Halfway Into 2017, the Pomeranz/Espinoza Trade Is Looking Up
President of Operations for the Boston Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, made a startling move at the trading deadline last season; acquiring All-Star Drew Pomeranz for top pitching prospect in the organization, Anderson Espinoza. At the time the move was a head scratcher because Pomeranz was a tweener starting pitcher without much of a track record. While he pitched well enough in the first half of the season to garner an All-Star selection with the Padres, many doubted he could keep up the pace. His performance in the second half of the season played out the way many Red Sox fans feared; Pomeranz was nowhere near the caliber of pitcher he was before the All-Star break and it was discovered he had an injury history the San Diego Padres duplicitously hid from the Sox at the time of the trade. Major League Baseball gave the Red Sox a chance to renege on the trade, but Dombrowski said no because wanted to keep Pomeranz. The Fenway Faithful could not comprehend how Dombrowski could mortgage the future and trade away a guy that was drawing PEDRO MARTINEZ comparisons for someone that was mostly unproven and now had an injury history. It was a long term for short term trade and it seemed like at the end of the 2016 season Dombrowski clearly busted on his first big gamble with the Sox. However, now roughly halfway through the 2017 season, the tables have apparently turned on the Pomeranz for Espinoza trade.
Karma Can Be a Bitch
At the end of the 2016 regular season, Drew Pomeranz was out of the Red Sox rotation because of the previous injury issue he had with the Padres. In the offseason, Major League Baseball suspended Padres’ GM A.J. Preller and reportedly gave Dombrowski the chance to get his prospect back. Dombrowski declined. Pomeranz opened up the 2017 season on the Disabled List, making his first start on April 11 in an 8-1 Sox win over the Baltimore Orioles. But what about the top pitching prospect Dombrowski traded away? The guy who was the No. 21 prospect in all of baseball? Anderson Espinoza… that guy… has not thrown a single pitch this season.
Espinoza had a combined 4.49 ERA in the Red Sox and Padres systems last year. He had a 4.38 with the Greenville Drive and a 4.73 with the Fort Wayne Tin Caps. Remember, this was his first time pitching a full season so when factoring in the jump to real minor league baseball, plus his age (18), it is no surprise he struggled a bit. He can still toss it 97 MPH and had a strikeout to walk ratio of 100 to 35. Those are good numbers for a young arm, but young arms are volatile.
After Espinoza was assigned to the Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A, Padres) coming out of spring training, he complained of forearm tightness and was placed on the 7-Day DL. After a couple of weeks he started to feel better and was allowed to start a throwing program. After engaging in the throwing program, Espinoza then complained of mild soreness in his right elbow and was shut down again by the Padres. An MRI apparently revealed nothing and the San Diego Padres claim to have a handle on this thing, “I think we feel pretty confident in what it is,” Padres farm director Sam Geaney said. “We’ve done some studies and imaging. I think we feel good about the path going forward. There’s nothing glaring, nothing that’s going to necessitate any drastic measures. I think we’ve just decided with how he was feeling that we’d go a little slower with him.”
If you heard of a high velocity pitcher with forearm tightness you would be smart to worry a little. If you heard of a high velocity pitcher with mild soreness in his right elbow, you would be an intelligent purveyor of injuries to think maybe this is something troubling. If you then heard an organization with a sordid history of hiding injuries come out and essentially say, “no need to worry, nothing to see here,” you would be a fool to think anything but “this pitcher is in real trouble.” The San Diego Padres are the Frank Drebin of pitcher injuries.
What About That Other Guy… Pomeranz Is It?
So while Espinoza has not thrown a single pitch in 2017, what about Drew Pomeranz?
Pomeranz has allowed two or fewer runs in 13 of his 16 starts this season. Yes, some of the those numbers have been helped out because he was pulled from games incredibly early due to an extremely high pitch count. However, as of late, Pomeranz has really settled things down and is showing the form that made him an All-Star in 2016.
He is 5-1 in his last eight starts and has completed six innings in five of those eight outings. Other than getting rocked in Detroit on June 11 (4.1IP, 8 H, 6R/5ER), even the shorter outings came with good reason. He needed an outrageous 123 pitches to go five innings against the Yankees on June 6, but he gave the Red Sox a chance to win that game by stranding the bases loaded in his final frame. And the other five inning start? He completed those five innings after battling through not one, but two significant rain delays. Most recently he went six innings innings of one-run ball to complete the sweep of the Blue Jays. He could have even come back out for the seventh, but was kept on the bench for roughly an hour as the Red Sox bats euthanized the border birds with an eight run top of the seventh.
Is Dave Dombrowski perfect? No, of course not. Most notably, he has made some dubious trades to bring in bullpen arms that have obviously not worked out (TRAVIS SHAW ANYONE?!?!). But the man does make some shrewd moves. As much as it pains people to depart with top prospects, I think everyone can agree, Chris Sale is amazing. Yoan Moncada might be a super stud one day (still want to see him hit a major league breaking ball; 85 strikeouts in 68 games this year with Charlotte) and of course you love believing Michael Kopech threw 105 MPH in a game (I was broadcasting that game. Yeah, in your bra), but Chris Sale in his prime is a sure thing and you can ride that sure thing to a World Series trophy. Not only that, but you have to give credit to Dombrowski when he plays his cards right. At the end of the 2016 season the Pomeranz for Espinoza trade looked like a loser. The Red Sox had an injured pitcher and the Padres had a studly pitching prospect. But my how things change. Roughly a half season later, Dombrowski and the Red Sox have a 28 year old lefty hitting his stride and contributing to wins while the Padres are the ones with an injured pitcher. We might all (rightfully) jump down Dombrowski’s throat when he makes stupid moves, but sometimes even those moves that look dumb at the time can pay dividends, and when they do we should be honest enough to give him credit.