Red Sox trade for A's Conor Jackson

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Red Sox trade for A's Conor Jackson

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

Though it hardly qualified as a blockbuster, the Red Sox were active on the trade market late Wednesday night, obtaining outfielder Conor Jackson from the Oakland A's in exchange for minor-league pitcher Jason Rice.

Jackson, 29, will be added to the Red Sox' expanded roster and is expected to join the club Thursday. Jackson is making 3.2 million this season and Oakland agreed to include an unspecified amount of money to help defray the approximate 500,000 remaining on his deal this season.

"It's awesome," Jackson told reporters in Cleveland, where the A's were playing, upon hearing of the trade. "I don't think a guy in my position couldask for anything better - a big-market team with probably the best fansin baseball."
As is often the case, at the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st, this deal, too, came minutes before the deadline to obtain players who will be eligible for postseason play.

Dating back to July, the Red Sox had been in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder, a role Jackson fills. The Sox have had poor production from their right-fielders, notably J.D. Drew, who struggled for the first three-and-a-half months before being sidelined in July by a left shoulder impingement. Josh Reddick has filled in for Drew in right but has plateaued sharply in recent weeks while showing some deficiencies in right field.

Until Jackson's acquisition, Darnell McDonald was the team's lone right-handed outfielder. He, too, has been subpar offensively and though he has shown better power in the second half, his average remains under .200.

Jackson began his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being dealt to Oakland in 2010. A first baseman to start his career, he's played more outfield -- and is considered an average defender -- in recent seasons.

Jackson is a career .272 hitter with an on-base percentage of .352. He's also hit 51 homers to go along with 290 RBI and 289 runs. With Oakland this season, Jackson is hitting .249 (.315 OBP) in 102 games, with 4 homers and 38 RBI. Against lefties this season, Jackson is hitting .254 (.333 OBP) in 122 at-bats including ten doubles and 10 RBI.

Rice, 25, was obtained from the Chicago White Sox organization through the minor league Rule 5 Draft in December of 2008. This year, he had appeared in 44 games -- all but one in relief -- at Pawtucket, posting a 4-5 record with four saves and an ERA of 3.69. Rice fanned 89 batters in 85.1 innings and batters hit just .238 against him but command was an issue with 42 walks.

The deal comes exactly a month to the day since the Red Sox and A's originally consummated then cancelled a deal that would have sent starting pitcher Rich Harden to Boston in exchange for Lars Anderson and a player to be named later. The Red Sox knew Harden's shoulder was problematic but a review of his medical records, provided to finalize the deal, proved more worrisome than even they had believed, causing the Red Sox to pull out of the deal and angering Oakland's general manager Billy Beane.

Bobby Jenks, currently suffering from an illness, was moved to the 60-day DL to make room for Jackson.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz’s first start in a Boston uniform of at least six innings and three hits or fewer came Wednesday night, 364 days after his first start with the Red Sox following a trade with the Padres last July.

The lefty’s consistency this season has been one of the most pleasant surprises, and ultimately a stabilizing force in the Boston rotation. The Red Sox are 9-2 in his last 11 starts and he’s gone at least six innings in six of his last seven now. His ERA in that span is 2.13.

"I had a good year last year, but I feel really good this year with all my pitches," Pomeranz said. "I feel really good with all my pitches on both sides of the plate, which is something I've never really had before. I've made some adjustments mechanically, where I am on the rubber and things. Just really tried to focus on pitching arm-side with everything, which I was always good on glove side. I think that has helped me put this string together."

The rotation is deep. Deep enough that the Sox are slotting in seven pitchers in a seven-game stretch. Somehow, there were eight starting pitchers on the Red Sox roster Tuesday. One of them, Brian Johnson, started in a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays that took 15 innings, and another, Hector Velazquez, finished it out in extras.

Both Johnson and Velazquez went to the minors on Wednesday when the Sox added Ben Taylor and Kyle Martin to the bullpen, the latter getting to the big leagues for the first time. 

But the contributions of Johnson and Velazquez on Tuesday, followed up by Pomeranz’s work on Wednesday, are indicative of an increasing strength for the 2017 Sox: not just the very top of the rotation, but its depth.

That depth, you’ll recall, was never assured. Far, far from it. 

David Price was injured at year’s start. Pomeranz’s health was in question to begin the year. 

Steven Wright was lost for the season. Velazquez’s first big league start looked bad. Kyle Kendrick’s time in the majors did not go well. Eduardo Rodriguez was lost for a month and a half because of a knee injury.

Yet the Red Sox entered Wednesday with the third-best rotation ERA in the American League, 4.09. Chris Sale and Price are as frightening a potential playoff one-two punch as you can find. 

There's a lot more going on.

“There’s always the adage you never have enough pitching and certainly when you start Brian Johnson, what’s he had, four major league starts in his career?” Pitching coach Carl Willis said before Johnson’s start Tuesday. “So, while there’s still a certain amount of inexperience there, we’ve seen the ability play out. We’ve seen him go out and throw a nine inning shutout here in Fenway Park. Hector Velazquez has stepped in a couple of situations and pitched very well his second time back with the club and Doug Fister is a guy who has had some very very good years. 

“And while he’s maybe not exactly the same guy he was six, seven years ago, he’s still a guy with four pitches and he understands how to pitch, how to change speeds. So you know, when you look at the front end with Sale, with Price throwing as he is, with Pomeranz throwing as he is now, getting Eddy back, it’s a very very talented group of guys that we feel very confident in.”

Price, somehow, is throwing harder this year than last.

“You know, I can’t tell you 100 percent the reason why,” Willis said. “I think some of it is his possibly attributed to when you have an injury, the rehab process and how the throwing is monitored and the strengthening factor of that rehab process is, I think, so much more intensified or detailed because you’re dealing with certain specific areas. 

“I really think, you know, it’s a byproduct of those things, and it’s been a pleasure to watch. Obviously, he was dominating on Sunday night in a game that we really needed a performance like that. It gives you. A lot of optimism going forward to see him throw the baseball like that.”

Porcello seems to have righted the ship, with a 3.31 ERA in his last five starts.

“I do [think he’s turned a corner],” Willis said. “I felt for a while that he was close, that he was making small steps getting there. We’re seeing much better command now at the bottom of the strike zone, and that allows him to at times then elevate. But it starts with the bottom of the zone, and I think he’s in a place right now, we’re starting to see that consistency of that.

"And when he does that, hey, he’s still a contact-oriented pitcher and there are going to be ground balls and there are going to be some hits. But that’s who he is, and he can be successful that way, as we’ve seen. And I think he’s at that point right now."

Throw in the healthy return of Rodriguez and the continued success of Pomeranz and extras like Fister, Johnson and Velazquez, the Red Sox have choices. Options.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski arguably took a risk when he dealt away, of all people, Clay Buchholz. Buchholz, of course, wound up needing surgery once he got to the Phillies.

But the Sox pitching situation felt far from comfortable to begin the year, for one reason or another. It's comfy now — about as comfy as can be, anyway. And Dombrowski and the Red Sox, from the medical staff to the coaching staff to the pitchers themselves, deserve credit for getting to this point.