What If the Red Sox Traded for Sonny Gray in 2015?

Truth be told, I’m stealing this “What if” idea from The Athletic, whose various writers are ‘exploring what might have happened if things had gone differently at significant points in sports history.’

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings began by looking back as recently as the Mookie Betts and David Price trade, and in accordance with that, I thought it would be interesting to look back at a time in Red Sox history prior to the club signing Price to a then record-setting seven year, $217 million contract in December 2015.

Yes, this point in time was just a few months before that, in October to be more specific.

The Red Sox were coming off their second consecutive last place finish in the American League East, marking the first time they had done that since the 1929-1930 seasons.

Under new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who was hired to replace Ben Cherington that August, the club was in desperate need of front-line starting pitching help coming off a 2015 campaign in which they ranked 13th in the American League in starters’ ERA (4.34).

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, before Dombrowski had even been hired, the former Tigers executive identified soon-to-be free agent left-hander David Price as a potential target to pursue that winter in an interview with Red Sox brass.

Potential trades for names such as the White Sox’ Chris Sale, the Indians’ Corey Kluber, and the Athletics’ Sonny Gray seemed possible as well.

Come October, per Speier, “the Red Sox tried to quantitatively compare the cost of a trade for an ace versus signing one in free agency. [Director of major league operations Zack] Scott oversaw the production of a sixteen-page memo, in this case exploring a hypothetical deal for the A’s Gray, in exchange for a five-prospect package of Rafael Devers, Blake Swihart, Manuel Margot, Henry Owens, and Javy Guerra.”

Based on the projections used in this memo, “the Red Sox considered such a trade a $230 million proposition, with the prospects carrying a projected future worth of $200 million on top of the roughly $30 million that the team anticipated it would have to pay Gray in salary over his remaining four years of team control.”

Gray, at the time, was entering his final year of being a pre-arbitration player.

The results of the assessment, however, did not sway the Sox to swing a trade for an ace, as they “believed it would cost less simply to sign a free-agent starter than it would to trade for a rotation solution.” That was especially the case in the event that including Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts in a trade for a starting pitcher became a must for another team, like the A’s.

In the end, Dombrowski and Co. chose giving up money over giving up prospects and wound up signing Price to that then-record-setting seven-year deal that December.

Although it does not appear that the Red Sox were all that close to acquiring Gray from Oakland, it is fascinating to look back and wonder what could have been.

Out of those five prospects listed above, Devers would be the one missed the most, as the major-league careers of Swihart, Margot, Owens, and Guerra haven’t really panned out to this point for various reasons.

It’s also compelling to look back because Gray in Boston would have been no sure thing. That much was made evident by a rather tumultuous 1 1/2 year tenure with the Yankees, although he has since bounced back nicely after being traded to the Reds in January 2019.

Price’s tenure with the Red Sox wasn’t picture-perfect either, but he did play an integral role in the club’s march to a historic World Series title in 2018 before getting traded to the Dodgers last month.

All in all, handing out massively lucrative contracts and involving top prospects in blockbuster trades both involve a great deal of risk. In the case of acquiring the services of a front-line starter when they most desperately needed one in Dombrowski’s first offseason as president of baseball operations, the Red Sox went with the former over the latter.

Note: If you haven’t already, you should read Homegrown by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. This piece would not have been possible had it not been for the information provided in that terrific book about how the Red Sox built a World Series champion from the ground up.

Red Sox Nearly Traded Mookie Betts to Dodgers Before Last Year’s Trade Deadline

The Red Sox may have just traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers last week, but according to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the two sides had discussions regarding the starting outfielder going back to last July before the trading deadline.

At that point, under then-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the Sox found themselves at 54-46 entering the week of July 22rd having just dropped two out of three to the lowly Orioles on the road.

Falling back to 11 games off the pace for the American League East and 3 1/2 games back of the second wild card spot, it seemed as though Dombrowski at least entertained the idea of selling off some assets.

With 1 1/2 years of team control remaining, Betts, in the midst of a solid followup season to his American League MVP campaign in 2018, could have fetched a serious return on the trade market.

The Dodgers already owned the National League’s top record at that point, butting a bona fide star such as the 26-year-old Betts certainly would not have hurt their chances of going back to the World Series for a third consecutive year.

