Less than five months after acquiring Yoenis Cespedes as part of a big deadline deal, the Boston Red Sox traded the slugging outfielder to help bolster their rotation.
The Detroit Tigers were happy to take him.
Boston sent Cespedes to the Tigers on Thursday for right-hander Rick Porcello in a deal that both teams hope will help fill significant needs. The Red Sox are rebuilding their starting pitching after losing 91 games this year, and Detroit was able to add another power hitter to a lineup that also includes Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Pitchers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier also went to Detroit as part of the trade.
"We were not looking to trade Yoenis Cespedes," Boston general manager Ben Cherington said. "But as we got into the offseason and looked at what our alternatives were, and we needed to build our rotation, and the depth we had in the outfield — we feel good about the outfield group that we have. Just felt it made sense."
The Red Sox acquired Cespedes in July in the deal that sent Jon Lester to Oakland. Cespedes finished the year with a .260 average, 22 home runs and 100 RBI. Boston was unable to bring Lester back as a free agent, and the Red Sox needed to add to their rotation after also trading Jake Peavy and John Lackey during the season.
Boston completed a one-year contract Thursday night with free-agent right-hander Justin Masterson, who began his career with the Red Sox, and has discussed a deal to obtain left-hander Wade Miley from Arizona.
Porcello does not turn 26 until later this month, but he has plenty of experience. He made his debut with Detroit in 2009 as a 20-year-old, and he’s been a mainstay in the Tigers’ rotation since. He is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 15 wins, a 3.43 ERA and 204 2/3 innings pitched.
Porcello has held hitters to a 53 percent groundball rate, a skill that may be more useful at Fenway Park than in Detroit.
"We feel he’s been one of the better starting pitchers in baseball," Cherington said. "He’s been on a staff with a lot of big-name pitchers so he gets buried in the names in Detroit. But he’s been really good in his own right."
The Tigers, who have won the last four AL Central titles, still have Justin Verlander, David Price and Anibal Sanchez in their rotation, and they recently acquired Shane Greene from the New York Yankees. Free-agent star Max Scherzer remains on the open market.
Detroit also acquired right-handed starter Alfredo Simon from Cincinnati on Thursday.
The 29-year-old Cespedes gives Detroit another power-hitting presence in the middle of its lineup. The Tigers already made an addition to their outfield this offseason, acquiring speedy center fielder Anthony Gose from Toronto. Cespedes joins a group of outfielders that also includes J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis.
If J.D. Martinez can repeat his 23-homer performance of 2014, the Tigers should have plenty of power threats, and although Cespedes has an on-base percentage of only .316 in three major-league seasons, he is a decade younger than outfielder Torii Hunter, who left Detroit via free agency.
"Cespedes is a dynamic all-around player who hits for power, provides solid run production and will play left field," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "Alex Wilson is a solid performer who has pitched at the major-league level and will compete for a job in our bullpen this spring. Gabe Speier is a young player that our scouts like."
The 28-year-old Wilson posted a 3.38 ERA in 56 innings for the Red Sox over the last two seasons. The 19-year-old Speier went 3-0 with a 1.55 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in 2014.
Cespedes and Porcello could both be free agents after this season. Cespedes will make $10.5 million in 2015. Porcello is arbitration eligible after making $8.5 million this year.