NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- The price for quality relief is high these days. On Tuesday, the price for the Red Sox was two prospects and an established Major Leaguer.
Boston acquired right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg in a deal for No. 12 prospect Mauricio Dubon, No. 22 prospect Josh Pennington and corner infielder Travis Shaw, both clubs confirmed. The Boston Herald's Evan Drellich first reported that the two sides had come to an agreement. The Brewers will also acquire a player to be named later or cash with that to be determined within the next six months.
Dubon is being dealt at a high point in his prospect value. The 22-year-old hit .323/.379/.461 with six homers, nine triples, 31 doubles and 30 stolen bases in 124 games between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland in 2016. He made enough of an impression to be sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .211/.273/.408 with three homers in 18 games for Surprise.
"I would say he's both athletic and skilled," said Brewers general manager David Stearns. "He has tremendous bat-to-ball skills. He's a very good baserunner, and he's really excelled in every spot the Red Sox have put him. He's adjusted to different circumstances very well."
Since being selected in the 23rd round of the 2013 Draft, Dubon has played both shortstop and second base, though he played exclusively at short during the regular season after Javier Guerra was dealt to San Diego last offseason. He also received time at center field in the AFL for the first time as a pro. With Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. holding down those three spots in the Majors for the foreseeable future, it was tough to see a Major League future for Dubon in Boston beyond a utility role.
The Brewers will likely keep giving their new prospect chances all around the diamond, but expect to keep him at his primary position initially.
"We have a developmental philosophy where we try to get all of our players, even our top prospects, exposure to multiple positions," Stearns said. "So Mauricio will be no different. But I anticipate his primary position will be shortstop."
A Honduras native, Dubon moved stateside to the Sacramento area as a teenager to play baseball -- a story he told on the Minor League Baseball podcast earlier this offseason. Stearns noted they expect Dubon to start in either Double-A Biloxi or Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017.
Pennington was a 29th-round pick by the Red Sox back in 2014 but only fell to that level because of pre-Draft Tommy John surgery. He signed for $90,000 and missed all of 2015. Upon making his pro debut in 2016, he posted a 2.29 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 71 strikeouts and 40 walks in 78 2/3 innings between the Gulf Coast League and Class A Short Season Lowell. He jumped into MLB.com's rankings of Red Sox prospects in the middle of the season after showing a mid-90's fastball and an above-average curveball, but he'll have to demonstrate his health and work on his control as he climbs the Milwaukee ladder.
The Brewers, for their part, seem excited to have him be part of the fold.
"He pitched healthy all of last year," Stearns said. "We're excited to be able to bring that type of high-upside arm into the system. It takes a little while for guys to regain the arm strength after Tommy John, and we believe he has."
The Brewers exec added that full-season ball is an option for Pennington in 2017 but that it's possible they hold him back in extended spring training to help maintain an innings limit.
For an organization that has acquired six of its top eight prospects from trades, Tuesday's deal provided another opportunity for the Brewers to build their farm system into one of the most impressive in the game.
"Certainly, we set out to acquire, develop and ultimately retain as much young talent as we possibly can throughout our organization," Stearns said. "That's been our strategy consistently. I'm pleased we've been able to add that amount of young talent, and our goal is to continue that."
Shaw, the only player acquired by the Brewers with any Major League experience, hit .242/.306/.421 with 16 homers and 71 RBIs in 145 games for the Red Sox in 2016 while filling in for the injured Pablo Sandoval. His departure could be a sign that Boston believes Sandoval will return to health in 2017 or that they're ready to use top prospect Yoan Moncada at the position should Sandoval falter again.
Thornburg became an elite reliever in 2016 for the Brewers and should fill in as a good setup man ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel with the Red Sox. The 28-year-old right-hander posted a 2.15 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 90 strikeouts in 67 innings last season. Despite his handedness, he was particularly tough against left-handers, limiting them to a .130 average over 112 plate appearances.