As the All Star Break wound to a close, I was preparing to post some thoughts on several positive developments in the first half of the season. Such as not only can Jackie Bradley, Jr. hit enough to be a starting outfielder in the big leagues, it turns out he can hit enough to be a starting outfielder in the All Star Game. Yes David Ortiz has plenty left in the tank at age 40 and Hanley can play an acceptable first base. And more including the continued blossoming of Betts and Bogaerts.
But before I could compile that post, Dealer Dave Dombrowski struck. On the last night of the All Star break, the Sox made the deal for a starting pitcher everyone felt they so needed. But the timing, nearly three weeks before the trade deadline was surprising. And then the players involved and the structure of the deal completed the surprise.
Boston acquires lefty starter Drew Pomeranz from San Diego straight up for the Red Sox top pitching prospect, 18 year old Anderson Espinoza.
First, let's talk some about Anderson. It has been decades, if ever, that Boston had this type of pitching prospect, when you factor in his age. And this is not just the Red Sox overrating a prospect. For example on the day of trade, Keith Law of ESPN came out with his mid season rankings of baseball's top prospects and Espinoza was #14 ( fourth best pitching prospect). Espinoza has a fastball in the 97 mph range and a curveball and change up that are considered plus pitches by the scouts. Pedro Martinez, who Espinoza draws comparisons to, was quoted earlier this year as saying Espinoza was one prospect that cannot be dealt. At age 17, he completely dominated the rookie leagues, but this year while he was having an acceptable season at low A Greenville, his ERA is 4.38. He also was the youngest player in the entire league.
Pomeranz is a every bit an interesting case as Espinoza. Once upon a time, he was Espinoza (except not age 18). Drew was drafted out of ole Miss by Cleveland fifth overall in the 2010 draft and was progressing quickly towards Cleveland, when the Tribe traded him ( and their second best pitching prospect, Alex White) to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez. Since that time Pomeranz fell into a spot starter, mostly relief pitching role. He also has bounced from Colorado to Oakland and then traded last winter to the Padres.
Pomeranz, a big 6'6' 240 pound lefty, pleaded for a shot at the rotation this spring and won a job. In 2016 Pomeranz was so effective that he was in this week's All Star game and pitched one inning. He has the lowest batting average against in MLB in 2016: .184 and with a 8-7 record with an ERA of 2.47. Three of his losses are 1-0 to Clayton Kershaw and a pair of 1-0 and 2-1 losses to Johnny Cueto.
With the extreme lack of starting pitching available on the trade market, some observers considered Pomeranz and Oakland's Rich Hill as the best pitchers who will be actually up for trade. Besides his 2016 performance, there is another reason Pomeranz may have been the best available and perhaps why the price tag was so high. Pomeranz is only making $1.35M this season and cannot be a free agent until after the 2018 season.
This deal could go one of several directions. Best case scenario Dave Dombrowski has again identified a pitcher on the upswing as he reaches his prime years. The best previous example is Dombrowski dealing for just some guy from Arizona named Max Scherzer. Then it is just as possible the Pomeranz first half of 2016 has been an aberration and he will return to his spot starter/reliever results.
Espinoza may very well become Pedro Martinez,, but he is also still 18, and not only has an unsure future, but at best is two years away from the big leagues if not more. One sign of the high regard Espinoza has is the fact the Padres traded a 27 year old lefty All Star starter under control for 2 1/2 years straight up for him. From Boston's point of view trading only Espinoza reduces the risk of losing a superstar of the future. The last time the Sox traded their best pitching prospect to the Padres it was Casey Kelly for Adrian Gonzalez. But the Sox included some other minor leaguers and one was Anthony Rizzo. Losing Casey Kelly has not hurt a bit, but man it would have been nice to have Rizzo.
If the Red Sox could win the World Series again in David Ortiz' final season, and Drew Pomeranz helps in this quest, then likely this deal is a win. Even if Anderson Espinoza wins a string of Cy Young Awards.