As a New England Patriots writer, I tend to have my blinders on to maintain my focus. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, they made a huge splash in free agency to sign CB Stephon Gilmore to a deal with the second-most guaranteed money for a cornerback, the very next day they acquire WR Brandin Cooks in exchange for a first round pick and a mid-round pick swap, and the Patriots enter the 2017 season as the offseason champions.
It’s hard to top that type of roster movement. Gilmore and Cooks represent two deals that cause ripples throughout the league- Gilmore is a former top 10 draft pick and Cooks is one of the most productive young receivers in NFL history- and both joined a team best known for reserved offseason transactions.
And yet the Patriots don’t even rank in the top three for the biggest offseason moves in Boston sports.
The Boston Red Sox acquired SP Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in December of 2016 in exchange for a bunch of prospects. Sale- already a six-time All Star- is projected to win the Cy Young award as the best pitcher in the American League. Adding Sale is like adding an All Pro wide receiver to the roster (five skill players in the NFL verus five pitchers in an MLB rotation).
And since Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello won the Cy Young in 2016, it would be like the Patriots adding Antonio Brown to play next to Rob Gronkowski. The Red Sox were simply collecting the best players at their position.
The Boston Celtics weren’t going to be outdone, either. After signing Gordon Hayward earlier in free agency, the Celtics just acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first round pick (which is projected to be an early pick in a stacked draft).
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Hayward was named an All Star this past season, while Irving is a four-time All Star and one-time All NBA phenom. Both players rank in the top 25 of the NBA, whether by 2016-17 PER (think: basketball’s version of DVOA) or by win share.
The Celtics pulled off the equivalent of adding both a magically younger CB Aqib Talib and DT Jurrell Casey (taking away the stud from the small market team), in exchange for giving up CB Malcolm Butler and DT Alan Branch.
I’m not saying that the Celtics moves have necessarily been superior to that of the Patriots, but acquiring Irving for the cost of Thomas, Crowder, and a super early first round pick is easily the biggest move in the Boston area.
Hopefully these trades will work out for all three teams as they try to win another championship. The Patriots are the clear favorite in the NFL, the Red Sox are the second-best team in the American League, and the Celtics are the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. All three have solid chances of reaching their respective championships and that is because of these huge roster moves.
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins are still learning to tie their shoes.