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We’re just about a week past the trade deadline and it’s finally hit us: Jon Lester isn’t walking out to the mound in a Red Sox uniform anymore.
John Lackey is in St. Louis. Jake Peavy is in San Francisco. Andrew Miller is in Baltimore. Felix Dubront is in Chicago. And Stephen Drew, worst of all, is in pinstripes.
GM Ben Cherington has blown up the team at the trade deadline.
Developing baseball franchises are a long, tedious process (ask Theo Epstein). So when we see our team trade away multiple key players at the deadline, initial thoughts have us wondering what the long-term plan is? Three years? Five years? Eight years? How about next year?
How quickly we forget it was not long ago this team traded away talent at the deadline. Remember "The Dump" of 2012? The Red Sox traded Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers for nothing but salary relief. They rearmed the following season with Cherington making some key offseason deals and went on to add another ring to their fingers.
Now, it’s time to trust the process once again.
Boston could have possibly been the biggest winner at the trade deadline this year. While teams like the A’s and Tigers are giving up big time players for win-now rentals, the Red Sox have quietly stockpiled talent that could be ready to produce as soon as next season.
While the Red Sox made it clear they did not want to pay Lester what he was worth, in return they received one of the best slugging outfielders in the game. It remains to be seen how Yoenis Cespedes will adapt to playing in right field as opposed to his native left, but his arm strength is unquestioned. The Monster may become his best friend, as it does for most right-handed power hitters. The big question is whether or not Cespedes will want to stay in Boston past 2015, when he has an opt-out clause in his contract. If he produces as Sox fans hope he will, he could use the leverage of the clause to score a big-time deal.
The Cardinals shipped over left fielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly in the Lackey deal. Joe Kelly isn’t Lackey, and certainly not Lester, but he can certainly be a staple back-end of the rotation guy. He’s a sinkerballer with a career 3.25 ERA that has World Series experience and is locked in through 2018.
Allen Craig’s future is a mystery, but if he rebounds like Cherington hopes, the deal with the Cardinals could turn out to be one of his best. With the addition of Cespedes and his move to right field, Craig fits very nicely in Boston. He’s struggled this year at the plate, in large part due to a foot injury he sustained last season. However, he’s coming off three straight solid seasons and performed well enough for St. Louis to lock him up through 2017. Hoping this season at the plate is just a fluke, he’s a strong bounce-back candidate for next year, and could be a very productive middle-of-the-order hitter for some time. While he’s fairly limited defensively, he won’t be asked to do much in right field. Cespedes’ arm was being wasted in right with the depth of the Monster so close, hence the move to right. Getting used to the Monster will take some time for Craig, but when he does, we can expect to see him out there as an every day player.
What will be a work in progress next season is the starting rotation. Four-fifths of the rotation was dealt at the trade deadline, leaving Clay Buchholz as the one survivor. The addition of Joe Kelly gives the club two legitimate starters. After that?
The Red Sox will take the remainder of the season to audition prospects who could potentially find themselves as starters next year. Anthony Ranaudo is certainly one of those guys. The 6-foot-7 Jersey native won his big league debut this past Friday night in a 4-3 win over the Yankees. In the process, he struck out his childhood hero Derek Jeter. Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, and even Connecticut native and UConn alum Matt Barnes are all guys who spent time in Triple-A Pawtucket this season that could make the leap next year for the Sox. Left-hander Henry Owens was just promoted from Double-A Portland and has been striking out everybody in sight.
While, in a perfect world, all of these guys will pan out for them next season, it’s unlikely. Boston will need to add a veteran pitcher in the off-season, especially if they want to be a contender in 2015. Keep in mind there are some big name free agents that could become available in November: James Schields, reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, and some guy named Lester. Along with free agents, Boston has the type of minor league depth that could land them a key player via trades.
ESPN’s Buster Olney said on Sunday that the Red Sox better have a "Plan B" for their moves at the trade deadline. Boston isn’t much of a patient city. He’s right, but nothing Ben Cherington has done thus far has given us reason to not trust him. While 2014 might be a bust, high expectations will be back for 2015.