Ben Cherington and the Red Sox completed four separate moves on Thursday. (AP)
As the names entered the rumor mill, the idea became more and more confusing. Sure, dealing away players who would reach free agency after this season for assets who would remain in Boston beyond 2014 made sense, but when the names expanded beyond the likes of Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes and Andrew Miller to include players like John Lackey who will be under team control (at least in theory) beyond the 2014 season, it became a bit harder to make sense of what the Red Sox hoped to accomplish.
Was the team considering taking a wrecking ball to its veteran core? Had it compromised the notion of building for April 2015?
“I think we have every intention of competing to contend next year,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said on Wednesday afternoon, prior to his team’s 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays. “That’s not to say that we’re not looking to win as many games as we can this year. You may be looking for a specific answer because the question mark remains, who are the players that come back for individual players that we have now? We don’t know that yet. But I would hope that the team that is built for 2015 isn’t just based on those who are brought back in trades by tomorrow at 4 o’clock. This is an ongoing process that we continue to build.”
As it turns out, while the work of the Red Sox‘ roster rebuild for 2015 does indeed remain incomplete, the team has already taken a number of steps forward in that regard. Here’s what happened over the roughly 25 hours leading up to the trade deadline in the aggregate:
LHP Jon Lester (free agent after 2014)
10-7, 2.52 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 in 2014; 110-63, 3.64, 8.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 career
OF Jonny Gomes (free agent after 2014)
.234/.329/.354 in 78 games in 2014; .244/.335/.446 career
LHP Andrew Miller (free agent after 2014)
3-5, 2.34 ERA, 14.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 in 2014; 28-38, 5.06, 8.7 K/9, 5.0 BB/9 career
SS Stephen Drew (free agent after 2014)
.176/.255/.328 in 2014; .261/.326/.431 career
RHP John Lackey (free agent after 2014…but with team option at the major league minimum)
11-7, 3.60 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 in 2014;
LHP Felix Doubront (under team control through 2017)
2-4, 6.07 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 in 2014; 26-22, 4.82, 8.1 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 career
OF Yoenis Cespedes (free agent after 2015)
Hitting .256/.303/.464 with 17 HR in 101 games; .262/.318/.470 with 29 homers per 162 for his career
1B/OF Allen Craig (signed through 2017 with team option for 2018)
Hitting .237/.291/.346 in 2014; .291/.343/.460 career
RHP Joe Kelly (under team control through 2019, not arbitration eligible until after 2015)
2-2, 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 in 2014; 17-14, 3.25 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 career
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (prospect in Double-A, has six years of major league control)
UT Kelly Johnson (free agent after 2014)
.219/.304/.373 in 77 games in 2014; .251/.333/.424 career
Player to be named (from Cubs for Doubront)
Ultimately, the Sox received waves of players who can address needs for 2015 (and in some cases, beyond), getting a jump on the offseason in a world where there will be a scarcity of position players but a wealth of top-level pitching talent, mostly by stripping away parts that were on their way out, or at least, not under team control beyond this year.
None of Lester, Gomes, Miller or Drew was going to be extended before the end of the year. The Sox had reached a point where a move had to be made with Doubront given that he was being squeezed out of the rotation by more promising options and he had refused to accept his bullpen role.
The team may well have retained Lackey for 2015 — he’s agreed to honor his 2015 option at the major league minimum with St. Louis — but in exchange for Lackey, the team gets a young pitcher with years of control and a demonstrated ability to succeed in the big leagues in Kelly, as well as four seasons of control with a corner bat with a big league track record in Craig, albeit someone who has fallen short of his long big league track record.
So: The Sox addressed multiple potential positional needs for 2015, while also adding a piece for the rotation, and another starting pitching prospect in Rodriguez who adds to the team’s depth of minor league starting pitchers. Meanwhile, the departure of Drew gives the Red Sox two critical months to evaluate Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, and to get some clarity about another key component of the 2015 roster.
While it remains to be seen how the Red Sox did in capturing value for a number of departing components, at the very least, there was a very clear strategy underlying what the Sox were doing, trying to address some of their deficiencies, particularly the ones that would be the hardest to rectify in the offseason.
Plenty of work remains on the path to 2015, but the Red Sox used the trade deadline to get a considerable head start in doing so.