Talent Makes Trade More Than a Dump for Red Sox

It’s a good day to be a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

The rumored trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers will save the east coast club more than $200 million but it will also infuses the organization with some young, cost-controlled, high-ceiling talent. Key names that are likely headed to Boston from the west coast include pitchers Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., and outfielder Jerry Sands.

The Red Sox club is also said to be receiving veteran first baseman James Loney but he’s currently on a one-year contract and will be a free agent at the end of the season. It’s unlikely that he’d be re-signed given that he’s been at or below replacement level for the past five seasons (although a move away from Los Angeles should help his offensive numbers to a degree).

The key to the deal is de la Rosa. A hard-throwing native of the Dominican Republic, just 23 years old, he has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. Only his lack of consistent command and control keep the No. 1 label from being adhered to de la Rosa. There are also some concerns over the durability of the hurler who underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2011 season. He doesn’t have the largest frame and puts a lot of strain on his body by reaching triple-digits with his fastball. His secondary pitches – a changeup and slider – both showed a lot of potential pre-surgery but he’s made just five official appearances since returning from the disable list.

Our very own in-house scout Mike Newman had these glowing words to say about the right-hander after seeing him pitch live:

“…De La Rosa’s fastball was in a different league than any I’d seen previously… the one 98 MPH fastball he located belt high on the inner half is seared into my scouting mind as it bored down and in on a right handed hitter to devastating effect. It was the single most dominant pitch I’ve seen live…”

Allen Webster, 22, would give Boston a second hard-throwing, right-handed prospect. Prior to 2012, I ranked the North Carolina native as the Dodgers’ fourth best prospect behind fellow pitching prospects Zach Lee, Nate Eovaldi, and Chris Reed. Webster throws in the low-to-mid-90s with his heater and complements it with three secondary pitches: a curveball, slider, and changeup.

Interviewer extraordinaire David Laurila interviewed the Dodgers director of amateur scouting Logan White back in February and the well-respected had this to say about Webster, a late-round draft pick:

“With Webster, it’s kind of like you’re shopping for paintings and you go to an art dealer and find one that costs you $150,000. Then you go to a garage sale and get lucky. You find something for a lot less and later discover that it’s really valuable. People simply didn’t realize what it was. To me, that’s kind of Webster’s story… He’s been a gem. We went to a garage sale and found a Mona Lisa of sorts.”

He made 17 starts at the double-A level in 2011 and returned to the level in ’12. He’s made another 27 appearances (22 starts) and has pitched more than 120 innings each of the past three seasons displaying outstanding durability. Webster’s biggest challenges to sticking in the starting rotation are his lack of consistency with the command of his secondary stuff and his wavering control.

He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter, or could strip down his repertoire to become a dominating high-leverage reliever. I’d slide Webster onto the Red Sox updated Top 15 prospect list at No.3 behind infielder Xander Bogaerts and right-handed starter Matt Barnes.

Infielder DeJesus Jr. came in as the 14th prospect on the Dodgers’ pre-season Top 15 prospect list. He’s a personal favorite of mine even though he hasn’t been quite the same player since suffering a nasty broken leg that cost him most of the 2009 season.

DeJesus has spent the past three seasons playing mostly at triple-A, although he’s also filled in for 40 games at the big league level. His numbers have taken a bit of a hit at triple-A in 2012 mainly due to an increased strikeout rate, and a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered.

At one point I envisioned the 25-year-old Puerto Rico native becoming a solid big league second baseman but his ceiling might now be that of a utility infielder. He has played three infield positions – second base, third base and shortstop – and even dabbled in the outfield for three games at triple-A in ’12. Regular or not, DeJesus will provide some much-needed middle infield depth for the Red Sox.

Sands, soon-to-be-25, has produced some outstanding minor league numbers but he’s struggled to find his footing at the big league level. With the ability to play both corner outfield spots as well as first base, and with plus raw power, the former 25th round draft pick could be a solid right-handed bat off the bench – with an outside shot at developing into a big league regular.

Although Boston will not pry away (arguably) the Dodgers’ top prospect, Zach Lee, the club will apparently still walk away with two power arms and two role players with untapped potential.





Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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ken
10 years ago

If I were a Red Sox fan, I would be ecstatic right now

cjd11
10 years ago
Reply to  ken

Why would you be ecstatic? The point of saving money is to reallocate it, you don’t get bonus points for not spending. Since the Longoria contract a few years ago, the trend has been to lock up the best young talent early before they get to market. I’d be excited if I thought (for example) this meant that the Sox could sign Joey Votto. I’m less excited because it means the ownership will most likely be throwing a 5 year/90 million contract at Michael Bourn. Next year’s FA crop isn’t appealing, so it means either dramatically overspending for players that aren’t elite (which would be repeating past mistakes), or waiting many years through a rebuilding effort.

Not to mention – this year’s team was beset by injuries and substandard pitching performances and bad luck which has caused them to under perform their run differential by 10 wins. Last year they had an expected win loss record of 95-67, which they underperformed by 5 wins. Before this trade, they were a lot closer to a World Series in 2013 than they are after this trade. So what am I excited about again? The 4th best prospect in a middle of the pack farm system?

Ross
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

or the reason there doing this is so they can afford to lock up a young stud like Ellsbury. Crawford essentially had Ellsburys money, now that hes gone we can afford to resign him and keep him here

Dro
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

What on Earth makes you think that Boston would sign Bourn at all, much less for those dollars? Boston has a CF, Bourn is an “NL type” player, and Boston would have just gotten out of a similar player/contract with Crawford.

