When you give Dave Dombrowski a loaded farm system and a mandate to win, something like this is probably inevitable. The Red Sox new President of Baseball Operations swung his first deal since taking over, bringing Craig Kimbrel to Boston to assume ninth inning duties and give the team a big boost in the bullpen. The cost, however, was quite steep.
To land Kimbrel, Dombrowksi parted with outfielder Manny Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra, second baseman Carlos Asuaje, and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen, which is a pretty remarkable group of prospects to acquire for any player, much less a relief pitcher. Back in August, not too terribly long before the Braves hired him away from us, Kiley McDaniel rated Margot as the #19 prospect in all of baseball, putting a 60 FV grade on him, which put him in the tier of guys that ran from #7 to #20. For context, he ranked Dansby Swanson, who just went #1 overall in this summer’s draft, at #24, with a 55 FV.
From my perspective, Margot for Kimbrel alone would have been a deal worth making for the Padres, but in addition, they’re also getting Javier Guerra, who got upgraded to a 50 FV prospect in that same mid-season update. For context, 50 FV prospects ranked from #80 to #142 last year, so that pegs him as a back-end Top 100 prospect, also a valuable asset. Asuaje got a 40 FV grade and looks more like a part-time player than an everyday guy, but middle infielders who hold their own in AA aren’t nothing. And while Allen didn’t appear on Kiley’s Red Sox list last year or in the mid-season update, Baseball America’s Ben Badler tweeted this out tonight.
And Logan Allen's talent level is commensurate with a second or third-round pick. I know a lot of good scouts who liked that pick by Boston.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) November 14, 2015
So that’s a Top 25 prospect, a Top 100 prospect, a guy with 2nd-3rd round ability, and a depth piece with enough upside to be kinda interesting. That is a remarkable return for a reliever, and in my view, quite a bit more than what the Angels gave up to acquire Andrelton Simmons yesterday. Not that the Red Sox needed a young shortstop, but the fact that the Padres got more for a one inning reliever — even a really great one — than the Braves got for a 25 year old above average shortstop is pretty surprising to me.
Of course, we just saw the Royals bullpen their way to the World Series two years in a row, and Jeff just provided some evidence the other day that elite relief aces may bring more value to a team than just their own run prevention abilities would suggest. Kimbrel isn’t a rental, since he’s under contract through 2017, with an option for 2018 as well, so this isn’t necessarily just a win-now move. And the Red Sox have a great farm system, with elite young talents at both SS and CF already in the majors, so Margot and Guerra were likely trade bait at some point.
But this is a very high price to pay for a reliever. Kimbrel’s awesome, and we may very well be selling elite relievers short on their overall value, but Kimbrel didn’t fix the Padres problems by himself, and the Red Sox will have more work to do this winter, and now have fewer chips with which to do it. For A.J. Preller, this is the kind of move that, if he can repeat a few more times, can undo a lot of the damage that was done last winter, and from my perspective, this marks his first big win as a GM.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.