Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Boston Red Sox---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Strategy----Boston Red Sox:

Um. The Red Sox got some problems.

What they need: Starting pitching; a power bat at first base, third base or left field; a shortstop; a fourth outfielder/DH who can hit while playing semi-regularly.

Free agents: OF Rocco Baldelli; OF Jason Bay; RHP Paul Byrd; OF Joey Gathright; SS Alex Gonzalez; INF Nick Green; LHP Billy Wagner; INF/OF Chris Woodward

The key free agent to wonder about is Bay. He wants a lot of money and is in demand from such teams as the Giants, Mets, Mariners and maybe the Angels. The Red Sox have the money to spend, but it remains to be seen how much of a commitment they'll be willing to make to the 31-year-old. Bay handled the Boston spotlight; contributed big hits; was an exemplary teammate; was a welcome change from the lack of hustle and crisis-a-day that was Manny Ramirez; plus he put up big numbers and had big hits.

This doesn't eliminate the question of whether the Red Sox will be the top bidder for Bay. Bay wants to get paid and the Red Sox need to get younger. Would they prefer to pursue someone younger and cheaper via trade and go in a different direction to fill Bay's shoes?

Depending on the direction they take with the bullpen, it's not out of the question that Wagner's back to take over as the closer on a short-term deal. Baldelli might be back, but he's negligible and easily replaced. I'd expect Green back. Gonzalez, Byrd, Gathright and Woodward are gone.

Players available via trade: 3B Mike Lowell; RF J.D. Drew; DH David Ortiz; RHP Clay Buchholz; RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka; RHP Jonathan Papelbon; RHP Daniel Bard; RHP Michael Bowden

Starting with the big, surprising names, Papelbon is arbitration eligible, wants to get paid, and may have begun to wear on the front office with his big fat mouth to the point where they want to deal him before he declines on the field.

Despite having abandoned the closer-by-committee espoused by the stat zombies, the Red Sox still cling to the idea that they can find anyone to rack up the saves and pitch the ninth inning. They've gone back to this idea repeatedly like a desperate and overmatched would-be paramour trying to get a date with a girl twenty miles over his head. If they really wanted to, they could package Papelbon to a closer hungry team (the Braves?) to get a shortstop (Yunel Escobar?) and keep Wagner to close for a year or two while grooming Daniel Bard to take over.

I would think long and hard before pulling the trigger on such a monumental decision. There are closers who can get the job done during the season most of the time----of which Wagner is one----but at crunch time, are they championship closers who won't gack the game up in the playoffs?

Mariano Rivera is a championship closer; Bobby Jenks is a championship closer; and Jonathan Papelbon is a championship closer. Having watched enough of Billy Wagner in his three healthy seasons with the Mets, I can tell you that he's not a championship closer.

For a team with aspirations for a World Series run every year, it's a huge gamble to trade away Papelbon and trust Wagner or an inexperienced entity at doing the job. I'm not saying I wouldn't do it, but I'd do it with trepidation before leaping.

Lowell had a decent enough season, but he's going to be 36; is slowing down; has $12 million coming to him the last year of his contract; and they need the flexibility to move Kevin Youkilis to third base if they get a power bat for first. Someone would take Lowell since it would only be a one-year commitment; he can still play and lead in the clubhouse.

Ortiz is a pure DH; has $25 million guaranteed through 2011; and is only going to get worse as he ages and his bat continues to slow down. No one's taking him unless the Red Sox take some rotten contracts like Carlos Silva's back. They may as well just keep Ortiz.

Drew's name was bounced around last year as possibly being moved. He's still productive, but is in the same boat as Ortiz financially ($28 million guaranteed over the next two years); he's not going anywhere either unless Theo Epstein pulls some Houdini act out of his ass.

Matsuzaka's numbers are misleading. He's not that good; has $28 million coming to him through 2012; and really pissed off the Red Sox by blaming North American training techniques for his injury and poor performance. Someone would trade for him, but it's highly unlikely he'll be moved.

