In a clear sign that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is using this Trade Deadline to secure pieces for the future, the Red Sox dealt two pitchers who had been among their most trusted relievers in recent years.
In the sixth inning of an 8-5 victory over the Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards, the Red Sox traded closer Brandon Workman and setup man Heath Hembree to the Phillies, landing righty Nick Pivetta and Minor League righty Connor Seabold.
Workman was a part of two World Series-winning teams for the Red Sox who busted through with a breakout 2019 season. Hembree was a reliable setup piece for Boston over the last several years.
Matt Barnes will be the primary closer for the Red Sox now that Workman has departed, though manager Ron Roenicke said others could get opportunities as well.
Before expressing his excitement for the young pitchers he acquired, Bloom thought it was appropriate to first pay tribute to Workman and Hembree in his Zoom call with reporters to announce the trade.
“I want to thank Brandon and Heath for everything they did in the many years they both spent in this uniform,” Bloom said. “They are warriors, they are world champions, great teammates, great people and we really appreciate everything that both of them did.”
Even after they extended their modest winning streak to a season-high of three games on Friday night, the Red Sox stood at 9-18 and eight games out of first place in the American League East in this 60-game season.
Hit with two major injuries to their starting rotation -- Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez will both miss all of 2020 -- the Red Sox are clear sellers with 10 days left before the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline.
That process started on Friday night with Bloom landing a 27-year-old pitcher who has underachieved so far in Pivetta and a 24-year-old prospect whose upside Boston’s front office is excited about in Seabold.
“I think we put ourselves in that position by not playing better early. And it’s not all on the players. It’s certainly on me, too,” said Roenicke. “So if we’re in a better position, then we go out and get people. We’re just in a spot now where we feel like, this year’s still important, but we feel like the future -- and not just one year, but the future of a few years [is important].”
It was a classic trade in which both teams got what they wanted. For the Phillies, they were desperate to upgrade their bullpen for the stretch run. Workman is a free agent after the 2020 season while Hembree has one arbitration-eligible season left.
“We think that Boston got two good arms that have promising futures,” said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.
After completing the trade, the Red Sox optioned Pivetta to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, R.I. Seabold will also report to Pawtucket.
“Obviously he has some Major League time under his belt. He’s a big, physical power pitcher,” Bloom said of Pivetta. “He’s got a really good fastball, good breaking ball, he also has a changeup. A guy that’s shown the ability to carry a starter’s workload and a lot of the underlying traits that show the potential for a lot more success than he’s enjoyed in terms of his results.”
Given that the Red Sox have holes in their rotation and bullpen, why not have Pivetta start his stint with the club on the big league roster?
“He has been on option with Philadelphia. This is a guy, we have a lot of faith in him. He's a starting pitcher,” said Bloom. “But just right now, knowing he's been through some ups and downs, role changes over there, a lot of different things, we thought the right thing right now was just to get him to our alternate site, get our arms around him a little bit, get to know him, and then we can figure out a plan for the rest of the year. We don't know what that will be yet, but we wanted to get him in here, get to know him, and then we can figure out a plan from there.”
This marked the third straight season Pivetta made the Opening Day roster for the Phillies. He is 19-30 with a 5.50 ERA (242 earned runs/396 1/3 innings) and 421 strikeouts in 92 career appearances (71 starts), including 3-2 with a 3.30 ERA (23 earned runs/62 2/3 innings) against American League opponents.
Backed by a solid fastball and curveball, many expected Pivetta would have a breakout season in 2019, but he got off to a rough start and was demoted to the bullpen before going to Triple-A.
Pivetta will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this season, meaning the Red Sox have contractual control of him for the next three years.
In the running for a rotation spot in Summer Camp, Pivetta instead opened the year in the bullpen and got into three games before he was sent to the Phillies’ alternate site.
Why did it never work out for Pivetta in Philly?
“Boy, I wish I had a good answer for that. I don’t know,” said Klentak. “We have a lot of people in this organization that have tried to answer that very question and have worked with Nick [to try] a lot of different things. He’s enormously talented and we’ve seen flashes of that, both as a starter and as a reliever.
“Just was never quite able to see the consistency from him in our uniform. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen for him, because I think there is a lot of talent in that kid and we’ll be rooting for him from a distance.”
A native of British Columbia, Canada, Pivetta was selected by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 Draft and traded to the Phillies in exchange for former Red Sox star Jonathan Papelbon on July 28, 2015. In two career games against the Red Sox, he has allowed only one run in 13 innings (0.69 ERA).
While the Red Sox would love to be the team that unlocks Pivetta, there’s a chance that Seabold ends up being the key component to this trade.
Seabold was ranked No. 23 among Phillies prospects by MLB Pipeline. A third-round pick of the Phillies in the 2017 Draft, the righty is 11-10 with a 3.52 ERA (77 earned runs/196 2/3 innings), 203 strikeouts and only 46 walks in 40 career appearances (34 starts) in the Minors.
“He is a starting pitching prospect who really has good feel to pitch and an arsenal that you work against both sides,” said Bloom. “Quality pitches including a changeup. He really knows how to pitch and use his stuff. Really nice addition to the starting pitching depth in the upper levels of our system.”
To get some cost-controllable upside, the Red Sox bid adieu to a couple of familiar faces.
Workman first came on to the scene in 2013 as a rookie and was a key member of a bullpen that helped the Red Sox win the World Series that year. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, he didn’t pitch at all in ’15 or ’16.
But he re-emerged to be an important pitcher for the Red Sox the last four seasons. The 32-year-old Workman had a career year in 2019, working himself into the closer’s role and notching a 1.88 ERA in 73 games.
Hembree had been with the Red Sox since coming over from the Giants in a 2014 July Trade Deadline deal for Jake Peavy.
“We just talked to the group with Work and Heath there and thanked them,” said Roenicke. “You know, interesting day. We’re happy, certainly, with the guys that we got in this move and hopefully everything works out for Work and Heath and the two guys we got.”
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.