Boston Red Sox: Trade for Craig Kimbrel the Wrong Move


The Boston Red Sox made a big splash on Friday, as they traded four prospects to the San Diego Padres in exchange for veteran closer Craig Kimbrel.

Kimbrel is one of the best bullpen pitchers in all of baseball, and he will immediately step in as the Red Sox’s closer this season. His dominance is obvious, and Kimbrel undoubtedly improves a bullpen that was a serious issues this season. With Kimbrel now holding down the ninth inning, the Red Sox will now feature former closer Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in set-up roles for a great back of the bullpen.

I understand the reasoning behind the move. The Red Sox have some impressive talent on the roster, and despite a last place finish in 2015, they could immediately become contenders next season with a strong off season. Adding Kimbrel to the roster undoubtedly helps the Red Sox get closer to their goal of winning next year. That being said, I disagree with the direction they are heading in this off season.

The Red Sox are loaded with young talent in the minor leagues. Losing Miguel Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen and Carlos Asuaje in exchange for Kimbrel will not hurt their minor league stock as much as it would most teams, but it is certainly going to make a dent. After trading from their stock of prospects, I find it unlikely to see them make any more similar trades this off season.

So, the Red Sox traded away four impact-level prospects and they did not even fill their biggest hole on the roster, an ace pitcher. Sure, Kimbrel is a relief ace who is undoubtedly going to help this team right away, but it will not have the same impact as a top of the rotation pitcher would have.

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Simply put, I would have rather seen the Red Sox give up a little bit more young talent in exchange for an ace starting pitcher. Now, if they are going to add an ace this off season, it is going to have to be from free agency, and president Dave Dombrowski’s comments following the Kimbrel trade backs that up. The following quote comes from Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.

“My thought process is most likely any acquisition we’d make in the starting pitching would first happen as far as the free-agent field is concerned,” Dombrowski said in a conference call following the Kimbrel trade. “You never know, but that would be my guess.”

If Dombrowski is to be believed, the Red Sox will now turn their attention towards starting pitchers in free agency. If they are going to land a true ace, David Price, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto are the names to watch. Price is going to get a monster deal for over $200 million this off season, with Greinke and Cueto likely to get something similar.

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Pitching prices are at a premium, and buying starting pitching in free agency is going to cost you hundreds of millions of dollars over seven, eight or maybe even nine years. These contracts usually work out alright over the first couple of seasons, but look how they end up towards the end. It is never pretty. Giving these 30+-year-old pitchers eight-plus year contracts is not the most efficient way to build a baseball team.

Don’t get me wrong, adding Kimbrel and Price (or Greinke or Cueto) to the Red Sox pitching staff would immediately make them become serious playoff contenders next season. They would have filled two major holes on their already talented roster.

That being said, they would have given up major young talent and a ton of money invested into an aging arm to do so. My personal opinion is that trading for a younger starting pitcher and fixing the bullpen with lesser trades and free agency would have been the wiser move.

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Heck, they could have realistically traded for a Carlos Carrasco or Julio Teheran, fixed the bullpen in free agency, and still have plenty of money left to land a Jordan Zimmermann or Jeff Samardzija as a solid number two or three starter.

However, the acquisition of Kimbrel will not allow for that route. Look out for a major starting pitching addition via free agency soon, because it is coming. That said, this is not the best plan of attack for the Red Sox. It’s not a bad one, and I am not saying it won’t work, but they could have done better with much less money and losing similar prospect value.

For the flip side of this argument, take a look at why the Red Sox trade for Kimbrel was a strong deal.