BOSTON (CBS) — Whenever a team acquires a player who is announced with the immediate clarification that it’s not the player of the same name who is well-known and accomplished, the trade becomes a rather tough sell for the team.
Welcome to Boston, Chris Carpenter.
No, not the New Hampshire native who’s twice won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals and owns 144 major league victories. This is the much less famous Chris Carpenter, a 26-year-old righty with a grand total of zero big league wins to his name. He became the newest member of the Red Sox on Tuesday as the compensation for Theo Epstein, a process that took nearly four full months to complete and ends with slightly less pizzazz than the Red Sox likely wanted.
Still, Carpenter is a young arm that could contribute to the major league roster and at the very least provides depth for the organization. A third-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2008, Carpenter had been drafted the year before by the Yankees in the 18th round while pitching for Kent State. Carpenter worked his way through the low minor leagues in ’08 and ’09 before making Triple-A in 2010, when he posted a 1.867 WHIP and 5.40 ERA in three appearances. After that, he was converted from a starter to reliever, but his 2011 numbers at Triple-A weren’t any better, as he walked 23 batters in 30.1 innings for a 1.813 WHIP and 6.53 ERA.
The plus from Carpenter’s 2011 season was his major league call-up in mid-June. He allowed zero runs in his first three appearances, allowing a pair of hits and walks while striking out two over 2.1 innings. Overall, in nearly a month in the bigs, Carpenter posted a high 1.966 WHIP but maintained a respectable 2.79 ERA.
Carpenter’s also on the other side of Tommy John surgery, which he had while he was still at Kent State. MLB.com had Carpenter listed as the fifth-best prospect in the Cubs organization.
“I truly hope and believe that this resolution will benefit both clubs, as well as Chris, who is an extremely talented reliever joining a great organization at a time when there’s some opportunity in the major league bullpen,” Epstein said in a statement on Tuesday. “I wish Chris and the Red Sox nothing but the best in 2012 and beyond.”
The four-month negotiation between the Cubs and Red Sox was by all accounts respectful, as Epstein and Cherington hold each other in high regard. But it’s almost certain that the Red Sox weren’t fighting that long in order to land Carpenter. Can you really imagine the Red Sox demanding the starter-turned-reliever, only to have the Cubs steadfastly refusing to part ways with the 26-year-old? That’s highly doubtful, considering the Cubs have four prospects on Baseball America’s Top 100 list, and Carpenter’s not one of them. He’s not even in the Cubs’ top 10.
Still, Cherington appeared before the media on Tuesday and said he was happy with the acquisition.
“In the end, both teams compromised and we feel really good about the guy we’re getting,” Cherington said. “We’re happy that it was resolved.”
Despite the underwhelming numbers, Carpenter could pitch better than expected upon arriving in Fort Myers. Last year in spring training, Carpenter shined for the Cubs, posting a 1.93 ERA in five appearances. He did allow four hits and three walks in those 4.1 innings, but he also struck out five. The only run he allowed came on a solo homer.
If he’s to be successful, it will only be when he can control his fastball. A pitch that reportedly reached triple digits in the Arizona Fall League, Carpenter’s fastball works against him as much as it helps him. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped each year since 2009, going from 2.27 to 1.96 and to 1.26 last season.
Despite the walks issue, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer expressed disappointment for losing the reliever.
“Chris is a very good reliever. He’s a difficult guy to lose,” Hoyer said. “I think we all realized we were going to lose something of significant value when Theo came over here, and this doesn’t change that. I hope Chris has a lot of success over there. Obviously the Cubs are really excited about the new management team with Theo leading it, so there was a price to be paid for that.”
How steep that price is remains to be seen. The public comments from both sides are glowing for the righty, but it’ll take a marked improvement from the reliever for anyone to think the Red Sox got a fair deal.