It’s too early to say the Red Sox’ trade with Seattle for Carson Smith was a mistake, but there were certainly warning signs before they acquired him in multi-player deal with Seattle that his delivery might cause elbow/arm problems at some point.
I wrote as much at the time, quoting a Mariners’ official about why the team was willing to give up a young, good reliever in a reliever-oriented game so readily. That was the reason.
The Mariners were able to get a mid-rotation starter like Wade Miley who can give them 200 innings, so new general manager Jerry DiPoto jumped at the deal.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Smith was injured in March and, following a second opinion with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek Monday, could be facing a shutdown if surgery is recommended on his elbow.
Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski certainly felt he had enough starting pitching at the time and adding to the bullpen was most appealing, especially with a young reliever with Smith’s arm. Sometimes the across-the-body delivery is OK. Look at Max Scherzer, who has pitched multiple 200-inning seasons and has seven seasons with 30-plus starts and has never been hurt. You really never know.
Right now it’s simply a case of bad luck for the Red Sox.
Yet, Smith never had a role. Because of the success of Junichi Tazawa in the seventh, Koji Uehara in the eighth, and Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, manager John Farrell was searching for meaningful time for Smith. At some point this season – if Smith doesn’t need surgery – they’ll likely need Smith to pitch some of those impact innings. For now, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree do just fine.
Miley, 29, started out with a couple of poor outings, but has pitched better since. He’s 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA with one complete game shutout – vs. the Royals – under his belt. Miley is on record as saying the Mariners have the best atmosphere of his career.
Miley was popular among his Boston teammates. He did have that dugout spat with Farrell last season, but it doesn’t appear that added to his being traded. Don’t forget, DiPoto was employed by the Red Sox to conduct a system-wide study before taking the Mariners’ job, and he got to see a lot of Miley.
■ Speaking of Tazawa, where did the time go? He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season, as will Uehara. If both have decent years, what will Dombrowski do? Both players will likely want multiple-year deals. Tazawa is only 28 and he could demand a big number. Just how much will be interesting. Does he get Darren O’Day or Luke Gregerson type dollars?
The Orioles re-signed O’Day to a four-year, $31 million deal. The Astros signed Gregerson to a three-year, $18.5 million deal. Somewhere in between? Tazawa has been an underrated, valuable aspect of the Red Sox bullpen. Sure, he’s proved he can’t be a closer, but as a late-inning reliever, there aren’t many better.
As for Uehara, he’s 41 years old, but he keeps his body in such tremendous condition, there’s no end in sight. The Red Sox may want to go year to year with him, and that might be satisfactory to Uehara, who will make $9 million this year. The other factor is Baltimore. He makes his home there and there’s always the threat the Orioles may want to add to their arsenal.
The Red Sox will have to monitor this and take a look at their options. Will Barnes show the consistency needed to become that set-up guy? Will Smith be well enough to assume it? The Red Sox are definitely moving toward harder throwers at the end of the game, but they love the contrast that Uehara provides.
■ No, I don’t like changing the strike zone or the intentional walk procedure. The zone is going from the hollow of the knee to the top of the knee – about two inches – and MLB says it will serve to put more balls into play and improve offense because there are too many walks and strikeouts. We’ll see.
On intentional walks, pitchers will just signal to have the walk and will not need to throw the ball. Well, this now eliminates the possibility of a wild pitch, which we’ve seen, not frequently, but enough to keep it in place. And you’re saving how much time?
In both cases, why do it? Does there have to be change any time there’s a slight trend or complaint? It seems we’re tinkering too much and I don’t think there’s any reason to tinker.
Now you have to get umpires to adapt to a new strike zone. Now pitchers who have had it pounded into their brain since they were little kids to keep the ball low are being asked, ‘keep it up just a little more.’ There’ll always be issues with the strike zone, but if there are too many complaints we’ll turn to a robotic umpire?
OMG, make them stop.
■ The path for Torey Lovullo’s career as a manager could go through either Atlanta or Detroit. Lovullo should get a call from the Braves this offseason or later in the season regarding the permanent manager’s job there.
If Detroit parts ways with Brad Ausmus, Lovullo should be a candidate there. He does have a history with the Tigers – he was drafted by Detroit and played there for two years.
Given the current success of the Red Sox, it would be farfetched to think he’d have a chance to work in Boston.
Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.