However in-depth conversations between Dombrowski and Friedman got during that penultimate week of July, the Red Sox began to rattle off some wins.

Yes, the club proceeded to win five of its next seven games against the Rays and Yankees to storm back to 1 1/2 games out of a wild card spot. That seemed to put a halt on all talks revolving around the idea of dealing Betts.

Alas, the trade deadline came and went, the Sox did not make any significant additions or subtractions, and they proceeded to drop their next seven contests in a row to all but fall out of contention for a wild card spot.

Knowing what we know, trading Betts to the Dodgers back in July might not have been the worst thing to do. But since it did not happen, at least we got this moment out of it later on during the final game of the 2019 season and perhaps Betts’ last in a Red Sox uniform.

 

 

Red Sox Part Ways With Alex Cora

The Red Sox and manager Alex Cora have mutually agreed to part ways, per a team release.

This news comes in the wake of the Houston Astros firing general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager AJ Hinch on Monday after both were handed down one-year suspensions by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for the roles they played in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 season.

Cora, who served as Hinch’s bench coach in 2017, played a key role in, “developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit sign,” according to Manfred.

Because of this, the Astros were stripped of their 2020 and 2021 first and second-round picks and fined $5 million.

Although Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Red Sox’ use of illegally decoding signs through the club’s video replay room during the 2018 season is still ongoing, it is believed that Cora is facing ‘harsh’ discipline, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

In his two seasons at the helm with Boston, Cora led the Sox to a historic 119-win season capped off by the club clinching their ninth World Series title in 2018 and followed that with a sub-par 84-win campaign last year.

“I want to thank John, Tom, Sam, the players, our coaching staff and the entire Red Sox organization,” Cora said in a statement Tuesday. “I especially want to thank my family for their love and support.

“I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward,” added Cora. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico.

“This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly,” he concluded.

Now just about a month out from when pitchers and catchers are due to report in at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Sox ownership and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom have found themselves in quite the predicament with no manager currently in place.

Ron Roenicke, who served as Cora’s bench coach the last two seasons and has managerial experience with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011 until 2015, is an obvious candidate. He is scheduled to attend Red Sox Winter Weekend at MGM Springfield.

In a span of four months, the Red Sox have parted ways with both the architect and leader of their 2018 World Series-winning team in Dave Dombrowski and Cora.

Now, as the 2020 season looms, turbulent times may be on the horizon with plenty of decisions still to make.

Former Red Sox Second Baseman Ian Kinsler Retires From Baseball

In case you missed it, former Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler retired from baseball on Friday night after spending the 2019 season with the San Diego Padres. He will however remain with the Padres in a front office capacity, per the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Kinsler, 37, finishes a 14-year big-league career between the Rangers, Tigers, Angels, Red Sox, and Padres with 1,999 career hits, 257 career home runs, 909 career RBI, four career All-Star nods, two career Gold Glove Awards, and one career World Series championship, which he won with Boston in 2018.

The Sox acquired Kinsler from the Angels in exchange for pitching prospects Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez the day before the trade deadline in 2018.

Brought in to stabilize Boston’s infield defense at second base, the Arizona native slashed .242/.294/.311 with one homer and 16 RBI over 37 games while ranking 11th among American League second baseman in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (0.8) in that span.

Appearing in 11 of the Sox’ 14 postseason contests that October, Kinsler went 7-for-34 (.206) with three runs driven in.

“Obviously, Detroit was a great experience for me,” Kinsler told The Athletic. “Dave Dombrowski traded for me twice. He traded for me in Detroit, then for that magical run in Boston. I was able to be a part of a world-championship team. Those are the two things that really stand out in my head.”

Kinsler also added that, “The run in Boston, being just a small part of that was incredible.”

After winning his first World Series title with the Red Sox, Kinsler inked a two-year, $8 million deal with San Diego prior to the start of the 2019 campaign, but a herniated cervical disk held him out from August 12th on and was the ultimate deciding factor in his deciison to step away from playing baseball.

Kinsler may have only been with the Red Sox for a brief three months, but he definitely made his time in Boston worth it.

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Signs Minor-League Deal With Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart has signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, per the club’s executive vice president of communications John Blake. The contract also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Swihart opened the 2019 season with Boston, where he was the team’s second catcher behind Christian Vazquez up until April 16th.

