Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Lightning 12.5.2010

  • Gonzo, Jeter and collateral attacks:

The Red Sox are negotiating on a long-term contract extension to preclude Adrian Gonzalez's 2012 free agency; this is the only thing standing in the way of the completion of his acquisition from the Padres.

I'm not getting into an attempted detailed analysis of the prospects the Red Sox surrendered in the trade---pitcher/infielder Casey Kelly; first baseman Anthony Rizzo; and outfielder Reymond Fuentes; plus a player to be named later----because I don't know the first thing about them aside from their on-field numbers and physical stats. You can get such analysis from Keith Law (for what that's worth) among others.

What I can do is get into certain clear facts about the Red Sox and Padres (in a side-story, the Yankees) and other generalities in running an organization.

For the Red Sox:

This is a no-brainer.

They needed a power bat; they didn't want to overpay Adrian Beltre to stay; nor did they want to be held hostage by Scott Boras's sleight of hand with Beltre and Jayson Werth; Carl Crawford is in heavy demand by several clubs and it's no guarantee the Red Sox were going to get him if they placed all their eggs in that basket.

Gonzalez was out there and they jumped at him.

For all the talk about the prospects the Red Sox surrendered, look at it logically. Kelly is 21 and just finished his first year in Double A (and struggled); Rizzo is also 21 and he too just finished his first season in Double A; Fuentes is about to turn 20 and is in the low minors.

The Red Sox are a team built to win immediately; despite the courage they showed in overcoming injuries and hanging around contention, they're coming off a season in which they still missed the playoffs and has an agitated fan base and transitioning roster.

2011 will be the final year in a Red Sox uniform for both David Ortiz and J.D. Drew (I'd also include Jason Varitek in that equation, but after they brought him back again, who knows?); they needed a basher who could handle the spotlight and was itching to escape both the financial constraints of the Padres and the shadows of being a mega-star without the attention lavished on a player of his abilities. Gonzalez is that man.

As for the prospects, considering the Red Sox developmental strategy for their pitchers, Kelly wasn't going to be a factor for them until mid-2012 (at the earliest); look at the way they nurtured Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. You can't argue with the results, but it doesn't lend itself to immediate contribution. The rotation is stacked with long-term deals for the mainstays of the staff. Kelly wasn't going to help the Red Sox anytime soon.

With the position players, the pressure put on a young bat to infiltrate the Red Sox lineup and produce to the level of what they were going to need would've been immense and unfair. It's not as if Gonzalez is old either----he'll be 29 in May.

Financially, Gonzalez is said to want a "Ryan Howard-type" contract. Gonzalez is more deserving of such a contract than Howard is! The Red Sox will lock him up.

Away from the cavernous dimensions of Petco Park in San Diego, Gonzalez is going to put up massive power numbers; he'll play great defense and be an MVP candidate on an annual basis. Kevin Youkilis's versatility allows them to shift him to third base and say goodbye to Beltre.

It's a great move for the Red Sox.

After this, they don't have to go after another bat. Although they would've been better served to sign Miguel Olivo or Gerald Laird behind the plate rather than inexplicably bring back Varitek, they'll score enough with their current lineup. Perhaps another outfield bat like Josh Willingham would be a better option than spending heavily on Werth or Crawford.

And there's the elephant in the room----Cliff Lee.

It's not simply that Lee would be a great piece to add to their rotation; more important than that is the collateral attack it would place on the Yankees.

Best case scenario, the Red Sox get Lee, exact some revenge on the Yankees for the way they swiped Mark Teixeira out from their grasp and leave their rivals scrambling. Worst case, they raise the amount of money the Yankees have to pay to get Lee; inhibit their ability to do other things such as signing Crawford and/or making mid-season moves in 2011 to bolster the team. It's not just about getting the player.

The collateral attack argument extends to the Red Sox offer to Mariano Rivera. The idea that Rivera was going to the Red Sox was ridiculous----it wasn't happening. But could the Red Sox offer have spurred the Yankees to give Rivera a 2-year deal instead of a 1-year deal? As great as Rivera is and presumably will be, he's 41-years-old; eventually even Rivera is going to slow down, break down, or stop completely. Could the Yankees have a $15 million hole in 2012? Yes.

On an ancillary note regarding the Rivera offer, the Red Sox were going to non-tender Jonathan Papelbon if he signed, blah blah blah.

It's like me saying that I'm going to write a book about my adventures during my trip to Mars. The premise is absurd to start with, so any subsequent decisions are irrelevant.

For the Padres:

As they're currently constructed, the Padres will score eight runs in 2011.

