Red Sox: Looking back (again) at the Craig Kimbrel trade

Sep 28, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot (70) slides to score in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot (70) slides to score in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox blockbuster trade for Craig Kimbrel may reverberate into the future as a questionable deal. Is it necessary to have a winner and a loser in a trade?

The best trades are the ones that benefit both teams and are not subjected to who won or lost in the transaction. What has changed over a year? A year ago I looked at the trade for Craig Kimbrel and the high price in prospects the Boston Red Sox had to send west to the San Diego Padres.

The Red Sox prime centerpiece was Manuel Margot, whose chances for breaking into the Boston outfield were minimal. Dealing prospects is always a risk, but when they are potentially expendable you simply do it.

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Margot will be the starting center fielder for the Padres. The fielding skills that Margot has consistently displayed since signing guaranteed that defense would not be any issue, but would his offense catch up? In 2016 it certainly did with a .304 average for El Paso in the Pacific Coast League (PCL). Margot is currently ranked first on the Padres list of top 30 prospects on MLB Prospect Watch.

The PCL is a notorious hitter’s league with hitting friendly parks so there is often a tendency to dismiss or at least diminish the batting accomplishments – a Coors Field syndrome. Margot was rewarded with a late-season trial with the Padres and hit .243 in 10 games.

"Margot’s quick bat and outstanding hand-eye coordination help him to generate hard contact to all fields from the right side of the plate, and his improving feel for managing the strike zone suggests he’ll reach his ceiling of a plus hitter. He has good strength to his frame but projects for below-average over-the-fence pop. However, with plus-plus speed, Margot should provide plenty of doubles and triples, as well as stolen bases. – MLB Prospect Watch"

Margot will have the job in center until he loses it. What will make him special is his defense and speed – 30 steals in 41 attempts with El Paso. Margot has also been a reliable contract hitter with just 64 whiffs in 566 plate appearances in Triple-A.

Margot was the prized catch for the Padres in this transaction, but there were three other players also involved who is listed among the top 30 prospects of the Padres on MLB Prospect Watch. One, in particular, I hated to see leave since Logan Allen has a 0.4 BB/9 in his first season.

"Allen’s advanced feel for pitching made for an easy transition to the professional ranks, and he’s shown the ability to throw each of his four pitches for strikes early in his career. After returning to the mound for the final month of the 2016 season, he is expected to be full healthy this year, though San Diego will be sure to manage his workload carefully.- MLB Prospect Watch"

Last season the 19-year-old lefty pitched for three teams in the Padres organization with varying degrees of success or failure – the old half-filled. Allen’s combined 3.5 BB/9 shows that he has a bit more work to do, but injuries may have affected his season. Long-term Allen may be a player the Red Sox wish they had kept.

Javier Guerra is a shortstop and Boston already had one that is an All-Star. The upside of Guerra is his hitting ability, but the downside is the 30 errors he committed in 2016. And that upside? The hard-hitting lefty swinger did little when he advanced to A+ ball hitting a miserly .202.

"The Padres are optimistic that Guerra will bounce back on both sides of the ball in 2017, but they’re also quick to acknowledge that he has considerable gains to make.- MLB Prospect Watch"

Guerra’s power also took a slide down from 15 home runs with Greenville in 2015 to nine with Lake Elsinore in the California League. Guerra was once ranked as high as the 56th MLB prospect by Baseball America prior to 2016 and that certainly has disappeared in a fog of underperformance.

Carlos Asuaje may eventually be a starting second baseman for the Padres. Last season Asuaje hit .321 for El Paso and .208 in a brief seven-game stint with San Diego. Asuaje is 25-years-old and a left-handed hitter who has played several positions besides second. That may open up the potential for a utility role at the MLB level for Asuaje.

"Asuaje stands out for his pure hitting ability from the left side. He produces line drives from line to line thanks to a combination of hand-eye coordination and advanced bat-to-ball skills, and he possesses more pop than his size suggests, with the potential to achieve double-digit home runs. Despite being an average runner with good instincts, Asuaje is limited to second base defensively on account of his fringy arm strength and range.- MLB Prospect Watch"

Asuaje certainly had little or no chance with Boston either as a second baseman or a utility player. Other more viable option or options existed, so a trade has the potential to open up a more promising opportunity.

Kimbrel was either a failure, a disappointment or lights out depending on what game you happened to watch. The walks were disastrous as 5.09 BB/9 will attest to – the highest in the American League among relievers. The positive was a 14.09 K/9 that ranked fourth in the AL and a .151 batting average against was the best in AL.

Kimbrel had 31 saves despite missing several weeks with knee surgery. The blown save total was only a surprising two – seemed much higher. What does stand out is just how painful it can be to watch Kimbrel – the incredible inconsistency not only batter to batter but often pitch to pitch.

Next: Sandy Leon hits walk-off home run

The Red Sox will have Kimbrel for 2017 and 2018 depending upon exercising his option. In the long run this deal may seem like a disaster if both Margot and Allen produce, but in the view of the time it was a smart trade for Boston and the Padres. A win-win trade?