The Boston Red Sox figure to be active participants on the trade market this offseason.

Yes, they have plenty to spend and could sign several marquee free agents. But the Sox have holes in their rotation, in their bullpen and at third base, and given their glut of outfielders, first basemen and young, right-handed arms, they have the ammunition to make deals both major and minor.

There’s an argument to be made for hoarding all this talent, protecting against prospect attrition and injury alike. But you can also build a solid case that the Red Sox need more star power, as very few players on their roster right now are capable of serving as reliable above-average threats.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three reasonable deals for majors players the Red Sox could swing this offseason:


Cole Hamels

It seems that as soon as the Red Sox dealt Jon Lester to the Athletics in July, the Hamels-to-Boston speculation began flying in at a startling pace.

At first glance, such a deal makes sense. The Red Sox need a front-line starter, and the Phillies badly need to rebuild. Boston has the type of young players and prospects the Phillies need, and the Sox could essentially duplicate Lester’s performance with Hamels.

The problem, of course, is that the cost in talent to acquire Hamels is likely prohibitive. The four years and $96 million still guaranteed on his contract are fairly reasonable by today’s standards, and it’s going to require a major package to get the Phillies to trade him.

There’s no dancing around this with a package based on Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo or Allen Webster plus Will Middlebrooks. A deal for Hamels starts with Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts, or it probably starts with both Henry Owens and Blake Swihart.

As’s Alex Speier recently pointed out, there might not actually be a terrific incentive for the Red Sox to trade for Hamels rather than simply sign Lester. Yet if we’re looking at deals the Red Sox can make, this would top the list, as they join a select few—think the Cubs, Dodgers and maybe the Cardinals—who have the talent needed to acquire, and money needed to absorb, Hamels.

As’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week on Twitter, Hamels has a no-trade clause for 20 teams, and the Red Sox are on that list.

However, per The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, that hardly means the Red Sox can’t deal for him. Instead, it just means that Hamels has leverage and can essentially force the Sox to pick up his $20 million option in 2019.

The debate over whether the Red Sox should trade for Hamels is a reasonable one, but there’s really no doubting that if they want him, they have the pieces to get a trade done.


Mat Latos/Johnny Cueto

If the Red Sox don’t end up trading for Hamels, perhaps their most appealing next route would be to turn to Cincinnati, where the Reds have a plethora of pitching. Latos and Cueto are both very good starters, but both are slated to be free agents after the season ends.

Odds are the Reds will only be able to afford one, and that means they could be willing to ship off one strong arm this winter.

Cueto is coming off an incredible campaign and arguably the best season of his career. The right-hander threw 243.2 innings of 2.25 ERA ball, striking out 25.2 percent of the batters he faced while walking just 6.8 percent. The 28-year-old has missed time with injuries throughout his career, but when he’s healthy, he is a legitimate No. 1 or 2 starter.

Latos also has a checkered medical past, but like Cueto, there’s no arguing with his performance when he’s on the mound. The 26-year-old posted a 3.25 ERA in 102.1 innings in Cincinnati last season, striking out 17.9 percent of batters while walking 6.2 percent. His detractors point to diminishing velocity, but the results are still there.

The prospect of giving up significant talent to acquire a pitcher who’s spent time on the shelf is a scary one, but Cueto and Latos shouldn’t require the same type of megadeal any trade for Hamels would need. Forget about including Betts or Bogaerts here, because that’s not happening. And with Devin Mesoraco performing well last season, the Reds may not target Swihart, either.

Yet Owens would seem to represent a reasonable starting point for both teams. It would take more than just Owens, to be sure, but if the Sox sweetened the deal with, say, Manuel Margot, Garin Cecchini or Barnes, plus a few lesser prospects, the Reds might be inclined to listen.

The Sox have the cash to extend either Cueto or Latos for several years, and while we’re seeing that this is an organization generally loathe to give big money and years to pitchers, the Red Sox likely wouldn’t have to give either Cueto or Latos the type of megadeal required to land a Lester or a Max Scherzer.

There’s a strong argument to be made that the Sox should simply pony up the money and not give away talent to acquire pitching. But if they decide to hit up the trade market for an arm, the Reds are an appealing partner—especially when you consider that both sides could opt for a lesser deal involving Mike Leake instead.


Jason Heyward

The Braves have done a great job locking down young players they want to keep. From Andrelton Simmons to Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman, they’ve secured several key contributors for the next half-decade-plus, assuming some risk to protect themselves from losing key assets in bidding wars once free agency hits.

Yet the Braves have proven either unwilling or unable to sign Heyward to a long-term deal, and the 25-year-old outfielder is slated to hit free agency once the 2015 season ends. That’s led to plenty of speculation that the Braves could look to move Heyward this offseason, and it’s not hard to envision many teams lining up to acquire his services.

At first, Heyward appears to be an odd fit for the Red Sox, given their glut of outfielders. But if you’re willing to get a little creative, it’s still quite possible such a deal could work and make sense.

Considering he has just one year of control left, it’s unlikely the Braves would be able to wrestle Bogaerts or Betts away from the Red Sox. Also, like the Reds, the Braves own a promising young catcher of their own in Christian Bethancourt and may not have a ton of interest in Swihart or Christian Vazquez.

But Owens would seem to be a decent starting point, and if the Sox pair him with supplementary pieces like Cecchini or one of the young right-handers, the framework of a deal begins to appear.

That may seem like a lot to give up for an outfielder without explosive offensive numbers, but Heyward is very much a player whose true value doesn’t show up in counting stats. A career .262/.351/.429 hitter, Heyward is the type of all-around threat who impacts every facet of the game.

He’s a good baserunner capable of challenging for 15-plus steals a season. He has enough power to keep pitchers honest and at 25 there’s reason to believe more power could come. Heyward is an elite defensive right fielder who could be of immense value in Fenway Park. And he’s patient enough to fit into the high-OBP mold the Red Sox love.

Plus, if Heyward is acquired, the Sox can deal Yoenis Cespedes as part of a package to restock their system or acquire a cost-controlled arm to take the place of Owens.

Heyward may not fill the Sox’s biggest needs at first glance, but if the Sox can acquire and extend him, they’ll receive the rare opportunity to make a major acquisition of a player not yet in his prime. That doesn’t happen too often in today’s game anymore, and forming a long-term core around Heyward, Bogaerts and Betts is an enormously appealing notion.

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