8 Reasons the Boston Red Sox Hit a Home Run at the MLB Trade Deadline
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The Sox made two trades on the day. They acquired left-handed reliever Craig Breslow from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for pitcher Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik, and they received minor league knuckleballer Steven Wright in exchange for Triple-A first baseman Lars Anderson.
Anderson and Podsednik were considered spare parts. While a big part of the Sox bullpen, Albers is an inferior player to Breslow. With Tim Wakefield still actively involved in the Sox organization, Wright is coming to the best possible place for him to fine-tune his knuckler.
A quiet deadline sometimes is the best possible decision for a franchise. For a team that has been so unpredictable all year, the Sox did well to avoid a shake-up that would have likely created yet another huge distraction.
GM Ben Cherington deserves credit for his ability to filter out all the fan and media noise about this team, keeping his focus equally on the present and future of the team. Fans should take comfort in knowing that, unlike previous GMs, Cherington is indeed capable of taking the long view.
Despite not generating lots of headlines, the Sox emerged from Wednesday’s deadline as big winners. Here are eight reasons why:
Upgraded a Position of Need
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The Red Sox bullpen has been excellent thus far in 2012. After a calamitous start, Sox relievers have collectively righted themselves and are currently posting a 3.16 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP.
Still, though, this group lacked a true “situational lefty.” Andrew Miller is better suited for a long relief role, and Franklin Morales has proven that he has greater value than simply coming in to face one or two hitters.
Craig Breslow gives the Sox a workhorse (43.1 innings pitched this season in 40 appearances) who can help immediately. Left-handed hitters are posting just a .260 OBP against him, giving manager Bobby Valentine a late inning option against the many tough hitters the Sox will be facing the rest of the way.
No “Panic” Trades
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GM Ben Cherington has demonstrated all year that he is not a reactionary person, and he again proved that he has the ability to block out all the chatter going around about his team.
After all, being reactionary should be the territory of the fans and media and not the front office.
Restraint is often the best practice, even when rivals for playoff spots are making big splashes. Cherington deserves credit for not overpaying for a mediocre pitcher once Zack Greinke was shipped to the Angels, or hastily trading away a veteran player just for sake of making a trade.
Lack of Good Pitching Options
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When Zack Greinke went to the Angels on July 28, the one pitcher worth paying a huge price for was officially off the market. When the Braves made a move for Paul Maholm on July 30, the best value was gone as well.
Leading up to the deadline, Cherington was not left with any good options: overpay for a two month rental of Ryan Dempster (who has never pitched in the AL), hope Matt Garza’s recent injury wasn’t serious or try to pry James Shields from a division rival (and wildly overpay in the process).
Because none of these options fit the short or long-term goals of the team, it was the right move to do nothing. With Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return imminent and the (hopeful) improvement of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, acquiring another middling starter was not terribly important.
Did Not Lose Anyone Important
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Perhaps the simplest way to deem the Sox’s deadline performance as a “win” is to say that they got a good player and did not lose anyone important.
Matt Albers was having a good year statistically, but anyone who assumed he could be counted on in the late innings of a tight September game was fooling themselves. Time and again this season, Albers gave up big hits; his 1.4 HR/9 rate was the highest among Sox relievers.
Scott Podsednik was a great story, but he was a spare part in the crowded Sox outfield rotation. With the emergence of Daniel Nava, Podsednik no longer had any value to the team.
Every other key contributor is still here, giving the Sox the best chance to make a playoff push.
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After a strong draft, the Sox have restocked their farm system with a lot of talented young players. In making any sort of major trade, they would have had to give up several of these potential cornerstones in order to bring a high-priced veteran to Boston.
Cherington smartly determined that there was nobody out there worth mortgaging the organization’s future.
These players whose arrivals are imminent (Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish, etc.) and still a bit off (Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, etc.) are all pieces vital to this team’s ability to compete in the next decade.
Keeping them here not only ensures that they don’t hurt the Sox playing for other teams, but also means that Cherington will not need to overpay for veterans in free agency to fill holes on the roster.
The Team Is Starting to Jell
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Forgive me if you’ve heard this line before, but the Sox are starting to resemble a team that’s putting it together. After a dismal showing in their first game in New York over the weekend, they have won four games in a row against the Yankees and Tigers and have climbed to within 3.5 games of the AL wild card.
Perhaps more importantly, the team is starting to pair strong pitching and hitting performances for the first time all year. When the pitching has faltered, the hitting has come to the rescue, and vice versa.
Whether it was the July 24 2-1 win in Texas in which Clay Buchholz silenced the Rangers’ bats or Saturday’s win against the Yankees when the Sox’ bats came back after the pitchers coughed up a big lead, the entire team has begun to step up.
Timing Wasn’t Right for a Blockbuster
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While it’s true that a big mid-season trade can swing a pennant race, it’s equally true that a lack of prudence in this condensed window can also lead to some horrific decisions. Because the Sox find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card hunt and possessing several players with diminished trade value, the time was not right to make a huge deal.
Had they done so, it would have meant either dealing top prospects, eating a lot of money, acquiring an inferior player, or some combination of all three. Cherington was right to avoid these pitfalls, instead electing to bide his time.
This offseason might see some significant movement depending on how the next two months play out. Players like Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury could be on the block, and should they play well the rest of the way in 2012, Cherington will look all the smarter for waiting until the offseason to move them.
They May Not Be Done Dealing
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Just because the July 31 non-waiver deadline has passed does not mean the Sox are done dealing. August 31 is the last day a player can clear waivers, be traded, and still be eligible for a team’s playoff roster, and the Sox will likely continue to be active right up until this deadline passes.
As is commonplace in baseball, the Sox will waive many of their higher-priced veterans. Because most of these players will clear waivers, the Sox will have ample opportunity to unload some of them should they fall out of the playoff race.
Someone like Josh Beckett, while seemingly safe after not going anywhere at the July 31 deadline, is certainly not safe. Should a team decide they want him, the Sox will aggressively pursue a trade that sends the right-hander out of town.