I promise I’m not a prospect hugger. Well, I try not to be.
With the way Dombrowski has spent in his first few seasons on the job, there’s no track record to suggest he will sit on his hands at this deadline — not with a contending team and a pennant up for grabs.
But I kind of wish he would.
At the expense of being terse, this is a really good baseball team with very few holes. Is it a 2007-esque juggernaut? Probably not. But it really has no viable path of getting there via an external move without completely gutting the future. This team has its ace — potentially two, depending on Price. The team has its closer, and in many ways the lineup isn’t all that malleable. For better or for worse, in my view, this is the general framework of the team that the Red Sox will take into October. The ways this team can transform from a good team to a great team — Price being old Price, Devers coming up and mashing, etc. — all come from within.
But I can all but guarantee Dombrowski doesn’t view things that way, and I always believe in beefing up bullpen arms. Which is why, if they intend to make a move, I want the Red Sox to trade for Pat Neshek.
My infatuation with Neshek starts with my irrational appreciation for pitchers with abnormal arm slots. Neshek brings a herky-jerky windup and comes at a peculiar arm angle, which to me comes with some entertainment value. There’s also something intangibly valuable about having a late-inning reliever who can come in with a different look and a different style — his fastball averages 90.4 miles per hour, according to fangraphs — in an otherwise uniform bullpen.
But my interest in Neshek extends to rational analysis, too. The Red Sox’ bullpen has been held together by its seams in many ways this season. Kimbrel and “just a bunch of guys” has worked, but it might be naive to expect it to continue to work, especially as we move toward the postseason. Nobody outside of Kimbrel in the bullpen has a FIP less than 3, for context. Neshek has a track record of success in the MLB, but is having a breakout year (if that’s even what to call it at age 36) this season with the Phillies. With the best ERA and FIP of his career — 1.27 and 2.27, respectively — Neshek promises to bring stability to a bullpen that could be viewed as volatile at times.
Anecdotally, I’m not sure I feel comfortable with Joe Kelly pitching the 8th inning of a playoff game. I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with Matt Barnes in a high leverage situation. I’m not sure I’d be thrilled with Heath Hembree, either. That matters.
In addition, though, I think it’s important to acquire someone who can get lefties out. My confidence in Robby Scott and Fernando Abad is minimal, and while it’s important that one of the two establish himself before October, some external help would be valuable. Neshek, though a righty, actually has better splits this season against lefties (.188/.231/.313) than he does against righties (.234/.253/.286).
What might be most important for me, though, is the price. Though the market often inflates for guys like Neshek (a guy who will be moved, and will likely have multiple potential suitors), the price should be relatively minimal compared to the more expensive options. Neshek will go into free agency after the season and, thus, shouldn’t command quite the haul if he were under control beyond this season.
This trade would remind me quite a bit of the Brad Ziegler deal last year, and if the Red Sox could acquire Neshek for a similar package of I would be all for it. Picture a package headlined by, say, Travis Lakins, and throw in a few C-list prospects. I, for one, really liked the inevitably overlooked Brad Ziegler experience.
Standing pat isn’t in Dave Dombrowski’s vocabulary and, to some extent, I appreciate that. It brought us Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, who at the risk of sounding controversial, are good at playing baseball. It also sent away a third basemen who would otherwise be playing every day for the Red Sox for a guy who might never throw a pitch for the Red Sox (a trade I liked at the time, and will haphazardly defend now). Some trades hit and some miss, that’s just the nature of having a risk-taking decision-maker.
But the Red Sox don’t need anything drastic right now. They don’t need to overpay for Todd Frazier when Rafael Devers continues to loom in the minors. They don’t need to overpay for yet another reliever (like Robertson) who will continue to gut the farm system. They certainly should stay away from Sonny Gray. Pat Neshek is the perfect compromise between minimizing cost and filling a flaw in the roster as it stands.