But it is a different one this time. The Red Sox traded away Manny Delcarmen to the Colorado Rockies today in exchange for starting pitching prospect Chris Balcom-Miller. Delcarmen's fall from grace has been a precipitous one; in the 2007 and 2008 offseasons many writers and fans speculated that he could be traded, netting the Sox a starter elsewhere and putting Delcarmen into a closer role with his new team. Looking at his numbers, you can understand the excitement. Delcarmen posted a 2.05 ERA in 2007 and a 3.27 ERA in 2008, striking out more than 8 batters per nine innings and walking under 3.5. Since 2008, however, everything has gone down hill. Taking a look at the graphs of his various pitching rates. clearly shows a pitcher in decline. Delcarmen started striking out fewer hitters, walking more, and allowing more home runs. The walk rate, in particular is troubling, as it has climbed from about average (3.5 BB/9) to absolutely horrendous (5.73 BB/9), seventh worst in the AL among pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched. Really, the only thing keeping Delcarmen from being much worse than his 4.70 ERA was his .220 batting average on balls in play, instead of the average .300.
While it is a bit depressing to see the Red Sox "sell low" on a player, Delcarmen was getting worse while simultaneously getting more expensive as he was going to enter arbitration for the second time this offseason. Chris Balcom-Miller seems like a solid return for Delcarmen. Before the trade a Rockies blog had a small write up on him. I haven't been able to find a description of his stuff, which is key in projecting a pitching prospect, but he's posted very good numbers in the hitter friendly Pioneer League. His strikeout and walk numbers are very good (117 K and only 20 BB in 109 IP), but it is important to keep in mind that strikeout numbers typically drop and walk numbers typically rise as a pitcher moves up in the minors. According to one scouting report, Balcom-Miller has the upside to be a mid-rotation starter.
The other benefit is that I think this move will make the 2010 Red Sox a better team, even if their playoff hopes are pretty much dead. I figure Robert Manuel, recently named as the PawSox MVP will snag Delcarmen's roster spot. It seems that every single time I write about the 'pen, I have marvelous things to say about Manuel, but he really does deserve a shot. In 64 IP at AAA he put up a 1.68 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He'll have some competition for innings once the rosters expand, but the Red Sox need to get a look at him and see if he's a viable major league reliever.
As I was writing this the Red Sox called up Manuel to replace Delcarmen. Now let's see how he does.