Red Sox deal prospects for relief

By Jim Callis
June 23, 2002

The last time the Red Sox traded to get veteran help from the Padres, they received Ed Sprague for touted infield prospect Cesar Saba and an unknown low Class A righthander named Dennis Tankersley on June 30, 2000. That one-sided deal didn’t deter Boston from trying again on Sunday, when it picked up lefty reliever Alan Embree and minor league righty Andy Shibilo for minor league righthanders Brad Baker and Dan Giese.

Embree, 32, is in the midst of the best of nine major league seasons after coming off his worst. He went 3-4, 0.94 in 36 games for San Diego, and his 38-9 strikeout-walk ratio in 29 innings is just as impressive as his ERA. Lefthanders have batted just .145 off him, and he gives Boston its first productive lefty reliever since Rheal Cormier in 1999. (Casey Fossum has a 3.00 ERA in 2002, but lefthanders are batting .333 against him.) Relying almost exclusively on a power fastball-slider combination, Embree has gone 21-23, 4.56 in 400 major league appearances. In 375 innings, he has surrendered 356 hits and 165 walks while fanning 355. He’s making $500,000 this year and will be a free agent after the season.

Unlike Tankersley was at the time of the Sprague trade, the 21-year-old Baker is a known quantity. He was considered the Red Sox’ top pitching prospect following the 2000 season, then slumped in 2001 before regaining his form this season. A 1999 supplemental first-round pick out of a Massachusetts high school, he bulked up too much after his breakout year in 2000, which left him bulky and tight, costing him velocity and command. He has regained velocity and movement on his low-90s fastball, and his curveball gives him a second plus pitch. He went 7-1, 2.79 with 65 strikeouts in 61 innings over 12 starts for high Class A Sarasota this spring, making the Florida State League all-star game after going 7-9, 4.73 for the same club a year ago.

Shibilo also could provide some bullpen help for Boston this summer. A 25-year-old refugee from the independent Atlantic League, he’s an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds. His mid-90s fastball and nasty slider also grab hitters’ attention. A 23rd-round pick out of Pepperdine by the Cardinals in 1998, he went 4-3, 4.89 with 42 strikeouts in as many innings at Double-A Mobile this year.

While Shibilo lights up radar guns, the 25-year-old Giese doesn’t overwhelm anyone with his stuff. But while he was just a 34th-round pick out of the University of San Diego in 1999 and always has been old for his league, Giese has thrown strikes throughout his career. He posted a 39-9 strikeout-walk ratio in 49 innings at Double-A Trenton this year, and he has a 205-35 mark in 209 pro innings. In 23 games at Trenton, he went 1-2, 3.83.

If Embree can help shore up the bullpen, a Boston weakness, the Red Sox will be delighted. If he can’t, they’ll have to hope that Baker doesn’t come back to bite them like Tankersley has.