Peter Gammons: Red Sox’ bright future and more from San Diego

Yoan Moncada

SAN DIEGO—It was at this time last season that across New England there were howls to trade Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley and even Xander Bogaerts for a pitcher, any veteran pitcher, no matter how he profiled pitching for the Red Sox, who play 108 games a season in four of the worst pitchers’ parks (Toronto, Baltimore, New York, Boston) in the game.

Betts, 23, Bogaerts, 23 and Bradley, 25, arrived here for the All Star Game in the wee hours Monday morning. This is what their seasons project to over 162 game season:

Betts: .304, 140 R, 110 RBI, 43 doubles, 7 triples, 34 homers, 110 RBI, 28 stolen bases, .344 OBP, .525 slugging

Bogaerts: .329, 218 hits,  121 runs 19 homers, 104, 20 stolen bases, .329 average with .388 OBP, .475 slug.

Bradley: .296 with 41 doubles, 11 triples, 26 homers, 102 RBI, 95 runs, .378 OBP, .548 slug.

Now, do the Red Sox need better pitching, especially starting? Of course. They need to get Eduardo Rodriguez on course, they need to find out exactly where Clay Buchholz is luffing. Presuming Craig Kimbrel’s knee issue does not linger, the addition of Brad Ziegler—and his contrast likens him to the impact Darren O’Day has on the Orioles bullpen when he is healthy—and the emergence of Matt Barnes with his 96-99 gas and what John Farrell calls “his put-away curveball” gave them hope the bullpen the last two months can be a strength.

The starting pitching is what it is because of the failure to develop young depth starters. Henry Owens hasn’t thrown strikes. Brian Johnson had his issues, although his recent outing provided optimism. But it is way too early on Anderson Espinoza and Josh Pennington. There is a chance Jason Groome isn’t going to sign. So if Rodriguez is what Dave Dombrowski hopes and David Price, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright have good second halves, they need Buchholz and/or two filler starters.

The projections of their three homegrown all stars are worth mentioning because they need to be after Sunday’s Futures game. Yoan Moncada was the MVP, and the revelatory star talent that caught everyone’s eye. He singled lefthanded, stole second and rode to third base on a wild throw. He now has 89 steals in just 158 pro games. “He’s as much fun to watch run as anyone in the game,” said one executive. “He’s an NFL running back with breakaway acceleration.” Or Kirk Gibson, if you remember how he ran.

Moncada blasted a home run righthanded into the upper deck in left, encouraging to the Red Sox because in his brief time in Portland, he’s had but eight at-bats against lefties; his OPS against righthanders is 1.158. But the electric show produced a run of texts on my phone, one from one of the best front office evaluaters in the business, who said last October that Moncada was the best prospect in the game.

Andrew Benintendi put on a batting practice show with his incredibly short swing. “He’s a glove center fielder with 70 speed,” said one scout who has seen him extensively. Come September, that Betts-Bradley-Benintendi outfield will be the best in the game defensively.” When the East wind knocks balls down at Fenway and outfielders chase fly balls like frisbees.

If David Price were in this market or Jose Quintana or Chris Sale were available, would Boston move Benintendi? Probably; in time, Moncada could play the outfield, or Betts could go back to the infield. But there are no 1-2 starters on the market. Julio Teheran is, in the judgement of every GM I talk to, a back-end starter whose three game history at Camden Yards, Fenway and Rogers Centre is a run an inning. It makes no sense with Oakland’s gathering talent trade Sonny Gray, but if Billy Beane thought about it, his erratic season has raised some questions.

Remember, trade a Moncada or Benintendi for a mid-rotation starter will be selling off a blue chip talent who won’t be making more than $1M a year until at least 2018, and cash is important because of what they’ll still have to pay on the market for frontline pitching.

We watched one pitcher who likely will impact the National League in the second half. Alexander Reyes of the Cardinals was 97-101 and threw devastating strikes with his curveball and changeup to Benintendi. Manuel Margot, part of the Kimbrel deal, gave Padres’ fans a glimpse of the future with a sensational wall-climbing catch. Cubs outfielder Eloy Jimenez showed ridiculous talent.  Milwaukee lefthander Josh Hader looked like the next impact bullpen arm.

Houston’s Alex Bregman, who will be playing somewhere for the Astros come September, dazzled, and Atlanta SS Dansby Swanson is just a big leaguer with a chance to be a star. Period. Swanson, Bregman and Benintendi were the first three college position players chosen in the 2015 draft, which, when the Cubs’ Ian Happ makes it, will be remembered for a long, long time.

When the Cubs were drafting Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, et al, he said that the great position players don’t go to free agency, but pitchers do. A lesson that was remembered Sunday.

Comments

  1. While reading this article, Peter, I realized what the Bosox are intending to accomplish with the 8 starting players on the field. They want a homegrown talent at each position and they are well on their way.

  2. Steve Gottlieb says:

    I respectfully disagree with the evaluation of the worth of Benintendi, and whether he should be traded for pitching. His power numbers are somewhat disconcerting. Just 18 dingers in over 600 MILB at bats. And while he has good speed, he often takes bad routes to balls, and has posted a sub-par .990 fielding percentage for most of his MILB career. Yes, great arm. But if you don’t get to the ball timely, that diminishes the value of the arm. In my estimation, Benintendi is a good journeyman prospect — a Trot Nixon — and not a future perennial all-star. Also, we have plenty of fielder prospects and a dearth of pitching in the pipeline. We need to swap what we have for what we need.

    We are looking at Papi’s final season. We also have four or five guys who all seem to be clicking on offense at the same time. That means this is the season to go for the championship. It means we need to sell on some high-level prospect in order to get a quality starter arm. The return does not need to be top of the rotation stuff. A solid no. 3 guy with lots of innings and wins will be enough to carry us to the Series. Teheran or Odorizzi fit that bill. Matt Moore would also fit, but he’s too soon coming off TJ surgery to be worth a major prospect.

    We need to trade Benintendi and get ourselves the missing piece to the rotation that will get us to the Show in October.

  3. TopherD says:

    I’d like to see the Sox make a run at Drew Pomeranz. What would it take to obtain him?

  4. Paul E McArdle says:

    I buy Gammons’ analysis. The knock on Benny Ten Strike falls short: Youth and excellent coaching will win out as he becomes an incarnation of Boggs. And the sport is having an unparalleled influx of great players. Selling this talent is a retro move.

  5. Peter alevizos says:

    As usual, love the article and esp. The perspective on keeping Monado and BENINTENDI. Sox pitching needs are exactly as you outline and the options for aquisition are realistically assessed. Thanks again….keep up the good work. For do many years, you gave offered great writing and insight. We have followed you for many years.

    Peter ALEVIZOS

  6. So, Peter, what’s your take on the Espinosa for Pomeranz trade?

    • ChiefWahoo says:

      Read his most recent work ‘Peter Gammons: With Pomeranz, Red Sox pitching staff is theoretically set’…

  7. RunningRed says:

    Steve….Have you watched Benny play in person? Judging from your comments I would say no… Benny isa future MLB allstar.. Take in a SeaDogs game and you will see for your self..