Castillo’s presence will reshape the roster
The Red Sox made a statement when they agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Cuban defector Rusney Castillo. They are (at least for now) back to using their financial muscles in the free agent market, and seem prepared to spend to get their targets. But in showing that they still are willing to behave like a large-market club, the Red Sox also gave away part of their plan for the coming offseason. Adding Castillo makes it abundantly clear that the Red Sox will use their organizational depth on the trade market to add at least one major, franchise-changing piece to the roster.
The idea that the Red Sox are now in a position to make a major splash on the trade market is based solely on the numbers game. The team is stockpiling players, creating a situation where they have many quality players for few available spots. This depth is going to basically force the Red Sox to make some type of move, because there is no use having so many quality players if they do not get the chance to play at all. There is now surplus is almost every area of the Red Sox organization, which means someone will have to go in order to clear the picture. The outfield, for example, now appears more crowded than the Mass Pike at rush hour, with a combination of veterans and prospects vying for playing time. But the prospects are the key here, as they are the most valuable commodity and the most tradable asset in this scenario. Despite his recent demotion, Jackie Bradley Jr. was likely going to be in the team’s future plans in some capacity, and Mookie Betts is currently getting a chance to prove he can be the impact player he was in the minor leagues. Castillo’s signing now suggests that neither player will start for the Red Sox in the near future. Third base is becoming crowded as well, with Brock Holt and Will Middlebrooks currently splitting time there and Garin Cecchini waiting in the minors. Christian Vazquez has stabilized things behind the plate for the time being, but Blake Swihart has been more highly regarded as a prospect and is getting closer to the majors. This is all to say nothing of the tremendous organizational pitching depth that was only bolstered at the trade deadline.
The Red Sox’ unfortunate position in the standings has afforded the team to get a look at their young, homegrown players in an effort to get a read on who can help the team aim to contend in 2015. The team got another good look in their 2-0 sweep-clinching loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, when Rubby De La Rosa turned in one of his strongest starts of the season. While De La Rosa’s initial line (6.2 innings, 8 hits, 2 earned runs, three walks and eight strikeouts) might not be terribly inspiring, most of the damage against him was done in the first two innings. This included a bases-loaded jam that De La Rosa was able to escape without harm and settle in to stifle the Angels offense into the seventh inning. Since his promotion earlier in the season, De La Rosa has made a strong case for himself to be in the Red Sox starting rotation at the beginning of the 2015 season.
De La Rosa is finally starting to show why he was such a highly thought-of prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. De La Rosa spent the offseason working with former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez on his craft, and all of his hard work has paid off to this point in 2014. De La Rosa has put up 6.69 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, with a .272 average against, 79.7% strand rate, 3.69 ERA and 4.02 xFIP in 78 innings with the big club. The strikeout numbers are down slightly from his career average (career 7.41 K/9), but otherwise that is a solid line across the board, especially for a rookie starter in the American League. Those numbers are right in line with a solid number three starter on a contending rotation.
It is well past time for Buchholz to relinquish his rotation spot
Clay Buchholz got roughed up in losing his latest start for the Red Sox. Stop us if that sounds familiar. It has been the same old story for Buchholz in 2014; sub-par start after sub-par start with a trip to the Disabled List mixed in. Unsurprisingly, Buchholz got rocked again on Wednesday against the Angels at Fenway Park, giving up 6 runs, 7 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings of work. It’s not just about performance for Buchholz at this point (or lack thereof), but about how he gives up runs. Buchholz was actually cruising through the first four innings against LAA, until he promptly loaded the bases and walked in a run. We have all been saying the same thing for some time now, but with the focus for the Red Sox becoming evaluating 2015 pieces, Buchholz’s days as a starter for the Red Sox should be numbered.
Needless to say Buchholz has been awful in 2014. The ERA (5.94), the WHIP (1.55), BABIP (.337), and Average Against (.291) are stratospheric, leading to much of Buchholz’s misery on the mound. While the peripheral numbers still suggest that he has been the victim of unfortunate luck (the aforementioned BABIP, 62.9% strand rate) and could be pitching more effectively (4.36 FIP, 4.18 xFIP), it is becoming clear that Buchholz is pitching to his poor surface numbers. Watching a start makes most of Buchholz’s problems pretty apparent. Location has been a serious problem, particularly leaving pitches up in the strikezone. The following two graphs illustrate the vertical location of Buchholz’s “out pitch,” the changeup, in 2014 to illustrate his location issues.
