After selling off pieces in July in each of the last three seasons, the Cubs front office tandem of President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer could be looking to buyers for a change.
Boston made six playoff appearances in its first seven seasons during Epstein’s run as GM that began in 2003 and ended in 2011. Epstein’s Red Sox were active in the days and weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The following is a run down of what Epstein acquired and dealt in those seasons.
Major acquisitions: LHP Scott Sauerbeck, RHP Scott Williamson, RHP Jeff Suppan
Key players dealt: IF Freddy Sanchez, LHP Phil Dumatrait, LHP Mike Gonzalez
The skinny: The Red Sox aimed to bolster their bullpen and back-end of their rotation with the additions of Williamson and Sauerbeck, but neither panned out. Williamson, who was acquired from the Reds, struggled with a 6.20 ERA in 20.1 innings. Though, he did save three games in the ALCS.
Suppan and Sauerbeck were busts. Suppan struggled down the stretch going 3-4 with a 5.57 ERA (5.54 FIP) after pitching to a 10-7 record and 3.4 WAR in 21 starts with Pittsburgh. Sauerbeck wasn’t any better, posting a 6.84 ERA in 16.2 relief innings.
The Red Sox originally acquired Sauerbeck and Gonzalez from Pittsburgh for pitching prospects Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez. However, the Pirates claimed Lyon had injuries that were not disclosed at the time of the deal. While the Red Sox disputed it, they took back Martinez and Lyon and returning Gonzalez to Pittsburgh for Suppan.
Quotable: “We’ve wanted another really good left-hander in the pen for some time. … This was the top left-hander available, one of the top left-handers in the game in the bullpen.” — Epstein on the Sauerbeck trade.
It turns out infielder Freddy Sanchez was the best player involved in any of the trades. He became a three-time All-Star who peaked in the 2006 season, in which he posted a 4.4 WAR in his age 28 season.
Major acquisitions: SS Orlando Cabrera, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, OF Dave Roberts
Players dealt: SS Nomar Garciaparra, OF Matt Murton, OF Henri Stanley, 3B John Hattig, RHP Andrew Shipman, two PTBNL and cash.
Other additions: IF Rickey Gutierrez, LHP Jimmy Anderson, RHP Brandon Puffer, RHP Terry Adams.
The skinny: The four-team deal between the Red Sox, Twins, Cubs and Expos is among the thriftiest deals Epstein has ever made. Epstein flipped a five-time All-Star who had six seasons in which he was a 6-WAR player or better and improved the team because he added a pair of Gold Glovers.
The deal should serve as a reminder to Cubs fans that no player is untouchable when the price is right. It’s also a reminder of how frustrating the end of that 2004 season was for the Cubs.
Quotable: “I thought there was a flaw on the club that we couldn’t allow to become a fatal flaw, that the defense on this team is not championship caliber. In my mind we were not going to win a World Series with our defense the way it was.” —Epstein on the Garciaparra swap
The Dave Roberts came up with the biggest stolen base in Red Sox franchise history. Not a bad get in exchange for a non-prospect who spent eight years in the minors.
Fun Fact: Cabrera left in free agency, but the Red Sox received a compensation pick from the Angels upon his departure which was used to choose Jacoby Ellsbury, who was a part of two Red Sox World Series winners.
Players acquired: OF Jose Cruz Jr., IF Tony Graffanino, IF Alex Cora, RHP Chad Bradford
Players dealt: IF Kenny Perez, RHP Kyle Bono, OF Chip Ambres, LHP Juan Cedeno, OF Jay Payton, IF Ramon Vazquez.
The skinny: Cruz spent 10 days on the Red Sox and the Dodgers claimed Cruz off waivers on Aug. 9. Graffanino had 200 plate appearances in 51 games for the Red Sox, but will be most remembered for his error in Game 2 of the ALDS against the White Sox. Bradford was serviceable in his 23.1 relief innings, posting a 3.86 ERA after being acquired for Payton. Cora hit .269 in 116 PA playing second base, third base and shortstop.
As for the players who were dealt, only Payton and Vazquez garnered any regular playing time after leaving Boston.
Minor acquisition: RHP Bryan Corey in exchange for RHP Luis Mendoza.
The skinny: Corey posted an even 100 ERA+ in 37 relief innings over three years with the Red Sox, while Mendoza’s best came with the 2012 Royals when he posted an 8-10 record, 4.23 ERA (4.28 FIP) and an ERA+ of 99 — six seasons after being dealt to the Rangers.
Major acquisition: RHP Eric Gagne.
Players dealt: RHP Joel Pineiro, LHP Kason Gabbard, OF David Murphy, OF Engel Beltre
The skinny: When the Red Sox acquired Gagne, he wasn’t the same pitcher he was with the Dodgers. He posted a 6.75 ERA despite a 3.03 FIP, though his 1.88 WHIP tells a story of a pitcher who allowed too many base-runners. Gagne did fetch a supplemental pick after signing elsewhere in free agency.
