Analyzing the Kimbrel Trade
By Peter Santo
Well then. Just like that the Red Sox seem to have gone from pretenders to contenders in the American League. With the acquisition of All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox add the flamethrower they have been missing since Jonathan Papelbon bolted to Philly for $50 million.
There is no question the Red Sox gave up a lot in return for Kimbrel, but no one can doubt that gambling prospects on one of the best closers in the game, who is under club control for 3 more seasons, is a risk worth taking.
Controlling Kimbrel for three more seasons is likely the main reason why the Sox elected to trade for Kimbrel instead of Reds’ lefthander Aroldis Chapman, who would’ve been under club control for just one more season.
The price tag was certainly steep, as the Red Sox traded four minor leaguers– outfielder Manuel Margot, infielders Javier Guerra and Carlos Asuaje and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen.
Margot batted .276 with 6 home runs and 50 RBIs as well as swiping 39 bases between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2015.
Guerra may have been the most improved player in the Red Sox system in 2015. He is just 21 years old and represented the Red Sox in the Futures Game in July. Known as a defense-first player, Guerra was voted the Red Sox minor league Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. Guerra did show some promise with the bat this past season, hitting .279 with 15 home runs and 68 RBIs.
On the flip side, Kimbrel had 39 saves and a 2.58 ERA. His ERA did jump a bit from previous seasons, likely due to playing for the most disappointing team in the league last season. In contrast, incumbent Sox closer Koji Uehara has seen his ERA almost double in the past two seasons and is 40 years old.
However in the three seasons prior to 2015, Kimbrel posted ERAs of 1.01, 1.21 and 1.61 with the Atlanta Braves. The Sox are hoping that a change of scenery will help Kimbrel regain his prior form.
According to most minor league prospect rankings, the Red Sox gave up three top fifteen prospects for Kimbrel.
On the surface this seems like a lot to give up for a relief pitcher, but the Red Sox farm system is so strong that most top ten prospects would be top five or better prospects in other organizations.
Additionally, the Red Sox traded their prospects from positions of strength. Their path to the major leagues will likely be blocked by the Red Sox current crop of young talent in both the infield and outfield. Lefthanded pitcher Allen is just 18 years old, so his ceiling is very difficult to project.
People around the league expected the Red Sox to make a splash in the trade market after Team President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s comments at last weeks GM meetings when he said that “Painful changes,” may be coming. Kimbrel just may not have been the name we all expected to hear.
Dombrowski suggests that the Red Sox are likely done pursuing pitchers via trade, so it is likely that the addition of starting pitchers will come via free agency. If Dombrowski’s history is any indication, look for the Red Sox to make yet another splash.
The Red Sox gave up a lot, but it was a move that needed to be made. Dombrowski needed to show that he was willing to shake things up, and he did. As the rest of the AL looks relatively weak, it is looking more and more like the Red Sox may be just a quality starting pitcher away from contending once again.