The Milwaukee Brewers acquired corner infielder Travis Shaw, shortstop prospect Mauricio Dubon, and starting pitching prospect Josh Pennington from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg this past offseason on December 6, 2016. The trade fulfilled needs for both teams as the Brewers acquired more young talent, and the Red Sox acquired a setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel. When the Red Sox visited Miller Park last week for the first time since 2003, many fans, writers, and analysts reflected on the offseason trade between the two teams. So far, the winner of this trade appears to be the Brewers based on the performances from Shaw and Dubon. Here’s a look at how each player is performing a quarter of the way through the season.
Tyler Thornburg, regarded as a top pitching prospect in the Brewers minor league system and molded to become a starting pitcher, found success in a bullpen role. Jeremy Jeffress was the Brewers closer last season but sent to the Texas Rangers as part of the Brewers rebuilding efforts. Jeffress’ exit opened the door for Thornburg to close games for the last half of the season and he thrived. In 67 innings pitched last season, Thornburg posted a 2.15 ERA with 90 strikeouts along with 13 saves for Milwaukee.
With the likely departures of relief pitchers Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler after the 2016 season, the Red Sox had a major hole in their bullpen. The acquisition of Tyler Thornburg quickly filled this hole for Boston; however, Thornburg is currently on the 60 day DL because of a right shoulder impingement and has yet to throw a pitch this season. Also, it appears that Thornburg experienced some discomfort in his shoulder on his road to recovery which will set him back even longer from making his season debut. Thornburg’s health issues has frustrated Red Sox fans and rightfully so. Once Thornburg returns to full strength, the Red Sox hope he can return to be the dominant reliever he was for Milwaukee last season. Otherwise, this trade will serve as a black eye for Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski.
The Red Sox drafted Josh Pennington in the 29th round during the 2014 draft. He rated as Boston’s 22nd ranked minor league prospect at the time of the trade. The Brewers have him slotted as their current 21st ranked prospect in their system. Pennington stands at 6’0″, weighs 175 pounds, and throws right handed. He made 13 starts in 2016 for the Red Sox low-class single A team and tossed 56.2 innings posting a 2.86 ERA with 49 strikeouts.
Pennington struggles with command as he walked 27 batters last season, but boasts an upper 90’s fastball that ranks as one of the best in Milwaukee’s system. The 21-year-old hasn’t thrown a pitch in 2017 because he started the season on the DL. Overall, it’s unsure if Pennington will stick as a starting pitcher or wind up in the bullpen, but it’s clear that he has plenty of potential.
The Red Sox drafted Mauricio Dubon in the 26th round during the 2013 draft. He rated as Boston’s 12th ranked minor league prospect at the time of the trade. Dubon is the Brewers 9th ranked prospect currently. He stands at 6’0″, weighs 160 pounds, and plays second base and shortstop. Dubon split time between class A and AA last season and slashed .323/.379/.461 with 46 extra base hits and 30 stolen bases.
Dubon is playing for the Brewers class AA team, The Biloxi Shuckers, this season. After appearing in a few games with the big league team in spring training, Dubon has picked up right where he left off. The 22-year-old shortstop is slashing .314/.371/.404 with 49 hits and a whopping 22 stolen bases. His 22 stolen bases and 49 hits lead the Southern League. Dubon has committed nine errors this season, but he’s a versatile player which will help him and the Brewers in the future. Dubon has posted impressive numbers dating back to last season and is certain to be on a fast track to the big leagues.
The Red Sox headed into 2016 spring training with a competition at third base between Pablo Sandoval and Travis Shaw. Sandoval’s career in Boston has been underwhelming, to say the least. Shaw won the third base starting position to begin the 2016 season after Sandoval suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Shaw began the year strong, but his production fell off considerably in the second half of the year. This forced Shaw into a platoon at third base and less playing time overall.
The Red Sox returned the third base keys to Sandoval as they headed into the 2017 season. Therefore, Shaw became expendable but Sandoval has landed on the DL, causing major issues at the hot corner. Boston has used six different players at third base this year and over one third of their errors have come from that position.
Meanwhile, Shaw is flourishing at third base for Milwaukee. Brewers manager, Craig Counsell, has allowed Shaw to play every day at third base and hit cleanup for an explosive Brewers offense. At 27-years-old, Shaw is in his third MLB season and is producing at a high level for Milwaukee, while playing excellent defense at third base. In 37 games, Shaw is slashing .290/.329/.545 with eight home runs and a team-leading 32 RBIs. With the trouble Boston is experiencing at third base, Shaw is making Boston pay for trading him. This trade may be one of Brewers GM, David Stearns, best in his tenure based on the success of Shaw alone.