The Boston Red Sox were one of the busier teams leading into today’s 4pm trading deadline.
In a major deal, the Sox acquired Cleveland Indians All-Star catcher Victor Martinez, and, in a minor deal, they swapped first basemen to get Casey Kotchman from the Atlanta Braves.
Martinez is the biggest offensive pickup of the 2009 trading deadline. Martinez had a injury-plagued 2008 season that lead to mediocre numbers, but he has picked it up again in 2009 and reestablished himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game.
A switch-hitter, he gives the Sox excellent versatility in the lineup and on the field. While not official, it is expected that he will play predominantly at catcher and designated hitter. He is better as left-hander, and that will allow the Sox to rotate Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek in the lineup against lefties.
The Sox gave up RHP Justin Masterson, who had been splitting time between the bullpen and rotation and minor league pitchers Nick Hadagone and Bryan Price.
Masterson was a solid cog in the Red Sox team, but he was often the odd man out.
The Indians will probably utilize him as a starter, which is where most scouts see him headed, but the Sox were never in the position to give him a chance to develop as a starter.
Hadagone was the biggest chip the Sox gave up. A left-hander in class-A Greenville, Hadagone underwent Timmy John surgery and recently returned from the disabled list and was impressive.
Price is a right-handed pitcher who also played in Greenville.
The other trade, while it possesses less excitement, was much more peculiar. The Sox obtained Kotchman, traded as the major component of the deal that brought Mark Teixeira to the Angels, for recently acquired Adam LaRoche.
It is odd but not because LaRoche only spent a few days with the Sox or that the Sox traded him due to their surplus of first basemen. It is strange that the Sox would trade him, an everyday player, for another left-handed first baseman who usually plays every day.
Terry Francona has the tough task of juggling the lineup in order to make sure everyone is content with his number of at bats.
In particular, both Kevin Youkilis and Martinez have to play every day.
This means that, somehow, Francona has to rotate them so that Varitek, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz get playing time. Lowell’s time figures to be cut the most, as Youkilis will likely play most of him games at third base for the rest of the season.
Given Martinez’s poorer numbers against lefties and Lowell and Varitek’s success against lefties, they will be playing time against left-handers.
But, while Varitek has been described as a walking ice pack and Lowell is coming off of hip surgery, they can’t be thrilled at the prospect of losing playing time.
Kotchman has likely drawn the shortest straw. His playing time will be significantly reduced due to his lack of versatility. (He can only play first base.)
Backup catcher George Kotteras will return to triple-A Pawtucket. He is the personal catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is on the disabled list. He won’t be activated for a few weeks; at which time, the Sox will have to decide who should catch him.
To replace Masterson, the Sox have several options.
Southpaw Javier Lopez was optioned down at the beginning of the season due to poor performance, but he has turned his season around in the minors.
The Pawtucket Red Sox’s closer Fernando Cabrera is mowing down hitters with an ERA under two while being perfect in save chances.
Lefty Hunter Jones and righty Michael Bowden have already pitched out of the bullpen this season for the Sox, and they also have Japanese prospect Junichi Tazawa.
Until Wakefield comes back from the DL, one of these triple-A relievers figures to replace the gap in the bullpen.
Heading into tonight’s game against Baltimore, the Sox are a significantly upgraded team both offensively and defensively.
The only problem is finding playing time for all their good players, which any manager will tell you is a good problem to have.