Everyone's initial reaction to Friday's blockbuster trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel across the country to the Boston Red Sox read something like, "Dave Dombrowski finally got his closer." The Red Sox paid a steep price for Kimbrel, sending prospects Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen to the Padres in return.
Never mind that Koji Uehara was already entrenched in the closer role -- he's cool with the demotion, by the way -- this aggressive approach to fixing his team's holes is vintage Dombrowski. November has been a busy month for the former Tigers president. He made trades for Ian Kinsler and Anthony Gose, and signed Victor Martinez (twice) before sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, and finalized deals involving Curtis Granderson and Doug Fister shortly after. Unless he's dealing with Scott Boras, most of Dombrowski's offseason work is done by the end of the Winter Meetings, which will be held from December 6-10 this year.
Even though our friends at Over the Monster are saying the same things we used to whenever Dombrowski carved away at the organization's farm system, we're not necessarily experiencing déjà vu. The Red Sox farm system is loaded, and their ownership group has put an emphasis on long-term stability. Dombrowski is working in a much different environment than Mike Ilitch's win-now-at-all-costs directive, an attitude that would feel at home in a Jason Statham movie.
The trade itself makes sense. Boston's bullpen was even worse than Detroit's by several measures in 2015, and adding Kimbrel pushes Uehara and everyone else down a peg. It's a very Dombrowski-like solution to the problem, but there's a big difference between getting the best guy available and the best guy period. Boston did the latter here, and I, for one, am not looking forward to that one-two punch in their bullpen.
Then, there's whatever the Philadelphia Phillies just did. New president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak made a very Ruben Amaro-esque move on Saturday, trading pitching prospect Sam McWilliams to the Arizona Diamondbacks for struggling starter Jeremy Hellickson. The 28-year-old righthander has allowed a 4.86 ERA in the last three seasons, including a 4.62 ERA in his only season in the desert.
The Phillies are probably enamored with Hellickson's 3.86 ERA in 10 second half starts, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio, home run rate, and FIP all regressed after the All-Star break. He won the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award with a 2.95 ERA in 189 innings, but has barely approached that production -- both in terms of run prevention and innings pitched -- ever since. Add in his past home run troubles and Philadelphia's hitter-friendly ballpark, and this deal doesn't make a lot of sense for the Phils.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks offloaded a potential non-tender candidate for a pitcher that impressed a lot of people in 2015. McWilliams is only 20 years old and pitched in the Gulf Coast League last year, but has a big arm and is heading to an organization who has had some success developing its pitching prospects over the years.
Sam McWilliams, big (6'7") RHP that they fixed the delivery on, throws downhill getting bad contact, up to 94 https://t.co/lVEiwH00rl
— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) August 3, 2015
McWilliams was the most improved player I saw last year at any level https://t.co/hwdkEGAJQd
— Chris King (@StatsKing) November 14, 2015
A record 16 players declined qualifying offers on Friday, with three players -- Brett Anderson, Colby Rasmus, and Matt Wieters -- accepting their one-year, $15.8 million offers. Marco Estrada skirted around the qualifying offer by signing a two-year deal to stay in Toronto. There were a couple surprises, including San Diego's Ian Kennedy declining his qualifying offer, but one name I was intrigued by was Jeff Samardzija.
The 30-year-old Notre Dame product opted for free agency despite having an incentive to accept the deal. Samardzija was coming off a rough year with the Chicago White Sox, and could have taken a solid payday to rebuild his value in 2016. What makes the decision somewhat puzzling is the lack of quality free agent starters available next offseason. Washington's Stephen Strasburg is the big fish in an otherwise empty pond, and Samardzija could have become the clear No. 2 option had he accepted his qualifying offer and produced close to the 3-4 WAR level he averaged from 2012 to 2014.
Instead, he will net the White Sox a compensatory draft pick whenever he signs with his new team. One thing I've seen Tigers fans worry about is "giving" their pick to Chicago if they sign Samardzija, but this should not be a concern. The White Sox will net the same pick no matter who signs Samardzija -- and someone will sign him, for sure -- so there's no reason for Detroit to hold back if he's on their list. I'd rather see him in the Olde English D than Yovani Gallardo, another starter the Tigers are apparently interested in.