The New York Yankees acquired Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton, a trade target of the Red Sox. Could Boston have outbid their rivals?
Scratch another trade deadline target off the board. This one stings a bit. A Boston Red Sox team in need of a bullpen upgrade could have used a reliever the caliber of Zach Britton. Instead, the former Baltimore Orioles closer is headed to the New York Yankees, who already have the league’s best bullpen.
None of the prospects the Yankees gave up are ranked in MLB.com’s top-100, although Baltimore was never going to get that caliber prospect for a three-month rental of Britton. Given his impending free agency and recent return from a significant injury, this is still an impressive haul for the Orioles.
Tate was the No. 9 prospect in a deep Yankees farm system. He’s now listed as Baltimore’s No. 4 prospect. Carroll was ranked No. 15 and remains at that same spot in the O’s system. Rogers is a low-level prospect who didn’t crack the top-30 in either team’s prospect list.
Tate has the highest upside of the prospects Baltimore receives. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft hasn’t quite lived up to his pedigree but he’s having a solid season in Double-A. Tate is 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA over 15 starts this year.
He throws a blazing fastball that can reach 97 mph but it lacks movement. Big league hitters will hammer him if his fastball remains that straight. A two-seamer or cutter would help rectify that if he can learn those pitches but it would cost him some velocity. Tate also has a good slider and changeup in his arsenal. If he improves his fastball command he could end up a solid starter, otherwise, he may be destined for the bullpen.
Carroll is a reliever currently pitching in Triple-A who throws a fastball that can reach triple-digits on the radar gun. He complements that with mid-80’s curve. He is less effective against lefties but profiles as at least a situational reliever in high leverage situations with the upside to develop into a closer.
Rogers is more of a throw-in without much upside. He’s a finesse pitcher who relies on his command but lacks an out pitch to put away major league hitters. Rogers could end up as a backend starter.
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Could the Red Sox have topped that package? Sure, if they were willing to give up Michael Chavis or Jay Groome. The top two prospects in Boston’s system rank No. 63 and No. 76 respectively in MLB.com’s top-100, presumably giving them more value than Tate. However, it’s unclear if Baltimore would agree with that assessment given Chavis’ recent PED suspension and Groome’s recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Boston would be selling low on either prospect if they dealt them now. Even under their current circumstances, Chavis or Groome would be too much to give up for a rental reliever.
A comparable package to what the Yankees gave up would have to include right-hander Tanner Houck, Boston’s No. 3 prospect and the No. 24 overall pick in 2017. Assuming their top two prospects are off the table and acknowledging Baltimore’s emphasis on pitching, Houck is the best option to match value with Tate as the top prize in the deal.
Jalen Beeks may have interested the O’s as the second piece but Boston used him to acquire Nathan Eovaldi from Tampa Bay on Wednesday. The No. 15 prospect in the Red Sox system isn’t necessarily on par with the same ranking in a stronger farm system. It may have taken Alex Scherff (No. 8) or Mike Shawaryn (No. 9) to match up with Carroll.
The Red Sox could round out the package with a reliever ranked in the back end of their top-30 prospects. They may need Bobby Poyner (No. 23) in a bullpen thin on lefties this year, so let’s say it would be Ty Buttrey (No. 27) as the third pitching prospect in the deal.
Houck, Scherff or Shawaryn plus Buttrey for Britton. Would that top what New York gave up? Maybe. Even if Baltimore could be talked into that package it doesn’t mean the Red Sox should give up that much.
The Yankees could afford to overpay a bit because they have a deep farm system. They won’t have room for all of these prospects on their major league roster in the coming years and can’t protect all of them in the Rule 5 draft. While the package they surrender seems like a steep price, it was worth it to keep Britton out of the hands of the Red Sox and Houston Astros.
New York now has an embarrassment of riches in the bullpen. A starting pitcher seemed like more of a priority for them but a healthy Britton is better than any starter on the market. The Yankees could consider relying heavily on that bullpen depth in the postseason rather than hope their No. 3 or 4 starters can go deep into games.
The Red Sox were wise not to overpay for Britton but it won’t feel that way if their lineup struggles to score against New York’s stacked bullpen. Eovaldi is a nice addition who can upgrade the back of an injury-depleted rotation but he’s not the solution Boston needs. Dave Dombrowski needs to make another move to ensure the Red Sox stay ahead of the Yankees in the AL East and can beat them in the postseason.