July 15, 2016

Dombrowski punts future value for necessary asset

by Daniel Conmy

Drew Pomeranz was traded for minor leaguer Anderson Espinoza in a one-for-one deal between the San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. This deal essentially kicks off trade season, although Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, made two smaller deals prior to this huge deal.

If this same trade happened before this year, then members of the Red Sox fanbase would be calling for Dombrowski's head, but Pomeranz is a new pitcher. He added a new pitch that essentially puts him back into the starter category. Pomeranz has flourished as a starter this year given his new arsenal, but is he worth a top 20 prospect?

This is not a question that will get answered shortly because Espinoza is an 18-year old pitcher that was pitching for the Greenville Drive in A ball. This is a simple supply and demand function if we want to look at this economically.

The Red Sox were in dire need, and quite possibly still are in dire need, of starting pitching, The market is very thin this year when it comes to quality starting pitching on the trade block. Dave Cameron even recommended that Boston attempts to acquire Jonathan Lucroy to play in that offense where he would obviously flourish. The need was there for an offensive catcher given that the Red Sox catchers have been anemic up to this point. Anyway, since the market was not large, you have to give up more future value then you would like because the demand is high and the supply is sparse.

Another interesting facet to this deal is Pomeranz is very cheap and controllable, thus giving A.J. Preller, San Diego Padres General Manager, more power within the discussion. This is not a rental player for half a season, this is a player that will be a part of the Red Sox until he becomes a free agent in 2019. That is beneficial for the Red Sox, but also a risk.

So, Boston may not exactly be punting all future value because we have no idea what Espinoza will turn into, but Pomeranz has question marks even with his new repertoire. Pomeranz has already thrown more innings this year than he has in his past season in the Major Leagues. Dombrowski clearly is making a decision based on his ability to stay healthy, as well as his repertoire.

As I write this I start to nod my head more and more about this deal. There is too much risk, right? Pomeranz can easily get hurt and break down? Is Dombrowski putting too much faith in just half a season of data? That last question is something we can dive into a little bit in a hypothetical sense.

Let's say I am supposed to take the trash out to the curb every Sunday night, but I forget seven out of nine times. The next time I remember, my roommates are impressed that I remembered to do this chore. I tell them that I will remember from now on because my memory has increased and, therefore, I can remember more things, like taking out the trash. My roommates scoff at this idea and do not believe this change. Why do they not believe me? Well it's probably because they have seen the awful track record laid before them. One Sunday of remembering isn't going to change that.

Dave Dombrowski is believing in that one Sunday and the change in memory. The example could always be better, but Dombrowski sees the benefit of half a season of new data. I definitely say new because Pomeranz did not have a cutter, which he is throwing now. The scouting report is thrown out and Pomeranz is mowing hitters down.

This is not the first Dombrowski trade that has seen valuable minor leaguers traded for a very good major leaguer. In that case, Dombrowski, then General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, traded for Miguel Cabrera. This is not the same type of  magnitude obviously, but Cameron Maybin did not pan out in that trade and Andrew Miller reinvented himself into one of the best bullpen arms who might get traded this trade season. With that said, the Tigers 'won' that trade.

Dave Dombrowski continues to show a willingness to do whatever it takes to stay competitive. While some analytics members of the baseball community might be critical of this decision, Dombrowski is betting on a half-season of great baseball and he could reap the benefits. Espinoza could never pan out into a good pitcher, we just do not know. It is not wise to pin someone as a 'winner' or 'loser' until seven years or so down the road. While we can speculate about the trade, we cannot make any conclusive decisions. The Red Sox are in win-now mode while A.J. Preller and the Padres can take their time to develop their players given their roster.

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