Kelly was rock-solid against his former team
There was much anticipation before Joe Kelly’s debut with the Red Sox in St. Louis, in that he was facing both his former team and one of his best friends. St. Louis’s starter, Shelby Miller, was Kelly’s best man at his wedding and the two are reportedly very close, adding an interesting wrinkle to the second of three contests between last October’s World Series opponents. Kelly also received several standing ovations from the grateful crowd at Busch Stadium. Brandon Workman will oppose Adam Wainwright in St. Louis tonight to decide the winner of the three game series. Some more notes from last night’s 2-1 Red Sox win:
- Joe Kelly made a solid start against his former team. Kelly’s final line on the night came out to 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 2 K, while throwing 53 of 97 pitches for strikes. Kelly seemed to struggle with his command early on, as evidenced by the four walks, but he seemed to settle in as the game went on. Those command issues could certainly be reasonably explained by some jitters against facing his old team in their ballpark for the first time. The two strikeouts were also a bit low, especially since Kelly shows plus stuff most times, but he is not a pitcher that lives and dies with the strikeout. Kelly has a career K/9 mark of just 5.97, but his career 52.2% groundball rate (56.6% this season) suggests that he can still be effective without missing many bats, as evidenced by his start last night.
The Red Sox continued their trading spree by sending John Lackey to the World Series runner-up St. Louis Cardinals, in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. While some fans were unhappy to see the Red Sox adopt a strategy that could be seen as selling, the return for Lackey in this trade essentially left the Red Sox with no choice. In return for just over a season of Lackey, the Red Sox got three and a half seasons of control over a power arm and a premium major league bat. This was a trade the Red Sox had to make, and they did a great job of getting lots of value in return.
Tip of the cap to you too, Lack
At the time of the trade, Lackey had been having a very productive season, building off of his breakout 2013 campaign. In 21 starts with the Red Sox, Lackey had put up 7.60 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9, with a 73.7% strand rate, 46.9% groundball rate, 3.60 ERA and 3.54 FIP. Those numbers really created a strong market for Lackey, to the point where the Red Sox reportedly had teams knocking down the doors to make a run at Lackey before the non-waiver trade deadline. Couple that demand with the rumors that Lackey would be unwilling to play under his league-minimum option next season, and it became a no-brainer for the Red Sox to move the big veteran. His loss will likely be felt in the near term, but the team is well positioned to replace Lackey over the long term.
After weeks of speculation, debate, and anticipation, the Red Sox finally moved Jon Lester in a trade that will reshape the current major league roster. On the morning of the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline, the Sox shipped Lester (along with Jonny Gomes and cash) to Oakland in exchange for two-time reigning Home Run Derby Champion (and outfield cannon holder) Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 Competitive Balance Round B draft pick. While it is sad to see a player such as Jon Lester go, the return for him is substantial, as is the chance that the Red Sox could make a run at bringing Lester back in free agency following the season.
Cespedes could be a difference-maker in Boston
This trade represents a slight surprise to most fans due to the fact that all trade talk involving Lester up to this point suggested that the Red Sox were seeking several high-level prospects for Lester, as opposed to established major leaguers. In hindsight, a return such as this should have been expected, since it would be hard for any opposing general manager to justify trading multiple high-impact prospects for two months of Lester’s services. But in getting Cespedes, Ben Cherington filled one of the Red Sox’ most glaring needs: an outfield bat that can hit in the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox’ offensive struggles have been well documented in 2014, and the outfield has been a key contributor (or non-contributor). To this point in 2014, Cespedes brings a .256/.303/.464 triple-slash, good for a .332 wOBA and 113 wRC+. While these numbers on their surface may make Cespedes seem like a relatively unimpressive player, other stats such as his .208 ISO and .278 BABIP suggest that there is room for improvement in his game. This is all to say nothing of the effect playing all of your home games at the O.co Coliseum can have on one’s offensive numbers. When taking into context Cespedes’s career numbers (in addition to the fact that he will not turn 29 until October), it is not unreasonable to think that he could put up a line closer to his rookie season in 2012 (.292/.356/.505) with a full season’s worth of home games at Fenway Park.