Ok, Red Sox fans, I heard you loud and clear. Just don't ever accuse me of not giving the people what they want.
Last week, I took a look at the possible trade partners for Cole Hamels, and whether or not the Teams that would be interested in Hamels had enough prospects to outweigh the two draft picks the Phillies will get if Hamels walks, and whether or not those teams would be willing to part with those prospects for a rental. Boston Red Sox fans took offense to my dismissal of the then-last-place Red Sox as a possible destination for the Phillies left-hander, and let it be known as only Red Sox fans can.
But oh what a difference a week makes.
Since the last article, the Red Sox have gone 5-2 (as of this Thursday afternoon writing), jumped up to third place in the American League East, and traded long-time mainstay Kevin Youkilis, allowing Will Middlebrooks to play every day. And while last week's article was meant to look just at the teams who were in position to make a move at that time (which the Red Sox were not), a week's worth of games in a baseball season can be the difference between being a buyer or seller.
With the Phillies not yet ready to trade Hamels (if they ever get there), the scenarios could change multiple times over, but for now, let's assume that the Red Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline, and given the uncertainty in the back end of their rotation, we'll also assume that they will have interest in Cole Hamels. We will also make one final assumption - that there will be no window of time during which the Red Sox (or any other team trading for Hamels) will be able to negotiate a long-term deal with Hamels. Those scenarios are rare to begin with, and are even more rare during the season. Plus, while Hamels was willing to sign a long-term deal with the Phillies, he has made it clear that he's been looking forward to free agency for years, and probably won't give up that right for another team.
The entrenchment of Middlebrooks in the Red Sox lineup leaves only one player that the Phillies might consider in a one-for-one trade - Xander Bogaerts. Thought to have as much power as any prospect in the minors, Bogaerts is hitting .293/.372/.489 in the Carolina League, and would give the Phillies the impact position player prospect their farm system desperately needs. Currently a shortstop, it is generally asummed that Bogaerts will shift over to third base as he fills out, and would likely make the move immediately after joining the Phillies organization.
Of course, he won't be joining the Phillies organization. They will inquire on Bogaerts if the Red Sox show interest in Hamels, but the Red Sox probably won't be willing to give up their top position prospect for two months of Cole Hamels. Perhaps under the old CBA rules in which the Red Sox would have gotten two draft picks for Hamels leaving, they might be willing to part with Bogaerts, but under the new rules, in which a player traded during the season does not return draft picks to his new team, the Red Sox get nothing other than two months of Cole Hamels for their troubles. They aren't going to part with Bogaerts for that.
Luckily for the Red Sox, they have a deep farm system that offers a number of options for the Phillies, should the teams meet up on a deal.
If the Phillies are looking for position players who can be in the majors relatively soon, the Sox can offer Bryce Brentz or Jackie Bradley. Brentz is a corner outfielder that has been a hitting machine since being drafted 36th overall in 2010. He hit .306/.365/.574 with 30 home runs last year while splitting time between Low and High-A ball. This season in Double-A, Brentz has followed up with another strong season, hitting .294/.360/.485 with 10 home runs. The only knock on Brentz is his aggressive approach at the plate, but the jump from A-ball to Double-A is usually the biggest test for plate discipline issues and he's handled it well enough. Brentz may not be an all-star, but he does profile as a power-hitting regular.
While Brentz is more of a hitter than an athlete, Jackie Bradley is a pure center fielder who has emerged as an equally talented hitter this season. An accomplished college player and two-time national champion out of South Carolina, Bradley made the Carolina League look like child's play during the first part of this season, hitting .359/.480/.526 before a promotion just over a week ago. Bradley isn't a power hitter, but he showed solid table-setting abilities, walking 55 times to just 48 strikeouts. Even if he just hits at league average, Bradley will have value because of his abilities in center field, but his emergence this season as a hitting prospect begin to complete the package. His play this season may actually have put him in the category of players the Red Sox wouldn't be willing to part with for a rental player, a determination which has a lot to do with the team's confidence in it's ability to re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury, who is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2013 season. Bradley projects to be the heir apparent if Ellsbury leaves town, but assuming he's healthy, there's no reason not to lock Ellsbury up, in which case Bradley could be expendable. If the Red Sox have confidence in their ability to do that, then a package of Bradley and another lesser prospect could entice the Phillies to make a move.
If the Phillies are wiling to take position player prospects who are a little further from the majors, third baseman Garin Cecchini or catcher Blake Swihart could be interesting, although both are far enough away that neither would likely be the centerpiece of a deal. Cecchini, a 4th rounder in 2010, is in his first full season in the minors, and has an .804 OPS in the South Atlantic League. His power hasn't developed yet, but scouts believe it will come over time, and his strong doubles numbers indicate the same thing. Swihart was the 26th overall pick in last year's draft, and is hitting just .261/.307/.374 in Low-A ball this season, but projects to have an above-average hitting acumen. He's farm from a sure thing, however, and isn't the type of player the Phillies would be able to count on any time soon, which is what their farm system lacks. The Phillies also have Sebastian Valle in the minors as their heir to Carlos Ruiz, so Swihart would create a bit of a logjam.
If the Philies are looking for pitching, they will find lots in the Red Sox system. The best prospect in the system is Matt Barnes, the 19th overall pick from last year's draft, who has taken to pro ball as well as the Red Sox could have hoped. After posting an 0.34 ERA in five South Atlantic League starts, Barnes moved on to the Carolina League, where he has gone 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA, striking out 56 batters in 49 2/3 innings. He's a good enough prospect to warrant a 1-for-1 swap, but given that the Phillies farm system actually has pretty good pitching depth, they would likely want at least a low-level position player in return along with Barnes. If the Red Sox are looking to make a return to home-grown pitching in years to come, however, Barnes represents their best bet to do that, making him almost untouchable.
A prospect they might be willing to part with is Anthony Ranaudo, the 39th overall pick in 2010 who the Red Sox signed to an over-slot $2.55 million. Ranaudo had entered that collegeiate season as perhaps the best pitching prospect in America, but injuries caused him to drop to the Red Sox, who took a chance. In his first season last year, he made 26 starts between Low and High-A ball, going 9-6 with a 3.97 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings. The Red Sox were aggressive with him, starting him at Double-A this season, despite his numbers at High-A in 2011 being mediocre at best, and Ranaudo has struggled, mainly with his control, walking 23 batters in 29 2/3 innings. Still, Ranaudo has a powerful arm and potent stuff, and is a prospect the Phillies might enjoy trying to work out the kinks with.
After Ranaudo and Barnes, the Red Sox have a number of middle-of-the-road pitching prospects, like Brandon Workman and Drake Britton. Both would fit in with the Phillies already-deep stable of middle-of-the-rotation pitching prospects, to which the Phillies could always add.
If the Red Sox stay in the race and become interested in Hamels, they have the prospects to land him. The key, and it's not a minor detail by any means, will be finding the right mix that is enough for the Phillies to forfeit the two draft picks they will get from Hamels' departure, but isn't too much for them to give up for two months of Hamels' starts.
Jackie Bradley is the best prospect the Phillies might have a shot to obtain, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Red Sox balk at trading him. The same goes for Barnes on the pitching side of things.
If I'm the Phillies, I'd be holding out for one of those two. Without one of them, I'd prefer to trust my own scouts and drafting abilities. But the Phillies might like Brentz enough to go after him, if the package is combined with a pitcher like Workman.
Either way, there are enough prospects in the Red Sox farm system that they should be able to work out a deal with the Phillies, unless the Phillies want to hold out for one of the big boys in the Red Sox system, and they won't budge.