Friday, August 1, 2014

Deadline Day

I spent Thursday morning driving to southern Connecticut for a softball tournament. When I finally got where I was going, I took out the iPad just in time to find out that the Red Sox had traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes.
I found it kind of ironic that I was at a softball tournament when I found out this news. In the fateful summer of 2004, when Theo Epstein sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs and helped to engineer an impressive run that ended in the happiest moment of most Red Sox fans' lives, I was also at a softball tournament. I remember it distinctly because I was telling someone in vicinity of the dugout and one of the players absolutely lost it. Nomar was her favorite player and it was not a welcome trade in her mind.
All day yesterday I kept up on the latest news. When I was in my car I had MLB Network Radio on, listening to the latest news and rumors. I also had my iPad and continually checked Twitter for updates from the local Boston beat writers, guys like Peter Abraham, Nick Cafardo and Gordon Edes.
I listened to trade deadline talk the entire four-hour ride back to New Hampshire, switching to WEEI once I got into range and I still am not sure what to make of the whole day, from a Red Sox standpoint.
I was not thrilled to see Jon Lester go. I admired him for all that he had been through and all he had overcome to become one of the best pitchers in the game. His toughness and attitude made him the perfect big-game pitcher and he had proven he can cut it in Boston, unlike other players who have come along the last few years. However, I drew a little comfort from the fact that they didn't send him packing for a couple of prospects. In Cespedes, they have the power hitter they've lacked all season.
Then came the news that John Lackey was heading to St. Louis for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, again, not a package of prospects but proven Major League talent. It was mind-boggling that teams in contention for playoff spots were shedding talent in order to bring in other talent.
The Andrew Miller trade was also a bit disappointing, but they got decent value for him and he gets the chance to pitch for a competitor. The Stephen Drew trade came completely out of left field, but was not an unwelcome development.
As for assessing the damage, I think for a team that was in "sell" mode, the Red Sox did pretty darn good. Obviously nobody wants to be in the position of selling off assets at the trade deadline, but it was apparent nothing was coming of the season. Other teams valued players the Sox had and were willing to make deals that would also benefit the Sox. In acquiring three Major League players, the Red Sox have begun setting themselves up for next season. In sending Drew to New York, they've also opened the shortstop door for Xander Bogaerts, thus opening the third base door for Will Middlebrooks, giving him a chance to prove himself. They've also left plenty of spots in the rotation, where guys like Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo will be given a few months to prove they belong in the big leagues.
I've loved everything that I've seen out of Christian Vasquez and my hope is that the others will not disappoint. Webster hasn't impressed me much, but both Workman and De La Rosa have had moments of brilliance (and they've also both had moments of disaster). While I don't think Jackie Bradley Jr. is a suitable replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup, I do believe he may be the best defensive centerfielder the Sox have had in a long time.
The indication that I got from the deals made by Ben Cherington on Thursday is that the Sox will not be in a long rebuilding process. They intend to compete next year and they now have a few of the bats to do so. They believe pitching will be available on the free agent market this winter (including Lester and Miller) and the team will be competitive again in 2015. If all the talent had left the Sox for a string of prospects, I would be of the impression that 2015 was slated to be a down year, a rebuilding process. That is not the case.
Bottom line, I'm sad to see Lester go, but I think, given the circumstances around everything, the Red Sox did what they had to do to set things in motion for next year. In the meantime, we get to see if that touted farm system has done its job.

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