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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Breaking Down the Boston Red Sox’s Trades

The Boston Red Sox were busy as proverbial beavers on Wednesday’s trade deadline, shipping five mainstays from their 2013 World Series-winning squad out of town. With a 48-60 record and last place in the American League East, it’s little surprise that the team decided to cash in some of their veteran chips and look towards the future. Here’s a look at how the various deals break down.

Boston trades pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 competitive balance draft pick: The southpaw Lester has done enough in his nine seasons with the Red Sox to earn all-time great status. Since they couldn’t agree to an extension with the impending free agent, moving him made the most sense.

In Cespedes, the Red Sox get a strong defensive outfielder with right-handed pop and a somewhat questionable plate approach that has led to a poor walk/strikeout ratio during his three major league seasons. He is signed through 2015, and at just 28 could be a candidate for a long-term deal to help anchor the middle of the Boston batting order as David Ortiz enters the final stages of his career.

Since the Red Sox won’t get the compensatory pick if they had held on to Lester and lost him in free agency, the competitive balance pick (which will be around the value of a second-round selection) is a nice pick up.

This trade looks like a positive move for Boston. However, if they were able to somehow sign Lester this offseason, it would make it completely lopsided. Unfortunately, fans waiting with bated breath for this to happen probably should exhale. With so many teams about to line up and bid on premium pitching, the Red Sox would have to pay a king’s ransom, which was apparent they were loathe to do earlier this season, to retrieve the popular lefty.

Boston trades pitcher John Lackey, minor league pitcher Corey Littrell and cash considerations to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly: The 35-year-old Lackey was finally living up to the big contract he signed with Boston prior to the 2010 season, posting an 11-6 record with a 3.60 ERA in 2014. Under team control for the league minimum next year was something that made him even more of a commodity.

Kelly is a young right-hander with a strong slider and experience with a winning organization, going 17-14 with a 3.25 ERA in parts of three seasons- pitching in both starting and relief roles. Although he might stick in the back end of the rotation, his stuff may play up better in the bullpen. Either way, he is a quality major league arm who should contribute to Boston for seasons to come.

Craig has endured a miserable 2014, hitting just .237 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs. However, he is a career .291 hitter, has some pop from the right-hand side, and has played in two World Series. The 30-year-old outfielder may face a battle for playing time with Cespedes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino all vying for at-bats in the outfield. Fortunately, he can also play a little first and DH as needed.

If he isn’t traded, Mike Carp could see himself designated for assignment to make room for Craig, who essentially replicates his abilities.

Boston trades shortstop Stephen Drew to the New York Yankees for infielder Kelly Johnson: This rare transaction between the bitter rivals seems to be more about opening up playing time in Boston for youngsters like shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks than anything else.

Drew hit a listless .176 in 39 games since joining the Red Sox on a prorated contract in May after a failed excursion to the free agent market.

The versatile Johnson can play all over the field but at 32 is clearly past his prime. Hitting just .219 with six home runs at the time of the deal, he will primarily be insurance for the aforementioned younger players and Brock Holt, who figure to get the lion’s share of the playing time the rest of the way.

Boston trades pitcher Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez: Since flaming out as a top starting pitching prospect with the Detroit Tigers and then the Florida Marlins, the lanky left-handed Miller became a shutdown reliever for the Red Sox. His 2.34 ERA and 14.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings this year made him one of the more appealing arms on the market. Last-place teams like the Red Sox don’t need lethal lefty specialist as much as contenders do, so moving him became the smart move.

Rodriguez, a 21-year-old lefty starter is from Venezuela and has been gaining in notoriety. Most recently, Baseball America named him the 65th-best prospect in baseball prior to this season. He is 7-10 with a 4.55 ERA in 27 starts at Double-A over the past two seasons. Although the results haven’t been stellar, he is still young for the league and has a future that many consider to be very bright in front of him.

Overall, it was undoubtedly tough for fans to see the Red Sox send a full fifth of their 2013 roster packing. The upside is that when a team is struggling that much, it becomes more of a long game, and the assets the team acquired should give them a good boost entering 2015 with thoughts of getting back to their contending ways. With so many new faces, the remainder of this season will be a great opportunity to see who steps forwards and asserts themselves to claim a spot for the future on a team that can only go up from here.

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