Lively tidbits from quiet deadline day

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
1:48
AM ET
After weeks of speculation, the trade deadline led to a pair of minor deals for the Red Sox. Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik were shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks for lefty reliever Craig Breslow, and former top prospect Lars Anderson went to the Indians for minor-league pitcher Steven Wright.

Effectively, the Red Sox elected to stand pat. But even without a big splash, several interesting storylines emerged from the deadline.

1. The 40-man roster again dictates deadline moves

For the second year in a row, Boston’s deadline deals were more about the 40-man roster than the 25-man roster.

While Breslow fits a need for a left-handed reliever, the larger impact of Tuesday may be roster flexibility.

In dealing away three players on the 40-man roster (Anderson, Podsednik, Albers) and bringing back one (Breslow), the Red Sox freed up space for the impending return of injured players.

Chris Carpenter was added to the 40-man roster Tuesday when he was activated from the 60-day disabled list and assigned to Pawtucket. Andrew Bailey and Rich Hill should follow a similar course soon. Throw in potential 60-day DL stints for Scott Atchison and Ryan Sweeney, and Boston suddenly has some roster flexibility in advance of the waiver deadline.

The 40-man roster also played a major role at the 2011 deadline. Three of the four prospects dealt away for Erik Bedard needed to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in the offseason in order to avoid the Rule 5 draft. Boston’s already packed roster made that unlikely, and thus they became expendable.

2. The Red Sox just got smarter

Breslow attended Yale where he studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He nearly attended NYC medical school. In three seasons with the A’s, he posted an ERA (3.14) remarkably close to Pi.

So it’s no surprise that the Sporting News named Breslow the “smartest athlete in sports” in 2010.

That reputation has made Breslow a go-to resource across the majors, as USA Today documented in 2009. When Doug Mirabelli and Josh Beckett were debating how many rotations a pitch makes, the solution was simple: “Call Breslow.”

The Red Sox could soon have multiple Yale products on the roster if Ryan Lavarnway is recalled.

According the Baseball-Reference.com, multiple Yale products have never played on the same team in modern baseball history (since 1900).

3. Franklin Morales may return to the rotation

The player most impacted by Tuesday’s deals wasn’t involved in a trade. The addition of Breslow gives Boston a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen to pair with Andrew Miller. That could free up Franklin Morales to return to the starting rotation, where he pitched effectively earlier in the season.

In five starts, Morales went 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA. Most impressively, he struck out 31 in 26 1/3 innings as a starter. Still just 26, Morales could factor into Boston’s future rotation plans -- or build up offseason trade value.

Aaron Cook’s success in the absence of strikeouts was nearly unprecedented. After he allowed six earned runs in his last start, the Red Sox may view Morales as the better bet moving forward.

4. The Red Sox are counting on Andrew Bailey and Daniel Bard (eventually)

With Albers bound for Arizona and Scott Atchison expected to undergo season-ending surgery, the Red Sox suddenly lack right-handed relief pitchers. Those two had combined for a 2.00 ERA in 85 1/3 innings. Now Boston needs to replace the two biggest surprises in its bullpen.

Vicente Padilla has been solid in the eighth inning and figures to keep that role. Beyond him, the situation gets murkier. Mark Melancon is once again struggling, while Clayton Mortensen and Junichi Tazawa don’t figure to fill high-pressure roles yet.

That leaves Boston counting on the returns of Bard and Bailey. Bard has looked a bit better of late, with five straight scoreless outings in Pawtucket. But his control remains an issue. Bailey begins his rehab stint on Wednesday, but isn’t expected back in the majors until later in August.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that righties are hitting just .226 against Breslow this season. While Miller has developed into a true lefty specialist (righties are hitting .303 against him), Breslow is a more complete reliever.

5. Prospects don’t always pan out

Back in his elite prospect days, Lars Anderson was floated in rumored trades for elite pitchers. Three years ago on deadline day, the Internet buzzed with a proposed deal sending Clay Buchholz, Anderson and another prospect for Roy Halladay. The year before his name came up in rumors for CC Sabathia.

Tuesday, Anderson was dumped for organizational pitching depth in the form of Steven Wright. More significantly, the Red Sox parted with Anderson because he was taking up a precious spot on the 40-man roster.

With that, Anderson officially became a failed prospect, joining the likes of Dernell Stenson, Steve Lomasney, Donnie Sadler and Brian Rose. In reality, Anderson’s days as a true prospect ended a couple of years ago.

Of course, it’s easy to operate in hindsight and wonder why Boston didn't deal Anderson years ago. Anderson and Michael Bowden (designated for assignment in April) illustrate the lack of certainty in dealing with prospects. Consider that Baseball America ranked Anderson the No. 17 prospect in the majors going into 2009, ahead of Andrew McCutchen among many others.

But for every Anderson that doesn’t pan out, there’s a Will Middlebrooks (No. 51 overall in 2012) who makes the organization look smart.

6. You just never know with a knuckleballer

Tim Wakefield was a washed-up 28-year-old when he made his Red Sox debut in 1995. Hoyt Wilhelm made his MLB debut at 29. R.A. Dickey was 35 when he finally enjoyed consistent success.

So what can you expect from Steven Wright, the 27-year-old minor-league pitcher acquired for Anderson? Probably nothing. But much like the pitch itself, no one really knows what to expect from a knuckleballer.

ESPNNY.com’s Adam Rubin took a close look at Wright in June. Wright, one of only three active knuckleballers in professional baseball, started using the knuckler in 2010. Like Dickey, he was a high draft pick as a conventional pitcher, selected 15 picks before Justin Masterson in the 2006 second round. Also like Dickey, Wright throws a much harder knuckleball than Wakefield did.

The results have been there in 2012. In 20 starts at Double-A Akron, he went 9-6 with a 2.49 ERA. Right-handed hitters were batting just .172. Wright may be nothing more than organizational depth. But 27-year-old career minor leaguers don’t get much more intriguing.

7. Scott Podsednik is a modern-day Ted Williams/Rudy Pemberton

With just 19 games, Podsednik will go down as one of those players you forgot played for the Red Sox. He’s a footnote, but an interesting footnote.

Podsednik hit .387 in 70 plate appearances in a Red Sox uniform. That’s the highest batting average in club history among players with at least 70 PA. That’s right, even better than Ted Williams’ .344.

Of course, here’s the point where we mention that Williams had 9,791 plate appearances -- or about 140 times as many as Podsednik.

A meaningless stat? Yes. But Podsednik is now a first-ballot inductee in the Red Sox Small Sample Size Hall of Fame.

Jeremy Lundblad

ESPN Stats and Information

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