Chris Sale will pitch his next home game at Fenway. Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech and their immensely bright futures were jettisoned to make way for the newest Red Sox ace. How’s that for a Winter Meetings splash? This edition of Read Sox will, naturally, give attention to the blockbuster deal and its coverage. There will be no dumb jokes involved “sales” or “prices” as they relate to Red Sox pitchers. Promise.
The hours after the news of the Sale trade broke on Tuesday were predictably filled with Takes, both hot and otherwise. Most of Red Sox Nation – myself included – is thrilled by the prospect of the current Cy Young holder as a number three starter. Remember when this was supposed to be a quiet offseason? It is clear now that a 6-foot-6 asterisk was attached to that proclamation in the shape of Chris Sale.
Much of the national media now has the Sox pegged as the odds-on favorite in the American League. Sports Illustrated and CBSSports’ Jonah Keri (RIP Grantland), opines that the move puts the team in the driver’s seat in the AL. Ben Lindbergh over at The Ringer agrees with his former co-worker. Most all fans and baseball analysts liked the trade for, really, both colors of Sox. Rob Bradford makes the case at WEEI.com that this was the biggest trade in recent Red Sox history. The closest to a negative reaction to the trade, from what I read, was this column by WEEI’s John Tomase fretting about Dave Dombrowski’s notable propensity to empty the prospect war chest in order to achieve the all-important Win Now. Even Tomase’s gripe is more with the totality of Dombrowski’s work, and he acknowledges the boon that is acquiring Chris Sale.
There is a clear and not-hard-to-decipher consensus that the trade makes the Red Sox demonstrably better heading into the 2017 season. And, considering the Nationals on Wednesday traded the White Sox arguably baseball’s top pitching prospect in Lucas Giolito for a guy with ‘Spanky’ in his Twitter handle, the price the Red Sox paid for Sale seems relatively reasonable.
Tuesday saw the Red Sox deal four of the nine top players in the farm system (including Luis Alexander Basabe in the move for Sale and Mauricio Dubon for reliever Tyler Thornburg), per SoxProspects.com. So in a way, Tomase is totally right: the cupboard looks pretty bare. Rafael Devers and 18-year-old Jason Groome are the two remaining genuinely promising (though you may be bullish on some others) players in the minor leagues.
That being said, let’s remember a significant reason for this truth: a lot of former prospects are performing at the Major League level! Andrew Benintendi looked ready to play an everyday role in left field in his limited and injury-interrupted audition late in 2016. Eduardo Rodriguez doesn’t turn 24 until April and posted a 3.24 ERA in 14 starts after returning from Pawtucket in July. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are All-Stars that just turned 24 in October. (Aside: my heart grew three sizes after realizing that Mookie and Xander were born six days apart as I imagined them throwing joint birthday parties. Anyways.)
All of this is to say that the Red Sox are young, are good right now, and just got better right now. As Ben Buchanan lays out for Over the Monster, this trade was the best way for the team to make a move for Sale if they were going to do so; no Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rodriguez or other major league talent was involved. They just took what was a 93-win team and added probably the best non-Clayton Kershaw lefty in the world. That feels pretty good.
Before all that craziness transpired, the Red Sox had made a trade with the Brewers for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who threw 67 innings last year for Milwaukee to the tune of a 2.15 ERA and .940 WHIP. Craig Kimbrel has a very talented new set-up man.
The more minor trade has an array of interesting consequences for the team going forward, both significant and trivial. For one, the trade included Travis Shaw, meaning Ding Dong City either a. needs a new mayor or b. is a mobile municipality of a kind heretofore unknown. Also, the Red Sox sent Mauricio Dubon to the Brewers, breaking the heart of colleague Matt Collins but perhaps more importantly allowing for this magnificent Twitter interaction to occur.
From a baseball standpoint, the combination of the two deals makes clear the team’s commitment to and faith in Pablo Sandoval playing third base next season. As Jason Mastrodonato reports in the Herald, Dombrowski thinks Sandoval is “ready to come back.” And Sandoval seems to be too. In fact, he might even be in the Best Shape Of His Life.
Check out the slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval https://t.co/v0YffLEA9G #RedSox pic.twitter.com/8s6AWWscc8
— ESPNBoston (@ESPNBoston) December 7, 2016
As Alex Speier points out in the Globe, the hefty price for Thornburg reflects the incredibly high cost and value of relievers in today’s climate. Andrew Miller’s postseason messed with some peoples’ heads, apparently. Since Alex published his piece, the Cubs traded noted masher of baseballs and very promising talent Jorge Soler to the Royals for reliever Wade Davis. As I’m writing this, the Yankees just signed Aroldis Chapman for five years and $86 million. So, yeah. Go back in time and train yourself to be a set-up man.
Finally, the Thornburg acquisition closed the door on the possibility of Koji Uehara returning in 2017, Dombrowski said. This is not a shocking development but a sad one nonetheless. Thanks for the memories Koji, we’ll miss you and your logic-defying sinker.
Photo by USA Today Sports Images