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Tackling the trade deadline: Boston Red Sox

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Over the next few days, I’m going to look at the needs of some contenders as we approach the July 31 trade deadline.

Boston Red Sox
First-half record: 55-35
Standings: Leading Yankees by 1 game, Rays by 6 games in AL East

Needs

Starting pitcher: The Red Sox thought they were set with a rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but three of their five starters are on the DL and no one in Boston wants to see Lackey start a postseason game.  The Red Sox should be able to win the AL East or at least the wild card with what they have now, but it’d sure be nice to have additional options for October.

Right field: Free-agent-to-be J.D. Drew appears to be half-retired already.  He’s hitting .229/.329/.317 with just 10 extra-base hits and 21 RBI in 18 at-bats for the season.  On the plus side, the Red Sox do have an internal replacement available: Josh Reddick, who has been subbing in for an injured Carl Crawford in left, is hitting .393/.429/.672 in 70 at-bats.  He already has as many extra-base hits as Drew.  Still, he is unproven and the Red Sox might bypass him if the right opportunity comes along.

Bullpen: Bobby Jenks was supposed to be Boston’s third shutdown reliever alongside Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard, but he’s served two DL stints and amassed a 6.32 ERA in 19 appearances.  The Red Sox will be shopping for a seventh-inning guy, preferably a left-hander.

Target

Matt Garza (RHP Cubs): Garza has never fulfilled his promise, but the Red Sox know him well: he’s 7-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 18 career starts against Boston.  He was also largely responsible for knocking the Red Sox out of the 2008 playoffs when he went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA for the Rays in the ALCS.

Proposed deal

Garza for 3B Will Middlebrooks, RHP Kyle Weiland, LHP Felix Doubront and C Tim Federowicz

For the Cubs to move Garza, they’re going to want to make up for most of what they lost in getting him from the Rays over the winter.  This deal doesn’t net them any elite prospects, but Middlebrooks is currently a better hope at third base than the Cubs’ former first-rounder Josh Vitters and both Weiland and Doubront are ready for extended opportunities to show what they can do in the majors.

The Red Sox could instead part with their top pitching prospect, Anthony Ranaudo, in place of Middlebrooks and one of the two arms.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.