The Red Sox, as you may have heard, traded for Drew Pomeranz last week. They had to give up Anderson Espinoza to do so, which stinks, but good lord is Pomeranz better than any of the myriad no. 4/5 starters the Sox were trotting out as sacrifices twice a week. We’ve seen Sean O’Sullivan and Roenis Elias make starts this year. Ditto Joe Kelly and Permanently Bad Clay Buchholz. Pomeranz’s acquisition should put an end to that, even if we’re not sure if he’ll slide in more as a no. 2 or no. 4 starter in the AL.
Given the cost of acquiring Pomeranz and how good this team is offensively, it’s tempting to believe this means the Red Sox should be done. They now have a reasonable top-four in their rotation, and might even go five deep if the Eduardo Rodriguez we saw in New York is the E-Rod we’ll get moving forward. Their offense is crazy good. Their bullpen is good enough, and could be a genuine plus if a few guys can stay healthy at once. The Red Sox’s current playoff odds stand at 79.9%, and we have every reason to believe this is a team that can make it to October, and might be able to play deep into that month.
I still think they should trade for Julio Teheran.
Teheran will cost a lot to acquire. He’s going to cost way more than just one of the remaining Big Three prospects, and he should. Teheran is 25 years old, is signed affordably through 2019 with an option for 2020 and, per PWARP, has had the 12th-best season of any starter this year (one spot ahead of Pomeranz, interestingly enough). He may not be an ace in the Chris Sale or Jose Fernandez sense, but he’s a really good, really young pitcher, and he’s probably available.
Despite the cost it will probably take to get him, there are a bunch of reasons Teheran is pretty much the perfect fit for this team right now. While the Red Sox shouldn’t completely mortgage their future to acquire him, he’d go a long way toward addressing the organization’s biggest deficiency. Before you yell at me, let’s review:
Teheran is good
I alluded to this above, but Teheran, by any objective measure, is really good. He’s sporting a 2.96 ERA, 3.03 DRA, 22.8 K%, 5.3 BB% and 40.2 GB% in 118.2 innings this season. He’s a former top prospect who was also pretty good in 2013 and really good in 2014. He was meh last year, which seems to be the primary reason people are worried about acquiring him. But he has the pedigree, past performance and age of a pitcher who should be capable of throwing near the top of a rotation for many years. Those guys are hard to come by.
The one legit gripe I see with Teheran is that he’s a fly-ball pitcher who’s already surrendering 1.21 HR/9 in Atlanta. That’s almost certainly going to go up in Fenway. My counter to this: show me all the good, young available pitchers on the market right now. They don’t exist. Just because Teheran isn’t perfect doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a marked improvement over most arms in the Red Sox system. Maybe he’s more of a no. 3 in the AL than a no. 2, but Teheran isn’t going to go from an All-Star in Atlanta to a scrub in Boston.
Teheran is cheap and cost-controlled
Back when the Braves were good, they locked up a significant portion of their core to team-friendly contract extensions. That didn’t stop them from shipping away Craig Kimbrel or Andrelton Simmons, and it shouldn’t stop them from trading Teheran, who signed a six-year, $32.4 million extension with the Braves before the 2014 season. He’s also got an affordable option for 2020, meaning the Red Sox could acquire Teheran’s age-25-through-age-30 seasons, which is pretty much exactly when you want to have a pitcher in your service. Teheran has also proven capable of staying on the mound and eating innings, averaging 202.1 IP over the past three years.
The best part about the Pomeranz deal, as I wrote in my TA at the mothersite, is that he’s under control for two more seasons beyond this one. That’s really important, because the Red Sox are looking at a solid three-to-four year window in which they should be competing for championships. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. won’t be expensive yet during this window. David Price, Rick Porcello, Pomeranz, Kimbrel and Carson Smith should all be reasonable contributors during this time. Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi are poised to join that core by around this time next season. Plus, the Red Sox have solid complimentary players in Steven Wright, Blake Swihart, Hanley Ramirez, Brock Holt, Travis Shaw and Dustin Pedroia under control, too.
The Red Sox have offense, they have a few good starters and they have back-end bullpen arms. But in adding Teheran, they could build out a good, young rotation that will perfectly compliment their impressive offensive core for the next handful of seasons. That’s important for two reasons, the first of which is:
The Red Sox stink at developing starting pitching
I covered this in depth in my TA, but to rehash: the Red Sox can’t develop starters! Matt Barnes has turned into a solid reliever, but he can’t start. Brandon Workman flopped in the rotation. Henry Owens’s control has taken a step back when it already needed to take two steps forward. Brian Johnson’s had trouble staying on the mound. Allen Webster flopped. Rubby De La Rosa stunk. Felix Doubront was only good for half a season. Michael Bowden busted. Trey Ball is headed in that direction. The Red Sox are good at a lot of things as an organization, but bringing along home-grown starters isn’t one of them.