Out with the old: Pineiro was a free agent bust out of the bullpen, where he posted a 5.03 ERA (4.53 FIP). He was designated for assignment — ironically enough — to make room for Jon Lester. Later that month, he was dealt to St. Louis.
The ones that got away: David Murphy is still in baseball, having posted a career OPS+ of 104 with Texas and Cleveland in the 10 years since leaving Boston. His best seasons came in 2010, when he posted a 2.6 WAR and 2012 when his WAR number was a career best 3.7.
Gabbard (96.1 innings after leaving Boston, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008) and Beltre (42 PA with 2013 Rangers) have been non-factors since leaving.
Major acquisition: OF Jason Bay.
Players dealt: OF Manny Ramirez, RHP Craig Hansen, OF Brandon Moss.
The skinny: Manny Ramirez for Jason Bay featured moving parts and layers of drama, which you can briefly read about here. In dealing Ramirez, Boston also packaged Moss (115 OPS+ in 614 games since 2009) and Hansen (a former first-round pick who hasn’t pitched since 2009).
Quotable: “For Jason, we want what we want for the rest of the players, to have an atmosphere where good players want to do the right thing. We’re not asking him to fill (Ramirez’s) shoes. We’re asking him to be a contributing member of a winning baseball team, emphasis on the last word.” —Theo Epstein on his expectations for Jason Bay, per the Cape Cod Times
Major acquisitions: C Victor Martinez, 1B Casey Kotchman, 1B Adam LaRoche, OF Chris Duncan.
Key players dealt: RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Bryan Price, LHP Nick Hagadone, 1B Adam LaRoche, RHP Hunter Strickland, SS Julio Lugo.
The skinny: Victor Martinez ended up being the most costly of the deadline deals as the Indians landed Red Sox prospects Price, Hagadone and Masterson — who turned out to be the best of the bunch.
Quotable: “You want to do better, but when you measure that against a draft pick … both of those guys were going to free agency. … Even though Matt LaPorta doesn’t end up being the player you think he’s going to be, that’s the nature of prospects. That’s why you don’t build an organization around one guy, you have to have a lot of prospects. It takes years to judge a trade.” —Indians GM Mark Shapiro on the nature of trades, as transcribed in a recent interview with the Akron Beacon Journal is an interesting look featuring a candid GM.
The ones that got away:
- Adam LaRoche spent six games in Boston before being dealt to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman.
- Julio Lugo, another free agent bust under Epstein’s watch, posted a 72 OPS+ in three years (1,060 PA) with the Red Sox. This coming on the heels of being a 12-WAR player from 2003-06 with the Devil Rays and Dodgers.
- Chris Duncan was released less than a month after being traded from St. Louis and never played for Boston, while Anderson only made 21 PA and going 5-for-176 after being dealt from the White Sox.
- Hunter Strickland was selected by the Giants off waivers in 2013 and currently has a 1.63 ERA and 1.21 FIP and 35 strikeouts in 27.2 innings since debuting with the Giants on Sept. 1, 2014.
Players acquired: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C Kevin Cash.
Players dealt: RHP Roman Mendez, 1B Chris McGuinness, SS Angel Sanchez, C Michael Thomas
Saltalamacchia was the main catcher for the Red Sox’s 2013 World Series winner, while Cash is currently managing the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mendez, 24, is pitching in the Rangers bullpen. McGuinness debuted for the Rangers in 2013, but is currently hitting .228 with the Phillies Triple-A affiliate. Sanchez last played for the White Sox in 2013. Thomas last played in 2012 as a member of Rockford’s Frontier League team.
Players acquired: LHP Erik Bedard, IF Mike Aviles, RHP Josh Fields.
Key players dealt: OF Chih-Hsien Chiang, RHP Juan Rodriguez, C Tim Federowicz, RHP Stephen Fife, RHP Kendal Volz, 3B Yamaico Navarro.
The Bedard acquisition was mixed, as he went 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA (3.47 FIP) and a 1.55 WHIP in eight starts. Though, the players dealt (Chiang, Rodriguez, Federowicz and Fife) haven’t amounted to much.
Fun fact: Aviles (dealt for Volz, Navarro) was part of the trade to Toronto that landed the Red Sox manager John Farrell. Neither Volz nor Navarro has provided much major league impact.
There seemingly isn’t anything Epstein hasn’t done in an attempt to round out his roster for the stretch run.
He has dealt away fan favorites (Garciaparra, Ramirez), prospects (Sanchez, Murton, Murphy, Gabbard, Masterson, Moss, Hansen, etc.) and everyone in between. He has acquired big bats (Martinez, Bay), bullpen help (Sauerbeck, Williamson, Gagne, Bradford), back-end rotation arms (Suppan, Bedard) and bit pieces (Cora, Kotchman).
Past performance doesn’t necessarily indicate future dealings, but it should give us an idea to what lengths this regime could be willing to go to improve the roster moving forward.