ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s no longer too early. It’s about that time.
Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden reported on ESPN.com that sources told him the Red Sox have been trying to deal with the Braves for starter Julio Teheran and closer Arodys Vizcaino, who has a 2.01 ERA and nine saves. These are the best the Braves have to offer, both 25 years old.
Dave Dombrowski’s righthand man, Frank Wren, was the Braves’ GM when these two players came up. He is in Atlanta this weekend to watch both pitchers. Wren knows them, trusts them, and believes in them. Even getting one of them would be expensive, but both would require the Red Sox to give up players most people would never want to part with.
Braves general manager John Coppolella indicated in a Q&A with fans that “I don’t see us trading Julio.” But that’s GM speak. You’ll hear a lot of it. Sometimes it’s true, but often times it’s not. Coppolella went on to say he’d have to be “overwhelmed” to even think about it.
Well, Boston could overwhelm them.
The Red Sox don’t want to subject themselves to a divisional rival picking off one or both. There is no guarantee the players they acquire won’t fizzle, or the players they trade away won’t blossom into stars.
The Red Sox were in that position in reverse in 2005 when they traded Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and two relievers for Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, and Guillermo Mota. Ramirez became Rookie of the Year, National League batting champion, and a three-time All-Star. Sanchez has been a solid pitcher for Miami and Detroit. But the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series as a result of Lowell being the World Series MVP and Beckett being a top starter.
It’s also fresh in their minds — though it was Ben Cherington, not Dombrowski — that they were told Josh Donaldson was not available, and then the A’s changed their minds and traded him to Toronto.
So even if the answer is no, it may not be the final answer.
In Teheran, the Red Sox would be getting one of the best pitchers in the National League this season. Teheran pitched a one-hit shutout against the Mets on June 19. The Red Sox had scouts there. He has a 2.66 ERA for the season. Now it must be determined if he can pitch as effectively in the American League with the DH. Can he be inserted into an intense pennant race and not wilt under pressure?
We know the Red Sox need reinforcements in the bullpen. Vizcaino would be just that. He obviously wouldn’t be a closer, but he has pitched with Craig Kimbrel when they were with the Braves in 2011. Same questions apply to Vizcaino. Could he handle the pressure of a pennant race? Do the Red Sox believe in him enough to give up top talent for him?
The beauty of these two pitchers is that they’re young veterans under team control. To obtain that is usually costly.
As colleague Peter Abraham points out, whether the Red Sox make a commitment now or in the offseason, they must obtain pitching. And there aren’t many free agent options, so they’d have to make a deal that would require giving up players they’d rather keep.
Certainly, the top-tier group includes Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, and Rafael Devers. One question the Red Sox must ask is which of them are going to be blocked positionally. With Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, Benintendi now projects as a left fielder. Moncada is a second baseman, but blocked by Dustin Pedroia. Could Moncada play third? And then what do the Sox do with Travis Shaw?
Devers, a third baseman, has had problems with High-A (Salem) pitching. But he’s only 19.
Then there’s the next group. At this point Blake Swihart might be expendable since the team has settled on Christian Vazquez as its No. 1 catcher and Moncada could play left.
They also have lefty Henry Owens and righty reliever Pat Light. Brock Holt, when he’s over his concussion issues, is also a valuable commodity.
There is also lefty Michael Kopech, who has had a rough start with the Red Sox over off-the-field matters. First baseman Sam Travis would normally be in this group, but he’s injured and gone for the year. There’s infielders Michael Chavis and Mauricio Dubon, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, and the rising power of first baseman Josh Ockimey and first baseman/outfielder Nick Longhi.
Below that is another level with veterans such as Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz. While Buchholz is pricey for the Braves, Kelly is still that developing guy.
So in terms of having enough to give, yes, the Red Sox have enough to give.
One GM said that the Red Sox and Dodgers are in the best position to make a blockbuster deal. Both teams have enough minor league pieces to do so. The Red Sox used their vault to obtain Kimbrel last November, dealing prospects who were blocked.
While they don’t have as many of those as they used to, they still have a few. More than most teams.