Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Red Sox Were Busy Tuesday

So, we have to say goodbye to a number of players whose cards I have been accumulating in my Red Sox collection.  So that is where we will start.

Only two players with Major League experience were traded:
Travis Shaw has been with the Red Sox for two years.  He came up part way through the season in 2015 and helped solidify first base.  He showed he had some big power as he hit 13 home runs with a .487 slugging percentage in 63 games down the stretch.  In 2016, he was anointed the starting third-baseman and started the year off hot.  But he was freezing cold from June forward and ended the season with 16 home runs and a slash line of .242/.306/.421.  Shaw's hold on third base was somewhat tenuous going into 2017.  Pablo Sandoval is returning from injury and he has gotten into the best shape of his career.  Brock Holt is still out there as well.  So there was some concern about his place.  Well that has been answered.

Yoan Moncada was Boston's top prospect (or #2 depending on which source you check).  He was a huge international signing from Cuba.  He has had some huge numbers in the minors (.287/.395/.480, 23 home runs, 100 RBIs, 94 stolen bases in two seasons in the minors) and has been climbing the ladder to the Majors.  He made a brief appearance in Boston toward the end of the 2016 season, playing in eight games.  He had a double out of four hits, but struck out 12 times in 20 plate appearances.  Moncada was expected to start the 2017 season in Pawtucket and possibly contend for the third base job.  That will not happen now.

There were five other minor leaguers traded Tuesday, three of whom appear in my Red Sox collection:
Dubon had a breakthrough season in 2016.  He hit .323/.379/.461 with six home runs, 69 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases as a middle infielder.  He had an outside shot at making the Majors at some point in 2017, though it was far more likely that he would start at Pawtucket.

Michael Kopech had emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in the game.  He has the ability to hit over 100 mph on the radar gun and has had the stamina to remain a starting pitcher to this point in his career.  Kopech had an abbreviated season and pitched in just 12 games in 2016, but he was 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and struck out 86 in 56.1 innings.  He blew away the competition in the Arizona Fall League.  Kopech looked to start the season in Double A in 2017.

Josh Pennington was just emerging as a prospect in 2016.  He was a 29th round pick in the 2014 draft and pitched to a 5-3 record with a 2.86 ERA.  He looks like a future relief pitcher.  He pitched in short-season A ball in 2016 and was likely headed to full-season A ball in 2017.

Finally, Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz were also traded.  I have no cards of Basabe, but he looked like an interesting outfield prospect.  He hit .264/.328/.452 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs.  Diaz was 2-5 with a 3.88 ERA in Greenville.

Boston traded Shaw, Dubon, and Pennington to the Milwaukee Brewers for Tyler Thornburg.
Tyler Thornburg emerged as a top-flight setup man in 2016 and had a little bit of closing experience.  He ended up 8-5 with a 2.15 ERA and struck out 90 batters while walking 25 in 67 innings.  He picked up 13 saves.  Thornburg joins a bullpen with closer Craig Kimbrel and steps in as the primary setup man.  The bullpen has become a strength with Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross Jr., Heath Hembree, and Matt Barnes all coming back.

Boston signed Mitch Moreland as a free agent.
Moreland had a bit of a down year with the bat in 2016, but he has hit at least 20 home runs in three of the last four seasons.  He also won a Gold Glove for his work at first base.  Moreland likely becomes the Red Sox first-baseman, and can be counted on to replace the productivity of the traded Travis Shaw.  Moreland is a similar hitter, with a little bit more of a track record.  His signing likely pushes Hanley Ramirez into being the primary designated hitter, which is just fine.

Finally, Moncada, Kopech, Basabe, and Diaz were traded to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Sale.
What is there to say about Chris Sale?  The southpaw is one of the top pitchers in the league.  He has been an All Star every season since 2012 and will be just 28 next season.  Last season, he was 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts.  He has finished in the Top 5 in the Cy Young vote in each of the last two seasons.  He joins a rotation already featuring the 2016 Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello and 2012 Cy Young Winner David Price.  The rotation could also feature up-and-comer Eduardo Rodriguez, or former All Stars Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz, and Clay Buchholz.  It is likely that someone will be traded.  But they will potentially have the best starting rotation in the game, no matter who gets traded.  I have already identified the starting rotation as my primary focus in my collection in 2017.

All told, it hurts to trade Moncada, Dubon, and Kopech, and to a lesser extent, Shaw.  I am not a huge prospect collector, but I like the idea of Boston developing their own players.  Seeing them trade homegrown players stings, but that pitching staff is going to be tough and the bullpen should be a strength.  Moreland is not going to replace David Ortiz's production, but he should be decent.  I am excited for the season.  Can we just start now?

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