May 13, 2012

On Baseball: Bound for Fenway, or not

Red Sox prospects who pass through Hadlock Field often become trade chips rather than fixtures in Boston.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON - After Justin Masterson finished his throwing session in the visiting bullpen Thursday at Fenway Park, the socializing began.

click image to enlarge

Justin Masterson was a starting pitcher for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2007-08, then became a reliever for the Red Sox, but he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2009 for Victor Martinez. Now, Masterson is a mainstay in Cleveland’s rotation.

John Ewing/2007 Telegram File

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WONDERING WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ...

Here is a look of some of the trades involving former Sea Dogs players, who looked at one time to have a future at Fenway Park:

Nov. 11, 2005

Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez (along with lower-level pitchers Harvey Garcia and Jesus Delgado) to the Florida Marlins, for pitchers Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota and third baseman Mike Lowell.

While Beckett's stay Boston has been up-and-down and, lately, controversial, he saved the Red Sox in the 2007 playoffs with his domination (4-0, 1.20 ERA). Lowell, considered a salary dump by the Marlins, was the 2007 World Series MVP. Mota was traded two months after he was acquired.

Ramirez was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006 and is a three-time All-Star. Sanchez pitched a no-hitter in 2006 and, after three injury-plagued seasons, was 21-21 with a 3.61 ERA over the past two season, averaging 195 2/3 innings.

Jan. 27, 2006

Catcher Kelly Shoppach (along with Mota, third baseman Andy Marte and pitcher Randy Newsom) to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Coco Crisp, catcher Josh Bard and pitcher David Riske.

The Red Sox went with the experienced Bard over the rookie Shoppach as their backup catcher. But Bard could not handle Tim Wakefield, committing 10 passed balls in seven games. Shoppach became the Indians' backup. He signed as a free agent with Boston this year. Crisp replaced Johnny Damon in center field, but was eventually replaced by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 2007 playoffs.

May 1, 2006

Reliever Cla Meredith (along with catcher Josh Bard) to the San Diego Padres for catcher Doug Mirabelli.

Boston had traded Mirabelli, but wanted him back because of Bard's problems. To do so, the Red Sox had to throw in Meredith, a relief prospect who was rushed to the majors in 2005 with horrible results. He looked ready in 2006 and shined for the Padres (1.07 ERA) that season.

July 31, 2007

Outfielder David Murphy and pitcher Kason Gabbard (along with outfielder Engel Beltre) to the Texas Rangers for reliever Eric Gagne.

This is a second-guesser's delight. Gagne bombed in Boston (6.75 ERA in 20 games) and was left off the postseason roster, while Murphy hit .340 in 43 games that season, and has been a regular contributor since. Gabbard did not work out, and Beltre, 22, is in his third season in Double-A.

But this deal did not look terrible at the time. Boston was in a chase for the playoffs. Gagne had recorded a 2.16 ERA with 16 saves for Texas. Several teams, including the Yankees, were after Gagne.

July 31, 2008

Outfielder Brandon Moss and reliever Craig Hansen (along with Manny Ramirez), in a three-team deal that brought Jason Bay from the Pirates.

Ramirez forced this deal when he quit on the team. To get Bay as a replacement, Boston also dealt Moss, who was considered an extra outfielder, and Hansen, who was drafted with great promise but had produced little.

Bay batted .274 with 45 home runs in his time with Boston before going to the Mets as a free agent in 2010. With the extra draft picks the Red Sox got for losing Bay, they drafted outfielder Bryce Brentz (now in Portland) and pitcher Brandon Workman, a prospect in Class A.

Hansen faded away in Pittsburgh. Moss played a full season in 2009 (.236, seven home runs) and has been with two organizations since, mostly in Triple-A.

July 22, 2009

Shortstop Argenis Diaz (along with Hunter Strickland) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Diaz was considered a legitimate prospect in Portland with a major league-ready glove. But both his defense and offense began to falter, and he was dealt for major-league depth.

LaRoche did not want to be a backup in Boston and was traded nine days later for first baseman Casey Kotchman.

Diaz reached the majors briefly in 2010 and has been in Triple-A since, now with the Tigers. Strickland is still in Class A.

July 31, 2009

Pitcher Justin Masterson (along with pitchers Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price) to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Victor Martinez.

Martinez provided some punch to the Red Sox lineup (.284 and 28 home runs over 183 games), but not enough to give Boston any postseason success.

Masterson stayed in the majors and was 12-10 last year with a 3.21 ERA and over 216 innings. He is 1-2 with a 4.89 ERA this season. Hagadone is a reliever for the Indians (0.96 ERA), and Price is in his third year in Double-A.

Aug. 31, 2010

Manny Delcarmen to the Colorado Rockies for Chris Balcom-Miller.

Once a mainstay in the Boston bullpen, Delcarmen became expendable. So the Red Sox traded for a pitching prospect they once wanted to draft. Balcom-Miller is now pitching well for the Sea Dogs.

Nov. 12, 2010

Pitcher Dustin Richardson to the Florida Marlins for pitcher Andrew Miller.

This was a deal involving lefties in need of work. The Marlins eventually released Richardson. Miller was just called up to the Red Sox bullpen, although there is still concern about his control.

Dec. 6, 2010

First baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Casey Kelly (along with outfielder Reymond Fuentes and utility player Eric Patterson) to the San Diego Padres for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

To get one of the premier hitters, the Red Sox gave away a lot, in terms of three prime prospects. Gonzalez batted .338 last year with 27 home runs and 117 RBI.