The only way Buchholz. Bard and/or Bowden are dealt is if it's for a big name like Adrian Gonzalez. It's a major possibility----even a likelihood----that two of them will go in a blockbuster for a bat.

Non-tender candidates: OF Brian Anderson; RHP Fernando Cabrera; RHP Ramon Ramirez; OF Jeremy Hermida

Anderson and Cabrera are both gone. Ramirez pitched well, but the Red Sox might not want to pay him what he'll get in arbitration; I'd still be surprised if they non-tendered him. Hermida's an interesting case. The Red Sox got him for a couple of mediocre minor league pitchers in a Marlins salary dump. Hermida would be a far better fourth outfielder than Baldelli; he's not the answer as a replacement for Bay in left field. I'd be stunned if they non-tendered him because he's such a talent and fills a need.

Players to pursue:

Free agents: LHP Mike Gonzalez (Braves); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); RHP John Lackey (Angels); LHP Randy Wolf (Dodgers); SS Orlando Cabrera (Twins); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); SS Bobby Crosby (Athletics); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); INF/OF Mark DeRosa (Cardinals); RHP Ben Sheets (didn't pitch in 2009)

Gonzalez is a former Red Sox farmhand who, as I mentioned yesterday, puts up massive strikeout numbers and can close if needed.

The starting pitchers who are free agents vary from the established and expensive (Lackey); to the useful if healthy (Wolf); to the ultra-talented and oft-injured (Harden; Sheets); and to the talented, oft-injured and obnoxious (Bedard). The Red Sox looked brilliant last year going eight-deep in pitchers who could fill spots in their starting rotation; but injuries and ineffectiveness ruined that plan.

I'd expect them to be big players for Lackey. Josh Beckett's contract is up after next year and the club doesn't appear to be in a rush to resolve it. They might let him walk and Lackey would be a viable replacement for Beckett in 2011.

Harden is always hurt, but there's no questioning his stuff; he'd be a short-term risk with huge upside. Bedard in Boston with his attitude would be something to see, but he wants to get paid, so he might behave himself off the field and he's dominant when he's able to pitch; as a back of the rotation flier, he could pay off big. Sheets has Cy Young Award stuff, but he too is always hurt. I'm not the biggest fan of Wolf, but he's a real option for the Red Sox. I'd roll the dice on Sheets before the other risky names.

DeRosa is a winning utility player. Putz will be willing to be a set-up man to replenish his value. And Crosby is a good fielding shortstop with some pop and could fit as a last resort for the Red Sox if they can beef up the offense elsewhere.

Via trade: RHP Roy Halladay (Blue Jays); RHP Felix Hernandez (Mariners); LF Carl Crawford (Rays); INF/OF/DH Miguel Cabrera (Tigers); LF Matt Holliday (Cardinals); SS Yunel Escobar (Braves); RHP Javier Vazquez (Braves); SS Jose Reyes (Mets); 1B Adrian Gonzalez (Padres); RHP Chris Young (Padres); SS Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks)

Much like the Yankees, I doubt the Red Sox are going to want to meet the Blue Jays asking price in terms of players and cash it's going to cost for Halladay. (More on this later, but could a similar circumstance as with the Johan Santana sweepstakes be brewing? Could the Mets be the last team standing for Halladay as well?)

Epstein is obsessed with Hernandez and has the prospects to get him; but is Buchholz-plus worth it? Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik isn't stupid and will get a lot from whomever is trying to get Hernandez. Another issue that has to be a concern for the Red Sox is that despite their productive farm system, the number of prospects is beginning to dwindle (it's a cycle as much as it's intelligent design). After the hellish trade for Eric Gagne; and the deal for Victor Martinez, the Red Sox have to begin to think about diminishing returns on their aggressive deals.

The Red Sox could get Miguel Cabrera and he'd put up MASSIVE numbers in Boston.

For shortstop, Escobar is a star-in-waiting and a deal involving Papelbon would undoubtedly include Escobar as a centerpiece.

