Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hot Stove Starting to Warm

The hot stove has started to warm up, with Javier Vasquez (Marlins) and Jon Garland (Dodgers) signing, and more rumors coming along.

The "definitive rumor" site is MLB Trade Rumors.

Currently, the Red Sox "prospective" lineup looks something like this.

Lineup (9)
OF - Jacoby Ellsbury
2B - Dustin Pedroia
DH - David Ortiz
1B - Kevin Youkilis
OF - J.D. Drew
3B - Jed Lowrie
C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia
OF - Mike Cameron
SS - Marco Scutaro

Bench (5 to be filled) Varitek (free agent), Darnell McDonald, Eric Patterson, Ryan Kalish

Pitchers (11 to be filled)
Rotation: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, Matsuzaka
Bullpen: Papelbon, Bard, Atchison, Doubront (2 to be filled)

The immediate issues without much imagination:
1) Very limited right-handed power (options Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, Jason Werth)
2) Bullpen inconsistency (options Kerry Wood, Scott Downs, J.J. Putz, Grant Balfour, Arthur Rhodes)
3) Uncertainty at catcher (no immediate solution)
4) Blockbuster trades (have to acquire power hitters)

Currently the fans seem concerned about the Sox "going cheap", and accumulating/over-rating draft choices. Oh to be a fly on the wall in Theo Epstein's office. Free agents (to an extent) wait for the market to be set, so we'll have to wait. Although most of the issue becomes money, there's also geography, and their role. We have to trust that the Sox "brain trust" is spending as much time try to solve the problems as Sox fans collectively spend thinking about them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We Can Only Hope

If it's true that Derek Jeter sought a 6 year, 150 million dollar contract from the Yankees, then we should wish him well and encourage his masters to pay through the wazoo nose. Giving Jeter megabucks might only shift the Bronx budget away from productive to less-productive assets. Jeter's argument must go something like, "A-Rod gets 30 million and I'm gonna get 15, bleeping chump change. Who's done more for the franchise? Who's the face of the Yankees?"

Last time I checked, contracts weren't like the Oscars "lifetime achievement awards", but compensation for expected production. Well, we can only hope.

God knows that the Sox shortstop dollar black hole has gone through Lugoland and Renteriaville en route to its current occupant...Theo said, "Marco" and got "Polo" in return.

Scutaro (OPS .721) outperformed Jeter (OPS .710) in 2010, and out-homered the Bronx bummer, 11-10. Last I checked, though, Jeter was in the playoffs for like the 15th time (maybe not) and Scutaro was home resting his shoulder.

Never fear though, the Red Sox chances of returning to post-season play are increasing day-by-day, as Major League Baseball ponders expanding its post-season format, adding another best-of-three series for Wild-card wannabes. Will it be called "Deuces wild" or something clever like "Wallet biopsy"? The winner will come out with either its top two or three pitchers AND bullpen spent, so that facing the expanded playoff winner will really BE an advantage.

Faux news? I asked a Red Sox employee recently whether he had any 'misinformation' that fans might appreciate. I commented that you see a lot less of the "worn cap" look popularized by Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, and others. He reported that Wade Boggs was never as big a 'chicken diet' adherent as alleged, and that Nomar Garciaparra had a lucky t-shirt that looked holier than Swiss cheese by the end of the season. Sure, I've got more, but what you see there and say there, stays there. So now you now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

To Victor Goes the Spoils

It's still early in the off-season, and so far the Red Sox signing a minor league free agent hasn't exactly reassured the Nation. Even the knowledge that the Yankees and Derek Jeter are farther apart than the sun and the moon doesn't help much.

Victor Martinez pockets 50M and four years, because the Tigers give him a chance to win a ring. For crissakes, I'd probably fall over if an athlete ever said he made a great decision for his family and took the money. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. But it's wrong "to seem greedy", but okay to be greedy?

Thus far, the scoreboard shows negative progress at catcher and third base (presuming the imminent departure of Adrian Beltre), and the best news for most fans that J.D. Drew has a contract year to play for. Word has it that David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis are both working out at Fenway, that Dustin Pedroia is on the mend on the left coast.

I'm going to work on the assumption that Jacoby Ellsbury's address is going to be on the west coast next year, meaning that the Red Sox need to find another full-time outfielder to mix and match with the motley combination of Drew, Mike Cameron, Darnell McDonald, and Ryan Kalish.

Of course, the Sox had a glaring weakness in the bullpen, which had Daniel Bard as the most effective member, Jonathan Papelbon as an oft one-pitch closer (that can be cured), and a mystery as to whether the Atchisons, Doubronts, and Okajimas can overachieve to adequacy if not greatness. Other teams like Texas seem to have an endless supply of guys who throw high 90s, while the Sox accumulate draft choices.

"Only fools and children judge jobs part done." There's still plenty of time between now and April for Theo Epstein to retool the lineup and the bullpen. But with the Patriots and Celtics getting the limelight, the Sox can't want to be seen as the lemons on the local sports scene.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Perspectives on Free Agency

Free agency has started, and the goal is to strengthen your team without suffering "The Winner's Curse". Overpaying for players who had exceptional years or who are likely at the downhill crossroads of their career can put a franchise in 'jail' for years. The Red Sox have suffered the consequences of poor judgments on Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, yet benefited from correct reads on Jason Bay (six homers this season for the Mets).

Money always comes onto or off the payroll. After this year's loss of interest in the injured and underachieving Sox, there's a perception that the Sox "must" be a big player to regain media attention and credibility. Does Sox upper management have its collective eyes on the ball, or are they more concerned with diversifying the empire via NASCAR and soccer?

As far as the numero uno free agent on the market, Cliff Lee, don't expect the Red Sox to be chasing him. They've got Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, as well as numerous prospects. They're far more likely to spend the money on bat, with major holes to fill at catcher, first or third, and a need for an outfield power bat. The other issue is whether Jed Lowrie deserves a shot at the everyday shortstop job, and the implications for Marco Scutaro and Jose Iglesias. Lowrie has filled the Tim Naehring designated injury slot, but hit exceptionally well when healthy.

Sox fans could easily live with bringing Beltre back and Jason Werth in, but the likelihood of signing multiple Boras clients after the Teixeira fiasco seems remote. A trade for Adrian Gonzalez would strip the farm system (e.g. Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and more) and require something in the 22-25 million dollar a year money range to satisfy his contractual expectations. Obtaining a Paul Konerko (first), while moving Youkilis to third still leaves the need for an outfield bat, and neither Carl Crawford or Werth will come cheap.

What the Sox expect from Mike Cameron remains to be seen, but last year's 8 million dollars went down the drain. The Sox failure to develop power hitters is coming back to bite them, and the fans aren't likely to wait for Rizzo or Ryan Lavarnaway.