On Friday, the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres completed a five-player trade that sent All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox in exchange for four minor league players. The trade represented the first true blockbuster of the offseason, though we anticipate many other big names to be moved before the season begins. Our very own Scott Barzilla has already taken the liberty of writing up the Padres’ side of the deal here, while I will take a look at what this deal means for the Red Sox.
Why the Red Sox make this move
Dave Dombrowski, who is in his first offseason as the new President of Baseball Operations in Boston, had historically bad bullpens throughout his tenure as GM of the Detroit Tigers. With this move, Dombrowski clearly did not want that trend to continue in Boston. This past season, the Red Sox ranked 25th in all of baseball with a 4.24 bullpen ERA; ironically enough, the next worst team on the list was the Detroit Tigers, at 4.38.
Kimbrel’s name has been floating around in trade rumors since he first arrived in San Diego last April. The 27-year-old right-hander has been one of the best, if not the best reliever in baseball since 2011. In that time, Kimbrel has racked up 224 saves to go along with a 1.70 ERA, with 523 strikeouts in 327.1 innings pitched. Kimbrel will be under team control for the next two years, while the club holds a $13 million dollar option for the 2018 season, which will likely be picked up unless Kimbrel implodes between now and then.
The need for some bullpen help was inevitable, but did the Red Sox give up too much for someone who will only pitch in 60, maybe 70 innings max? Not only that, Kimbrel just had hands down his worst season to date, and that came while often pitching in the friendly confines of Petco Park. As Ben Badler of BaseballAmerica.com tweeted shortly after the deal, the Padres actually made out like bandits in the trade, getting a better return from Kimbrel than what they gave up to get him less than a year ago.
Koji Uehera, the Red Sox closer since 2013, will now be slotted into the 8th inning, perhaps a better role for the soon to be 41-year-old reliever. Uehara dealt with multiple injuries in 2015 that limited him to just 40.1 innings on the season.
While many, including myself, are preaching that the Sox gave up too much of the farm for a reliever, it’s no surprise that the Red Sox made this deal, given their current roster. This roster is one of the very few in baseball that have many “win now” players, while also holding a core of young players as well that will be under team control for the foreseeable future.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts ranked third in baseball this past season in hits, while playing exceptional defense as well at short. Mookie Betts cemented himself as one of the best young outfielders in baseball, despite starting off the season rather sluggish. On the other side of things, they have the ageless wonder in David Ortiz, who just hit 37 home runs in his age 39 season. We’re waiting for the drop-off in production, but when exactly will it be? Dustin Pedroia had a nice season when he was healthy, though a hamstring injury limited him to just 93 games.
They have two players in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval who are going into the second years of their contracts that already look like an absolute disaster for the Red Sox. However, plenty of Hanley’s negative value in 2015 came from his abysmal defense in left field, and the club is reportedly moving him to first base this season. Sandoval, on the other hand, was unable to get things going both offensively and defensively for the club, turning in his worst full season in the majors to date.
Rather than blow up the roster and start from the ground up, Dombrowski has instead decided that he is going to try and win now with the roster he was handed. In order to do that, you have to address your areas of weakness. However, most would argue that weakness #1 is within the starting rotation, not the bullpen. The AL East, typically a powerhouse in baseball, was one of the weakest divisions in 2015. A quick boost back up to the top of the East isn’t out of the question for the Red Sox; let’s not forget, the team finished last in the AL East in 2012 before winning the World Series in 2013.