Perhaps you may have heard but the trade deadline was today. You may have also heard the Sox made a move or two. Let’s discuss them, shall we?
Quick note before we get into the Sox news: The Rays traded David Price for Nick Franklin, Drew Smyly and some dude named Willy Adames who is some say the Tigers’ top prospect but hes 18 years old and a billion years away. That is a fucking atrocious trade for the Rays. If the Sox had gotten that for Lester, this blog would be typed in all caps with nothing but swearing. And Price is better than Lester with an extra year left before free agency. Bizarre. Oh well. Eat shit, Joe Maddon.
Ok onto the Sox. The biggest one is obviously Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes. This one totally caught me off guard. I had just expected that Lester would get dealt for prospects. I had spent days looking at prospects on the Pirates, Cardinals and Dodgers because that is where everyone thought he was going. Then it came out that it was Oakland and my initial reaction was upset because the only Oakland prospect I would have wanted was Addison Russell and they already traded him. Then it came out that it was for Cespedes and it caught me so off guard that I thought it had to be a mistake. But it wasn’t.
First, a quick thing about Jon Lester. I maintained as this whole thing was happening that I wanted the Sox to just re-sign Lester rather than trade him and I maintain that now (people are saying they are going to make a strong push to re-sign him this offseason anyway…I’m highly skeptical but we’ll see). There are baseball reasons that I got into here, but also just as a fan I wanted Lester to be a Sox (Sock?) for life. He was drafted by the Sox, came up through the minors with the Sox, battled (and defeated) cancer with the Sox and in the past year, developed into a true, homegrown ace. I truly believe if they came to him with a reasonable offer in spring training, he’d be on a 5 year deal right now and we wouldn’t be talking about any of this. There is a long list of people you could say that they wouldn’t have won a World Series with last year without, but I’d put Lester right at the top next to Ortiz. As insanely good as Papi was in the World Series, Lester could have easily been a co-MVP. 15 innings with a .59 ERA and 15 Ks compared to just 1 walk. My lasting memories of Lester in a Sox uni will be his no hitter in 2008 and being in attendance for Game 1 of the World Series this year as he shut down the Cards. Good luck in Oakland, Jon. I know what team I’m rooting for in the playoffs.
Also, say what you will about Jonny Gomes, but the man certainly had a flare for the dramatic. 2 walk off bombs in the regular season last year, sparked the rally in game 6 of the ALCS and hit a game changing HR in game 4 of the World Series with the Sox down 2-1 and needing to win that game. So thanks for all that, Jonny.
Ok, now on to your newest Red Sox, Yoenis Cespedes. If you’re a casual fan, you probably know him as the guy with the weird name that won back to back HR derbies. That is actually kinda fitting because the main thing he brings the Sox is power. He brings a .470 career (and .464 for this year) slugging percentage with him, along with 23 HRs in his rookie year, 26 last year and 17 so far this year. He did all of this in one of the worst parks for hitters in the majors. He actually posted very good power numbers there, but switching to Fenway can really only help those power numbers get better.
He’s also an outfielder, which is nice because the only outfielder they have on the team that I feel somewhat comfortable about going into next year is Jackie Bradley Jr (and that is based almost entirely on JBJ’s D at this point). Depending on what metric you use, he’s somewhere in the top 5 of best defensive left fielders in baseball (although I’m guessing he moves to RF on the Sox) and a lot of that value comes from the rocket launcher he has for an arm.
So, he hits bombs and throws missles. Everything is perfect right? Well…not quite. My main beef with Yoenis is his poor OBP. I’m an OBP guy. It’s almost always the first thing I look at when I look at a hitter. A hitter’s goal is to get on base…so how often does a guy do it? Cespedes’ career OBP is just .318 and a lot of that is from when it was .356 as a rookie. It was .294 last year and .303 this year. Now, with the power he hits for, you can live with a low OBP, but it is a bit of a red flag for me. As long as he’s putting dents in the Monster, the Monster seats and the cars in the parking lot on Landsdowne, I’ll live with it.
The other slight negative is that he’s only under contract through next year and can’t be offered arbitration (so the Sox get no pick if he leaves). May not end up being a huge deal and the Sox wil obviously have the money to resign him if they want, but it is a factor. Ultimately, Cespedes fills a gaping hole in the Sox OF, gives them a power bat they didn’t have before and along with JBJ gives the Sox the two strongest OF arms in baseball. If the Sox were set on trading Lester and couldn’t get an elite prospect, I’m more than content with a guy like Cespedes in return.
