Red Sox add Suppan to rotation, make amends

By Jim Callis

July 31, 2003

The Red Sox and Pirates accomplished two things with the trade on Thursday that sent Jeff Suppan, Brandon Lyon and Double-A righthander Anastacio Martinez to Boston and two Triple-A players, infielder Freddy Sanchez and lefthander Mike Gonzalez, plus $500,000 to Pittsburgh. The Red Sox got a much-needed starter in Suppan, while the Pirates got rid of his salary. Secondly, the teams straightened out their July 22 trade.

In that deal, Boston got Scott Sauerbeck and Gonzalez for Lyon and Martinez. The Pirates said Lyon had fraying in his elbow and placed him on the disabled list on July 25. The Red Sox maintained he was healthy and had pitched for them two days before the trade. The net effect of the two transactions is that Boston gets Sauerbeck and Suppan for Sanchez. That will help the Red Sox in their playoff chase, but isn’t as lopsided as the Sauerbeck trade was by itself. Sanchez is far more valuable than Lyon or Martinez.

Suppan, a 28-year-old righthander, originally was drafted by the Red Sox in 1993’s second round out of a California high school. He’s having by far the best season of his nine-year major league career, going 10-7, 3.57 in 21 starts--including a 4-0, 3.03 mark in five July outings. In 141 innings overall, he has a 78-31 strikeout-walk ratio and a .268 opponent average. Suppan is a control pitcher whose recent hot streak has coincided with improved fastball command. He has solid average velocity and uses a curveball as an out pitch. He likely will replace the ineffective Ramiro Mendoza in Boston’s rotation. For his career, Suppan has a 59-71, 4.86 record in 211 games. Signed by the Pirates during the offseason, he’s making $500,000 in 2003 and will be due either $4 million or a $500,000 buyout for 2004.

Sanchez, 25, was one of Boston’s top prospects and one of the best players in Triple-A this season. An unheralded 11th-round pick out of Oklahoma City University in 2000, he’s a career .323 hitter in the minors. He hits line drives and has very good gap power for a middle infielder. Sanchez lacks true shortstop range and has only an average arm at the position, so it’s possible that he’ll have to move to second base in the future. He split time between the two positions this year at Pawtucket, batting .341-5-25 with eight steals and a .923 on-base plus slugging percentage in 58 games. He also made just four errors. Sanchez spent seven weeks with Boston as a reserve this summer and has gone 11-for-50 (.220) in 32 big league games over the last two years.

Here’s what we wrote about Lyon, Gonzalez and Martinez at the time of the original trade:

Claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays last October, Lyon saved eight games in nine chances for the Red Sox in May and June before Byung-Hyun Kim moved from the rotation to assume the closing duties. A full-time reliever for the first time in his big league career, Lyon has gone 4-5, 3.93 with nine saves in 42 appearances. In 53 innings, he has a 45-17 K-BB ratio and .268 opponent average. The 23-year-old righthander is a sinker-slider pitcher with good command. In 68 major league games, he has gone 10-13, 4.96 with nine saves. Lyon makes $309,500 this year and may not be arbitration-eligible until after 2005.

Considered one of the Pirates’ better prospects, the 25-year-old Gonzalez missed the first two months of this season with back spasms. In 14 games between high Class A Lynchburg, Double-A Altoona and Nashville, he has gone 0-1, 2.18 with two saves. In 21 innings, he has a 27-8 K-BB ratio and has held hitters to a .213 average with one homer. A 30th-round pick in 1997 out of perennial juco power San Jacinto (Texas), Gonzalez has very good velocity for a southpaw. He can touch 95 mph with his fastball, and has nice late life on his slider. After a few more appearances in Triple-A, he could be ready to help the Red Sox.

Martinez, 24, has bounced back from a disappointing 2002 in Double-A to re-establish himself as a prospect. His age was revised upward two years before the season, and then he went 5-12, 5.31 with an Eastern League-high 75 walks. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1998, he has taken to a shift from starting to relieving at Portland this year. Martinez also can throw in the mid-90s, and his lack of a consistent second pitch and command isn’t as much of a weakness when he comes out of the bullpen. He has gone 3-1, 2.25 with 14 saves in 34 games. He also has a 37-24 K-BB ratio and .212 opponent average.