Sox hope he has game, too

This Chris Carpenter has something to prove

Chris Carpenter, the compensation for Theo Epstein, is hoping to pitch in. Chris Carpenter, the compensation for Theo Epstein, is hoping to pitch in. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 25, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - He may never throw a pitch at Fenway Park. But Chris Carpenter already has a secure place in the history of the Red Sox.

He will forever be known as the player received as compensation for Theo Epstein.

Until Tuesday, Carpenter was a B-level Cubs prospect who occasionally got confused for the veteran Cardinals pitcher with the same name. Now he’s also the answer to what will someday be an obscure trivia question.

“I think it’s kind of cool,’’ said Carpenter, who joined the Sox yesterday and was assigned No. 66. “It’s not the kind of thing that has happened too often. Guys gets traded all the time, but not for somebody like Theo.’’

At face value, the Red Sox were robbed. Epstein was the general manager who built the Sox into an organization that was the envy of baseball before he bolted with one year left on his contract to become Chicago’s well-paid president of baseball operations.

The Red Sox won two World Series and averaged 93 victories during Epstein’s nine seasons. His financial value to the organization was almost incalculable. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said the team demanded “significant’’ compensation for letting Epstein walk. But after four months of haggling, the Sox received a relief pitcher who could potentially become a setup man. Carpenter is likely to start the season with Triple A Pawtucket.

Whether he becomes a significant player remains to be seen.

Baseball America ranked Carpenter the 13th-best prospect in the Cubs’ organization. Selected in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Kent State, Carpenter has spent four years steadily moving through the Cubs’ system.

The Cubs developed Carpenter as a starter until seeing him in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. Pitching in relief, Carpenter let loose and was able to hit 100 miles per hour with his fastball.

“That made me a reliever,’’ he said. “I’m still getting used to it.’’

Carpenter made his major league debut last June and appeared in 10 games before being sent back to Triple A Iowa.

Carpenter had a 2.79 earned run average in his brief stint with eight strikeouts and seven walks. The one home run he allowed was to Nick Swisher of the Yankees.

“He’s got a pitcher’s name and he’s got a pitcher’s arm,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine, who spoke briefly with Carpenter yesterday. “He throws the ball as fast as anyone in the game. He needs to learn to corral it, harness the velocity, and work on other pitches.’’

Carpenter joins a small group of players who were traded for non-playing personnel. All-Star catcher Manny Sanguillen was sent from the Pirates to the Athletics in 1976 for manager Chuck Tanner and $100,000.

Sanguillen was traded back to Pittsburgh in 1978 and helped the Pirates (and Tanner) win the 1979 World Series.

The Rays sent outfielder Randy Winn to Seattle in 2002 to compensate the Mariners for hiring manager Lou Piniella. The White Sox received two prospects from the Marlins last fall in exchange for manager Ozzie Guillen.

In 2002, when the Red Sox were set to hire Oakland’s Billy Beane as their GM, Kevin Youkilis was the agreed-upon compensation. When Beane backed out of the job, Epstein got it.

The Cubs were involved in a similar deal in 1994. When they hired Twins GM Andy MacPhail as their president, Chicago sent pitching prospect Hector Trinidad to Minnesota as compensation a few weeks later.

Trinidad never made it above Double A and was out of baseball after the 1997 season.

Carpenter hopes to make a bigger impact than that with his new team.

“I’m really excited. I know they have high expectations,’’ he said. “I’m not coming here trying to change anything. I just want to hop on board and win a lot of games . . . I can hopefully come out, throw strikes, and get people out in the late innings of the game.’’

Carpenter said Cubs players tried to avoid talk about who might be going to Boston. He had no idea he was the choice until getting the news from Chicago GM Jed Hoyer. Epstein, in Boston at the time, left Carpenter a voicemail.

“He was nice about the whole issue,’’ Carpenter said. “They just told me to take a positive attitude. Everybody was really professional about the whole thing.’’

Carpenter, who had already reported to Cubs’ camp in Arizona, arrived here two days later.

“He said he was better today mentally. It must have been a little confusing for him. I can understand that,’’ Valentine said. “[Getting traded] so late; leave the house, get settled in somewhere, and have to pick up and leave with the family. It’s very difficult, I think.’’

Until the trade, Carpenter was best known for being the other Chris Carpenter. The righthanders even have the same middle name, John.

“I’ve heard it a lot. I just say to everybody, hopefully one day I’ll be half as good as that guy because he can really pitch,’’ Carpenter said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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