Chris Sale

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. 

Best of the 2010s: Who's on the Red Sox team of the decade?

Best of the 2010s: Who's on the Red Sox team of the decade?

There have really been three distinct version of the Red Sox over the last decade.

We started with the 2007 holdovers and that painful transition from Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Co. in the early part of the 2010s to the 2013 champs of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and Jonny Gomes, to the homegrown champions of 2018 that included Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers.

Choosing an all-decade team actually means selecting from all three groups, because we're not as heavily weighted to 2018 as one might think. In any event, here's one man's pick for the best Red Sox players at each position since 2010.

Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

SAN DIEGO -- The Red Sox could save a lot of money by moving on from David Price.

They could also blast a gaping hole in their rotation that precludes them from seriously contending in 2020.

Welcome to Chaim Bloom's nightmare.

Rumors have swirled for a week that the Red Sox would rather move the three years and $96 million remaining on Price's contract than trade former MVP Mookie Betts. Given Price's injury history -- he just started playing catch after September surgery to remove a cyst from his wrist -- it would be hard to blame them for attempting to get out from under as much of that salary as possible.

ESPN on Tuesday reported that multiple teams have targeted Price. The opinions of rival executives in the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for this week's winter meetings run the gamut. One believes the Red Sox could make taking Price a requirement in any deal for Betts, a la the 2012 mega-trade with the Dodgers that carved about $400 million off of Boston's books and allowed for the reset that led to a 2013 championship.

Another not in contact with the Red Sox believes they could move Price, keep Betts, and then entertain offers for the five-tool outfielder at the deadline in July if they're out of contention, noting that the Nationals missed an opportunity to make a similar move with Bryce Harper in 2018 before he walked in free agency.

And still another with a team interested in Betts and to a lesser extent Price expressed mild surprise that the Red Sox hadn't reached out as of Tuesday afternoon.

While trading Price seems like the right long-term move, it would come with considerable risk. There's a clear path to a World Series in 2020 if Betts stays, Price and Chris Sale regain their All-Star form, and Bloom makes some smart acquisitions for the right side of the infield. Jettisoning Price eliminates the possibility that he muddles through another injury-marred campaign, but it also removes a potential ace, and his spot would either be filled with a mid-level signing or (ugh) another opener.

For all his faults, particularly when it comes to clubhouse distractions like picking a fight with Dennis Eckersley, Price has been better than he gets credit for in Boston. He's 46-24 (.657) with a 3.84 ERA and in his 2016 debut, he led the AL with over 230 innings pitched. He was otherworldly in the 2018 postseason, shedding his reputation as a playoff choker once and for all.

Thus far it has been hard to read the direction of the front office under Bloom, who's still learning the organization and has remained tight-lipped in his dealings with the media. That said, after spending a couple of days around the team, it feels like the Red Sox have been forced into a reactive position where they're serving as Plan B for a number of clubs, particularly as it relates to Price.

Any team that misses out on one of the top-tier free agent starters could make a case that Price's upside outweighs concerns over his health. Premium starters, after all, remain a precious commodity. Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg have already signed nine-figure deals, Gerrit Cole could soon earn $300 million, and Madison Bumgarner and Hyu-Jin Ryu will draw interest, too. Once they're gone, anyone shut out of that market could consider Price.

The Red Sox know this, which is why they signed Price to a $217 million deal in the first place. Though he has yet to make an All-Star team or earn a Cy Young vote in four seasons here, he has dominated a postseason run to a title, and ditching him in a salary dump has some serious come-back-and-bite-you potential.

That said, if they can find a taker without eating too much money, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't pull the trigger. This winter is all about saving money, and clearing Price's $32 million salary off the books is the most palatable way to do it.

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