ANAHEIM, Calif. -- By the time the Boston Red Sox are ready to jet home from Seattle on Wednesday night, the trade winds might be blowing hard enough in their direction to shave a few precious hours off their flight time.
Or maybe they will have made a deal already?
"I don't know. I can't answer that right now," manager John Farrell said of the likelihood that the Red Sox can pull off a trade before the July 31 deadline. "I can tell you every effort is being made to."
The Red Sox are in the pole position in the American League East, but their lead feels tenuous. They have scored only 42 runs in the past 13 games and have been shut out eight times overall, tied with the Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals for most in the league. The Red Sox have gotten less offense out of third base (.606 OPS) than any team in the majors. And there is a sense that the bullpen, despite being surprisingly strong through the season's first half, is a house of cards, particularly in the seventh and eighth innings.
It's little wonder, then, that most rival talent evaluators suspect Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will make at least one move, maybe more. There is even a sentiment within the organization that a trade will help, especially after the New York Yankees picked up third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox.
"I think [adding players at the trade deadline] is always a plus," Farrell said. "It's a strong sign that everyone is aligned to support, add to, fortify, however you want to describe it, an area of need. There's almost an injection of maybe that support or further momentum that, 'OK, this is going to better equip us to go deep into the season.'"
Dombrowski has a few limitations. The Red Sox are trying to stay below the $196 million luxury-tax threshold, which leaves them with only about $9 million to add to the payroll. And after strip-mining the farm system within the past two years, they're intent on keeping their two remaining gems: Triple-A third baseman Rafael Devers and 18-year-old lefty Jason Groome. Devers might even be ready to help the big-league club late in the season.
But it isn't in Dealin' Dave's DNA to stand pat. With that in mind, here are five players who make sense for the Sox and one pie-in-the-sky long shot for their fans to dream about:
Alonso, 30, is having a breakthrough season in Oakland with 21 homers and .929 OPS and could be the bat the Red Sox are missing in the middle of the lineup. He's also owed less than $2 million in the final year of his contract. While the small-market A's might find it challenging to sign him to an extension, the Red Sox could afford Alonso and a reliever and still stay below $196 million.
Here's the issue: Alonso has played only 64 innings at third base in his career -- and not especially well. But if Hanley Ramirez is able to keep playing first base against lefties, the Red Sox can use Alonso as a part-time designated hitter. Against righties, slick-fielding Deven Marrero can be a late-inning replacement for Alonso at third.
Not perfect, but as a short-term fix until Devers is ready, it would be doable.
When it comes to relievers, he checks two of the boxes that fit the Red Sox's need: He has pitched in the late innings and he's left-handed.
Wilson, 29, throws a mid-90s fastball and an emerging slider and is striking out a career-best 12.5 batters per nine innings. He took over for deposed Francisco Rodriguez as the Tigers' closer in May and has gone 9-for-11 in save opportunities. But he's best-suited as a setup man, and with the Red Sox, he could handle the eighth inning and push Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly into the seventh.
Dombrowski was already gone from Detroit when the Tigers acquired Wilson in a trade with the Yankees. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be interested in him now.
Unlike Wilson, who has at least one more year of club control, Neshek and Reed can be free agents after the season. As a result, the cost for both isn't likely to be more than a midlevel prospect.
Neshek, 36, uses a funky sidearm delivery and has been lights-out this season, posting a 1.17 ERA, 0.835 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. Considering the Phillies have the worst record in the majors, he's also a virtual lock to be traded before July 31.
Reed, 28, has a 1.37 ERA and a 24-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio since taking over as the Mets' closer in mid-May for injured Jeurys Familia. He's owed about $3.8 million through the end of the season, slightly more than Neshek (approximately $2 million) but still within the Red Sox's budget.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
A few weeks ago, with the Royals in the midst of 20 wins in 28 games, general manager Dayton Moore sounded like a trade-deadline buyer.
Have seven losses in the last 10 games changed his mind?
Dombrowski will be sure to find out. If the Royals decide to sell, the Sox will have great interest in Moustakas, a free agent at season's end who has eclipsed his career-high with 25 home runs. Not only would he be an ideal fit in the middle of the order, but as a left-handed hitter, he would bring more balance to a lineup that features righties Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Ramirez.
And Moustakas is exactly the sort of two-month rental the Red Sox need to avoid the temptation of rushing Devers.
OK, as long shots go, this is like a full-court heave at the buzzer.
Devers and Groome would have to go, and even then, it wouldn't be enough. Although Machado is in the midst of the worst season of his career, the 25-year-old superstar wouldn't be moved for anything less than peak value considering he still has a year and a half before he reaches free agency.
And even if Dombrowski had the assets to get it done, there's no chance the Orioles would trade Machado to a division rival, especially one that has the money to sign him long term.
Besides, isn't it more interesting if Machado remains a Red Sox villain rather than joining their ranks?