What a time to be a Red Sox fan. If you live under a rock and didn’t hear, the Red Sox basically made their biggest trade since 2003 (HanRam for Beckett and Lowell) and elevated themselves above any other team in the American League by going out and selling the farm for Chris Sale. The Sox made two other moves today as well, adding Tyler Thornburg to the bullpen and Mitch Moreland to the lineup. I’ll take a look at all three trades and how they affect the Red Sox lineup and farm system going forward.
My initial reaction to the Sale trade was negative. Why, you might ask? Well let’s look at the deal. Yes, we get Chris Sale, a bona-fide ace on a relatively cheap deal for the next 3 seasons (3 yr/$38 million). He’s had his ups-and-downs on and off the field with the White Sox (#jerseygate), but there is no question that Sale is a fantastic pitcher. He gives the Red Sox a rotation loaded with three legitimate Cy Young contenders, to go along with an already stacked lineup. Through 7 seasons with Chicago, Sale has posted a 74-50 record, with a 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.06 FIP, 10.1 K/9, and 31.1 WAR. Dominant.
The reasons I’m hesitant on this move isn’t because of what we got, it’s because of what we gave up, and when we gave it up. We lost Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, arguably our best hitting prospect and best pitching prospect. Moncada has the physical tools to be an absolute monster player, and Kopech is one of the hardest throwing prospects in baseball, topping 105 mph on the gun last season. We also lost Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz, athletic players with potential, but fillers in the grand scheme of this trade. Moncada and Kopech seem like a hefty sum for Sale, especially when you consider that the Red Sox are going to have to swallow the $63 million they paid for Moncada just under two years ago. You can basically tack that money on to Sale’s $38 million, so essentially Sale is costing $101 million for 3 years. Not as intriguing, huh? I’m more disappointed at when they made the move however. Why is Dombrowski suddenly deciding to buy in now? Why not make this kind of trade in July when we still had Papi?
But alas, the deal is done. In one sense this feels like a huge risk, and in another sense this feels like a safe move. Yeah, we’re mortgaging the farm for one pitcher. At the same time, Moncada and Kopech are still just potential, and nothing more. If they flop (which isn’t out of the question), and we win the World Series with Sale, it’s a huge move for us. Either way, the trade has made the Sox the team to beat in the AL. Its World Series or bust for the Red Sox with this move.
Sale Trade Grade: B+
The Thornburg trade was a much better deal for me, although it was obviously a significantly lower-scale deal. Tyler Thornburg had a very underrated breakout season last year for the Brewers, going 8-5 in 67 relief innings, with a 2.15 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 13 saves, and 90 strikeouts. He throws a mid to high 90s fastball, a plus changeup, and a plus curveball. Thornburg looks to slot in as a potential 8th-inning guy ahead of Kimbrel and should be a huge boost to the bullpen that I consider to be the weakest link of the Red Sox roster. He’s also under team control through arbitration for the next 3 years. To get Thornburg, Dombrowski dealt Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, and Josh Pennington. Shaw was never a highly-rated prospect, but played well in his major league opportunity. He projects to be a league-average type player, and I think the Sox did a good job dealing him while his value was slightly higher than that. Dubon is a solid prospect, if not a great one, who had an excellent 2016 campaign, hitting for average and power, while swiping 30 bases. Dubon has a lot of potential but plays shortstop, where his future in Boston is road blocked by Xander Bogaerts. Pennington is a decent prospect who is not highly touted, but had a solid 2.86 ERA last year. He’s not projected to make an impact at the big league level in his career. Basically, I love this trade. We were able to get an impact reliever for an average utility player, and two prospects with little to no future in Boston.
Thornburg Trade Grade: A+
The last move of the day by Dombrowski and the Red Sox was signing 1B Mitch Moreland to a 1 year, $5 million deal. The deal makes sense as a stop-gap option for helping replace the production of Big Papi, but why I like this move is more for the defensive ability of Moreland, a gold glover. Moreland produced 7 defensive runs saved last year, and comparing that with Hanley Ramirez’s -5 DRS represents an extra projected win for the Red Sox this year. Moreland also has a career 1.067 OPS at Fenway Park. If his bat comes around, he could be a solid piece to the Red Sox lineup next season. At the very least, we can expect him to make an impact in the field on a daily basis for the Sox in 2017.
Moreland Contract: B+
Overall, the classic Dombrowski has come through for the Red Sox. Dombrowski has a penchant for trading top prospects for elite Major League talent, and he did it again by adding Sale and Thornburg. We’ve now liquidated almost our entire farm system, but by getting players under team control for at least the next few years, Dombrowski has bought the Red Sox time to rebuild the farm system –– while simultaneously competing for a Word Series year in and year out.
So let’s quickly run through the projected Red Sox roster following these moves.
The Red Sox starting pitching is now loaded. Obviously Sale, Price, and Porcello headline this rotation, but the back end still has some major question marks. Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz, Drew Pomeranz, and Steven Wright look set to compete for the final two rotation slots. If I had to choose, I’d keep ERod and Clay in the rotation and move Pomeranz and Wright to the bullpen for now. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these pitchers get moved. If I had to guess one, it would be Clay and his $13.5 million contract. If the Sox can move that money, they could free up space to potentially add another bat or bullpen arm.
Opening Day Projected Rotation: Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright
Adding Thornburg is a great move for the Red Sox, as their bullpen has a ton of question marks behind elite closer Craig Kimbrel. Expect John Farrell to rely heavily on the likes of Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Robbie Ross in the middle innings, as well as any of the starters who end up moving to the pen. Hopefully Carson Smith progresses quickly in his Tommy John recovery, as the rest of the bullpen is filled with guys like Heath Hembree, Fernando Abad, Brandon Workman, and Henry Owens. Yikes.
Opening Day Projected Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Thornburg, Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree
- Dustin Pedroia 2B
- Andrew Benintendi LF
- Mookie Betts RF
- Hanley Ramirez DH
- Xander Bogaerts SS
- Pablo Sandoval 3B
- Mitch Moreland 1B
- Sandy Leon C
- Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Pedey, Benintendi, Betts, and HanRam has me salivating, but I’m not so sure how I feel about the bottom half of the lineup. Which Bogaerts are we going to see, the guy that hit .329/.388/.863 in the first half of 2016, or the guy that slumped miserably (.253/.317/.729) in the second half? Also, his defense is suspect at best. I’m optimistic on Sandoval bouncing back this year, and I’d be thrilled with a .260/.325/.805 line with 20 jacks for Moreland, but that’s best case scenario right there. Leon is likely to see some regression this season after he came out of nowhere last year to win the starting job. We all know what JBJ is, a great fielder with a streaky bat. Consistent production from the bottom half of the lineup is honestly going to be more key to our success than getting All-Star production from the top half. I cannot stress consistency enough for the Red Sox lineup. The Sox outscored the Indians by 101 runs in the regular season last year but only produced 7 runs against them in the ALDS while getting swept in 3 games. Unacceptable for that to happen again this year.
I’m definitely looking forward to watching this team play, especially after Brian Cashman basically called the Red Sox the greatest team ever assembled. Not to sound too cocky, but the AL East is basically in the bag. The Yanks are rebuilding, the Rays perennially suck, and the Orioles and Blue Jays are experiencing a lot of turnover. 95 wins and an AL Pennant is the worst case scenario, and a World Series win is the goal. Go Sox.
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