What the John Schreiber Trade, Liam Hendriks Signing Say About the State Of the Red Sox

Sep 12, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher John Schreiber (46) and catcher Reese McGuire (3)
Sep 12, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher John Schreiber (46) and catcher Reese McGuire (3) / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a busy 48 hours for the Boston Red Sox, dealing John Schreiber to the Royals and signing three-time All-Star Liam Hendriks to a two-year, $10 million contract.

These moves come as Spring Training gets underway in Fort Myers. Neither one was entirely expected - Schreiber has been a key bullpen arm, and Hendriks is coming off Tommy John surgery. The latter likely won't pitch in meaningful games until July, at the earliest.

Let's take a look at what these moves mean for the Red Sox' plans following a largely underwhelming offseason.

The 29-year old Schreiber had been a revelation for the Red Sox since he signed in Boston prior to the 2021 season. After an unimpressive stint with the Detroit Tigers, he pitched to a sparkling 2.90 ERA over two years and 114.2 innings with the Red Sox.

In exchange for his services, the Sox acquired the 22-year old David Sandlin, a well-regarded power pitching prospect. Fangraphs ranked Sandlin 16th in the Kansas City system in July of 2023, and he's projected to arrive in the Majors by 2026.

The value is a bit harder to find in the Hendriks signing. The 35-year old Hendriks threw just five innings last season before his season-ending Tommy John surgery. However, he's been consistently great when healthy.

Since a mechanical tweak before the 2019 season, he's been named to the All-Star team three times, notched 115 saves, and even received down-ballot Cy Young and MVP votes. His track record is excellent, but what he'll provide going forward is anyone's guess. Regaining form after Tommy John is never certain, especially for a 35-year old.

What Does it All Mean?

What do these moves mean for the 2024 season? Essentially, it's a continuation of the message sent with every transaction the Red Sox have made this winter.

They're sacrificing the present to look towards the future. It's a frustrating message, yes, but these moves provide some reassurance that the Sox are actually looking to compete sooner than later.

You might ask, and it's natural to wonder: why are these moves reassuring? At first glance, trading a stud reliever for an A-ball pitcher and signing an injured 35-year old might seem meaningless individually and puzzling jointly.

However, given a little bit of foresight, both make a good bit of sense.

Both Transactions Move Boston in the Right Direction

Simply put, trading Schreiber now was the right call. For starters, the Sox have a surplus of right-handed relievers. Between Schreiber, Kenley Jansen, and Chris Martin, Boston had three guys competing for two late-inning roles. One of them (or more) was always going to be traded, and Schreiber was arguably the most attainable. Jansen's high salary and age (36) damage his value, and it'd take a Godfather offer to pry Martin and his 1.05 ERA from Boston's hands.

Secondly, signs point towards now being the time to sell high on Schreiber. Yes, he's been consistently excellent over the past two seasons, but last year's underlying stats paint a different picture. Despite a decent 3.86 ERA, Schreiber posted a career-high BB/9 rate to pair with a career-high FIP. He'll be 30 before the season gets underway, and missed significant time last season with a lat strain. In addition, his unorthodox windup and pitching motion make him a candidate for injuries moving forward.

Finally, there's plenty to be excited about with David Sandlin. The Red Sox organization notoriously lacks pitching prospects, and new GM Craig Breslow jumped at the opportunity to pick up a young, toolsy starter. Sandlin's fastball sits 95-96 and can touch 99, and his high strikeout rate (11.9/9) only adds to his promise. His profile isn't bulletproof - he's barely pitched above single-A, and he averages under five innings per start. Nonetheless, he's a skilled young flamethrower who provides a much-needed boost to Boston's pitcher-poor farm system.

The signing of Hendriks is almost strictly geared towards the future. As previously mentioned, he won't be back for a while, and the Sox may not bring him back at all if they're out of the playoff picture by the time he's ready. However, we've seen what Hendriks can do when healthy. If he heals properly, Hendriks gives the Sox a bona fide star closer for the 2025 season.

Additionally, his status as a star right-handed reliever makes the aforementioned Jansen and Martin expendable. Flipping those two will net additional young talent for Boston's rebuild. The cherry on top? Replacing Jansen's $16 million salary with Hendriks's $5 million helps give the Red Sox the financial flexibility they need to chase stars and fully commit to competing in 2025.

Neither transaction makes you jump out of your seat with excitement. Hell, I was skeptical of both deals at first. But, with a bit of digging, it's easy to understand where Breslow and the Red Sox are coming from. Yes, it'll be frustrating to (probably) sit through another uncompetitive season. For the first time in a few years, though, the Red Sox appear to have a concrete plan. Let's see where it goes.

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