by Jacob Gurvis
The Boston Red Sox have had quite a busy offseason. They have been active in free agency and the trade market, and have taken enormous steps to regain their dominance in the American League. It’s been an exciting couple months for baseball fans.
Before I dive into the moves, let’s first look back at what Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said he wanted to accomplish this winter. Back in October, he said he wanted to acquire an ace, to improve the bullpen (including someone who could close), and to sign a solid right-handed fourth outfielder. At the General Manager Meetings last month, he added that he expected to trade for a reliever and sign a starter through free agency. He acknowledged that the cost would be high for both, but that it was necessary.
What the Red Sox have in Dave Dombrowski is a rare breed of sports executive; he is both incredibly successful and efficient, and unusually honest and transparent, unlike former GM Ben Cherington. Last year at the Winter Meetings, Cherington insisted that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes would not be traded. The Sox traded Cespedes the next day, in a deal that had apparently been in discussion for a long time. Secrecy goes with the job. It’s just nice that Dombrowski doesn’t buy into withholding information just for the hell of it.
So now the moves. Dombrowski made his first big move Nov. 13 and checked the first item off his to-do list. The Sox traded for San Diego Padres’ closer Craig Kimbrel, sending four prospects to the Padres. In outfielder Manuel Margot, infielders Javier Guerra and Carlos Asuaje, and left-hander Logan Allen, the Sox gave up a lot. But, they also now have arguably the best closer in baseball, who is under contract for two more years with an option after that. 27-year-old Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, has 225 career saves, with a career 1.63 earned-run average, and averages over 100 strikeouts a season. He is very, very good. Closer: check. Trade: check. Give up a lot: check (but worth it).
The Sox signed outfielder Chris Young to a two-year, $13 million deal Nov. 30. Young, 32, represents exactly what the Sox wanted. He is a veteran outfielder with decent power (he had 14 homers in 2015), a solid glove, and is excellent against lefties. In 175 plate appearances against southpaws in 2015, Young hit .327 with seven homers, 24 RBIs and a .972 OPS. Young won’t be winning any Gold Gloves or SIlver Sluggers, but he is a solid fourth outfielder who can provide some leadership for the young Red Sox outfield. Right-handed fourth outfielder: check.
The Sox made their biggest splash Dec. 1, signing ace David Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract, making Price the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. The Red Sox had been connected to Price because of his relationship with Dave Dombrowski, who traded for him in Detroit. $217 million is obviously a ridiculous amount of money, but in today’s market, that’s what it takes to get one of the sport’s best pitchers. For a team that has been out of the playoffs three of the last four seasons, this was a necessary move. It took a lot, as Dombrowski said it would. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Ace: check. Free agent: check. Cost a lot: check. Worth it: you bet.
At the Winter Meetings Dec. 12 the Sox traded Wade Miley and reliever Jonathan Aro to the Seattle Mariners for starter Roenis Elias and reliever Carson Smith. In 2015, Smith, 25, had 92 strikeouts, a 2.31 ERA, and 1.01 WHIP in 70 innings, only giving up only two home runs with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. In short, Smith is very good, and giving up Miley was not really a huge deal. Miley is consistent, but is definitely not a loss. With Smith, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Kimbrel, the Sox bullpen is now elite. Reliever: check. Trade: check.
As you can see, the Red Sox have had a very successful offseason. Dombrowski laid out his plans, and followed through on each one swiftly and successfully. The Sox have their ace, their star closer, a stellar bullpen, and a solid backup outfielder. Now we just need that championship banner.