The Boston Red Sox did something highly unexpected for a big-market MLB franchise, particularly one that just so happens to be the defending World Series champion. They waved the white flag, surrendered all hopes of a 2014 postseason run and conducted an end-of-July fire sale of epic proportions.
Now that the dust has settled, how did the Red Sox fair in all their dealings? Below are grades for each move Boston made as well as an assessment of the club's overall performance at the trade deadline.
Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree
Edwin Escobar is a 22-year-old lefty who began the year as the No. 2 prospect in the Giants organization, according to Baseball America. Escobar was 3-8 with a 5.11 ERA in 20 starts this season for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. Heath Hembree ranked No. 7 on that same list and had 18 saves, a 3.89 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39.1 innings out of the Grizzlies bullpen.
Jake Peavy will be a free agent at the end of the year, and he was highly unlikely to be re-signed after posting a 4.72 ERA and winning just once in 20 starts for the Red Sox this season. Getting a pair of prospects in return for Peavy, a guy with little to no remaining value for Boston, is a nice haul.
Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a Player to Be Named Later
After losing his spot in the starting rotation earlier in the year, Felix Doubront recently expressed his displeasure with the Red Sox. Via Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, Doubront said:
The thing is, if the (Red Sox) say I have to prove myself, I already did man. It’s (messed) up. So if these guys say I have to pitch to prove whatever, no, they already know what I have. I showed them what I have, as a reliever and as a starter.
For me, they don’t see the numbers, they don’t care what I’ve done in the past. It’s hard to be happy like that with these guys.
First of all, I’m not a reliever. They know that. They just, you know, it’s hard but I don’t know what they’re doing. I know they’re not doing the right thing for me. That’s what I know right now at this moment. I’m an employee just following the order but they know I’m not happy. I don’t know what they’re going to do in the future but I’m don’t want to be a reliever the whole year, that’s what I know.
After making those remarks, Doubront allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in his next outing, his final with Boston. He appeared disinterested on the mound, and his season ERA ballooned to 6.07. The Red Sox had little choice but to rid themselves of the dissatisfied left-hander.
Stephen Drew to the New York Yankees for Kelly Johnson
In an effort to get back into contention, Boston re-signed Stephen Drew in late May when it was in need of infield help. But Drew's offense never materialized, and he batted just .176 in 39 games.
Coincidence or not, rookie Xander Bogaerts' production fell off greatly when he was switched to third base to accommodate Drew at shortstop. Per WEEI.com's Ryan Hannable, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said the following about dealing Drew:
One of the things we wanted to do if we could was find a way to let [Bogaerts] go back to short and give him an opportunity to play there a lot the rest of the way and give [Will] Middlebrooks the opportunity to come up and play a lot at third. Both those things will happen partly as a result of the [Stephen Drew] trade — not that other guys won't be in the mix at those spots too. That was one of the things we wanted to try and accomplish the rest of the way.
The Red Sox were happy to part ways with Drew, a free agent at season's end who did not factor into Boston's long-term plan at shortstop, for whatever they could get—in this case, veteran utility infielder Kelly Johnson, who is currently on the DL.
Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez
The last-place Red Sox have little use for a shutdown lefty specialist with a 2.34 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched. However, soon-to-be free agent Andrew Miller will be a welcome addition to the first-place Orioles' bullpen.
Before the season started, both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus ranked Double-A pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez among the top 65 prospects overall. Via ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, Cherington stated:
We had more calls on Andrew Miller than any other player on our team. Every contender in baseball pretty much called us on Andrew Miller because he fits for everyone -- he's a really good left-handed reliever, he's not making a lot of money. So there was a lot of teams involved.
We felt like the single best player that we could get was Rodriguez in terms of potential upside and impact. There was a lot of good prospects we could have gotten for Miller. We like Rodriguez the best.
For what in all likelihood amounts to just a two-month rental of a middle reliever for Baltimore, the high-end prospect Rodriguez is an exceptional return for Boston. ESPN.com's Keith Law (subscription required) called it "the best value move of the day" and claimed that Rodriguez has the most potential of any minor leaguer dealt at the deadline.
John Lackey and Corey Littrell to the St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly
Corey Littrell is a 22-year-old Single-A pitcher who ranks No. 36 overall among minor leaguers in the Red Sox organization, according to SoxProspects.com.
Owner of an 11-7 record and a 3.60 ERA, John Lackey is under contract for just $500,000 in 2015 (due to a clause in his deal relating to missing a season because of Tommy John surgery). Whether he would actually play for that amount was unclear, and Boston appeared eager to let it be someone else's problem. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that Lackey intends to honor his contract with St. Louis.
Allen Craig batted .313 with 97 RBI while making the National League All-Star team a year ago, but his numbers have fallen off drastically this season. The 30-year-old outfielder and first baseman is hitting .237 with seven home runs, 44 RBI and a .291 on-base percentage. Craig has three years and $25.5 million left on his contract, with a team option for 2018.
In three seasons with the Cardinals, Joe Kelly has a career 17-14 record with a 3.25 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Kelly, who is 26 years old, was sidelined for a large chunk of 2014 with a hamstring injury. He's posted a 1-1 record with a 7.32 ERA in four starts since his return.
If both Craig and Kelly play up to their potential, this could be another steal for Boston. On the other hand, neither has been particularly good of late, and Lackey stands to be an incredible bargain next season.
Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the Oakland A's for Yoenis Cespedes and a Draft Pick
As contract negotiations with Jon Lester stalled throughout 2014, it became increasingly clear that the Red Sox were unwilling to give their longtime ace and 2015 free agent what he wanted. Lester rejected a four-year $70 million offer in spring training, and speculation was that he wanted "$22 million-$24 million a year over five or six years," according to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.
With both sides unwilling to budge, Boston decided to bite the bullet and trade their three-time All-Star, who's currently boasting a career-best 2.52 ERA.
Jonny Gomes, also an impending free agent, had already been relegated to fifth on the Red Sox's outfield depth chart (behind Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt), and with Yoenis Cespedes and Craig on board, there would be very little playing time left for him.
All-Star outfielder Cespedes logged 17 home runs and 67 RBI in Oakland this season. He also won the past two Home Run Derbies and has a cannon for an arm. Cespedes is under contract through the 2015 season.
Trading away a two-time world champion who's been your No. 1 starter for seven years running is tough to swallow, but Boston did get a legitimate major league slugger in return. Considering Lester was probably out the door at season's end anyway, at least the Red Sox will have Cespedes to build their lineup around next year.
Looking at the grade for each transaction, it appears Boston put together a solid performance at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily work that way. In this instance, the total may be less than the sum of the parts.
In 2014, the Red Sox brought back the entire five-man rotation that carried them to the 2013 World Series title, but four of them have been dealt away in the past week (only Clay Buchholz remains). If Boston is to be competitive in 2015, a lot of work must be done to assemble a respectable group of starting pitchers.
With their unwillingness to give Lester a huge contract, the Red Sox exude the aura of a big-market team acting like a small-market team. The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy wrote:
The Sox used to be the team that would acquire your best players because you wouldn’t pay them. That’s how they got Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke, Josh Beckett, and Mike Lowell. Now the Sox are the team that won’t pay to keep its best pitcher. They are the team that will take on veteran talent for short years. ... No more superstars in Boston. No more superstar contracts. It’s all about younger players and club control. Welcome to Kansas City-on-the-Charles [River, which runs through Boston].
The Red Sox clearly made strides to improve their offense, which is dead last in the AL in runs scored. But are they any closer to being a contender again next season? It's hard to say.
Statistics courtesy of RedSox.com