Rizzo tore up Triple-A last year, was promoted and struggled (.141 with one home run in 49 games). He was traded to the Cubs and is again tearing it up in Triple-A (.356, 10 home runs). Kelly, promoted to Triple-A this year, is on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. Fuentes is in his first season in Double-A.

July 30, 2011

Infielder Yamaico Navarro (along with pitcher Kendal Volz) to Kansas City for infielder Mike Aviles.

Aviles has gone from utility player to starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. He's batting .266 (.304 on-base percentage).

Navarro was a talented player who began to see his potential, but there was no room for him in Boston. The Royals eventually traded him to Pittsburgh, where he is a utility player. Volz, who was in Class A with the Red Sox, is in Double-A and has a 1.04 ERA.

July 31, 2011

Catcher Tim Federowicz, outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang and pitcher Stephen Fife in a three-team deal that brought pitchers Erik Bedard and Josh Fields from Seattle.

This was a crazy day at Hadlock Field, as three key Sea Dogs were dealt -- Federowicz and Fife to the Dodgers, Chiang to Seattle.

Bedard was the prize for Boston, which needed a starting pitcher to help reach the playoffs. It did not work. Bedard was 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA in eight starts. Because of injuries, he pitched only six innings after Sept. 3. He signed with Pittsburgh this year.

Fields is a reliever for the Sea Dogs.

Federowicz is batting .287 in Triple-A. His teammate, Fife, is 3-2, with a 6.03 ERA. Chiang is batting .272 in Triple-A.

Dec. 14, 2011

Infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland to Houston for reliever Mark Melancon.

Boston needed to strengthen its bullpen. Weiland was not considered ready to help, and Lowrie was thought to be injury prone.

Melancon, who had a 2.78 ERA in 2011, was hit hard early this season and was sent to Pawtucket.

Lowrie is Houston's starting shortstop, batting .301 with four home runs. Weiland made the starting rotation but has been sidelined with an infection in his shoulder.

Dec. 28, 2011

Outfielder Josh Reddick (along with first baseman Miles Head and pitcher Raul Alcantara) to Oakland for reliever Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Boston needed a closer to replace Jonathan Papelbon and Bailey was available. He injured his thumb in spring training and is on the disabled list. Sweeney has been a nice surprise, batting .355.

Reddick, who played 87 games last year (.280 average), is now starting for Oakland. Head and Alcantara are in Class A.

April 21, 2012

Michael Bowden to the Cubs for Marlon Byrd.

Boston wanted a center-field replacement for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury and had already given up on Bowden, preferring more experienced relievers. Byrd, who was batting .070 in Chicago, is hitting .279 for Boston, but his defense has been suspect.

Bowden has a 2.08 ERA in three appearances with the Cubs.

-- Kevin Thomas

Masterson, 27, the ever-outgoing pitcher who used to light up Hadlock Field with his smile and sinking fastball, was a popular person Thursday afternoon, hours before the Indians-Red Sox game.

Masterson was not scheduled to start until today, so he had time to chat. And, for about 30 minutes, Masterson sat, talking, in the Red Sox bullpen.

It made you wonder.

What could the Red Sox have done if Masterson stayed in that pen, warming up as a starter or reliever? As a starter he pitches deep into games, effectively, and previously proved his worth out of the bullpen.

Portland Sea Dogs fans saw Masterson show his wares in 2007 and early in the 2008 season before he became a vital bullpen cog in Boston's playoff run.

But the Red Sox decided, four months into the 2009 season, that they could get along without Masterson. He was traded in a deal that netted the services, albeit temporarily, of all-star catcher Victor Martinez.

It is a trend that Sea Dogs and Red Sox fans have witnessed every year. Players come through Hadlock Field as top prospects. Their future at Fenway is envisioned. And they may even get a taste of the majors in Boston.

In many cases, though, they are soon shipped out for more immediate help.

"I was called in a half-hour before I got traded," Masterson remembered. "They said, 'Your name is possibly out there. We'll know in a half-hour if you're with us or end up being with somebody else.'

"They called me back, and I ended up being with somebody else.

"The first time (you're traded) is always hard. You have a little pity party for a second or two. Then you think, now is a great opportunity."

Masterson was 12-10 last year with a 3.21 ERA in 216 innings. He was named the opening-day starter this year and is 1-2 with a 4.89 ERA. Toss out one horrible start in Seattle, and the ERA is 3.49.

"It was really just one inning (six runs). Aside from that, it's been pretty good," Masterson said. "We're doing good. First place. Makes for a fun time."

Cleveland was looking to rebuild three years ago when it dealt Martinez. Now the Indians lead the AL Central.

Martinez played 183 games for Boston and batted .284 with 28 home runs. Boston made the playoffs in 2009 and was swept in the first round, and did not reach the playoffs in 2010.

Martinez then became a free agent and signed with Detroit.

The Red Sox received two extra first-round draft picks when Martinez signed with the Tigers because he was a Type A free agent. With those picks, the Red Sox picked up Matt Barnes and Henry Owens, currently among the top pitching prospects in their system.

So the trade may still work out.

For the players traded, they have to move on from their goals of being regulars at Fenway Park.

When Masterson helped Boston stay alive in the 2008 American League Championship Series, with a 1.59 ERA in five games, he looked like a lock for the Red Sox future.

"The organization gets you in the mind-set," Masterson said. "They tell you when you get up there, you could be that mainstay."

But more prospects are traded than actually stay in Boston. Since last July, the Red Sox have traded eight former Sea Dogs -- Yamaico Navarro, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Tim Federowicz, Stephen Fife, Jed Lowrie, Kyle Weiland, Josh Reddick and Michael Bowden.

(Continued on page 2)

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