With Monday’s trade deadline approaching, the Red Sox dealt yet another on- and off-field anchor of their recent teams, this time trading first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres in exchange for infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.
The Red Sox also called up Bobby Dalbec, one of their top prospects, and started him at first base on Sunday in the series finale against the Washington Nationals at 1:35 p.m.
He made an immediate impact, belting a two-run homer to right in his second at-bat. Dalbec went 2 for 4 in his debut.
Moreland signed with the Sox as a free agent before the 2017 season, and re-signed with the team both after that season (a two-year deal) and just before the start of the 2020 campaign — a sign of how much the Sox valued both his skill-set and off-field leadership. Players from Xander Bogaerts to Andrew Benintendi to Rafael Devers, as well as members of the coaching staff, all have raved about Moreland’s influence.
“He’s the ultimate professional,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “He plays hurt, which you don’t always want guys playing hurt, but he’s always willing to go out there and play. He produces when he’s out there. He’s a good defender. Obviously, offensively he creates runs, whether he’s driving them in, whether he’s getting on base, he has a knack of helping your team to produce a lot of runs. And he’s big — he comes up with big-moment hits. For me, when you get in the playoffs, that’s what you need. You need guys that in the moment can put all the external pressures off and still produce. He’s one of those guys.”
Moreland was amidst a dominant 2020 performance, hitting .328 with a .430 OBP and .746 slugging mark along with eight homers in 22 games. He led all big leaguers this year with a 1.225 OPS against righties. The Sox also had an affordable $3 million option on his services for 2021 (with a $500,000 buyout), meaning that they weren’t going to deal him unless they got what they considered a significant return.
In Potts and Rosario, the team believes it accomplished that, acquiring players who one NL evaluator described as “two real prospects.” The deal — which also opened the door for the Sox to call up Dalbec for his first look in the big leagues — came together in recent days and neared completion late on Saturday night.
“We basically felt given where we stand and where we are in 2020 and the importance of depth and talent in the farm system, there was a level of talent where it made sense to move [Moreland] and give someone else control of that option,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “We felt that these two guys crossed that bar.”
Potts, an infielder who has spent most of his time at third, was a 2016 first-rounder who reached Double A last year as a 20-year-old. Baseball America recently ranked him as the No. 17 prospect in a loaded Padres organization thanks to what one evaluator described as “big power potential” and solid defense at third base. However, his strikeout rate (28.6 percent last year in the Double-A Texas League) does create questions about his floor. In many respects, Potts’ profile is similar to that of Dalbec.
Potts, 21, hit .227/.290/.406 last year in the Texas League — numbers that aren’t overly impressive on the surface but that hinted at considerable potential given that he was the second-youngest player in the league.
“[Potts is] a big physical kid with a lot of power and a good arm,” Bloom said. “[He has] a chance, as he continues to develop his approach, that he can be a real asset with the bat and be able to play multiple positions.”
Rosario was one of the top prospects in the 2016 international amateur pool when the Padres signed him for $1.85 million. Now 20, the Sox view him as a player with the potential to be an everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter.
His defense and speed create a baseline upon which to build. Rosario, who bats and throws lefthanded, hit .242/.372/.314 in High-A last year as a 19-year-old — a line that points to both his feel for the strike zone and a relative lack of present in-game offensive impact. That said, he has more strength than he’s shown in games, creating the offensive upside of an everyday player if he can continue to develop.
“Jeisson Rosario is a top-flight athlete who profiles as a true center fielder and a true leadoff hitter,” Bloom said. “We’re excited to see how he develops as he grows and adds strength, but he’s got the upside to play center every day and hit at the top of the lineup.”
Both Rosario and Potts will head to the Red Sox’ alternate site in Pawtucket to gain familiarity with their new organization. While neither will address the team’s dearth of high-end pitching prospects, in dealing Moreland, the Sox wanted to continue to build their overall pool of young talent.
“You’d love to accumulate as much pitching as possible, but at the end of the day, to do what we’re trying to do over the time period that we’re trying to do it, we need talent throughout the system. We need waves of it,” Bloom said. “That, we think, has to be our first priority when we’re looking at trade returns in this context.”
Certainly, that outlook has informed a succession of deals by Bloom, who in his first year in charge of Red Sox baseball operations has dealt Mookie Betts, David Price, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, and now Moreland. In return, the Sox have gotten one current big leaguer (Alex Verdugo), another player with big league experience (Nick Pivetta), and several prospects with potential everyday or starting pitcher upside in Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Connor Seabold, Potts, and Rosario.
With Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline in view, the Sox likely aren’t done dealing. According to multiple major league sources, the Sox remain active in conversations about a number of players on their big league roster, and after the team has dealt three prominent big leaguers — Moreland, Workman, and Hembree — over the past week and a half, it seems unlikely to decelerate.
“We certainly expect to be very active in conversations,” Bloom said. “We’ll see what develops.”