So Lester is gone. Lackey is the ace now, right? No. He’s gone too. Off to St. Louis. I won’t give The Lack Attack a big paragraph like I gave Lester, but I will say this. That list I mentioned above about guys who the Sox don’t win it all without? Lackey is high up there too. Outdueling Justin Verlander to give the Sox a 1-0 win in game 3 of the ALCS last year was unreal. So was his performance in the clinching game of the World Series. After everything Lackey had been through with Sox fans in his time here, him tipping his cap walking off the mound that game was one of my favorite moments of the season. I did not think I would be typing this sentence a year ago, but thanks John Lackey!
In return, the Sox got pitcher Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig. I’m not as high on this one as I was on Cespedes because I don’t really know what Allen Craig the Sox are getting. The one who slashed .307/.354/.522 in 2012 and .315/.373/.457 in 2013? Or the one who is slashing .237/.291/.346 this year? I honestly don’t know. He’s really not young (just turned 30) and doesn’t really have much defensive value (ideally he’s a 1B or DH…those are obviously taken here so with a healthy Napoli and Ortiz, I’m assuming Craig plays LF and Cespedes plays RF), so he needs to hit to bring something to the table. He’s signed through 2017 for reasonable money, so if he returns (or comes close to returning) to what he was just a year ago, this could end up looking good for the Sox.
Joe Kelly I am not really high on at all as a starter. He throws really hard, but doesn’t really strike guys out (career 6.06 per 9) and his only other really pitch is a curveball. He put up 2.69 ERA last year but with peripherals that said it should have been 4+. This year it is 4+. He’s only 25, but I don’t see a 4+ ERA pitcher from the NL translating that well to the AL. Personally, I think given how hard he throws and having only one other pitch, he’s best suited for the bullpen, but they should give him every opportunity for the rest of the season to prove me wrong.
Believe it or not, the Sox actually made TWO MORE deals today too. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that they’d deal Andrew Miller and they sent him to Baltimore for AA pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. I’ve made my love for Miller clear here before, but it made sense to deal him. Unlike Lester, I could see them resigning him in the offseason. I hope they do. He’s filthy. Rodriguez came into the season as a relatively highly regarded prospect (Baseball America ranked him 65th, Keith Law ranked him 43rd and Baseball Prospectus ranked him 61st heading into the year. He’s struggled some this year, but he’s still a 21 year old lefty who is already in AA. He’s the exact type of guy a team who is out of it should take a flyer on in exchange for a relief pitcher.
The last deal was sending Stephen Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson. The only important thing about this deal is that it allows Xander Bogaerts to play SS for the rest of this year, so they know where to plan on him playing in 2015 and possibly (likely?) allows them to call Will Middlebrooks back up and give him one final chance to prove he can be this team’s 3B. I honestly don’t even know if Kelly Johnson will ever have at at bat for the Red Sox.
So yeah, it was a busy, exciting day as a Sox fan. I still wishthey had kept Lester, but I approve of them getting Cespedes back if they insisted on dealing him. I’m on the fence on the Lackey deal because I don’t know what the hell to expect from Craig, but he has the track record and maybe they just did not want to deal with an angry John Lackey playing for the minimum next year. The Miller and Drew deals are impossible to dislike.
I’m fascinated to see what the plan is for pitching going forward. It’s obviously going to suck for the rest of this year as it’ll be a bunch of kids getting their first taste of the majors, which is fine for a team not in contention. The only veteran they have left is Clay Buchholz and to say he is unreliable would be putting it kindly. They have an absurd about of young pitching depth (Rubby de la Rosa, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Joe Kelly, Edwin Escobar, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson), but other than Owens and maybe Rubby, I don’t see many of those guys being top of the rotation guys. All of a sudden I feel better about the Sox long term in terms of offense than I do pitching. I’m sure there are plans in place to deal with their pitching situation, where its targeting cheaper veteran free agents (i.e. not Lester or Max Scherzer) or packaged some of their insane depth of young pitcher for more proven commodities.
There are gonna be a lot of losses for the rest of the year, but I’m more excited to see how it unfolds now than I was 12 hours ago.