The Red Sox, enjoying their first winning season since 2013, are in the thick of the wide-open AL pennant race. With Dave Dombrowski (known to be active on the trade market) running the front office, the Red Sox entered July expected to be one of the most active teams on the trade market, with a top 5 minor league system at Dombrowski’s disposal. In the month of July (and August 1st, the date of the trade deadline), the Red Sox made 5 trades to shore up the major league squad. Each trade by itself and in totality shows a front office that did a great job putting the finishing touches on the roster.

July 7th- INF Aaron Hill and cash from the Brewers for RHP Aaron Wilkerson and INF Wendell Rijo
Like the Red Sox, Hill’s last good season was in 2013. However, with almost 300 PA of an above average bat so far this year, and an ability to play 2nd on occasion to spell Dustin Pedroia as well as split time at 3rd with Travis Shaw, Dombrowski saw an opportunity to add depth to the bench. To add this depth, he gave up a 27-year-old pitcher who the Red Sox had signed from independent ball, and a 20-year-old 2nd base prospect. Wilkerson had been having a good season for Pawtucket in a small sample 48 innings, but clearly was super deep pitching depth and wasn’t a part of the pitching plan for the rest of the season. Rijo was deemed expendable because of the presence of Yoan Moncada, a consensus top-5 prospect in the game. Rijo has youth on his side, but hasn’t flashed any super potential and was demoted from Portland in June. This was a great depth move, as the Sox gave up spare minor league parts for a nice bench piece. While this trade isn’t going to be a major mark on Dombrowski’s record either way, it is the kind of move that contenders need to make to survive the August and September finishing stretch.

July 9th- INF-OF Michael Martinez from the Indians for cash considerations
Martinez’s best quality is he can play outfield and infield positions. The Red Sox bought his contract and he had 7 PA with them. Dombrowski turned cash into a person who can play baseball. Nothing too exciting or notable here.

RHP Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks for RHP Jose Almonte and INF Luis Alejandro Basabe
Martinez must have been mad that Ziegler was acquired the same day and stole his thunder at the introductory press conference. This deal only continually looked better as the deadline crept nearer and the price on other relief pitchers was insane. Ziegler stepped in immediately as closer and has picked up where he left off in Arizona. With Craig Kimbrel back, he will become the setup man, forming a great back of the bullpen duo for John Ferrell to deploy. The bonus here is the extra 3 weeks or so of pitching that Dombrowski got since he made this deal early in July instead of close to the deadline. The price was (correctly so) greater than the price payed for Hill, but no top prospects were included here either. Almonte is a typical young (20-years-old) pitching prospect; he has some control problems that if fixed could lead to a major league roster spot down the road. He did show improvement in Greenville (A) this year, but he is far away from taking the mound at Fenway Park or any other major league park. Red Sox prospect hounds must have had a minor heart attack seeing the last name Basabe in the deal as Luis Alexander Basabe is regarded as a top 10 prospect in the Red Sox system. However, his brother Luis Alejandro Basabe is not as highly regarded. He is a middle infielder, so as with Rijo above, he was expendable depth. He was having a pretty good season in his first exposure to A ball as a 19-year-old, but has a long way to go to reach the majors himself. Dombrowski turned some Sox prospect depth into 3 months of Ziegler, a great move for a team with a mandate to win now.

July 14th- LHP Drew Pomeranz from the Padres for RHP Anderson Espinoza
For 5 days, all was quiet on Yawkey Way. Then Dombrowski struck a deal that gave away his first top-10 prospect in the organization since the Craig Kimbrel trade. He did this to acquire Pomeranz, a 27-year-old lefty who had struggled in Colorado, then found success in Oakland and San Diego. Even though it might be worrisome that Pomeranz had only found success in pitcher-friendly parks, his groundball rate has consistently been above his flyball rate, with a strikeout rate above 20% in most seasons. The Red Sox control his rights until after the 2018 season, so Dombrowski found an intermediate solution to the rotation woes, not just an immediate one. That extra control is what forced the Red Sox to give up Espinoza. At 18 years old, he was regarded as the best pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, and is one of the best prospects in the game, with Baseball America ranking him 15th in their midseason Top-100 list. Scouts say he could end up with 3-plus offerings, and he definitely has potential to be one of the best aces in the game. With the price of pitching this deadline, it was going to take a lot to get 2 seasons-plus of a pitcher who had pitched the last 2-plus seasons with a FIP under 4. Dombrowski opted for the quality over quantity approach, giving up one great prospect instead of a greater number of really good ones. Even with Espinoza’s potential, an 18-year-old pitcher in A ball has a lot of risk, as the majors is far off and that’s a lot of innings for the arm to withstand. This was Dombrowski’s biggest gamble of July, but even if he is wrong this trade won’t be a Teixeria-to-the-Braves type of disaster.

August 1st- LHP Fernando Abad from the Twins for RHP Pat Light
It seemed for a while that Dombrowski was done with his deadline dealing and was content to sit back and enjoy the stretch run. However, after seeing Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly pitch in several non-zero leverage situations, he decided to enter the deadline market one more time and pick up a lefty specialist. Dombrowski again picked up a pitcher with more control than just the next couple of months, as Abad isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season. Two years ago, he had a great season in Oakland and is having another good season this year. Light is a 25-year-old relief pitcher who has spent most of the season in Pawtucket, minus 2 innings with Boston where he gave up 6 earned runs. Not a major move, but a very needed reinforcement for the bullpen, and Minnesota gets a look at a younger bullpen piece.

 

For two rentals, a lefty specialist who is controlled through next year and a starter controlled through 2018, Dombrowski gave up 6 minor leaguers, only one of whom was a top 10 prospect in the Red Sox system. Two of the minor leaguers were in AAA, and both of those were pitchers 25 or older who didn’t figure to help the major league pitching staff this year. Two of the minor leaguers were middle infielders, the position that the Red Sox have the most depth at. Overall, Dombrowski did a good job of filling needs without emptying the system. The Red Sox system still has lots of talent that should filter up to the majors, with help on the way this year in the form of Andrew Benintendi. With the AL wide open, the incremental additions can be very useful in helping the Red Sox get into October, where anything can happen. Even though other teams are getting praise for more buzzworthy moves, the Red Sox quietly had a good deadline.

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