I'd check with the Mets on Reyes; they're not trading him now, but if he continues angering the front office with his lack of hustle and quirks, he may not be as untouchable as he was; his lost season of 2009 drops his value, but he's still only 26. The Mets are getting increasingly irritated by Reyes.

Orlando Cabrera would be an inexpensive stopgap at shortstop who's handled Boston before and was popular with his teammates, the fans and the media.

Stephen Drew is an option because no one knows what the Diamondbacks are going to do; they've got this young corps sprinkled with veterans that's underachieved for two straight years. There's nothing wrong with asking about a guy like Drew even if he's probably not on the block.

Holliday is a real option for the Red Sox. They can pay him; he'd do well in Boston with the Green Monster; and he'd drive in a ton of runs. I think Holliday ends up in Boston.

If the Padres are intent on trading Gonzalez, the Red Sox are well-situated to make a deal not just because they have the prospects to do it, but because former Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer is the new GM in San Diego. He'll have the relationship with Epstein to hammer something out and know which prospects he wants. This might happen.

Chris Young is a superior talent who's had some injury/durability issues, but he's making good money and as a part of any Gonzalez deal could be a huge win as a throw in and mid-rotation starter.

Vazquez had a great year for the Braves, but they have a surplus of starting pitching. Any discussions of Papelbon for Escobar could widen to include Vazquez in some permutation.

  • Could Roy Halladay fall to the Mets?

The Mets have had such atrocious luck in the last three years that it obscures the fact that their off-seasons have been strangely productive as Omar Minaya took steps to address club needs and----even though they didn't work as planned----he has the skill to wait things out and let the pieces fall in place before striking. It happened with Johan Santana via trade; and with Francisco Rodriguez as the market for him was non-existent and he parachuted into New York.

As the Blue Jays sift through the offers for Roy Halladay, it could be happening again before our very eyes.

Much like the Santana negotiations, the general consensus (mostly accurate) was that the Mets didnt have the enticing prospects to get Santana. They had the money to give Santana the contract extension he desired, but the Red Sox and Yankees both had far greater organizational depth to get the Twins star lefty. But as things spiraled through the winter, neither the Red Sox nor Yankees were entirely enamored of trading a stack of their youngsters and paying Santana what was basically free agent money.

The Twins overplayed their hand badly and were left with what the Mets had to offer. A deal had to be done before spring training, they cut their losses and took what's turned out to be nothing for one of the best pitchers in baseball.

To this day I still think that while the respective GMs for the Mets, Minaya, and the Twins, Bill Smith, were haggling, Minaya got wind from both Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman of something to the tune of, "Listen Omar, we're not in this; don't get crazy with upping the offer". The Mets got Santana.

Now let's look at the Halladay situation and the landing spots.

The Yankees? Are they going to give up Joba Chamberlain and/or Phil Hughes-plus to get a pitcher they'll have to give $140 million? After they just won the World Series?

The Red Sox? The same situation as the Yankees without the World Series. Plus Halladay doesn't solve their problems by a longshot.

The Dodgers? I've been saying that's where I think he'll end up, but the ownership mess could preclude a deal getting done when it needs to get done. They can't be providing $140 million deals while the owners are divorcing and brawling every step of the way.

The Rockies? They have the prospects, but aren't paying Halladay unless he takes a tremendous hometown discount to go to Coloardo (where he's from), something he doesn't appear inclined to do.

The Giants? They have the prospects, but do they have the money to absorb another pitcher making that kind of cash after the Barry Zito disaster?

The one place that might make sense is the Angels. They've got the money; they've got the players.

And then there's the Mets.

Contrary to popular belief, they do have the prospects to get it done if they're sufficiently motivated; and they certainly have the money, Bernie Madoff notwithstanding.

It's going to be interesting how this plays out because there's a realistic scenario that the Mets might get lucky again just by holding their cards and waiting until they're the sole survivors.

  • Viewer Mail 11.17.2009:

Alright, a Family sit-down with my Underboss; Consigliere and Tex-Mex Capo (currently stationed in Germany). I'm still the Boss here.

