Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Red Sox Will Carefully Consider Promotions of Benintendi and Moncada

In Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox have two highly promising prospects who may eventually be called upon to help the big league team in some way this season.

This brings up the question of what determines a player’s rookie status, as well as a player’s major league service time.

According to MLB rules:

A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

If a player were to average just three at-bats per game (it isn’t likely that Benintendi or Moncada would average more, since either would most often be called upon as a defensive substitute, or as a pinch runner or hitter), he would reach 130 at-bats in about 43 games.

The Red Sox will play their 100th game of the season tonight, which leaves 62 remaining games.

That being the case, neither Benintendi or Moncada would likely play enough games, or make a big enough impact this season, to receive consideration for Rookie of the Year.

However, if either player were instead called up earlier next season, they may indeed earn such consideration.

Why would one or both be called up "earlier" next season, rather than simply start the year with the big league club? It’s all about the team’s ability to control top players for as long as possible.

Major League service time ultimately decides how long a team has control over a player at the beginning of his career.

Service time pertains to a player's days spent on the 25-man roster. A year of service time is 172 days. Once a player reaches the Major Leagues, his contract is under team control for six years of service time, which consists of approximately three years near the league-minimum salary and three or four years of arbitration.

The Major League season generally lasts 183 days — 162 games plus 21 off-days.

By keeping a player in the minors for just two weeks (or 12 games) to start the season, a team can ensure that he will not reach a full year of service time that season, and thus would not reach six full years’ worth in six seasons.

Teams use this as a tool to maintain an extra year of control over their top prospects when they enter the majors.

However, teams can also tally that handful of Minor League days throughout the season to maintain the same outcome and keep control of the player for an extra year.

In other words, by sending a player back to the minors at any point(s) in the season, so that he misses just 12 big league games, the team can maintain control for an extra season.

The Red Sox will surely bear this in mind when they eventually decide to promote Benintendi and Moncada, whenever that is.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pomeranz Could be Difference-Maker for Red Sox This Year

The Red Sox potentially gave up a future ace in Anderson Espinoza -- their No. 3 prospect -- but the 18-year-old is probably still four years away from the majors. Meanwhile, Boston is built to win now and is therefore playing for this year.

With that in mind, I like the acquisition of Drew Pomeranz, the No. 5 overall pick by the Indians in the 2010 Draft.

The lefty has a 2.47 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 102 innings this year. That's a strikeout rate of 10.1 per nine innings.

However, Pomeranz's innings mark is a major league career-high, calling into question his endurance in the second half.

For what it's worth, Pomeranz is huge: 6'6" and 240 pounds. Some think size makes a pitcher more durable, but all pitchers take incremental steps each year in increasing their innings threshold.

The Sox were seeking controllable pitching and they got that in Pomeranz, who won't become a free agent until after the 2018 season.

At the start of his career, Pomeranz struggled over 34 games from 2011-2013 with Colorado, posting a cumulative 5.52 ERA.

But after being traded to Oakland, he started to deliver on the promise of his No. 5 pick status, posting a 2.35 ERA over 20 games (10 starts) in 2014 and a 3.66 ERA over 53 games (9 starts) in 2015.

Then he became an All Star this season with San Diego.

Pomeranz is young, controllable and cheap -- all attributes the Red Sox had to receive in order to give up a prospect of Espinoza's status.

There have been early comparisons of Espinoza to Pedro Martinez, which are both unfair and ridiculous.

The Red Sox could come to rue the day they traded the future ace, or he could wind up as a marginal big league talent (perhaps a relief pitcher) as so many prized prospects do. Who knows?

As I always say, prospects are a gamble -- a roll of the dice.

For this season, Pomeranz could be a real difference maker for a Red Sox team that is built for the post-season, and maybe even more. That all means playing October baseball.

In order to do his part to make that happen, Pomeranz will need to reach at least 200 innings, and that is not a certainty by any means.