At that point in time, the Sox sported a record of 6-11 and owned the third-worst team ERA in the American League at 5.93.

Offensively speaking, Swihart was not lighting the world on fire, as he was slashing .231/.310/.385 with one home run and four RBI through his first 12 games.

Given the struggles all the way around, as well as the fact that Sandy Leon was stashed away in Triple-A Pawtucket, Dave Dombrowski and Co. made the decision to go with Leon over Swihart from that point forward, ultimately designating the latter for assignment on the 16th and trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks three days later.

Out of that deal, Boston also parted ways with international amateur signing bonus pool space, but they also gained outfield prospect Marcus Wilson, who has worked his way up to become the 18th-ranked prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Arizona, meanwhile, did not get much production out of Swihart following the completed trade, as the 27-year-old went on to slash .136/.186/.273 with three home runs and nine RBI over just 31 games due to two right oblique strain-related stints on the injured list.

Eventually designated again by old friend Mike Hazen on August 12th and spending the rest of the year at the Triple-A level, Swihart opted for free agency in late September.

It is not known if the Red Sox had any interest in a potential reunion with Swihart. Given how Vazquez is currently the only backstop on Boston’s 40-man roster, bringing back Swihart might not have been the worst idea.

Once committed to the University of Texas at Austin, Swihart will have the chance to compete for a role with a resurgent Rangers club come the spring. If he makes the team’s Opening Day roster, he’ll also have the chance to play in the same division as his longtime friend and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, both of whom grew up in New Mexico.

This news comes a day after Swihart and his wife Shelby announced that they are expecting their first child together, so congratulations to them on that.

Red Sox Tab Chaim Bloom as New Head of Baseball Operations

The Red Sox have hired Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom to be their next head of baseball operations, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

This news comes the day after it was reported that the Sox had interviewed Bloom for the position.

The 36-year-old Yale University product had been with Tampa Bay since 2005, initially serving as an intern for the club before working his way up to GM Erik Neander’s second-in command as vice president of baseball operations in November 2016.

At the time of former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s dismissal from the Red Sox, principal John Henry made it clear that he would prefer to get under the $208 million luxury threshold for the 2020 season.

In hiring Bloom to run their baseball operations department, the Philadelphia native will surely be tasked with doing just that, as he is coming over from an organization that put up impressive results the last two years (90 wins in 2018, 96 wins in 2019) despite operating on a minuscule payroll.

The specific details of Bloom’s appointment are not yet known, as the Red Sox themselves have yet to make anything official. But, this appears to be a move that is well regarded across the baseball world, so that is certainly positive to see.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan quotes one of Bloom’s former co-workers, who said, “For a guy as smart and accomplished as [Bloom] is, I think he gives everyone a feeling that he’s approachable and wants to engage.”

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox could name Bloom as the club’s new “chief baseball officer.”

Once the Sox do make things official with an announcement or press release, make sure to stay tuned right here for more on that.

Red Sox Have Reportedly Interviewed Rays Vice President Chaim Bloom About GM Opening

The Red Sox’ search for a new head of baseball operations appears to be nearly complete, as the club reportedly interviewed current Tampa Bay Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom for the opening, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings and Ken Rosenthal.

Bloom, 36, has been with Tampa Bay since 2005 and has been at his current position of senior VP of baseball operations since November 2016.

In that time, the Rays posted an 80-82 record in 2015, a 68-94 record in 2016, an 80-82 record once again in 2017, a 90-72 record in 2018, and a 96-66 record in 2019, good for the second-most wins in franchise history and the second American League wild card spot.

A native of Philadelphia and a graduate of Yale University, Bloom “‘works with (general manager) Erik Neander to oversee all functions within baseball operations,” per the Rays’ official website.

The Sox parted ways with former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in early September, less than a full year after winning a franchise-record 119 games en route to a World Series title last October, and have since rolled with the quartet of  Eddie Romero, Zack Scott, Brian O’Halloran, and Raquel Ferriera to lead their baseball operations department in the interim. According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, all four are expected to remain within the organization even if an outside hire is made.

It’s pretty funny. As early as Thursday morning, it seemed as though there was no news to report regarding Boston’s search for a new general manager or head of baseball operations.

Now, an announcement could be made as soon as Friday if Bloom is the man for the job. We’ll have to wait and see on that, so make sure to stay tuned right here if something official goes down.