Finally, after a multitude of missed deadlines, negotiations, public comments, rumor campaigns, and enough misinformation to make the CIA envious, the compensation due Boston for releasing Theo Epstein from the last year of his contract has been settled. Chris Carpenter, the often injured and inconsistent 26 year old flame thrower goes to Boston. There will also be a swap of Players To Be Named Later by April 15, but those are not expected to be significant.
So, what does the loss of Carpenter mean for the Cubs?
Carpenter was a long shot to make the 2012 bullpen in spring training. While he does turn heads with his 100+ MPH fastball, he has consistently been unable to turn that pitch into major league success. In the minors and in the Arizona Fall League he has wracked up the strikeouts by throwing past people, but that approach does not work as well on the biggest stage. For some reason, whenever he reaches the majors, it seems his control vanishes and he has trouble locating his pitches. The results, predictably, have not been all that good.
There are a couple of open slots in the Cubs bullpen he could have been competing for had he stayed a Cub, but with Rule 5 selection Lendy Castillo needing to stay on the 25 man roster in order to remain with the team, Randy Wells likely being crowded out of the starting rotation, and Rafael Dolis increasingly looking like the closer of the future, I simply do not see where Carpenter would have fit. In other words, the Cubs traded a AAA reliever for one of the best baseball executives in the game. That’s not a bad deal.
Boston fans shouldn’t be too devastated, though. The demands for Starlin Castro and Matt Garza were so far beyond ridiculous that I doubt even Boston’s front office believed that would happen. Even someone like Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters was highly unlikely, based on precedent. Instead, Boston got what they should have been expecting all along: a player with great upside that they can use right away. At worst, the Red Sox are getting a middle reliever who could be a part of their bullpen this season. On the other hand, if they can smooth out Carpenter’s control issues, they will have themselves a future closer with one of hardest fastballs in the game. The change of scenery could do Carpenter a lot of good. If the Red Sox take their time with Carpenter, they could have a very valuable bullpen arm for a number of years to come.
Some publications had Carpenter ranked among the Cubs Top 10 prospects. That was extremely high. Baseball America placed him in the middle of the pack, which is more reasonable. I left him off my Top 21 altogether. A mid-20s reliever with control issues does not strike me as Top Prospect material no matter how hard he throws, not in a system as deep as the Cubs. Boston fans can be encouraged by the few high rankings for their newest prospect, but Cubs fans should not be unhappy to see him go.
At the end of the day, I think the deal was fairly balanced. The Cubs lost a player that was not critical to their short term or long term plans, and the Red Sox got a player with upside that they can use right away. Somewhere in the Boston front office the guy who demanded Castro and Garza is undoubtedly furious, but the rest of us should be content.