The Boston Red Sox have sent out Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto -- along with a quarter-of-a-billion dollars in future salary -- to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those aren't the only players, though, as the Red Sox are getting back a combination of prospects, bench pieces, and a stopgap, major-league first baseman in addition to all of the salary relief. These are your newest members of the Red Sox organization, more than one of which Boston hopes are future Red Sox, too.
Let's start with the player likely to be in town for the least amount of time: James Loney. The first baseman is in the last year of arbitration, and will be a free agent in a few months time. There was a time when he was considered a legitimate prospect with a promising bat, but he's now 28 years old, come to the plate 3,378 times, and owns a career line of .284/.341/.423. With his glove, that's not so bad -- think peak Casey Kotchman -- but he's been worse than that since his first full season (and best season) back in 2008. Ages 25 through 28, Loney has an OPS+ of exactly 100, with a 79 in his latest effort.
Unless Dave Magadan works miracles, and Fenway turns out to be the greatest place Loney has ever been to, it's unlikely he'll be in Boston past the last month of his contract. He's a career .295/.348/.466 hitter on the road, with a home OPS a full 100 points lower, and he's always been solid against right-handed pitching, so maybe asking for a miracle is a bit strong. But it would still take quite the performance and some love from the scouts for him to stick around. We've got less than six weeks for him to make it count.
The real meat of this trade, though, the part that is surprising in that it's coming back to Boston despite the massive salary relief, comes with the pitching prospects. Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster represent two of the Dodgers' top young arms, with De La Rosa ranking #90 in Baseball America's top 100 heading into 2011, and Webster taking the #95 spot in the 2012 iteration.
De La Rosa has only thrown a handful of innings in 2012, as he had Tommy John surgery performed in August of 2011, so even though he's lost his prospect status thanks to 60 innings in the majors last year, the 23-year-old is still very much a prospect loaded with potential.
That potential translates into either an impact relief arm for the back-end of the Boston bullpen, or as a mid-rotation starter. Boston does not have a single pitcher with that kind of upside sitting at Pawtucket at the moment, so De La Rosa's acquisition fills a void that needed filling. His repertoire needs work, as that's what will determine whether he starts or relieves. But he owns a power slider and a high-90s heater, so, if nothing else, Boston might have found their replacement for the seemingly broken Daniel Bard.
Webster is just 22, not on the 40-man, and was pitching in Double-A for the Dodgers. He had a rough go of things at the level to close out 2011, but was a top 100 prospect regardless. He's been better, but not amazing, in his second stint at Double-A, posting a 3.55 ERA and 2.1 K/BB courtesy of 8.7 strikeouts per nine against 4.2 walks per nine. He's kept the ball in the park, as the groundballing right-hander has a habit of doing, and he's given up far fewer hits in 2012. For what it's worth, Webster has allowed a .336 batting average on balls in play this season; unsurprisingly, his minor-league FIP is about one-third of a run better than his ERA because of this.
Webster is a potential mid-rotation starter with a low-to-mid-90s sinker, as well as both a curve and a slider. There were issues with the breaking stuff in the past, but, according to a scout via Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein, that has changed in 2012:
"It's all there," said a National League scout who was taken off his coverage to see the team. "When everything is going, he has three average-to-plus pitches and knows what to do with them." The scout noted that Webster's game has matured, as well. "He knows he has a really good-and potentially special-changeup, but he's not over-relying on it anymore," the scout explained. "It's like he finally figured out that setting that pitch up with 92-94 mph heat is the best way to go about it, and his curveball has improved as well. He used to get over the ball and it wouldn't finish, but now it's breaking through the zone much better."
Webster is a huge get, a guy who might have moved his ceiling from mid-rotation to potential #2, but there's still a ways to go before that last bit can be said with real confidence. With Brandon Workman excelling, Drake Britton rebounding, and Allen Webster now in tow, Boston all of a sudden has a plethora of pitching talent in the high minors.
Last up are two pieces that are potentially useful, but their futures will not make or break this deal for Boston. Jerry Sands is a 24-year-old first baseman/outfielder with some good-looking numbers in the minors, but little in the way of big-league production. One thing Boston doesn't have to concern themselves with is inflated Pacific Coast League numbers for Triple-A players, but with Sands, some knowledge of how that works is needed.
Remember High-A Lancaster, and the lies it told about both hitters and pitchers, due to it's completely unbalanced favoritism towards hitters? Picture an entire league like that, and you've got the PCL. Jerry Sands hit an impressive-looking .291/.363/.557 in two seasons in the PCL, giving him an OPS of 921 at Triple-A in his career. In 2011, the average OPS was 807, and in 2012, 775. A basic OPS+ estimate (no park effects included) puts Sands at 115 and 117 for 2011 and 2012, respectively -- very good, but not as jaw-dropping as the raw line.
Ivan De Jesus is the son of the Ivan De Jesus you might have just thought about when you saw his name just now. He's 25, with all of 40 major-league games to his credit. Remember that little speech above about the PCL? De Jesus has a 770 OPS in his three seasons there -- a little below-average. He's a utility player, though, and an inexpensive one with loads of team control at that. He's spent time at short and second, primarily, but has started to see more looks at third and in the corner outfield as well. There's always a use for players like this.
Considering how much money Boston has been freed up, this is an impressive haul. Loney could be nothing, but maybe Boston sees something they like, and are able to sign a useful stop-gap first baseman on the cheap. Webster and De La Rosa are no sure things, but they've helped to solve on of the only glaring issues in Boston's farm system by giving the team some high-minors starting pitching talent. Sands and De Jesus might not be impact players, but they're cheap, and the Sox have the roster space to roll the dice on them.