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The reason why Red Sox traded Roenis Elias

Rob Bradford
April 26, 2018 - 10:59 am

TORONTO -- It certainly didn't shake the foundation of the baseball world, but the Red Sox trading of Roenis Elias to the Mariners seemed a bit odd.

First off, even though Elias was never quite able to find his place on the big league roster since being traded to the Red Sox following the 2015 season, he did represent an intriguing lefty option out of the bullpen. And one that could be sent up and down from the minors for the entirety of this season. And then there was the timing. Rarely do you see players, at any level, get traded just a few weeks out of spring training.

There was continued frustration that Elias wasn't quite harnessing his stuff, having shown flashes while dropping down to lefty hitters during spring training only to lose command moments later. It was a routine that was on display in his four outings with Triple-A Pawtucket, where the left-hander didn't allow a run over 7 1/3 innings, striking out nine, but did hit three batters while walking two.

Still, when you hear about an April trade for either a player to be named later or cash consideration, the question has to at least be asked. So, it was.

"We’re in a position where we have some depth in terms of left-handed relief, so that’s part of it," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski when asked about the impetus for the deal. "We are also concerned about 40-man roster spots as time goes on. Then we came up with an arrangement that we were satisfied with. ... I think Seattle did a nice job. They looked at our club and felt we had some depth at that spot. They talked to us about him starting in spring training. As our other guys progressed we felt like we had some other guys. We just had some depth in that regard."

Another piece of the equation is the return. On the surface, the trade would look to be viewed as a giveaway. No so, says Dombrowski.

"It’s one where we could get someone we like," he said.

Ironically, finding another lefty reliever was the other position, after power hitter, that Dombrowski had identified back in November as a spot the Red Sox were pursuing. But that conversation changed as spring training evolved, with the presence of Bobby Poyner (who is now at Triple-A Pawtucket) and effectiveness of Brian Johnson altering the approach.

"We thought the possibility existed, but until you see it you’re just not sure," said Dombrowski of the perceived need for another southpaw in the bullpen.  "We liked Poyner a lot. We did what he did last year. We liked what he did in the Arizona Fall League. And then when he came to spring training he did what he did. Robby Scott had minor surgery and is fine, throwing the ball well. And [Williams] Jerez continues his development. You’re always looking to better if you can, but we felt we had more depth."

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