These are pretty different dudes, wouldn't you agree? Hernández is one year removed from a 5 WAR season, but his 2022 was derailed by a weird health thing unlikely to repeat. Arroyo is former first round pick who has been worth 2.5 WAR in ~550 PA in Boston; the performance has been starter quality, but the durability questions are apparent. Both are legitimate up-the-middle defenders. Duran, meanwhile, is a tools-y player who rejiggered his swing to get more pop and crushed AAA, but he seems to get exploited by pitchers who can command heat to the top of the zone and he's at least a semi-liability in the field.
Duran is a huge question mark, although I haven't given up on him: AAA is real baseball. The other two are established big league players who should be good if healthy.
A few things about this:
I mostly agree in the big picture, but I actually think our current scenario is not that far removed from the 2014 situation.
I don't mean this snarkily, but I would remind you that Ellsbury was on the Yankees in 2014, having signed a stupid deal that few here thought we should match that turned out ultimately to be a disaster. There's a parallel there to our present situation. And that's just one sign that you really might be blurring a couple seasons together in your mind, which is perfectly understandable. And I think because the 2013 team won the freaking title
instead of just reaching the playoffs and winning a bit like the 2021 team, you were understandably more inclined to be charitable in your view of the farm, although it was also better, frankly.
Here's how I see that history:
The 2014 major league team was a goddamned disaster, much
worse than the 2022 edition, and with many fewer players on it who appeared to have any future in Boston. I would say the 7 win difference doesn't even begin to describe it; the 2022 team was derailed by injuries and underperformance, but they were in the mix at the trade deadline, which was perhaps unfortunate; the 2014 team was simply never competitive at any point — zero months above .500.
Pedroia was signed longterm, but had just had a pretty mediocre year by his standards: 99 OPS+ and only 135 games played. Ortiz was 38; how long could he keep this up? Bogaerts was scuffling hard;
Bradley was scuffling harder
. We gave meaningful playing time to guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Grady Sizemore, Will Middlebrooks, Allen Craig, Mike Carp, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, and Jonathan Herrera, none of whom provided any positive value on either side of the ball. There are some good players on that list, but all of them were clear has-beens by 2014.
The positive signs were present, though, by the end of the year, in Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo — wait, what?!? Okay, we'll leave Castillo aside.
Betts had come out of nowhere. He was never a top-50 prospect, because he had a good year in A ball in 2013, made the back half of the pre-2014 top 100 lists, and then rocketed through AA and AAA and had enough PA in MLB to lose his prospect eligibility by the time the next lists were made. He was 21. The Ceddanne Rafaela comps make sense, not that Rafaela is a Betts-caliber player, but that he stepped up his performance massively at a similar age and level and rocketed up the prospect rankings. (We're going to know pretty quickly, I think, by looking at Rafaela's plate discipline numbers in Portland or Worcester, whether he's going to be a starting CF or SS in MLB or just a glove-first bench/utility guy.)
If you squinted and trusted in minor league performance, you would have seen green shoots in Bradley and Bogaerts, but there were still people, including on this board, who regretted the trade of Iglesias because Bogaerts wasn't hitting. To be clear, I was a believer that both of those guys would hit, but crucially, neither had shown that at the big league level.
They wouldn't establish themselves as two-way players until 2015. Any faith we had in them was mostly based on their minor league performance. Neither Benintendi nor Moncada was in the organization yet. Devers had just come stateside as a teenager, and was tearing up the Gulf Coast league — not unlike Miguel Bleis today.
But the bigger issue was on the pitching side: we had just traded Lester, Lackey and Peavy, Buchholz had had a terrible year, and while there was clearly a position player core coming from the minors, the only pitching in that group was Rodriguez, whom we got for Miller mid-season. Felix Doubront had imploded, along with Webster and De La Rosa. Anderson Espinoza wasn't stateside yet — Luis Perales (look him up
if you don't know
), already is — and Michael Kopech wasn't in the organization yet.
2015 was the Spring Training of the "He's the Ace" t-shirts. Forget Bello, forget Whitlock, forget Houck, we would have killed
for a Kutter Crawford. Henry Owens was the future, if there was a future.
At the time, Theo Epstein was saying in Chicago that he was going to win a title by collecting a core of position player prospects, because pitching prospects were too risky, and then signing FA starting pitchers. It worked — the only starter who had debuted with the Cubs on the 2016 team was Kyle Hendricks — but it wasn't sustainable. Under Dombrowski, Boston did the same thing, more or less, to win a title in 2018: bringing in Price, Sale, and Eovaldi to complement our homegrown core of position players. But again, it wasn't sustainable! Those pitchers got expensive deals, still had health risks (they're pitchers, after all), and then we couldn't afford to retain our position player core! So both teams had very similar issues.
I guess I'm just saying that if you're correct that you could see what the plan was in 2014, it required a some faith, just as it does now. But while that farm was deeper, this one actually has some pitching.