Photo credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
A fascinating trade today, with big implications on the Jays in a number of ways, as San Diego has evidently begun their fire sale in earnest now that their All-Star Game hosting duties have concluded, sending starter Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for Anderson Espinoza, Boston’s top pitching prospect (and 14th best prospect in baseball, according to Keith Law’s just-released midseason top 50 for ESPN.com).
Pomeranz is having a terrific season for the Padres. Let’s get that out of the way first. He’s also cheap, making just $1.35-million in 2016, and under team control for two more season after this. He’s an asset, and a win-now asset. Much more so than Espinoza.
Boston is better right now, at the big league level, than they were this morning.
But by how much and at what cost?
Thing is, even if the price to have achieved that bump seems awfully high, let’s not forget that pitching prospects are volatile. Last season the Blue Jays gave up Daniel Norris in order to get a mere half-season of David Price, and though Price is (or at least was *COUGH*) clearly the superior pitcher, it probably behooves us fans to not crow too loudly about Boston giving up too much of the future for too little in the present.
It’s also probably a bit rich to crow about the fact that Pomeranz is steaming quickly toward uncharted waters in terms of innings pitched this season — his career high is the 147.1 he threw in 2012, and he has never been higher than 120 since — given that the Jays face similar questions with Aaron Sanchez.
And yet… holy shit, that’s a pretty hefty price for the Red Sox to have paid for a guy who has looked great this season, but has nothing resembling a track record of success as a starting pitcher. Which isn’t even to mention the fact that he’s especially had success when pitching in some real favourable parks for pitchers, playing for the Oakland A’s (where he was mostly a reliever) in 2014 and 2015, and this year with the Padres.
Let’s be clear, I’m obviously searching for things to dislike about this, because I obviously don’t want it to work out for the Red Sox. But there sure as fuck are some things that would make me a little uneasy if I was a Masshole right now. For example, last season Pomeranz had a 4.31 ERA on the road — opposing hitters posted a .232/.322/.360 line against him over 48 road innings — which belied the 2.84 ERA he had in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. And this season, though he’s pitched exceptionally well no matter where he’s been asked to throw, and has actually been better on the road than at Petco, a quick look at his game log shows that four of his nine road starts have been in the pitcher-favourable environments of Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a couple other good pitching environments (and shitty opponents) mixed in as well.
He also kinda walks too many guys. In his assessment of the deal (which he calls “an absolute steal” for the Padres) for ESPN.com, Law notes that he “throws too many pitches period, 4.1 per batter faced this year, which isn’t about to get better when facing lineups like Baltimore’s or Toronto’s.”
Pomeranz has been good, though. Or at least very effective. That can’t be denied. His strikeout rate is way up over the rest of his time in the big leagues — 28% compared to a career rate of 22.6% — and his swinging strike rate continues on an upward trajectory, sitting at a career high of 11.7% currently.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote just yesterday that Pomeranz has added a cutter to his repertoire, which the pitcher says has “made all the difference in the world.” Thing is, it had to! Sullivan reminds us that Pomeranz was fighting for a rotation spot as recently as this spring, and that Oakland sold low on him thinking that, as a two-pitch pitcher, he was destined to be a reliever.
But if I’m a Red Sox fan, I’m looking at this as an asset with some upside, even if the current floor might be a bit of a mirage. And I’m also looking at it as an upgrade on some of the dogshit that my team has currently been running out there.
On the other hand, as a Blue Jays fan, do I kinda salivate at the possibility of teeing off on this new lefty that cost Boston their best pitching prospect (though just their fourth best prospect overall, because their disgustingly good system has four of Law’s top 7)? Fuck yeah, I do.
But maybe it works for them. Maybe it works.
It better, for Boston’s sake, because it’s such an awfully aggressive move, I think. And that’s another dimension to the way this whole thing impacts the Jays: if this is a reflection of what the market is like right now, no wonder we’re hearing rumours that the Jays might opt out of the pitching side of things and try go all-in on offence.
Not only is the price here slightly fucking exorbitant for a guy with a lot of questions on him — even one with a very nice contract situation — this is the kind of trade that the Jays simply couldn’t make. They’d have been hard pressed to meet San Diego’s asking price in a one-for-one deal and, probably more importantly, they wouldn’t have been able to match Boston’s prospect wealth in order outbid them.
If they were going to get outbid on this guy (and let’s not kid ourselves, the Red Sox are hardly the only contending team with a lot more prospect capital than the Jays possess), it’s hard to imagine them not getting outbid just about everywhere. They just don’t have enough chips to push into the middle of the table, y’know?
So, unfortunately, this is what I think we have to expect as trade season heats up: the rich getting richer, and the Jays hoping that they’ve really found their groove with the roster they’ve got. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see the Jays being able to make anything like this kind of splash, and the aggressiveness on display here sure makes it feel as though a team like Boston is really going to load up.
Gonna be pretty fucking funny when it fails, ain’t it?