That is, perhaps, the Red Sox biggest gamble in this deal.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Red Sox Will Likely Make Major Trade for Pitcher, but at What Cost?

Everyone knows that the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. There is no greater evidence of this than the fact that 28-year-old journeyman Sean O’Sullivan -- who possesses career 5.99 ERA -- is now the team’s No. 4 starter.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that the Sox don’t even have a No. 5 starter at present.

This is all due to the abysmal performances of Clay Buchholz (5.91 ERA), Joe Kelly (8.46 ERA) and Eduardo Rodriguez (8.59 ERA) this season.

The Red Sox starters have been so bad that they’ve overburdened the bullpen, which has clearly shown signs of overuse this season.

The Red Sox pitching staff ranks 10th in the American League in ERA (4.52), 10th in starter ERA (4.82), 12th in walks (279), and has a 5-27 record when scoring four runs or fewer.

The Red Sox are presently attempting to navigate the path to the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline with no identifiable fifth starter, which made minor leaguer Aaron Wilkerson so intriguing… until he was traded to Milwaukee yesterday for 34-year-old veteran infielder Aaron Hill.

In 92.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, the 27-year-old Wilkerson had allowed just 69 hits with 25 walks and 102 strikeouts. He’d allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his 16 starts. In 10 of those 12, he’d allowed one run or less.

No one was expecting Wilkerson to be part of the Red Sox pitching depth this season, much less the solution to their season-long pitching woes. But he looked like a much better option than minor leaguers Henry Owens or Roenis Elias at this point.

Yet, Wilkerson is now gone, leaving only questions. Who’s next up for the Red Sox?

While the Wilkerson trade was not earth-shattering (Dave Dombrowski said he felt Wilkerson was too inexperienced to help the Red Sox this season), it was a likely precursor to something much larger. After all, the Red Sox cannot operate much longer without a fifth starter, or perhaps even with O’Sullivan as their No. 4.

There are rumors of the Red Sox purported interest in Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. However, the 29-year-old will be a free agent at season’s end and is not controllable.

Moreover, Hellickson profiles as nothing more than a mid or even back-of-the-rotation starter in Boston. Though he is having a decent season for Philadelphia, going 6-6 with a 3.92 ERA, Hellickson struggled in his final two years with the Rays before being traded to Arizona prior to last season.

Take a look at Hellickson’s ERA since becoming a full time starter in 2011:

2011 - 2.95
2012 - 3.10
2013 - 5.17
2014 - 4.52
2015 - 4.62
2016 - 3.92

It appears that after some success with Tampa early in his career, big league hitters figured him out. Even a switch to the more pitcher-friendly NL last year didn’t help. All of that makes this season look more like an aberration than anything more promising.

Hellickson is not the answer to the Red Sox problems; they need someone much more effective -- even dominant -- than him. Ask yourself this: can Sean O’sullivan and Jeremy Hellickson help carry the Red Sox into the playoffs this season?

I don’t think so either.

That’s why I believe there’s something much bigger brewing in the Red Sox front office right now. A more impactful trade for a starting pitcher is likely to occur sooner than later.

As I said previously, let’s just hope the Red Sox don’t have to sell the farm — and their future — to obtain a true difference-maker.

That may not be possible. Pitching is in short supply this summer, and the free agent market this winter isn’t much more promising (36-year-old Rich Hill or Andrew Cashner, anyone?).

Here’s the issue the Red Sox face when it comes to trading from their farm system:

When they dealt outfielder Manuel Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra, lefthander Logan Allen and utility man Carlos Asuaje to San Diego for Craig Kimbrel last winter, they limited their ability to make deals at the trade deadline this year.

By sending away four of their better prospects, the Sox drained some of the top talent from their system, which not only left them with fewer pieces to deal now, but also makes their remaining prospects all the more valuable to the organization.

That’s something Dave Dombrowski surely has on his mind right now.