Three comments regarding Carl Crawford:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

I'd love Crawford in left field for the Yanks. Make it happen, Prince!

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

If the Rays lose Crawford then that team is sunk. The public relations blow would be so devastating that Tampa Bay would take years to recover.

Gabriel writes:

I agree with Jeff. The Rays need Crawford more than the Jays need Roy Halladay (and that's saying a lot).

The type of player Crawford is has nothing to do with whether or not the Rays will or should trade him. At his age (28), with his five-tool talent, Crawford would bring back a bounty on the trade market. Plus, he's a free agent at the end of next year and wants to get paid. The Rays have no chance----none----of keeping him.

They also have to look at the possibility of contention next season. They're absolutely a playoff threat next year and would have a better chance with Crawford, but in the big picture it might be best to do what they did with Scott Kazmir.

In dealing Kazmir, they got a lot from the Angels in exchange for an expensive injury-risk who didn't look like he was ever going to be any better than he was in 2007-2008----great when he was great; always a threat to be out for the year with an arm injury; wild and inconsistent.

Would it behoove them to hold Crawford up for auction? See what the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Cardinals and a bunch of other teams would be willing to give up to get Crawford? Considering their financial circumstances; that they've got him for next year and that's it; and they've made smart deals for minor league prospects in years past, they should throw Crawford out there as a negotiable commodity.

Putting him in play and listening to offers is not the same thing as putting him on the block. They'd be foolish not to listen to what they could get for Crawford.

Meeting over. The Prince is still firmly in charge.

Jimmy Bege writes RE the Yankees:

Thats a tough decision to make! Only problem is damon wants another four years and his wheels are starting to go. Matsui the same! These agents are ruining the game to be honest with you. I would only sign no more than two years with either athletes or let them go. Much too risky and with bad wheels not a good idea for long term!

If Damon wants four years, I wish him luck. No one's giving him more than three, if that. If he plays the mercenary game, he's going to regret it because the Yankees will tell him to take a hike.

At some point, it's time to stop blaming the agents. They're employees of the players; if a player like Damon wants to stay in New York, it's his responsibility to tell his agent to get a deal done. If he doesn't and winds up in a situation he doesn't prefer, that's on him.

Matsui is going to be agreeable enough to stay. He doesn't want to leave and isn't a money-whore.

Franklin Rabon writes RE Bill Belichick:

Hey paul, I think the problem was more the fact that Belichick believed that not only would peyton score if they had punted, but that the colts would use up the majority of the clock in doing so. Thus not giving Brady the chance for a comeback.

There was a snippet in the NY Times today about the percentages----link----dictating why what Belichick did was the "right" thing.

It's insanity.

This exemplifies the problem with the stat zombie. They think they're playing percentages favorable to themselves; hedging their bets and putting their teams in the best circumstances and are ignoring the reality staring them in the face.

You hear these numbers 77.whatever% if you do this; 76.whatever% if you do that and it diminishes people who are supposedly the best at what they do into numbers crunchingautomatons for whom any analysis that comes from experience and interpretation goes flying out the window. I don't care what the odds were...*

*Quote one of the coolest guys ever, ever----Han Solo: "Never tell me the odds!"

....you cannot give Peyton Manning the ball on such a short field with a six-point lead. It was overthinking; over-dedication to the numbers; arrogance; and stupidity combined into one ridiculous, losing package.

Good thing I'm so persistent. With the battle I'm fighting, a lesser man might give in. Not me, though.

And I'll win.



Jeff said...

Isn't there also the scenario where Halladay stays in Toronto like he did this past July? I can't see the Yankees and Red Sox getting into another free agent auction only to put him in the hands of the Mets... think of the ECONOMY!

(that's my go-to excuse for everything now by the way)

She-Fan said...

Wishful thinking about Halladay and the Mets. I thought you said he was bound for Colorado? And Miguel Cabrera in Boston? They have way too many bars.