Red Sox

Best of the 2010s: Greatest Red Sox transactions of the decade

Best of the 2010s: Greatest Red Sox transactions of the decade

You can't endure the lofty highs and demoralizing lows of the past decade of Red Sox baseball without making some prominent personnel moves. Contenders need to be built. Pretenders need to be torn to the ground. Stars age. Rookies ascend.

The Red Sox, with their tremendous resources, haven't shied from the free agent or trade markets since 2010, with more hits than misses, on total.

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The whiffs have admittedly been brutal — Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Pablo Sandoval spring to mind, along with trading Jon Lester — but we're here to focus on the moves that worked, because you don't win a pair of World Series titles without a bunch of them.

10. Salty trade

Here's a little-noticed gem. At the 2010 trade deadline, GM Theo Epstein made a move with an eye towards the future, acquiring Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Rangers for minor leaguer Michael Thomas.

All Salty did thereafter was overcome a throwing problem, earn the full-time catching job, and then backstop the 2013 champions practically through the World Series.

His four seasons in Boston included a 25-homer campaign in 2012 and an .804 OPS in 2013.

9. Brock Holt

When the Red Sox acquired closer Joel Hanrahan in 2012 for Mark Melancon and others, they had no way of knowing that the most impactful player in the deal would also be the easiest to overlook.

Utility man Brock Holt had transformed himself from scrawny high school freshman to nondescript big leaguer, but within two years, he'd earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team while adding two World Series rings to his collection. 

8. Rick Porcello trade

Here's a trade that oscillated between visionary and ill-advised, right to the end of Porcello's Red Sox tenure.

Acquired in December of 2014 for slugger Yoenis Cespedes, Porcello almost immediately signed a four-year, $82.5 million extension that was met with a collective, "Huh?!?" across the game. The deal looked like a disaster when he went 9-15 in his Red Sox debut, but a year later he would earn the Cy Young Award after going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA.

Though he'd never approach those heights again, he did win 17 games in 2018 and another 14 last year as a dependable, every-fifth-day starter.

7. E-Rod trade

When also-rans trade useful veterans to a contender for prospects, this is how they hope things work out.

The 2014 deal that sent left-hander Andrew Miller to Baltimore was a win for the Orioles, because he went 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA and then didn't allow a run in five postseason appearances.

Still, it paid even greater dividends for the Red Sox, who have watched Rodriguez blossom into a 19-win starter with perhaps the best pure stuff in the rotation.

6. Craig Kimbrel

Dave Dombrowski set the tone for how he'd conduct business by shipping four prospects to the Padres for the former Braves All-Star.

And though Kimbrel contributed some high-profile meltdowns — the entire 2018 postseason was basically a tightrope — he still saved 108 games over three seasons, making All-Star teams each time.

His 2017 rivaled Uehara's 2013 for dominance, as he went 5-0 with a 1.43 ERA and a staggering 126 strikeouts in only 69 innings.

5. Koji Uehara signing

Talk about some agate type that barely registered on the transaction wire.

On Dec. 18, 2012, the Red Sox signed Uehara as a free agent. The rest of baseball barely noticed, still buzzing over the trade a day earlier that had sent Cy Young knuckleballer R.A. Dickey from the Mets to Blue Jays.

Uehara earned $4.25 million with the Red Sox, who had no way of knowing when they signed him that a man with only one save a year earlier would end up closing out the World Series following one of the most dominant bullpen seasons ever: a 1.09 ERA and over 100 strikeouts vs. just nine walks.

4. J.D. Martinez signing

Dombrowski didn't just build his roster through trades.

In addition to spending $217 million on David Price — a transaction that doesn't make this list — he also landed the successor to David Ortiz without overpaying him one cent.

Martinez languished all winter in 2018, finally agreeing to join the Red Sox in spring training. He then proceeded to justify his five-year, $110 million deal practically in Year 1 alone, challenging for a Triple Crown and solidifying the heart of the order.

We thought he'd opt out this winter, but he stayed put after another All-Star season.

3. Chris Sale trade

John Henry hired old friend Dombrowski to be a man of action, and the longtime executive lived up to that billing, striking a trade for one of the best pitchers in baseball before the 2017 season.

The cost — top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — was steep, and has since kickstarted a rebuild in Chicago, but it also helped produce a title in 2018.

