ARLINGTON, Texas — David Ortiz was once the player to be named later in a trade. So were Moises Alou, Michael Brantley, and Gio Gonzalez.
They all escaped anonymity, and went on to have long and successful major league careers.
But when the Red Sox traded Deven Marrero to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later in 2018, the expectation was not to get much in return.
Marrero was a poor hitter out of minor league options, and a PTBNL was a better option for the Sox than releasing the 2012 first-round pick.
The teams made a deal that the Sox could scout a group of players over seven weeks, then make their choice.
Senior analytics analyst Greg Rybarczyk recommended Josh Taylor, and pro scout Steve Peck agreed after watching the lefthanded reliever pitch in person.
“It was a good example of analytics and traditional scouting coalescing,” assistant general manager Eddie Romero said.
The deal was completed on May 15. Taylor, who had no idea what was happening, was surprised when he was told.
“It came out of nowhere,” Taylor said Wednesday before the Sox beat the Texas Rangers, 10-3, “but it worked out pretty well. I’ve had a lot going on over the last 18 months. I try to take each day as it comes.”
The 26-year-old Taylor made his major league debut with the Sox on May 29, and he has a 3.04 earned run average in 52 games, with a healthy 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Taylor was a starter in high school in Arizona, junior college, and at Division 2 Georgia College before signing with the Phillies in 2014 as an undrafted free agent.
He was traded to the Diamondbacks 11 months later for international bonus slot money, which is the right to spend money on international prospects, not actual money.
Taylor became a reliever during the 2017 season, but it wasn’t until this year that it clicked for him.
Lefthanded hitters have hit .206 with a .562 OPS against Taylor, but manager Alex Cora hasn’t made him a specialist. Taylor has faced righthanded hitters 122 times and held them to a .692 OPS.
A 95-m.p.h. fastball complemented by a slider and a sinking fastball gave Taylor the tools he needed.
“I’ve learned how to read the scouting reports and use my strengths against the weaknesses of the hitters. It’s a process and I’m learning every day,” he said. “This is a good clubhouse and the guys here helped me a lot in terms of preparing for games.”
Next season, when pitchers will have to face a minimum of three hitters unless it’s the end of the inning, Taylor should fit in just fine.
“Coming up as starter, you have to face righties and lefties,” Taylor said. “I’ve always been comfortable facing righthanders.”
Counting his time with Triple A Pawtucket, Taylor has appeared in 72 games and pitched 70⅔ innings. He plans to give his arm a good long rest once the season ends.
“It’s definitely been a grind,” Taylor said. “We have a good training staff that gets us ready to play. It took a little while to find a routine that works. Some days you don’t feel 100 percent, but you do what you have to and get close to that.”
For a little-known pitcher who was among the early cuts in spring training, Taylor became somebody Cora could count on.
“We were very impressed. He was really, really good,” Cora said. “There was a stretch there when we used him a lot and we had to give him some time off.
“But overall, he was amazing and physically he was able to hold up.”
When the Sox were eliminated from playoff contention earlier this month, Cora mentioned Taylor along with Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman as relievers he planned to use sparingly with an eye on next season.
“That was good to hear, a comment like that,” Taylor said. “Especially from somebody who makes decisions. Hopefully I’ve showed them what I can do and I can be part of this next season.
“We’re going to be a hungry team next year, I know that will be the case. This season was a disappointment and you wonder how the heck it happened. Going through this is going to make us stronger.”