to imagine them taking Breslow’s call.