Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox have been active this off season with the huge free agent move to land a dominant ace starter in David Price, possibly the games best closer in Craig Kimbrel, and outfielder Chris Young. Boston’s latest action came in the form of a trade with the Seattle Mariners. The Sox traded lefty starter Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro for reliever Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.
Miley was a fiery competitor who occasionally bumped heads with Red Sox manager John Farrell last season in his first and only season in Boston. The left hander was a solid middle of the rotation starter for Boston going 11-11 with a 4.46 ERA and leading the team in innings pitched with 193 plus in 32 starts. The quality that Boston may miss most about Miley is his durability. He is able to go out and pitch every fifth day for which the same cannot be said for the injury-prone Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly who are likely to sandwich Rick Porcello with the third and fifth starter spots to open to season. The reason for moving Miley is the need for an upgrade in the bullpen and financially his contract is very reasonable for the Mariners to manage. It is also known that Dombrowski wasn’t willing to deal the young, hard-throwing lefty Eduardo Rodriguez who pitched well for Boston in his first season in the majors going 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA. It also always seems like Red Sox fans and management alike start every season with the same sentence about Clay Buchholz, “If he can just stay healthy…” which he inevitably does not. However whether the Red Sox are unwilling to let go of the potential 1/3 of a season ace or other teams have lost interest in watching him get scratched night after night Buchholz is staying put in Boston, at least for now. As for the possibility of dealing Porcello, Boston pretty much hitched their wagon to him with a 4-year $82.5 million dollar contract last season and with the way he pitched no one is chomping at the bit there.
Now what did the Red Sox get in return? A 26-year old, right handed, side arm delivery reliever in Carson Smith. The young Smith is considered to have a power arm, hurling a fastball in the 93-95 MPH range with a killer, swing-and-miss slider, especially for righties, and the ability to mix in a changeup. In 70 innings pitched last season with Seattle he was able to produce 92 strikeouts, this exemplifies the kind of stuff he is bringing to the Red Sox bullpen. Smith went 2-5 with 22 holds, 13 saves and a 2.31 ERA in 2015. His roll in the much improved Boston bullpen will likely be a seventh inning set up man with Koji Uehara pitching the eighth and Craig Kimbrel now taking over as the closer. This kind of late inning fire power has been a successful model in recent years. The Royals had great success all season and will be handing out World Series rings with much thanks to their bullpen, the Yankees have also developed a one-two knockout punch in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller coming out of the pen to finish games.
Sox manager John Farrell had this to say regarding the now weaponized Sox bullpen: “What’s clearly different with this group is that it’s deeper in talent, it’s deeper in performance, it’s deeper in the ability to get strikeouts in key spots. We’ve got the ability to now assign innings to individual guys where they can probably mentally prepare for that inning.”
An included advantage in the revamped bullpen is depth and flexibility. Smith has been a set up man and closer in the past and could be up to the task if Uehara needed a night off. Uehara has been the Sox closer for the past few seasons if rest for Kimbrel is necessary. Lets also not forget about the hard-throwing Junichi Tazawa who can rotate in for back end relief. It appears a weakness of lasts year’s Red Sox team may have been turned into a strength in just a few short months this off season.
Boston also acquired Cuban-born, 27-year old Roenis Elias who went 5-8 with a 4.14 ERA in 20 starts last season. The lefty also had two relief appearances. It is unclear at this time what Boston will do with him, it is thought that he could add depth to the starting rotation or compete for a spot in the bullpen. Elias’ ability to get a starting spot may hinge on whether the Red Sox go hard after another starter such as veteran Cliff Lee who stated he plans to pitch in 2016.
Dombrowski and the Red Sox have aggressively taken care of business early and put themselves in great position to sit back and listen to possible trades and opportunities as baseball’s winter meetings continue in Nashville Tennessee.