On October 12, Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs reached an agreement on a five-year, $18.5 million contract. Epstein would officially assume the role of President of Baseball Operations nine days later, with the Red Sox promised compensation in exchange for releasing Epstein from the last year of his contract. An early November deadline to decide on what exactly that compensation would entail. Now, more than 100 days since said deadline, the saga has come to a conclusion.
A perhaps disappointing conclusion.
The resolution was announced on Tuesday, with the Red Sox coming away with one Chris Carpenter. Unfortunately, this Chris Carpenter is not the former Cy Young winner who helped the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series this year, but a 26-year-old power arm with serious problems that have left him an ineffective reliever even in the minors.
The aforementioned "power arm" is nothing to scoff at, with Carpenter occasionally reaching triple digits, but we've all-too-often seen that particular tool go to waste when the player in question can't actually pitch. Enter Chris Carpenter. Anyone who throws 100 has the potential to blow opposing batters away, but even in the lower minors hitters have grown wise to Carpenter's weakness: he can't throw strikes. With 159 walks in 341 innings of baseball with the Cubs' farm system, Carpenter does not scream major league viability. What's more, he actually got worse upon switching to a reliever, seeing career highs in ERA and BB/9.
All this, then, begs the question of why the Sox would accept this deal. A statement made by Theo Epstein seems to suggest that it was reached without the intervention of MLB commissioner, which means that Ben Cherington and co. actually negotiated and agreed on Chris Carpenter as compensation. A curious thought given his performance so far.
One thing that this is not likely about is the player to be named later. While each club is including one in the bargain, this is apparently just a procedural consideration, with each team needing to give something. The Cubs' PTBNL, then, just makes up for the non-prospect the Sox will have to send their way in return for Carpenter.
What might carry some more weight is the Arizona Fall League performance that Cherington seems to have been impressed by. Striking out more than a batter an inning, Carpenter showed none of his usual control problems over 14 innings in the AFL.
Still, one wonders what exactly Cherington feared would be the ruling from Selig should the situation have come to that. When it comes down to it, Carpenter is a 26-year-old reclamation project who could very well never impact the Red Sox. All-too-reminiscent of Andrew Miller, there's just not a lot to love about Carpenter. Was their read on the situation and Bud Selig's attitude so negative that settling for Carpenter was a better bet than rolling the dice with the commissioner and an outside possibility of getting a Trey McNutt?
We likely will never know the details surrounding the situation well enough to pass full judgment, but at least for now, it seems as though Theo managed to win even his own trade.