Red Sox Fortify Bullpen With Gagne

The Deal
The Red Sox already had all-stars Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima in the their bullpen, and they made it more formidable on Tuesday. Boston picked up Eric Gagne from the Rangers for Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders David Murphy and Engel Beltre.
The Big Leaguers
Gagne, a 31-year-old righty, has recovered from two years lost to elbow and back problems to reassert himself as one of the game’s top closers. Gagne has his power fastball and dastardly changeup back, and he has gone 2-0, 2.16 with 16 saves in 30 games. Gagne has a 29-12 K-BB ratio in 33 innings, not as dominant as he has been in the past, but opponents are hitting just .192 with two homers against him. He has a $6 million base salary as part of a one-year, incentive-laden deal, and he’ll be a free agent again this offseason. The 2003 Cy Young Award winner has a career 27-21, 3.20 record with 177 saves in 332 games.

Gabbard, a 25-year-old lefty, posted a 3.03 ERA in five July starts, his first taste of extended success in the majors. He has marginal stuff, but he’s a lefty who commands it well and competes. Overall, he has gone 4-0, 3.73 in seven starts this year and 5-3, 3.65 in 14 career games in the majors. He profiles as a No. 4 or 5 starter in the long term.

The Prospects
Murphy, 26, was a 2003 first-round pick out of Baylor. He shows raw power in batting practice but it hasn’t translated into performance in games, and thus he projects more as an extra outfielder than as a regular. He can handle center field thanks to good instincts, but is more suited for right field. Murphy has spent almost the entire season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he has hit .280/.347/.423 with nine homers and 47 RBIs in 100 games. He went 1-for-2 this year in Boston and has gone 6-for-24 (.250) with one homer and two RBIs in 23 career big league games.

Beltre, 17, signed for $600,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2006. He’s loaded with tools, starting with power potential, speed and arm strength. Though he has a huge ceiling, he’s still raw and years away from the majors, as his performance in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League debut indicates. Making his pro debut, Beltre is batting .215/.314/.413 with five homers, 13 RBIs and six steals in 33 games.

Quick Take
Adding Gagne to their late-inning mix reinforces the Red Sox’ status as one of the game’s top contenders to win the World Series, and they got him without giving up a major piece of their future. Gagne could have left as a free agent after the season, so dealing him now for three young players makes sense, though the Rangers probably wish they had gotten a bigger centerpiece.

" Trade Central 2007