Red Sox bolster pitching, shake up Winter Meetings

In 2013, the Boston Red Sox finished off their third World Series Championship in a 10 year span.  Red Sox fans all over began to throw out the “D” word, DYNASTY.  To be honest, that wasn’t too far of a stretch.  They had a young up-and-coming rookie in Xander Bogaerts, veteran superstars David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, and established studs nearing free agency in Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury.  From all reports, Ellsbury and Lester loved their time in Boston and each had a solid shot to sign a long term deal.

Then, Ellsbury split for the hated Yankees two months later.  The Red Sox had an up and down first half to the 2014 season, with Lester’s impending free agency looming.  It was always believed Lester would return home, the organization he loved and literally fought for his life with.  July 31 came and the Red Sox were 48-60, seemingly out of the playoff race.  Lester and the Red Sox brass were reported to have a large difference in what they believed was a fair contract extension.  Just before the trade deadline, Lester was traded to the Oakland A’s for Yoenis Cespedes.  Lester, feeling slighted by Boston, signed a long term deal with the Chicago Cubs.  The Red Sox have been looking for a front line ace ever since.

Since signing David Price to a pricey long term deal, he has struggled to live up to his contract as many in Boston do.  Today, the Red Sox were finally able to acquire what should be a sure fire front line ace in Chris Sale:

Red Sox get:

LHP Chris Sale

White Sox get:

2B Yoan Moncada

RHP Michael Kopech

OF Luis Alexander Basabe

RHP Victor Diaz

Analysis:  As it’s previously been stated, Chris Sale is an Ace.  His value to the Boston Red Sox will be irreplaceable, especially on the cheap three year contract he has left.  He will be a front of the rotation pitcher and should finish in the top 5 Cy Young voting every season, as he always has.  Now let’s get into the Prospects1500 juice, the young kids headed to Chicago and what it means.

Yoan Moncada, arguably MLB’s #1 prospect and the clear headliner in this deal.  Personally, I never thought the Red Sox would consider dealing him, even if it was for Chris Sale.  Moncada has everything you look for when evaluating a young player: speed, power, quickness in the field, a good throwing arm and projected confidence.  There are few deficiencies that one can find in Moncada’s game.  His strikeout rate is a bit concerning at 29% of his minor league at bats and 12 of 19 at bats in a short stop in the pros last season.  I think I am less concerned about this than most for two reasons.  One, the kid is only 21 years old and has been in the U.S. for less than two years.  He needs time to adjust.  Two, his walk rate in his two minor league seasons is 16%, far better than the average young player.  At first glance, a move from the Boston lineup to Chicago during a rebuild is worrisome.  At a closer look, I think the opportunity for at bats will come sooner.  The White Sox will not feel pressure to compete and can afford to let Moncada find his way with the big club.  Also, second base the position Moncada prefers, is wide open.  He is no longer blocked at second base by Dustin Pedroia and can settle in comfortably there.  Playing second base full time will also increase Moncada’s fantasy value.  At his best, I see Moncada as a perennial .300/20/80 hitter with somewhere around 40 stolen bases.  If he’s able to reach his potential, he will soon compete with Jose Altuve as the top fantasy baseball second baseman.  ETA: May 2017

Michael Kopech, the player in the deal that can tip the scales either way.  Kopech is one of the most controversial pitching prospects in all of baseball.  There have been negative reports such as drug use, violent behavior and failure to respect authority.  There have also been positive reports of throwing 105 MPH (probably false and closer to 102 MPH) with wipeout off-speed stuff.  Kopech has struggled with his command so far during his short career, as most young pitchers do.  If he is able to get his act together and command his pitches, he could be the next Noah Syndergaard.  Kopech also has a high floor and could end up as a dominant closer if he’s not able to refine his delivery to be more consistent. Leaving the high pressure environment of Boston can only help Kopech’s career, especially with his alleged behavioral problems. ETA: 2018

