By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
In August of 2015, Dave Dombrowski took over all on field operations upon being hired by Red Sox ownership. Ben Cherington, knowing his precious farm system was about to be dismantled, elected to resign from the team shortly thereafter.
The new Red Sox president made his first major move on the last day of the G.M. meetings on November 13th. That particular transaction was a trade with the San Diego Padres for Craig Kimbrel. The Padres got a multi-player package which centered around one of Boston’s top outfield prospects, Manuel Margot. Koji Uehara had one of the greatest seasons of all time in 2013, but Kimbrel provided that perennial dominance that the Red Sox had missed since 2011.
A little over three weeks later on December 7th, Dombrowski made another huge splash by acquiring Carson Smith and Roenis Elias from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. Smith had just posted a 2.31 ERA in his first full major league season, along with 92 strikeouts in 70 innings. He had a power fastball and slider in his arsenal. Boston was looking as though it would have one of the most powerful eighth and ninth inning tandems across the majors.
The question that has always remained in the back of my mind was, “How did they acquire such a dominant reliever who still had five years of control remaining for ONLY Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro?”
For starters, Miley had a career 4.03 ERA by that point. He was part of the failed “ground ball pitching” experiment from Ben Cherington’s regime. Though admittedly Bill James may have had some of the clout behind Miley coming to Boston. Jonathan Aro, three years later, is still in the minor leagues. He currently pitching to the tune of a 4.87 ERA. If he ever even makes a major league roster, I assume it will be very brief.
This Boston-Seattle trade does not make any sense. In 2014, the Red Sox traded a premier reliever in Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez. Miller was only just a few months shy of becoming a free agent. In 2016, the New York Yankees traded their closer, Aroldis Chapman, to the Chicago Cubs for a four player package centered around Gleyber Torres, who was one of the top prospects in all of MLB. Like Miller, Chapman was also only a rental player. He reached free agency immediately after helping the Cubs win the World Series, and then returned to the Yankees on a record long term deal days after hoisting the trophy.
So here’s three questions:
Did Dombrowski receive information in advance of the trade that Smith was likely to need Tommy John surgery right away in 2016?
Because why would Seattle be so willing to let Smith go?
Did Seattle know he was hurt, but withheld the information from Dombrowski?
We will never know for sure. It was pretty ironic that the former Mariner only got through a few weeks of spring training in 2016 before the forearm tightness crept up. He had Tommy John surgery days later, and never appeared in a major league game until late 2017.
It’s hard to imagine it was all a coincidence. It seems very likely to me that it was known by both MLB executives that Smith was damaged goods. And because the trade package wasn’t overly valuable, and that the Red Sox would still have three possibly healthy years following the surgery, it was still a deal worth making.
If Smith was healthy at the end of 2015, no other general manager would trade him for such a weak trade package. In fact, most wouldn’t have traded him at all. He should have been too big of an asset, and too critical to his team’s future success to even trade him to begin with.
Following today’s (Tuesday) news that Smith will likely miss AT LEAST the remainder of the 2017 season due to a shoulder subluxation after spiking his glove on the dugout floor, what has to wonder: Were there any character issues as well?
Only Seattle’s GM Jerry DiPoto knows why he made that deal. Everyone around the league seemed to know it was a terrible move for Seattle, at least at the outset. Could you imagine hypothetically if the Red Sox traded Jonathan Papelbon to the Blue Jays back in 2006 for Shaun Marcum? How furious would you be?
Granted, Smith has not worked out, and neither side seems to have “won” from the trade. But despite the repeated painful sets of cirumstances, I still can’t help going back to the day of the trade to examine it from that point of view, and why it even happened in the first place.
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