Boston Gets Kyle Schwarber

Also, general deadline craziness ensues, Boston gets their butts blown off by Toronto (again), the Yankees steal Anthony Rizzo, and the Dodgers steal Max Scherzer how was your Thursday good I hope!

I had managed to resist writing here the last few days because I really only had individual baseball games to whine about (yesterday’s was extremely whine-able!). I could write about what the Sox need at the deadline but you know they need a first baseman and Max Scherzer would be nice but he ain’t happening and who wants to read an 1100 word version of that sentence? Also, I figured as soon as I write something, the Red Sox will make a trade and the whole thing will be obsolete before you get halfway through reading it.

But after yesterday, with the Yankees getting Rangers All Star outfielder Joey Gallo and stealing my preferred first base option, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, out from under the Sox, I thought, screw this. The fact the Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays 13-1 played no role in my thinking, I should note. I was clear as a bell in the old noggin. So I stomped off to get a burrito. Ten minutes away from my house, still stomping, and definitely still pre-burrito, I received this text from a friend.

So yeah, the Red Sox traded for Kyle Schwarber.

The Kyle Schwarber Trade

This is a strange trade. Not the deal itself, that’s pretty straight forward, but the fact that it’s a deal for Schwarber is odd. On one hand, Schwarber is a good hitter and he’s having a very good season. The Red Sox don’t have the deepest of lineups, so hard to complain about that. The more good hitters, the better! But, on the other hand, Schwarber is hurt. He might be back in a week, he might be back in two weeks, or he might be back in more time than that. Who can say? Even the best hitters don’t hit from the Injured List. So there’s some risk here.

When Schwarber gets healthy and shows up in Boston, there will be another problem of sorts, namely, what position he should play. The Red Sox don’t need a DH, so unless you’re cool with JD Martinez playing left field every day which seems suboptimal and like begging for an injury to one of Boston’s better hitters, so that’s probably out except very occasionally. The Red Sox have a huge need at first base, but Schwarber has never played first base before in the big leagues (his one inning was as part of a five man infield back in 2017). This makes him a less than ideal first baseman. I mean, can he play first base? Sure. As was pointed out to me over Twitter, the Red Sox lineup just yesterday featured Franchy Cordero at first base, so from that standpoint, sure, he can play first base. From that standpoint, they already have a first baseman because they have Franchy Cordero!

Mostly though, Kyle Schwarber is a corner outfielder, and in Boston more specifically he’s a left fielder. As currently constructed, the Red Sox have three starting outfielders in Alex Verdugo, Jarren Duran, and Hunter Renfroe. Verdugo is going to start when he’s healthy, down season or not. Renfroe is having a good if not spectacular season and playing a good right field. He’s probably still not someone you prefer to have at bat in a clutch situation against a right handed pitcher, but at this point he’s probably earned that opportunity. And the Red Sox called up Duran to start every day even though they’re inexplicably platooning him against lefties, which, if it continues, I’ll freak out about at a later (though not that much later) date.

So where does Schwarber fit in there? I don’t know. Now, there are lots of games and players do get banged up. So some days they can maximize the lineup by putting Verdugo in right, Schwarber in left, and Duran in center if, say, they’re facing a particularly tough right hander. And against a tough lefty, they can sit Schwarber or Verdugo or whoever needs the rest, and then they’ve got a stronger bench and a good pinch hitter if the opportunity comes up later in the game.

It’s not bad! Having (a healthy) Kyle Schwarber on the roster makes this team better. That’s very good. For one thing, we’re still not sure if Duran is going to hit. I mean, I think he will, but we’ve seen very good prospects come up and struggle with the difference between major league and Triple-A pitching, and Duran’s numbers indicate that he’s not immune to that either. So perhaps they send Duran back to Triple-A so he can play more regularly. Perhaps he plays just a little bit less in Boston. Having four starting outfielders means everyone sits once every four games, which wouldn’t be terrible for injury prevention and keeping players rested for the stretch run and playoffs.

Would it be nice if Schwarber played first base? Yes, that would be ideal. That’s where they have the biggest need, but that’s not what Schwarber does, at least not yet.

So maybe he’ll take to it. Hey, if Franchy can do it, right Wash?

