Just over a month ago, Dave Dombrowski once again utilized the Boston Red Sox farm system to bolster the World Series hopes of the parent club. While the acquisition of pitchers Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg have made the Red Sox a potent force in the American League, what exactly did the team give up in the seven players leaving the organization?
The Chris Sale Trade
Before examining the four prospects that were dealt to the Chicago White Sox in the blockbuster trade of the winter meetings, we must first take a moment to discuss what Chris Sale brings to the Boston Red Sox and why the Red Sox felt the high price was worth it.
In Chris Sale’s five full seasons as a starter for the White Sox, he has put up a record of 70-47 with 14 complete games (leading the league in 2013 and 2016), an ERA of 3.04, a FIP of 3.06, an ERA+ of 133, and a WHIP of 1.061. He has also averaged 203 innings per season (thrice breaking the 200 inning mark) and has landed in the top six of Cy Young voting every season. Over the next three seasons, Sale will cost a total of $38 million – only $8 million more than what David Price will make in 2017. I think it is safe to say that the Red Sox acquired a very good pitcher who is being paid far less than market rate.
However, a pitcher of Sale’s pedigree and contract is not acquired for the dregs of the farm system. The Red Sox sent four prospects to the Sox of White, including the MLB Pipeline top MLB prospect, Yoan Moncada.
The Skinny: One of the premier prospects in the game, the Red Sox acquired the second baseman for $63 million (between signing bonuses and payments to MLB). Moncada did not disappoint, recording an .817 OPS in his first season in 2015 with A-Ball Greenville, before exploding into possibly the best prospect of the game during 2016, when he hit .294/.407/.511 with 31 doubles, 15 home runs, and 45 steals while splitting time between High-A Salem and AA Portland.
The Downside: There is little in the minor league record that indicates Moncada will fail in the major leagues. He did strike out 124 times in 106 games in the minors in 2016, with 64 of the Ks coming during his 45 games with Portland. While his increase in whiffs as he increased levels could be considered a warning sign of problems to come, it also came with an increase in power (with 11 of his dingers coming during his time in Maine).
However, Moncada’s attempts to duplicate Xander Bogaerts’s successful advancement into MLB fell quickly apart. In his first three games with the Red Sox, Moncada had four hits, a walk, and three strikeouts in eleven at-bats. But, he then went 0-for-3 followed by an 0-for-4 for a combined seven strikeouts, and his chance to take over the third base position was over. He did appear in three more games and had two more at-bats, both strikeouts. Whether he was pressing, or has a hole in his swing that MLB pitching exploited, Moncada showed that the jump from AA to the major leagues was a jump too far.
The Trade Rationale: While Moncada is clearly an excellent prospect, one must give up quality to gain quality. However, Moncada also doesn’t truly fit into the near-term Boston Red Sox. His primary position of second base is filled by hometown hero Dustin Pedroia. His secondary position of third base is occupied by the currently svelte Pablo Sandoval. However, Moncada also had competition in the minors with Rafael Devers also putting up numbers that make him the potential heir apparent at the hot corner. And, while he has not played in the outfield with the Red Sox, he did in Cuba. However, it would be hard for Moncada to break into the current outfield of Betts, Bradley, and Benintendi. As good as Yoan Moncada is as a prospect, he was a spare part for the Red Sox.
The Skinny: The 6’3” right-handed hurler burst onto the national radar last season by throwing a 105-mile-per-hour fastball in a game in July against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. In his 11 starts in 2016, Kopech picked up four wins for the High-A Salem club, with a 2.25 ERA, a 1.038 WHIP, and a ridiculous 14.2 K/9.
The Downside: Kopech only pitched in 11 games in 2016, after breaking his hand in an altercation with a teammate in spring training. It was his second consecutive season missing time, after earning a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned stimulant in 2015.
On the mound, the tall righty has shown himself to be a mite wild – giving up 33 walks, hitting five batters, and uncorking 11 wild pitches in just 56 ⅓ innings in 2016.
Trade Rationale: A starter who can throw 105 mph and throw starter-type innings would be a throwback to the days of Nolan Ryan. Which is a pretty nice starting pitcher. However, as the TINSTAPP posse will tell you, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, especially one who has not yet hit Double-A and has yet to pitch a full season. Kopech remains very much an unknown quantity.
