Michael Bowden was drafted as a starter by the Red Sox back in 2005 and had success in that role for the first four years of his minor league career. And yet he’s made only two career starts at the major league level against 67 career relief appearances.
But that script could be flipped next summer.
According to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, the 26-year-old right-hander is stretching himself out this offseason in the Dominican Winter League with the hope of getting a chance to compete for a spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation next spring. If the experiment doesn’t wind up producing promising results, he will simply be shifted into a long relief role sometime before Opening Day.
Bowden, who registered a 2.95 ERA and 1.26 WHIP across 39 2/3 relief innings in 2012, has gone at least five frames in each of his last two starts for Águilas Cibaeñas — a team that also boasts former major leaguers Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada, and top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.