By Jeff Louderback
Considering that Jacoby Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, it seems highly unlikely that the Red Sox will be able to sign their center fielder to a long-term extension before he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. With this in mind, it is interesting that Boston remains linked to trade rumors surrounding Cleveland Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is in the same situation as Ellsbury.
The Red Sox – which shed the cumbersome contracts of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett last summer in a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers – have tremendous payroll space for 2013 and the long term. Since it is likely they will not sign Ellsbury next offseason, and because John Lackey’s deal expires after the 2014 season, they will see even more money drop off the books and have additional flexibility.
Acquiring Choo would cost the Red Sox dearly in terms of prospects. Since Jackie Bradley is considered the center fielder of the future when Ellsbury’s inevitable departure occurs, and Xander Bogaerts is an uber prospect who could remain at shortstop or be switched to left field, they are not likely to be traded. Everyone else in the Red Sox deep and talented farm system is a trade chip. in Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves at the Major League level – and names like Rubby De La Rose, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens in the minors – Boston has starting pitching depth to trade.
Choo is a defensively proficient outfielder who hit .283 with 16 home runs, 67 RBI, 43 doubles and 21 stolen bases for the Indians in 2012. A left-handed hitter, he would bolster a Red Sox lineup that could include Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adam LaRoche (a free agent target), Choo and Will Middlebrooks.
Like Ellsbury, Choo can become a free agent after the 2013 season, so it would be a risk to deal top prospects unless the Red Sox could reach a long-term deal with the outfielder.
As for Masterson, the sinkerballer represents the type of durable arm Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington wants to add to the rotation. Since it is unlikely they will be able to pry Felix Hernandez from the Seattle Mariners, the Red Sox are banking on Jon Lester to regain top of the rotation form in 2013. Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront are solid starting pitchers. Boston believes that John Lackey will be an asset next season now that he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and expects to be healthy for the first time since his days with the Angels.
Masterson, who was 11-15 with a 4.93 ERA in 34 starts and 206.1 innings with the Indians in 2012, has upside as a middle of the rotation arm. He was 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 33 starts and 216 innings in 2011.