The Skinny: The 20-year-old outfielder – not to be confused with infielder and twin Luis Alejandro Basabe – had shown an intriguing mix of power and speed in his four seasons in the Red Sox organization. This season with A-Ball Greenville, Basabe batted .258/.325/.447 with 24 doubles, eight triples, and a dozen home runs while swiping 25 bases. He has also shown a potent arm, with 37 outfield assists in his four seasons.
The Downside: Since leaving the Dominican Summer League, Basabe has gone backwards in his plate discipline. In 100 games in the DSL (at 16 and 17 years old), Basabe walked 79 times. In his time stateside, he has walked 86 times in 198 games. He has also had his strikeouts increase, with 119 whiffs in 110 games in 2016.
Trade Rationale: With only five games at High-A on his resume, and the Red Sox outfield of Betts (24), Bradley (26), and Benintendi (22) under team control through 2021, outfielder is not high on the list of needs for the Red Sox.
The Skinny: An apparent late-bloomer, the tall right-hander signed with the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 21 in 2015. In his two seasons with the Red Sox, he has pitched exclusively in relief.
The Downside: 22-year-old single-A relief prospects who put up a 3.88 ERA and a 1.492 WHIP are not hard to find.
Trade Rationale: He’s just another guy.
The Tyler Thornburg Trade
Unlike Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg is not exactly a household name. Given his former employer was the Milwaukee Brewers and the vast majority of his time in the majors was spent in the bullpen, this can hardly be surprising. However, in his first full season of relief pitching, Thornburg was a revelation for the Brewers, putting up a 2.15 ERA, a 0.940 WHIP, and a wicked 12.1 K/9. Unlike the Sale trade, the Red Sox sent a major league player in return along with a pair of prospects (and the always intriguing Player to be Named Later or $100).
The Big Leaguer
The Skinny: Shaw ended up as the primary third baseman for the Red Sox in 2016 after Pablo Sandoval went down to injury. The 26-year-old put up a line of .242/.306/.421 in his second season with Boston, with 52 extra-base hits.
The Downside: Shaw’s numbers absolutely tanked after May. In his final 93 games of the regular season, Shaw batted .207/.270/.361. The Red Sox attempted to replace him at third base with Yoan Moncada, but eventually went with utility maestro Brock Holt.
Trade Rationale: Beyond his decline, the Red Sox also welcome back Panda to the fold in 2017 and brought in Mitch Moreland to take over Shaw’s first base duties. With Holt, Josh Rutledge, and Marco Hernandez having the ability to man third and Hanley Ramirez as the back up to Moreland at first, Shaw was expendable.
The Skinny: The 22-year-old shortstop prospect – who has also seen time at second and third in his four professional seasons – had quite a breakout offensive season in 2016. Dubon recorded a line of .323/.379/.461 with 46 extra-base hits and 30 stolen bases splitting time equally between High-A Salem and AA Portland.
The Downside: Similar to Yoan Moncada, Dubon had an unusual power surge in Portland. After banging out eleven doubles and three triples in 62 games in Salem, he slammed 20 doubles, six triples, and six home runs in his 62 games in AA. He also saw his walks decrease (from 33 to 11) and strikeouts increase (from 25 to 36) in his second half of the season in Portland.
Trade Rationale: If the second-half surge is the new normal for Dubon, the Red Sox may have traded away a young, cheap, utility infielder. Then again, the Red Sox have 24-year-old Marco Hernandez for that role, and he put up a nifty .309/.343/.444 line in AAA Pawtucket when he wasn’t spending time on the bench in Boston.
The Skinny: 6’0” right-hander has spent his first two professional seasons in short-season leagues. The 20-year-old has put up an impressive 2.29 ERA, a very good 6.2 H/9, and a decent 1.220 WHIP in his 20 professional appearances.
The Downside: He hasn’t pitched in a full-season league. Beyond that, he is wild (40 walks, 6 HBPs, and 10 wild pitches in just 78 total innings) and shows only modest strikeout ability (71 Ks in the 78 innings).
Trade Rationale: Players who have not yet played in a full-season league are rarely coveted commodities. Players drafted in the 29th round of the MLB Draft are usually not upper echelon prospects. Like Victor Diaz, Pennington is just another guy until he proves he isn’t.