There’s a lot of rumbling in social media circles about Todd Frazier to the Red Sox “seemingly being inevitable” according to Ken Rosenthal. Do note that seemingly inevitable and actually inevitable are two different things, but the trade makes sense.
Rather than write about that, I want to focus on a player that may not seem to be as obvious a concern. The mess at third base is something that will almost certainly be addressed by the deadline. The potential mess in the bullpen, now that Joe Kelly has hit the disabled list and Blaine Boyer possibly joining him, is less of a sure thing to be addressed.
Joe Kelly may have been part of a mess of a trade, and it’s certainly been a roller coaster ride with him, but one thing about Kelly’s 2017 is undeniable: He has kept runs off the board and preserved enough leads that his absence will be felt as we instead turn to Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree to bridge to Craig Kimbrel.
Barnes and Hembree are not bad pitchers. Both have mid-3 ERAs and both have the ability to strike key guys out. The issue is that one (Barnes) walks far too many guys, and the other (Hembree) is far too hittable. Neither are guys you feel comfortable coming out for the 8th inning, following a dominant Chris Sale start, with a one-run lead as a bridge to Craig Kimbrel. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is the exact situation we found ourselves in Saturday night. Chris Sale dominated through 7.2 innings, in part because he had to. With no bridge, Kimbrel would come out and take 10 pitches to retire Aaron Judge, something that may have affected him next inning as he allowed a game-tying home run to Matt Holliday.
Had the Red Sox had an option beyond Joe Kelly, would Kimbrel have come out in the 8th? It’s hard to say, since John Farrell has made some questionable calls in his tenure as a manager, but I’d like to believe that having an extra good reliever to call on would change fate ever so slightly.
Let’s pretend that we’re back in the 8th inning, and Sale has the first two outs of the inning. Instead of turning to Kimbrel, we have a new guy that we can turn to for a singular out. He could even get all three outs. In comes a sub 3 ERA pitcher, with 13.2 k’s per 9 innings. A pitcher who limits hits and has a knuckle-curve, which is a type that the Red Sox certainly love right now, between Kimbrel and Pomeranz).
In comes David Robertson.
He hopefully takes down Judge (I can’t tell the fake future, man), and saves Kimbrel for the 9th. Kimbrel, now rested, retires the Yankees 1-2-3, as he is perfectly capable of. The Red Sox win 1-0. The Yankees have to settle for being shut out, and the Red Sox continue to roll through on their quest to the playoffs.
This sounds really nice to me, so how would a trade work? Relievers have proven to be rather costly, but this particular reliever shouldn’t command the same price that Andrew Miller did last year, when the Yankees got back Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield among other players. By the same coin, however, it’s not going to be cheap. he won’t be coming at a cost of just Trey Ball.
At one point, the Nationals were close to acquiring Robertson, in a deal where they would have given up Jesus Luzardo and Drew Ward, their number 10 and 12 prospects respectively, according to mlb.com. That deal was reportedly hung up by money. The Red Sox being the Red Sox, I cannot imagine them not being willing to eat enough salary to make the deal work.
Given their profiles, I would expect something along the lines of Travis Lakins or Mike Shawaryn as the headliner prospect, and Lorenzo Cedrola to be the meat of the package. If there were any other prospects, they’d be of far lesser value, and it would not be likely to make anyone throw their hands up in protest.
Now, I’m not a prospect hugger. I love Lorenzo Cedrola and Mike Shawaryn. Both guys figure into long-term plans if they hit their projected ceilings. But as we know, prospects have multiple functions. They can be kept as cheap, effective production (assuming they are productive, as is Andrew Benintendi), or they can be sold off as assets to a rebuilding club (I remember a time when we gave up Javier Guerra in the Craig Kimbrel deal - for what it is worth, Guerra’s stock has fallen so massively that it was a definite sell high on his value. He is presently the Padres #24 prospect).
I’m not going to try to pretend I know how salary works in trades, I’m sure the Red Sox will only eat as much as they need in this hypothetical trade, and it comes out looking like fair value, considering the time of year, and the team need for a reliever. What I am confident about, is that you will not see either of Rafael Devers or Jay Groome moved in a deal for a reliever.
With so much uncertainty in the pen beyond Kimbrel and Kelly, the need for a reliever seems somehow bigger to me than the issue at third base. Carson Smith is coming, of course. He recently threw a bullpen, and has a couple more sessions ahead of him, according to MassLive’s Jen McCaffrey, but there’s no telling if he’ll be the same pitcher he was in Seattle back in 2015.