In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow: “not probable.”

cjd11
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

Generally I agree about Bourn, but I was throwing him out as example. I guess it’s possible if management thought they couldn’t keep Ellsbury b/c of what his contract demands would be, someone like Bourn could be seen as a fallback. My larger point is that saving money is great, but you save it to reallocate it elsewhere, and the FA market has been drying up. With restrictions being placed on signing amateurs and the draft, how does saving $260 million improve the ballclub if you don’t have a plan to re-invest it more sensibly? Who are the targets for that reinvestment?

Joe
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

The targets for that reinvestment are the wallets of the owners.

Ben Hallmember
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

@cjd11

The freed up money was spread over six years. It doesn’t have to be reinvested this off-season.

cjd11
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

Right, and it would be foolish to invest it all in this offseason because the FA crop is thin. But as a fan who enjoys watching competitive baseball and wants to see his team compete for the world series, this deal does not make me ‘ecstatic’. The 2 pitchers coming back project to be relievers, not guys you could slide immediately (or possibly ever) into the rotation. They can’t put the 260 million (or even 26 million) into player development because MLB restricts what you can spend on the draft.

I can see why this deal would make Redsox ownership happy- their fans, not so much, particularly when the last GM was forced to sign Crawford, Lackey, etc by ownership. Now we’re supposed to trust them to make smart moves?

sam
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

Uh, wait a minute. De La Rosa projects as far more than a reliever, and Webster has plenty of starting potential. That point just makes no sense.

Also, “all” we lost production wise was Gonzalez, really. Crawford and Beckett will be pretty easy to replace. This team is still very good. You use the money to resign Ortiz, consider extending Ellsbury. Make a few smaller moves in the offseason. Maybe trade for Chase Headley, see if he’ll play left field? Sign Peavy, who won’t be nearly the kind of investment somone like Greinke would be? And let some kids play. This team could be pretty exciting and competitive even next year, but come 2014 and beyond could be REALLY good. This sounds like a fun team to watch next year:

C Ryan Lavarnway
1B Jerry Sands, or Lance Berkman, or trade for Victor Martinez: a number of options
2B Pedroia
3B Middlebrooks
SS one of Aviles/Ciriaco/Dejesus/Iglesias, or you could even look for a trade
LF Chase Headley (or if we’re only going with players we have now, probably Nava which is admittedly less interesting)
CF Ellsbury
RF Ross
DH Ortiz

Pitching Staff:
Lester
Buchholz
Peavy (or if he’s too pricey get a few options for 4-5 starters and bump everyone else up a slot)
Morales
Rubby De La Rosa

With Lackey still around. I didn’t involve Doubront because he’d probably be involved in one of the trades I’m envisioning, but obviously he’s a worthy starter too. Add what is a really solid bullpen, that can become even better with additions from the minors, and it’s actually a really good team. Not World Series favorites, no, but this team could definitely earn a playoff spot.

cthabeerman
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

I hear there’s this Hamilton guy available that used to be pretty good. While they’re visiting Arlington, they might be able to pick up a C/1B that’s having a down season at a bargain price for the production he’d have at Fenway.

While neither player has exactly wowed this season, the Hamilton/Napoli duo definitely have the talent Boston would be looking to acquire on the FA market. And, since they are having somewhat down seasons, one could be convinced that they won’t be signing contracts that reflect the pinnacle of their value, as was the case in the Crawford signing and Gonzalez extension.

The ages are quite similar to that of Crawford/Gonzalez, and the health considerations are not entirely different, either.

So…trade away $260M, sign similar production for a lesser price and cut loose an expensive pitcher in middle of a downward spiral, gain four prospects and lose a couple of draft picks (there will be some forfeiture for the Hamilton/Napoli signings, to be sure). Then use some of that cash to maybe sign a decent pitcher or two and extend Ellsbury.

Seems like a solid reallocation of capital to me.

-C

Baltar
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

Wrong post for this comment.
You should be thanking Marc for providing good information on the prospect portion of the trade.
I am.

CJD11
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

“De La Rosa projects as far more than a reliever, and Webster has plenty of starting potential. That point just makes no sense”

It makes plenty of sense- the probability of these guys turning into effective, above average starters is not high. They have potential, but both guys have command/control problems. A minor league 4BB per 9 is bad. It won’t play in the AL East. Do they have potential, sure, but they’re not great prospects. They shouldn’t be with the Dodgers agreeing to take on all the money. Either you take on a ton of money, or you give up great prospects- you don’t do both at the same time and the Dodgers didn’t here.

Signing Napoli to play C would be a mistake, because he’s more of a DH. Maybe you sign him to be a younger/cheaper Ortiz, but signing him to block Lavarnway and the Blake Swihart isn’t moving the team forward.

cthabeerman
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

You’re not blocking Swihart, because he’s still years away. Lavarnway still has plenty to prove in the big leagues and could benefit from having some days off behind the plate while still getting MLB at-bats.

With no promising 1B prospects, Napoli could easily fit into the roster, much like Victor Martinez did not too long back. The Red Sox probably don’t him at first too often, but there’s also the DH spot, as you mentioned.

The point is that the Red Sox should be able to match the production traded away without paying nearly as much salary for the replacements, even if they do opt to spend big.

-C

-C

glenstein
10 years ago
Reply to  cjd11

cjd11, your claims that the Sox will “most likely” sign Bourn 5/90, that the Sox ” don’t have a plan to re-invest it more sensibly”, that the 2 pitchers coming back project to be relievers, that a rebuilding effort will take “many years” are all unsubstantiated.

Cherington emphasized multiple times the need for spending discipline, we have no idea what the plans for reinvestment are one way or the other, the 2 pitcher coming back could very well make the rotation, the rebuilding effort could be complete as soon as 2014.

jsolid
10 years ago
Reply to  ken

if i were a Yankee fan, i’d be ecstatic right now.