Finishing off the deal, Chicago was able to pry OF Luis Alexander Basabe and RHP Victor Diaz away from Boston.  After seeing his brother traded by Boston to Arizona, Basabe had a solid 2016 campaign at 20 years old.  Basabe slashed .258/.325/.447 with 44 extra base hits and 25 stolen bases at Class A Salem.  Basabe is a switch hitting outfielder with five-tool potential and solid instincts on the bases, increasing the likelihood his minor league stolen base success will transfer as he moves up.  Basabe profiles as a solid right fielder as he has a strong arm, but struggles with reading fly balls.  Basabe reminds me a lot of Grady Sizemore, a player that will always have enough talent to be a big league starter, but lacks the polish and size to become a superstar.  If all works out, he will be an everyday contributor with Moncada for the White Sox in the #2 or #6 spot in the order. ETA: 2020

The biggest question mark in this deal is RHP Victor Diaz.  He is a large 22 year old flame thrower that spent last season in low-A ball, playing with kids a lot younger than him.  He has been reported to hit 102 MPH with his fastball, but lacks a consistent second pitch.  Diaz throws a slider that can be a strikeout pitch at times, but tends to become slurvy in movement.  All signs point to Diaz being groomed as a reliever with Chicago. Diaz reminds me a lot of Nathan Eovaldi.  He has a magical arm, but just not enough else to be a productive starting pitcher.  He likely will wind up as a hard throwing middle reliever.  ETA: 2018

Grades: Red Sox A-, White Sox A
Prior to acquiring Sale, the Red Sox made another trade today in acquiring 28 year old RHP Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers.  The full details:

Red Sox get:

RHP Tyler Thornburg

Brewers get:

3B Travis Shaw

SS Mauricio Dubon

RHP Josh Pennington

First of all, I love Thornburg.  This is a guy I had my hopes in the Dodgers acquiring this offseason as a potential replacement to Kenley Jansen, or a set-up man if he stays.  Thornburg is a young, hard throwing reliever with strikeout stuff that teams are coveting these days.  He struck out 90 over 67 IP last season with a .162 BAA and 0.94 WHIP.  These are all positive signs that he will have continued success as a high leverage reliever in front of Craig Kimbrel for the Red Sox.  He should be a positive source in fantasy baseball for Holds, Strikeouts and some Saves.

Travis Shaw, while still young, is no longer considered a prospect.  The Brewers are hoping he can be the long term solution at their revolving door of third base.  After a strong start in 2016, Shaw tailed off the second part of the year and eventually lost his job.  There is enough of a hit tool there and solid defensive skills to be the answer at third base in Milwaukee.  While he will likely never be an all-star, Shaw should turn into a solid every day player in the mold of Mike Moustakas. ETA: Opening Day

Mauricio Dubon is a solid, however, not exciting shortstop for the Brewers.  He has a nice story coming to the U.S. from Honduras on a mission trip, ultimately deciding to stay here to play baseball.  Dubon is a solid defender and contact hitter, without any one dominant tool.  Dubon should be able to use his skills to become a versatile utility player for the Brewers if all goes well.  I don’t see him ever becoming an everyday player for the Brew Crew, but he could see 450+ at bats in a super utility role playing SS, 2B and OF.  Of course, in fantasy baseball we all love defensive versatility so that increases his overall value.  ETA: 2018

Finally, RHP Josh Pennington heads to the Brewers as a low ceiling, low floor arm.  Pennington is a Tommy John survivor and has a poor body for a front-line pitcher.  Since undergoing surgery, he has struggled with his command but still throws hard, topping out at 98 MPH.  Pennington is only 6 foot tall and thin, so he is what he is going to be at this point.  Pennington has a solid curveball, but no feel for the needed changeup he is working on.  Ultimately, I don’t think he ever reaches the show, thus he has zero fantasy appeal.  ETA: Never

Grades: Red Sox B+, Brewers C


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