David Ortiz speaks his mind because he always has. And because of that, Major League Baseball is investigating Ortiz for tampering after he said during the All-Star break that he wants the Red Sox to trade for Jose Fernandez and sign Edwin Encarnacion.
“Tampering? I don’t write no paycheck,” Ortiz said. “I can say whatever I want. I’m not a GM or a team owner. If I say tomorrow that I want to play with LeBron James, is that tampering, too?”
The Red Sox have not traded for Fernandez or Encarnacion, and they certainly did not acquire James. But as Dave Dombrowski approaches his first trade deadline as Boston’s president of baseball operations, the Red Sox have aggressively tapped the market.
In three separate deals before the All-Star break, the Red Sox acquired infielder Aaron Hill, utilityman Michael Martinez and reliever Brad Ziegler, who pitched against the Yankees on Friday night. Then they sent minor-leaguer Anderson Espinoza to the San Diego Padres on Thursday night for 27-year-old lefthander Drew Pomeranz, who participated in the All-Star Game for the first time Tuesday night.
While the Yankees’ deadline plans have yet to take definitive form, the Red Sox’s message has been clear: They’re shooting for a World Series championship in Ortiz’s final season, even if dealing Espinoza, one of the game’s top prospects, had to be a means to that end.
“You see not just me,” Ziegler said, “but they go and get Pomeranz and they bring in Aaron Hill, Martinez. It’s like they’re constantly looking to make this team better. They’re never content. As a player, that’s a great locker room to be in.”
“I think it gives all of us a boost with Dave’s aggressiveness,” said manager John Farrell, whose team trailed first-place Baltimore by two games entering the break.
Pomeranz, who spent parts of five seasons in the bullpen and rotation for Colorado and Oakland before getting traded to San Diego last offseason, is a particularly intriguing acquisition. In 17 starts this year, he has a 2.47 ERA and career-best 1.06 WHIP. He also has struck out 115 batters in a career-high 102 innings.
That workload is not a concern for Farrell. He said the Red Sox don’t have an innings limit for Pomeranz, who is under team control through 2018.
“This is also someone who is 27 years old, so he’s physically developed,” he said. “We’re not dealing with a young pitcher in his early 20s.”
Instead, the Red Sox are excited about what Pomeranz adds to a starting rotation that entered the break ranked 19th with a 4.72 ERA compared with an offense that led the majors with 490 runs.
Pomeranz already has lowered his career ERA to 3.66 as he approaches his first start with Boston on Wednesday against San Francisco. He has become more effective after reducing his fastball rate to 35.3 percent from 58.5 a year ago, according to FanGraphs.com. In its place, he has increased his two-seamer (15.5 percent from 9.7), knuckle curve (39.3 from 30.7) and changeup (9.9 from 1.2) frequencies.
“It’s been interesting to see how Drew has evolved from last year to this year, just with his pitch mix and his usage overall,” Farrell said.
He may not be Marlins ace Fernandez, but the Red Sox are happy to welcome him aboard as they seek to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“I’m hoping it brings the team a lot of confidence to have an All-Star pitcher come in over here to help contribute,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “I’ve seen him before. I know who he is. I’ve faced him in college [Bradley at South Carolina, Pomeranz at Ole Miss], so I know how big of a key help he’s going to be to this club, and we’re excited to have him.”
With Owen O’Brien