As for Schwarber himself, he’s entered the “professional hitter” portion of his career. On the strength of a scorching June during which he hit 16 homers and put up a 1.122 OPS, he’s hitting .253/.340/.570 with 25 homers. If he keeps that up, he’ll be a massive shot in the arm for an offense that has scuffled a bit since the All Star break.

He’s got a bit of a platoon split going on, but the productivity just moves between on-base percentage (he’s better on base against lefties) and slugging (more slugging against righties), so it’s not really a concern. Ideally, he’d be in Boston’s lineup as much as possible.

As I said on Twitter,

So Kyle Schwarber makes the Red Sox better assuming he’s healthy. Hopefully he gets healthy soon.

Contract Status

Schwarber’s contract runs through this season, so he’s a free agent after that. His contract does contain a mutual option for $11 million next season, but mutual options are almost never exercised because either the player has a good season and wants to test the market, or the player had a down season and the team doesn’t want to be on the hook for the money. There is a middle ground there, but it’s unlikely in this case as Schwarber is having a good offensive season and will almost certainly be looking for a longer term contract after this season. So, Schwarber is a rental.

As for the money, the Red Sox are now paying Schwarber’s contract, including any buy-out of next year’s mutual option. Presumably doing so allowed them to pay less in prospect costs for Schwarber.

Who Did The Red Sox Give Up?

Aldo Ramirez.

Ha Ha Funny Boy Who Is That?

A baseball player.

Don’t Make Me Smack You

Ramirez is a 20-year-old minor league starting pitcher currently pitching for the Low-A Salem, Virginia Red Sox. He doesn’t blow you away with stuff but shows command and control of multiple pitches. He figures to become a starter in the majors, though more likely a back-end of the rotation kind of guy, rather than a top of the rotation kind of guy. That’s the scouting report which I’ve stollen from the reporting of Ian Cundall at Sox Prospects and Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. You should read them both if you want to know more. And, even if you don’t want to know more you should still read them.

That all said, the dude is 20 years old, so you never really know. Right now, he’s somewhere around the back end of the Red Sox Top 10 prospect lists. Sox Prospects had him eighth. I think Baseball America was prepared to move him to that spot as well on the strength of his good season.

Trade Summary

Ramirez isn’t a super top prospect, but he’s a good prospect, and a good amount to give up for half a season of a currently injured player. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done it. The Red Sox needed to do something and this qualifies as something. I’d argue they probably need to do more than just this, but we’ll have that argument tomorrow. For now, Schwarber improves the team, and how he fits in more specifically will be left for Alex Cora to sort out in (hopefully) a week or so.

Anything Else?

Yes, in order to add Schwarber to the roster, the Red Sox DFA’d reliever Brandon Workman. That’s sad. Workman was a part of two World Series-winning teams with the Red Sox in 2013 and 2018. His return after being traded last deadline was a nice surprise and a feel-good story, but sadly he’s just not the same guy he was a year ago. What happened? I don’t know. Whatever small step backwards his command and stuff took was enough to send him from premium reliever to 27th guy on a 26 man roster. It’s a shame, but baseball and the world move on without all of use eventually. Good luck to Workman wherever the baseball winds send him.

Tomorrow…

I expect by the time you read this the Red Sox may have made another move or perhaps even more than that. Craig Kimbrel is still out there in TradeLand. So is Twins starter Jose Berrios. So is Nationals second baseman/outfielder Josh Harrison. So is Kris Bryant. I wouldn’t expect the Red Sox to acquire any one of those players, but I’m certain they’ll check in on all of them and probably put in offers on multiple guys listed above as well as some I didn’t mention. And maybe they’ll get one! Or more! You never know.

For now though, the Red Sox are still in first place despite yesterday’s barf-tastic performance against Toronto. The lead is down to 1.5 and now the Red Sox are going into Tampa for a three game series. Martin Perez gets the start Friday, Nate Eovaldi goes Saturday, and Nick Pivetta gets the ball on Sunday. The team could look different by then. Or not. They could be in first place by 4.5 games by Sunday night. Or they could be a game and a half behind Tampa. Stay tuned. Things are getting going.