I'm only partially kidding of course; their lineup is atrocious and I don't care how much pitching they have, they've shortened the bullpen in trading for Cameron Maybin and now they've dealt Gonzalez for the future. They'd better find some hitters if they want to repeat their surprising run into contention from 2010.

Considering their options, they could've gone two ways: kept Gonzalez to see if they did repeat the 2010 success and traded him at mid-season if they didn't, or moved him now.

They chose to move him now.

You can't argue with the decision; in June-July, they weren't going to get much more for Gonzalez than they're getting now and there was always the chance of a catastrophic injury to the player. It was smart to take the Red Sox offer.

Another factor was the future. If the Padres thought they could contend next year with Gonzalez, they could've held onto him and waited for the draft picks they'd have gotten as compensation after he left.

Examining the players who will be available in the 2012 draft is a dicey proposition, but if they felt they weren't going to get Kelly-Rizzo-Fuentes level players in the draft, then they did the right thing. It's not only about the trade itself.

The Padres had everything work right for them in 2010----especially on the mound----knowing that wasn't going to happen again, examining their options and understanding that they had to maximize Gonzalez spurred this trade. Declarative statements that they're not going to trade Heath Bell are garbage. They'll trade Bell if the offer is right. And they're smart to do it even if the current roster is going to drop from 90 wins to 75 or fewer.

For the Yankees:

What do the Yankees have to do with this, you ask?

A lot.

Gonzalez wasn't a player for whom the Yankees and Red Sox were in direct competition, nor was he a free agent. Because of that, the general playing one against the other wasn't going to happen. That doesn't mean they're not watching one another and strategizing based on the other team's moves/counter-moves.

The Yankees and Red Sox are in on Carl Crawford, but the biggest and most important prize is Lee.

Ignore assertions to the contrary; the Red Sox were always a possibility to go after Lee. They're still circling. Because they've acquired Gonzalez, they don't have to spend the cash on Crawford or Werth. That frees them to go after Lee.

Will they?

Why not? No one would've expected them to make a serious attempt at Rivera, but they did. Much like the aforementioned side attack on the Yankees, going after Lee would fill a similar purpose of forcing the Yankees hands. Amid all the talk that the Yankees are after Crawford, their main target is Lee. They need pitching, not a bat; and if they miss out on Lee, where are they going?

Zack Greinke? He doesn't want to pitch in New York; doesn't have the mentality to pitch in New York, and would be an unmitigated disaster.

Who else?

Josh Johnson's not available and if he was, the Yankees would have to gut the system to get him. Who's out there? Rick Porcello? Chad Billingsley?

It's Lee or bust for the Yankees and the Red Sox can sabotage the Yankees plans in many ways regarding that end.

Derek Jeter just agreed to terms to remain and they've kept Rivera. Andy Pettitte is said to be next. The Yankees are getting older. Unlike Varitek, Jeter can still play; he'll have a bounceback year and the Yankees are mortgaging long-term risk for short-term maintenance and avoidance of aggravation. Jeter was never leaving; they paid him based on his prior accomplishments and that they didn't want to face the fallout of finding a new shortstop and the catastrophic public relations nightmare losing Jeter would cause.

But let's say the Yankees don't get Lee and they have to trade Jesus Montero and other prospects to get an arm to win in 2011----where are they going to be in 2012? With Rivera at 42? Jeter at 38? Alex Rodriguez at 37? Devoid of prospects and saddled with sinking contracts, there could be a lull in the Bronx that not even their financial might can overcome.

While it's not healthy to factor what "the other guy" is doing in every personnel action, it's unavoidable especially where the Yankees and Red Sox are concerned.

The Red Sox are slowly winning this war of attrition; there are cracks in the Yankees foundation that might need more than an expensive patch job. The Red Sox are setting the charges for the whole thing to come crashing down as soon as next year with their bold trade for Adrian Gonzalez, the offer to Mariano Rivera and perhaps entering the fray for Cliff Lee.

They're playing it beautifully in Boston and the Yankees chaotic off-season just got much, much worse.

  • Promises, promises:

I planned to talk about coaching/managerial trees today, but this Gonzalez thing is a big distraction. It created the above brilliance if that helps. I'll get to it though. Eventually.

I'll be podcasting with SportsFan Buzz at mid-week too.

Ride the storm of Force Lightning and don't complain!


She-Fan said...

As a Yankee fan, I wouldn't exactly say I'm shaking in my boots because the Red Sox got Gonzalez. They got Martinez last year and it didn't change the world. And if they were to sign Lee, who goes? Buchholz? Lackey? Dice K, Beckett? Lester? I guess Dice K, but I'm not sure how they would unload him.

Jeff said...

THIS is why the offseason often provides as much drama as the regular season.

Impressive connections you've made here, Prince. Impressive indeed.