Yesterday, Manny Delcarmen — the Boston native who has been with the club since 2005 and in the system since 2000 — was dealt to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Single A starter Chris Balcom-Miller. The trade ends the Boston career of one of the most popular, as well as frustrating, members of the Red Sox and can be viewed either as a much needed clearing of substandard relief arms or as a white flag on the 2010 season following a series defeat at the hand of the Rays.
Manny Delcarmen was a Hyde Park native, a Jamaica Plain resident, and a West Roxbury High graduate. He had deeper Boston roots than any player in recent memory, and I’m sure the trade was both a shock and a disappointment to him and to his family. Still, Delcarmen had been teetering on the edge of a trade or release for years — alternately brilliant and ineffective, he provided the team with value but not with the strong back bullpen arm they needed from him. Over six seasons in a Red Sox uniform, Delcarmen was a model of inconsistency; stellar 2007 and 2008 campaigns, bookended by dismal seasons in 2006 and 2009, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what Delcarmen was. Was he a lights out power reliever, as his K/9 rates of 8.4 and 8.7 in 2007 and 2008 would suggest, or a meatballer with control issues, as the inexcusably high WHIPs of 1.594 and 1.642 in 2006 and 2008 would indicate? As Delcarmen continued to struggle through 2010 — at the time of the trade he was striking out just 6.5 batters every nine innings while walking 5.7 — it simply became time to examine the market.
What the front office found was a 21 year old prospect ranked 16th on the Rockies prospect list by Baseball America. Chris Balcolm-Miller, if scouting reports are to be believed, has a low 90s fastball but couples it with a deceptive slider and solid changeup. He’s maintained a K rate of above one per inning for two seasons, and has kept walks to a manageable level – well below two per nine innings each season of his professional career. At Single A Greenville, it’s tough to read too far into those numbers, but a high K-rate and low walk rate in the low minors is fairly projectable. Obviously his stuff is not ace quality, but most scouts seem to view him as a potential middle of the rotation starter — in other words, value in a pitching crazed league.
So no matter what the Globe and Herald say, to me this is not a white flag move. Maybe the Sox are done this season, but trading Manny Delcarmen is not the sign we’ve been waiting for; instead, it’s a sadly necessary move that ends a great local story but brings the team additional pitching depth in the middle farm system. Maybe Chris Balcom-Miller won’t amount to anything, but at this point, the front office felt — rightly, I think — that the potential for success outweighed Delcarmen’s track record of inconsistency and mediocrity.