Red Sox

Were asking prices for relievers too high for Red Sox? It doesn't look that way

Were asking prices for relievers too high for Red Sox? It doesn't look that way

BOSTON — The Red Sox wanted to acquire a reliever, but the cost was simply too high, Dave Dombrowski repeated again and again during Wednesday's trade deadline post-mortem.

"I don't know that there was a player out there that was traded that we couldn't have acquired," Dombrowski said. "It's just that we didn't like the price that was asked."

That statement prompts an obvious question: Which relievers were moved, and just how much did they cost? An examination of 18 viable arms who swapped teams in July suggests that more than a few were available for reasonable costs.

First a couple of caveats. We're relying on industry observers like Baseball America, MLB.com, and Fangraphs for prospect evaluations. Teams often rank prospects very differently internally.

For another, we don't know which of these relievers the Red Sox tried to acquire and what the dealing clubs wanted in return. Maybe the ask was prohibitively higher for Boston than their eventual destinations.

But based on the pitchers who did change uniforms, it's hard to believe the Red Sox couldn't have managed a significant upgrade for a reasonable cost.

Take Sam Dyson. The Giants right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA. He owns a 47-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has been one of the better relievers in baseball over the last two years. The Twins acquired him for a trio of minor leaguers — Prelander Berroa, Jaylin Davis, Kai-Wei Teng. None ranked among Minnesota's top 30 prospects, according to both Baseball America and MLB.com.

The 31-year-old Dyson is making $5 million and has another year of arbitration eligibility remaining, so he's not a pure rental. What he is, with a lifetime ERA of 3.29 over eight seasons, is a proven commodity. He'll help the Twins. He could've helped the Red Sox.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the other reliever the Twins acquired. They nabbed Marlins closer Sergio Romo, but at the cost of their No. 10 prospect, slugging first baseman Lewin Diaz, who has 19 home runs at two levels. (Miami sweetened the deal by sending its own 27th-ranked prospect back). Romo is a rental who doesn't strike anyone out anymore, so there's real risk Minnesota will lose this deal. Those are the kind of swaps Dombrowski was smart to avoid.

Sticking with the Giants, what about three-time All-Star Mark Melancon? The 34-year-old went to Atlanta for mediocre right-hander Dan Winkler and borderline prospect Tristan Beck, who had posted a 5.65 ERA at High A and was the organization's 30th-ranked prospect, per Baseball America's midseason rankings. The Braves have a loaded system, so their No. 30 prospect could be Boston's No. 15, but still — not a massive price to pay for an experienced big leaguer with a 3.50 ERA.

The Braves didn't just land Melancon. They also got Tigers closer Shane Greene for their No. 9 prospect (left-hander Joey Wentz) and unranked outfielder Travis Demeritte, who has 20 homers at Triple A. Wentz is a legit arm who'd easily have been the best pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, but it's still not a monster haul for an All-Star with one more year of team control.

A truly head-scratching deal involved the Blue Jays, who seemed to make a bunch of them. While many focus on the relatively meager return from the Mets for ace Marcus Stroman, consider their swap with the Astros. In exchange for solid veteran reliever Joe Biagini (3-1, 3.78), reclamation project Aaron Sanchez (3 years removed from finishing 7th in the Cy Young vote) , AND promising outfielder Cal Stevenson (Toronto's No. 16 prospect), the Astros only surrendered non-prospect Derek Fisher, a power bat in the minors who has nonetheless hit only .201 in parts of three big-league seasons and is on the verge of becoming a 26-year-old in Triple A. Perhaps the Jays didn't want to trade with Boston, but that's not much of a return.

The Jays also shipped right-hander Daniel Hudson (6-3, 3.00) to the Nationals for fringe prospect Kyle Johnston, who had fallen out of Washington's top 30, per Baseball America. Hudson is a pure rental, but Johnston is a 2017 college pick spending his second straight season at High-A.

Another respectable arm shipped out for non-prospects was Kansas City left-hander Jake Diekman, who went to the A's for right-hander Ismael Aquino and outfielder Dairon Blanco. Aquino doesn't appear on any of Oakland's top-30 lists, while Blanco cracked just one, checking in at No. 26 on Baseball America's midseason rankings. Diekman posted huge strikeout numbers in Kansas City, with a 3.37 FIP that suggests his 4.75 ERA might be inflated.

Of the 18 relievers NBC Sports Boston examined, only five were traded for top-15 prospects: Romo, Greene, Texas's Chris Martin (to the Braves), Seattle's Roenis Elias (to the Nats), and Miami's Nick Anderson (to the Rays). The biggest outlay was Tampa surrendering its No. 4 prospect, outfielder Jesus Sanchez, for Anderson, a 29-year-old rookie with five more years of team control who's in the midst of an outstanding season, striking out over 14 batters per nine.

Any one of these relievers could've helped the Red Sox. Most of them were traded for relatively modest prospect hauls. It certainly looks like there were deals to be made without pillaging the farm, but Dombrowski apparently thought differently.

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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.