Sale went 29-12 with a 2.56 ERA in his first two seasons in Boston, starting two All-Star Games and closing one World Series, before injuries struck last season. But that does little to diminish Sale's impact.

2. The 2013 offseason

Rather than single out one particular transaction, let us take that entire winter as a whole.

Fresh off the Dodgers deal, the Red Sox needed to restock without mortgaging the future. Then-GM Ben Cherington made a series of targeted strikes on the veteran market, adding Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross, and Koji Uehara.

All they did was win 96 games and roll to a shocking "Boston Strong" World Series, still one of the most satisfying titles of Boston's post-2000 renaissance.

1. The Dodgers trade

In many ways, the past two Red Sox titles can be traced to the August, 2012 deal that shipped more than a quarter billion dollars of malcontents (plus Nick Punto!) to the West Coast, allowing the Red Sox space to breathe and begin rebuilding around their farm system.

Gonzalez was the centerpiece, but Crawford and Josh Beckett joined him (plus Nick Punto!). Cherington used the savings to build the 2013 champs, which bought him time to develop the next generation of stars, including Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. 

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.

 


 

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Nothing says Red Sox home game like iguanas, scorpions, and cacti, but these are desperate times.

Barring millions of instant tests or a miracle cure, COVID-19 will just be a fact of our pent-up, penned-in lives for the foreseeable future.

This makes embarking on the baseball season problematic, since one infection would theoretically sideline an entire team for two weeks, and good luck staying virus-free while flying all over the country. Visiting hot spots would not only increase a player's risk of illness, it would also up the odds of one becoming a vector himself, which is bad for the brand, not to mention public health.

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But what if baseball could maintain some control over its players' whereabouts while limiting travel to a fleet of buses? Could a season happen under these tightly managed circumstances? And if so, where?

It may be a long shot, but the more one considers the alternatives, the more it sounds like the best hope we've got is for MLB to hold its entire season in Arizona.

The logistics are nightmarish regardless, but in a situation this unprecedented, the fewer variables the better. And MLB won't find a higher concentration of acceptable facilities than in the 48th state.

The Cactus League features 10 ballparks that host 15 teams in two months of spring training. Unlike the far-flung Grapefruit League, with teams scattered across Florida's east and west coasts, the Arizona sites are compact.

Tomase: Hindsight 2020 - remember when the Red Sox built around the wrong All-Star?

Parks stretch from Mesa in the southeast to Surprise in the northwest, a drive of only 45 minutes. Everything else lies in between, a constellation of moons tightly orbiting Phoenix.

Decamping to the desert for the duration would eliminate air travel and give the league a chance to closely monitor its players. The challenge is Herculean: hosting roughly 800 players, plus at least that many coaches, staff, families, umpires, and broadcasters without anyone contracting the world's most contagious virus, against which we possess zero natural immunity.

Players would need to be quarantined in league-controlled hotels, tested constantly, and shuttled to and from the park. For such a plan to work, they'd have to sacrifice their most basic freedoms of movement, because a single failed test would grind the season to a halt while at least one team spends two weeks in isolation, potentially triggering a cascade of shutdowns, too (the mere possibility of which prompted the NBA to suspend its season, after all).

Convincing the union to sign off on such draconian restrictions won't be easy, but the alternative may very well be no baseball.

The games would be made-for-TV events without fans. If each ballpark hosted one or two games a day, a regular schedule could be played.

The challenges would be enormous. Do three teams share one clubhouse? Could ballpark and hotel staff be expected to live in isolation as well to avoid infection? How long could players live like prisoners? Will testing capacity ramp up enough to accommodate an entire league? Are the results even reliable? And how would teams keep their facilities germ-free if they're in use all day?

Politics matter, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey only belatedly ordered a stay-at-home order on Monday, and it has drawn criticism from the state's mayors as one of America's weakest, with exceptions for "essential" services like golf courses, nail salons, and hotels. If Arizona experiences an outbreak, then this little thought experiment dies on the vine. The same goes for extending the order past its current April 30 expiration and into the summer.

But we're here to ponder best-case scenarios, not fill your heads with more unrelenting negativity. And though the task would be monumental, if there's to be a baseball season, our best bet might be to play it in the desert.