The first of the fans’ request was fulfilled rather quickly, with the signing of David Price on December 1st. Many believed that Price was the best pitcher available this offseason, ahead of former Dodgers hurler Zack Greinke and Reds/Royals ace Johnny Cueto. The Red Sox agreement with Price was for 7 years and $217 million dollars, with an opt-out following the 2018 season. While some believe that contracts of this length and monetary value often end up looking bad in retrospect, many believe that it was a reasonable price to pay for an established ace with a history of success in the AL East. Additionally, the deal ended up costing the Red Sox less than Greinke cost the Diamondbacks in terms of average annual value ($31M vs. $34.42M). Price will look to be the leader of the Boston rotation in 2016, followed by the unpredictable Clay Buchholz, unproven Rick Porcello, young Eduardo Rodriguez, and… someone else. Nobody’s really sure who that will be yet.
However, long before the Price deal was agreed upon, Dombrowski and company made a move that was not only less expected, but a bit more questionable to some of the Fenway Faithful. On November 13, it was announced that the Red Sox swapped prospects Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen to the San Diego Padres for superstar closer Craig Kimbrel. While the Red Sox were seemingly set at the position with All-Star Koji Uehara presumably healthy for the start of 2016, Kimbrel’s addition decreases Boston’s risk at the position, with Uehara entering his age-41 season. Uehara will likely slide back into the 8th-inning role for the club, a move he has publicly admitted to being okay with, and 2015 set-up man Junichi Tazawa will likely slot into the 7th-inning role.
Tazawa won’t be the only one in the Red Sox bullpen competing for set-up innings alongside Uehara though, as the Sox went out and acquired yet another reliever on December 7. Boston sent their 2015 innings leader Wade Miley along with minor-league reliever Jonathan Aro to Seattle in exchange for 6-foot-6 right-handed reliever Carson Smith as well as left-handed pitcher Roenis Elias. Smith was quietly one of the AL’s top relievers in 2015, posting an impressive 2.31 ERA and 2.12 FIP over 70.0 innings, striking out 92 batters while walking just 22, good for a 4.18 K/BB rate. Smith also allowed just two home runs all season, although Sox fans shouldn’t expect that number to be sustainable as Smith moves from a pitcher’s park in Seattle to hitter-friendly Fenway Park. Elias seems to fall by the wayside in examining this trade from the Red Sox viewpoint, but his value shouldn’t be underestimated. Elias sports a career 3.97 ERA over two seasons and 51 games (49 starts), totaling 279.0 innings. Elias’ walk rate is what has plagued him thus far in his career, racking up a BB/9 mark of 3.5 so far. However, he’s still relatively young at age 27 and has time to make adjustments and improve on his control. He’ll have to keep the ball down at Fenway (he’s allowed a 35.0% fly-ball rate in his two seasons), but he could definitely add value over other potential Sox #5 starters like Joe Kelly, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Steven Wright.
On the offensive side, the Red Sox made another somewhat surprising move, adding right-handed hitting outfielder Chris Young as a free agent on a two-year, $13 million dollar deal. Young is well-known for his proficiency at hitting left-handed pitching, slashing .263/.362/.474 in his career against southpaws, as opposed to .224/.293/.411 against righties. Young is a relatively average defender, accumulating -3 DRS in the Yankee Stadium outfield in 2015, along with a -0.7 UZR. Young looks to get most, if not all, of his playing time this season against left-handed pitchers, likely filling in for the inconsistent bats of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo.
Other depth acquisitions include catchers Dan Butler and Ali Solis, utility man Chris Dominguez, outfielders Brennan Boesch and Ryan LaMarre, and right-handed pitcher Sean O’Sullivan. Butler last appeared in the majors with Boston in 2014, getting four hits in 20 plate appearances, three of which were doubles. He slashed .227/.316/.316 in 325 PAs for Washington’s Triple-A club in 2015. Solis has no hits in 11 career MLB PAs, the last of which came in 2014 with Tampa Bay. He slashed .145/.180/.197 over 250 PAs between Double-A and Triple-A last season in the Dodgers organization. Dominguez was 6-for-23 in 23 PAs with the Reds last season, but spent most of the year at Triple-A where he slashed .223/.275/.378 in 321 PAs. Boesch had three relatively productive seasons with the Tigers from 2010-2012, but hasn’t surpassed 100 PAs in any season since, and put up a line of .146/.191/.202 with Cincinatti last season. LaMarre managed just two hits in 26 trips to the plate in 2015, also with the Reds, but did hit a respectable .257/.307/.400 over 329 PAs in Triple-A. O’Sullivan has the most MLB experience of the group, but has managed just a 5.95 ERA and 5.72 FIP in six seasons from 2009-2015 (he missed all of 2012) over 66 games, 52 starts, 302.1 MLB innings. In 2015, he accrued a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts with Philadelphia. Of all the names here, LaMarre has the most potential to be a decent big-leaguer, but the way things look now, Red Sox fans should hope they don’t see any of these guys in the big leagues in 2016.