BOSTON — Consider the tables turned.
In December, when the Red Sox pulled off a blockbuster trade for Chris Sale, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called them “the Golden State Warriors of baseball now,” and referred to Boston’s starting rotation of Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez as “their Durant and Green and Thompson and Curry.”
Law: Addison Reed gives Boston breathing room in the pen
The veteran reliever may be a rental for the rest of 2017, but the Red Sox didn’t surrender much to add some needed depth in front of Craig Kimbrel.
Red Sox deal for Addison Reed shores up bullpen, pleases Dave Dombrowski’s dad
Somewhere, Ron Dombrowski, a retired parts department manager at a car dealership, is smiling after his son took his advice to aid Boston’s pen.
Trade grades: Does Addison Reed boost Boston’s postseason odds?
The Red Sox showed they don’t quite trust their setup guys by acquiring the Mets’ closer, but he will have to prove he can have success when he isn’t protected by pitching in Citi Field.
Eight months later, when the Yankees landed right-hander Sonny Gray at the trade deadline on Monday — after acquiring third baseman Todd Frazier, relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, and starter Jaime Garcia earlier this month — Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski returned the compliment, and then some.
“You mean the Golden State Warriors?” Dombrowski said when asked for a reaction to the Yankees’ big deal. “Yeah, I think the Golden State Warriors have significantly made some moves. I expected it. I would’ve been surprised if they didn’t. But I think Brian probably has made them the Golden State Warriors and we’re the significant underdogs, when I’m listening to the MLB Network. I would anticipate, like he said earlier in the year that he didn’t know how the Red Sox would lose a game, I think it’ll be the same. I don’t know how they’ll lose a game right now. They made some good moves. They made their club significantly better.”
Talk about laying it on thick.
The Red Sox weren’t exactly shut out at the 4 p.m. ET deadline Monday. They filled their need for a late-inning reliever by acquiring right-hander Addison Reed from the New York Mets for three minor league relief pitchers. It’s a move that won’t grab as many headlines as the Yankees’ addition of Gray, but figures to help the Red Sox down the stretch in a tight AL East race.
Reed, 28, is expected to serve as the primary eighth-inning reliever and setup man for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. He also provides an experienced ninth-inning backup to Kimbrel, having notched 101 saves from 2012 to 2014 for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. He is 19-for-21 in save opportunities for the Mets this season in place of injured closer Jeurys Familia.
“We like him a lot. We think he can come in and be a premium setup guy for us,” said Dombrowski, who pulled a sheet of paper from his blazer and counted 20 right-handed relievers about whom the Red Sox inquired. “He makes us deeper in our bullpen, pushes other guys back to pitch earlier in the game. He can close an occasional game for us if he needs to when Craig needs an extra day off.”
Reed has a 2.57 ERA in 48 appearances for the Mets after posting a 1.97 ERA in 80 games last season, including a 2.03 ERA, 69 strikeouts and 12 walks in 70 eighth-inning appearances.
The Red Sox have primarily used right-handers Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly in the eighth inning, and the bullpen has largely exceeded expectations even though expected setup man Tyler Thornburg didn’t throw a pitch before undergoing season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Barnes has a 4.34 ERA in 17 appearances since the middle of June, including blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. Kelly has been on the disabled list for the past two weeks with a hamstring strain.
Reed is eligible for free agency after the season and is owed only about $2.5 million this year. As a result, the Red Sox will be able to stay below the $196 million luxury-tax threshold.
The Red Sox also gave up a reasonable package: Triple-A right-hander Jamie Callahan and Single-A right-handers Stephen Nogosek and Gerson Bautista. Callahan, 22, has a 3.21 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 42 innings this season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Nogosek and Bautista were pitching for Class A Salem.
After recent trades for Kimbrel, lefty Drew Pomeranz and Sale, the Red Sox lacked enough elite-level prospects in their farm system to make a deadline splash that rivaled the Yankees’ trade for Gray. As one American League talent evaluator put it, the Red Sox “shopped at Saks and got a possible Cy Young guy [Sale], but you have to shop at Target also.”
Dombrowski noted that the Red Sox also acquired utility infielder Eduardo Nunez last week, in addition to calling up 20-year-old top prospect Rafael Devers to play third base. Over the past few days, Dombrowski and manager John Farrell have indicated the team is counting on stronger performances from players already on the roster. On Sunday, Farrell singled out right fielder Mookie Betts, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and first baseman Mitch Moreland, each of whom has been in a slump over the past few weeks.
Entering play Monday night, the Red Sox were a half-game behind the Yankees in the AL East. Even though New York went only 7-18 from June 13 to July 14, Boston was unable to pull away in the standings. Now it’s the Red Sox who are struggling, having lost 14 of their past 22 games through Sunday.
The teams have 10 games remaining against each other. As much as Dombrowski admires what Cashman has done to improve New York’s roster, he also believes the Red Sox have what it takes to defend their division title.
“I’ve been in a position [in the past] where we made acquisitions where we were praised to the hilt that we were going to run away with the division, and we didn’t,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve been looked at on a secondary basis after we’ve done things, and we’ve done really well. So, I’m not good at prognosticating these things. It really comes down to how you play. If we play like we’re capable of playing, I think we can play with anybody. But we have to do it.”