Three Years Later: Evaluating the trade for Craig Kimbrel

A trade may take several years to determine results and it appears the Red Sox gave up an excellent prospect to get Craig Kimbrel.  Was there a choice? Could the Red Sox have traded Jackie Bradley instead of Manuel Margot in the package?

The boldness or recklessness of Dave Dombrowski was on full big screen display with the trade for Craig Kimbrel. Baseball now has bullpen a mentality and the creme de la crème is the closer. Kimbrel was simply one of the very best and the Red Sox had a surplus of talent.

Historically Dombrowski considers prospects rather disposable despite any overwhelming evidence that a potential star may be cut loose – just ask Yoan Moncada. Dombrowski’s approach is the here and now and a Kimbrel was as tempting to DD as a landfill is to seagulls.

In 2016 Kimbrel was a disappointment for Boston, but that comes with a caveat since it is based on Kimbel’s historic numbers. In 2017 that changed dramatically, and we can probably recite the litany of the accomplishments. Will that continue in 2018? Yes – and most likely Kimbrel stands on the fiscal threshold of joining the 1% club. But what about the others?

Of the four players shipped to San Diego, I will concentrate on just one. A fleet outfielder who was considered to have a serious upside. That means Manuel Margot who became the regular center fielder for the Padres in 2017. The right-handed hitting Margot is just 23-years-old and will eventually be an All-Star – yes, he is that good.

Margot was blocked in the Red Sox system by Jackie Bradley despite Bradley’s inconsistency that still is a career trademark. Bradley was already in the Red Sox lineup and Margot was in the bushes. Was there a choice? Knowing what I know now would I have skipped on Margot and delivered JBJ to the Padres?

In 2015 Bradley played 74 games for the Red Sox and hit .249, but the hint of power was present with 10 home runs and 43 RBI. In 2016 Bradley was an All-Star and so was Margot, but he was in the Pacific Coast League as an All-Star. Margot got a September appearance and hit .243. Margot would be a regular in 2017 at the age of just 22. What was 2017 like for Bradley and Margot?

Bradley is noted for his defense, but if you worship fielding metrics Margot is equally impressive. A 6.9 UZR/150 compared to Bradley’s 4.9 UZR/150.  Defensive Runs Saved (DRS)? Margot had eight and Bradley 10, but Bradley played 150+ more innings. If baseball WAR is your end all then Bradley posted a 2.3 fWAR and Margot a 1.9 fWAR.

As for the stick, they are quite similar in 2017. Margot slashed .263/.313/.409 and Bradley .245/.323/.402. Bradley has a clear edge as a run producer with 17 home runs and 63 RBI to Margot’s 13/39. Speed is a difference in Margot’s favor swiped 17 bases and Bradley eight. Both are gifted base runners and Bradley has pronounced his desire to add to that SB total in 2018.

The upside is in favor of Margot. His first full season was far more impressive to Bradley’s first three seasons and he’s four years younger and under control into the next decade. Margot appears to be on the cusp of being a relented All-Star for several years with an ability to defensively patrol the cavernous outfield in SD.

The trade possibilities I mention are admittedly pure speculation on my part, but from decades of reading about the process, I am sure there was a choice to be made in this deal. And if there was just how it became Margot and not Bradley? Maybe taking Bradley would have kept Logan Allen in the system? Or Carlos Asuaje would be in Boston and not hit .270 for the Padres? But knowing what I know now I would take Margot over Bradley since hindsight is such a wonderful tool.

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About Rick McNair

Born in Boston and have lived in the area all my life but not as a Red Sox fan. My first game was actually at Braves Field where I saw a very young Eddie Matthews hit a home run. The Braves left and I quickly switched loyalties. I enjoy discussing the Red Sox past and the connection of that past to the present. I will often bring in remembrances of that into posts. As a retired teacher I have the time to occasional travel to foreign baseball soil and love meeting up with other fans of RSN on the road. I am also a fan of the NY Football Giants (via NJ) - a dwindling breed in Massachusetts.
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