After sending Jon Lester to Oakland earlier today, the Red Sox have made the move to trade their second starting pitcher of the day, John Lackey, to the St. Louis Cardinals. Lackey has had a solid 2014 season, posting a 3.60 ERA backed by an equally good 3.56 FIP, but Lackey has tremendous value beyond his actual pitching. Of course, I’m referring to the clause in Lackey’s contract which requires him to pitch at the league minimum next season due to his Tommy John Surgery in November 2011. That affordability, plus his quality pitching, makes Lackey a very valuable name and somebody for whom the Red Sox could net a significant haul in a trade.
And, while they didn’t add any elite players or even top level prospects, the Red Sox certainly got an intriguing haul. In exchange for Lackey, the Cardinals sent the Red Sox two bounce-back candidates who had excellent 2013 seasons but have struggled this year. Those players are Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.
Over the last three years, Allen Craig has cemented himself as one of the more consistently solid hitters in baseball. He broke onto the scene with a .315/.362/.522 (151 OPS+) slash line in 75 games in 2011 and has been similarly good over the past two seasons, posting OPS+’s of 137 and 130. He seemed to be a key bat in the middle of the Cardinals’ order but has been injured and ineffective throughout 2014. Though he has played 97 games, he is still suffering from a Lisfranc (a bone in the foot) injury which prematurely ended his 2013 season and it has affected his results this season. Through those 97 games, Craig is hitting only .237/.291/.346 with 17 doubles and 7 home runs. However, a stay in Fenway Park could re-ignite Craig’s once promising career and help rehabilitate him as one of the better bats in the game.
Joe Kelly doesn’t have the same track record as Craig but the upside is still there for the 26 year old. He was very solid for the Cardinals in both 2012 (3.53 ERA in 24 games, 16 starts) and 2013 (2.69 ERA in 37 games, 15 starts) as a swingman. Kelly has not been bad for the 2014 season, posting a 4.37 ERA and career-best 2.50 K/BB but he has only made 7 starts due to a hamstring injury which has sidelined him for the majority of the season. He has the potential to become a very solid arm over the next few years in Boston whether it be in the rotation or the bullpen.
While this move does answer the question of where Lackey will go, it also opens up several new questions. First and foremost, where will Allen Craig play? Throughout his career, he has played either corner outfield or first base and the Red Sox do not have openings at either position with Mike Napoli at first and newly-acquired Yoenis Cespedes in left field. Kelly will likely slot into the rotation, but in doing so could block the path of one of Boston’s pitching prospects, specifically Anthony Ranaudo. However, all of these questions can be solved with more trades and there has been no shortage of that today.
Tell us what you think about this trade.