There’s still time for Owens and Johnson. Maybe one of them figures it out and becomes a back-end arm. There’s value in that, but Teheran figures to bring a whole lot more to the table; better performance and more certainty. When you can’t develop pitching, you need to either trade for it or sign it. Which brings us to the next point …
There are almost no good starters on the market
The 2017 class of free-agent starters is a god damn tire fire. You’re looking at guys like Brett Anderson, Rich Hill, C.J. Wilson, Ivan Nova, Jeremy Hellickson and Doug Fister at the top of the class. There’s no one even close to Teheran available.
In terms of targeting a different arm than Teheran to trade for, ok. That’s reasonable. But who’s out there? Sale and Fernandez shouldn’t be available. The A’s have no reason to sell low on Sonny Gray, nor the Rays on Chris Archer (who might not even be as good as Teheran). Zack Greinke’s contract would be pretty tough to swallow if the D-Backs would even be willing to move him. The Indians are in the thick of things and have no reason to sell Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco. It’s not a buyer’s market.
The Red Sox have the prospect depth
The final point is the most painful one, because I, like the rest of you, like to hug my prospects close and tuck them in at night. But the point of amassing prospects isn’t to ensure that all of them reach the big-league club; it’s to use them in any way that can contribute to the on-field product. Often times that means making room for them on the MLB roster, but it can also mean trading them to acquire talent that fits better.
Dave Dombrowski clearly knows this, having traded away three top-100 prospects in Espinoza, Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra for Pomeranz and Kimbrel. Losing that type of talent hurts, but the crazy thing about Boston’s farm system is they still have the pieces needed to get Teheran, or at the very last to try.
Here’s where it gets tricky; I’m 100% sure I would not move Moncada for Teheran, and I’m 90% sure I wouldn’t move Benintendi for him either. If the Braves insist on one of those two to start the package — a demand they’d be well within their right to make — I have no problem with the Red Sox holding serve and looking for a cheaper upgrade or praying E-Rod turns it around.
But I don’t think it’s crazy to think the Red Sox could start a package with Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez and build from there. Consider the Shelby Miller trade from earlier this season. The Braves received a top-25 prospect in Dansby Swanson, a reasonable everyday player in Ender Inciarte and a top-100 arm in Aaron Blair for Miller, who pitched much better than Teheran did last year but who doesn’t come with Teheran’s insanely team-friendly contract.
Odds are the Braves would be looking for something similar for Teheran, and I think the Red Sox can match. Devers would be Swanson in this case, a mid-minors top-25 bat with impact potential. E-Rod could take the place of Inciarte as a young, MLB-ready piece right now. And Henry Owens could serve here as Aaron Blair, giving the Braves another young arm to try and groom (seriously, they love young arms).
Maybe the Red Sox also throw in a Mauricio Dubon (sorry Collins) or a Pat Light or a Travis Lakins. If that’s what it takes to get Teheran while holding onto Moncada and Benintendi, so be it.
The Red Sox have the opportunity to make a very competitive offer for Teheran without gutting the core pieces that should contribute to their future.
The Braves could decide such a package isn’t enough. Maybe another pitching-needy team like the Blue Jays or Rangers or Dodgers will come knocking and blow the Braves away with a bevvy of young talent. Maybe Atlanta will decide they want to hold on to Teheran as they rebuild, even though they’re probably at least two years away from contention. If this is the case, so be it.
But the Red Sox have the opportunity to make a very competitive offer without gutting the core pieces that should contribute to their future. At the very least, it’s an opportunity they should explore. A rotation of Price, Teheran, Wright, Pomeranz and Porcello wouldn’t just be respectable; it would be objectively good. And it could be good for the next several seasons while leaving the Red Sox with enough money to go get another arm should a starter go down with injury or underperform.
Pairing that type of a rotation with the Red Sox’s young, offensive core will give them the type of young, cost-controlled, high-upside team every fan dreams of rooting for. And while Boston’s minor league depth will suffer as a result, they’d still have the pieces to make marginal upgrades thanks to players like Sam Travis, Michael Kopech, Jason Groome and others. The point of a good farm system isn’t to win offseason org rankings; it’s to help the big-league squad win.
Teheran is not a “true ace,” is not the best fit for Fenway Park and would cost a fortune in talent. He’s also good, young, has upside remaining and can provide the Red Sox the one thing they need and can’t develop on their own; quality starting pitching. It would be a risky move for Boston, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
When you have a young core this good, it’s time to venture.
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