Over the last few years, the Red Sox have reaped the benefits of a strong minor league system that was initially developed by Theo Epstein, then strengthened by Ben Cherington. This system has produced Major League All Stars like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. as well as impact players like Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, and Matt Barnes. But, over the last year, a number of things have happened that have me concerned about this continuing into the future. Here, I would like to look at those events that have happened and examine their potential impacts.
1. THE KIMBREL TRADE
Last year, Dave Dombrowski became Boston's President of Baseball Operations. Dombrowski has helped build good teams in the past, but has never been shy about giving up prospects. He arrived as advertized and made a big trade in the offseason for Craig Kimbrel to become Boston's closer. The price was heavy though: four prospects, two of whom were among Boston's top 10 and two developing into strong prospects.
Manuel Margot was a top young outfielder that could break through this year. He was blocked in the Majors and Andrew Benintendi was likely to surpass him as a prospect. Javier Guerra was a middle infielder with power. Carlos Asuaje was a similar player. Logan Allen was a pitching prospect that had just been drafted in 2015. The prevailing opinion is that Boston overpaid for Kimbrel. None of the prospects are devastating losses, but Boston should have been able to make the trade without giving up all four of them. They did not give up any of their top four prospects, but they just gave up too many for what they received.
2. 2016 DRAFT
On one hand, this year's draft was a success. It is not often that a team that does not get to pick until #12 is able to pick up a talent like Jason Groome. Groome was once considered a possibility to go first overall in the draft but dropped due to signability concerns and some other issues. However, due to the top-heavy draft class for Boston, most of their other draftees were uninspiring or risky. They were not able to sign many of their lottery picks and only signed one player after Round 10 for more than $100,000.00. There is likely only one impact player drafted by Boston this year, though that one could be very good.
3. INTERNATIONAL SIGNING PENALTY
Boston was singled out for some violations of international free agent signing rules earlier this year. It was determined that in order for Boston to get around signing restrictions, they made package deals between prospects. Lesser-rated prospects would sign for the maximum allotted, but part of their bonus would go to higher-rated prospects. It is important to note that Boston is not the only team to have engaged in these tactics, but they were perhaps a little more blatant about it. MLB investigated and then handed down a penalty. Five player contracts were voided and Boston was banned for signing anyone in the 2016-2017 international signing period. The timing was planned and the penalty came down the day before the signing period began. Meaning Boston had no time to appeal the ruling or fight the penalty and still be able to be active in the signing period. The players Boston lost were Albert Guimaro, Simon Muzziotti, Antonio Pineiro, Eduardo Torrealba, and Cesar Gonzalez. The first two were highly-rated prospects. So in addition to losing two top international signings, the team is not able to sign any international free agents for a year.
4. MINOR TRADES
Boston made a couple of trades to improve their depth within the last couple of weeks. The first was to send Aaron Wilkerson and Wendell Rijo to Milwaukee for Aaron Hill. The second brought Brad Ziegler from Arizona for Jorge Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe. Wilkerson looked to be ready to be called to the Majors to join the starting rotation. Basabe has emerged as a quality prospect over the last few months. Rijo had been a decent prospect in the past. Almonte was Boston's top international free agent in the 2012-2013 signing period. None of these losses were devastating either, in fact, none of the players were even as painful as the players lost in the Kimbrel trade, but yet again, four mid-range prospects were removed from the system.
5. THE POMERANZ TRADE
This is probably the best devastating individual event and occurred just recently. Boston sent top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz is having a decent season and is under team control through the 2018 season. But in order to pick him up, Boston gave up their top pitching prospect since Jon Lester. Sure he is just 18 years old, but Boston's biggest problem has been the inability to develop good pitching. That problem just continues to be an issue when the team moves its best pitching prospect.
None of these events individually create problems, but combined together and added to the fact that Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada are knocking on the Major League door means that Boston may be suffering organizationally in a few years with a lack of prospects. There are still good prospects in the system now that won't be quite ready in a couple of years: Jason Groome, Michael Kopech, Josh Ockimey, and Roniel Raudes come to mind. I am just concerned how the last year's events may cause the organization to suffer somewhat.