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July 31, 2017

Transaction Analysis

Dave Dombrowski, Bullpen Buyer

by Ben Carsley, Erich Rothmann and Jarrett Seidler


IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
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Acquired RHP Addison Reed from New York Mets in exchange for RHP Jamie Callahan, RHP Gerson Bautista, and RHP Stephen Nogosek. [7/31]

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then again. And then maybe one more time.

In December of 2015, Dave Dombrowski traded Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. Smith threw 2 2/3 innings for the Red Sox before needing Tommy John surgery. In December of 2016, Dombrowski traded Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, and Josh Pennington to the Brewers for Tyler Thornburg. He finished 2 2/3 innings short of Smith’s mark, spending most of the season rehabbing before getting shoulder surgery in June.

Now, Dombrowski has traded three reliever prospects for Addison Reed in what’s become a never-ending quest to build a bridge to Craig Kimbrel. Third time’s the charm?

You can almost see the ghost of Dombrowski’s early 2010s Tigers teams looming over his shoulder as he makes these deals. Bad bullpens went a long way toward sinking those squads, and Dealin’ Dave appears determined to avoid a repeat of that fate at all costs. Perhaps “all costs” is a bit much. The Thornburg trade has been an unmitigated disaster, as the Sox ended up giving away two things—a good third baseman and a decent prospect—they could really use right now. But the Smith deal wasn’t an overpay, and the Reed deal looks fine.

Still, add in what Dombrowski gave up for Kimbrel (Manny Margot and more), and he’s shipped out about half a farm system trying to acquire two or three good relievers in two years. The result? A bullpen that’s actually been pretty damn good this year, if not for the reasons Dombrowski hoped. Kimbrel has been dominant, but otherwise it’s been arms like Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Fernando Abad who’ve carried the load, with cameos from Robby Scott, Robbie Ross, and Blaine Boyer, too. Hell, even Brandon Workman looks like he’s getting back in on the fun. That group of largely uninspiring names has conspired to post the third-best bullpen ERA in the majors. And so in adding Reed, Dombrowski isn’t plugging a hole on the roster, but is doubling down on this team’s strength instead.

As for Reed himself, the 28-year-old has been very good this season, holding hitters to a .245 TAv, striking out about a quarter of batters faced, and posting the best walk rate of his career at 3.0 percent. DRA hates him (5.09), which is weird, but ERA, FIP, and cFIP all tell a different story, and one that’s much more in line with his career. He’s given up six homers in 49 innings—a problem which doesn’t figure to get better in Fenway—but overall his results have been quite good. One note: Reed has been used a lot. He’s thrown in 128 games since the start of the 2016 season, which, per Tim Britton, is the second-most in baseball behind Brad Hand.

As to whether that’s a positive quality indicative of his durability or a negative that portends wear and tear, well, we don’t know. Relievers are fickle, as is their health, as Dombrowski himself has learned all too well. So Reed makes sense, even if it’s still strange to think of the Red Sox as a team built more on run prevention than run scoring, but that’s where we are. They have a strong starting rotation, a strong defense (aside from the left side of the infield, perhaps), and now a stronger bullpen that could get all the more dangerous if Smith and/or Kelly rejoin the team down the stretch.

Will it matter if the Red Sox can’t score runs? Perhaps not. But it’s perfectly reasonable for Dombrowski to count on better performance from scuffling young studs like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Andrew Benintendi, and to instead focus on the bullpen. After all, Reed was a cheap addition by most standards, leaving a decimated but improving Red Sox farm system largely intact. Dombrowski will be criticized to no end if the Red Sox look as punchless down the stretch as they have in July, but Reed represents a relatively risk-free addition for a man who often comes under fire for trading away too much of tomorrow for today. —Ben Carsley

NEW YORK METS
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Acquired RHP Jamie Callahan, RHP Gerson Bautista, and RHP Stephen Nogosek from Boston Red Sox in exchange for RHP Addison Reed. [7/31]

The Red Sox drafted Nogosek in the sixth round last year out of Oregon. The 22-year-old was a closer in college, and the Red Sox agreed that he's best suited as a reliever due to his quick, high-effort delivery and lack of an effective third pitch. His fastball/slider combination has displayed impressive bat-missing potential in his first full professional season, with 63 strikeouts in 53 innings between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem.

The plus fastball generally sits 92-94 mph, topping out at 96, and can be difficult for a hitter to track due to a high spin rate and late sink. His mid-to-upper-80s power slider flashes plus horizontal break and looks more like a cutter when it reaches the upper 80s. He also occasionally throws a changeup with some fade, but it's below average at best. Nogosek should efficiently progress through the Mets’ system and develop into a useful bullpen arm.

Bautista is noticeably rawer than the other two reliever prospects in this deal. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, he's pretty slim and has long limbs. The 22-year-old often struggles to repeat his delivery, resulting in presently below-average control and command (28 walks in 45 1/3 innings with High-A Salem). However, his fastball/slider combination is capable of consistently missing bats (53 strikeouts)

His fastball sits 94-97 mph and has occasionally reached 100. The offering displays sink and arm-side run as well, and projects as plus-plus. His mid-80s slider flashes above average but is much more inconsistent than Nogosek’s. His firm changeup is a clear third pitch that will flash fringe average. Overall, Bautista is a high-risk prospect and definitely the trade’s lottery ticket. The best-case scenario for him is a late-inning role if he cleans up his delivery and his control and command drastically improve. —Erich Rothmann

Callahan is closest of the three relief arms the Mets are picking up here, I could really just write “95 and a slider dude in the high minors” and you’d all know what I meant. Boston’s 2012 second rounder is already on his fallback career as a reliever, and he’s everything you’d expect in a busted prep starter in the pen: mid-90s fastball, hard slider, questionable command.

It’s a very common profile, but it also often produces legit relief help. Like the rest, Callahan has a chance to be a good MLB reliever, and the Mets have both had some success with refining fastball/slider guys with velocity and—strangely given its relative availability—some difficulty acquiring them, so he should have every opportunity to contribute. He could be up as soon as this year, and very little stands in the path to late-game work. —Jarrett Seidler

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here
Jarrett Seidler is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jarrett's other articles. You can contact Jarrett by clicking here

Related Content:  Boston Red Sox,  New York Mets,  Addison Reed

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