With nearly 200 Free Agents on the market this winter, there’s oodles of Hot Stove speculation, especially since The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs and both the Phillies and Yankees dropped out in the first round.
Looking at the list, here are a few FA’s that I feel the Sox should give consideration and in the order most of the experts have them ranked.
C.J. Wilson, SP: Wilson is the top pitcher in the market and deservedly so. He’s won 15 games the last two seasons as part of the Texas Rangers machine but fell apart in this years playoff run. The talent pool for starters is thin and Wilson will probably command a greater price tag than the $82 million or so both John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received, and that would be a lot for a guy who’d project as the 3rd or 4th starter. Inquire but move on. (Signed by LA Angels @ Winter Meetings)
Roy Oswalt, SP: Oswalt, as he did in Philadelphia, could fill the #4 hole in the Sox rotation, but as the Phillies already established by declining his option, it won’t be for silly money. Chances are he could return to Philly, but the Rangers (he’s established in the Lone Star State) and probably Yankees will inquire with some real interest.
David Ortiz, DH/1B: Big Papi would be foolish to leave his folk-hero status in Beantown but this is a business and easily his last chance at the big paycheck. Aside from the Scarlet Hose, I feel the Angels and Rangers could be real contenders for his services while Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Cleveland test the waters. The ‘Bombers could send out a phone call or two just to p!ss of Sox fans. (Accepted arbitration from Boston)
Mark Buehrle, SP: Many ‘in the know’ have mentioned St. Louis as a possibility while others believe he’ll stay put in Chicago. He’s a good talent and calming presence worth a look. Since Texas, Miami, possibly the Angels and probably Yankees will be looking, we should too. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: Cherington has said he’d love to bring back both Ortiz and Papelbon for deals that make sense to everyone… however Pap’ is the best closer on the market and will be of interest to Philadelphia, possibly Miami (a showboat presence for a showboat manager) and any other team who can both spend big and be a contender. If he’s not in Boston, look in the Phillies bullpen. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/13)
Ryan Madson, RP: Philly could be looking to keep him as he might be an alternative to Papelbon or a Heath Bell. Madson has progressed nicely over the past few seasons and depending on what Boston plans to do with Daniel Bard or Aceves (convert them or make one closer in waiting), with or without Pap’, Ryan should be on the radar. (Signed by Cincinnati 1/11/12)
Grady Sizemore, OF: Sizemore is not the Indians slugger from just a few scant years ago, but he is still only 29 and worth a look. A year removed from microfracture surgery most believe Grady should be eased back in to a starring role, getting 70 to 80 starts as a OF/DH platoon. Rushing back to be the Cleveland slugger and star outfielder may have been what caused his several setbacks. He could be worth a one or two-year deal to a big market team with room for him in such a situation. Both he and Josh Willingham present better alternatives to Carlos Beltran (whom I omitted from this list). (Signed by Cleveland 11/29)
Heath Bell, RP: All signs point to Bell staying put in San Diego but he’s definitely worth the effort of a phone call or two should the Papelbon contract drag out or just not materialize. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham played in Oakland whose stadium, the O.co, is massive and still put out 15 homers and a respectable slugging percentage. Now, put that right-handed bat in Fenway and watch his numbers flourish. He could platoon well in RF and present a viable option to Carlos Beltran. (Signed by Minnesota 12/14)
Paul Maholm, SP: A left-hander on the market is going to get attention no matter what (see Darren Oliver and soon to be returning Jamie Moyer), so at 29 Maholm could be worth a look. He finished the season with a shoulder problem sending him to the DL, but his consistency to cause grounders could be a great lefty complement to Lester in the rotation. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/10/12)
Jonathan Broxton, RP: He’s a reclamation project coming back from non-reconstructive elbow surgery, but then again the Sox love those low-risk high-reward incentive laden contract players. With the way the bullpen collapsed in September, call him. (Signed by KC Royals 11/29)
Kerry Wood, RP: Wood has salvaged his career as a late-inning specialist (if only Brad Penny would follow his lead) and put the gloom of lost potential in the past. The Sox considered him at the trade deadline the last two seasons, so there’s no reason not to consider him now. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/13/2012)
Jim Thome, DH: Thome could present a poor man’s solution to David Ortiz should Big Papi take his talents elsewhere. Thome is a legendary clubhouse presence and could still hit a few of those HOF home runs at Fenway’s friendly confines. I expect he’ll return to Cleveland (if the Indians ‘do the right thing’) but anyone in the AL who can’t land Ortiz or Beltran may come calling. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/5)
Hideki Matsui, DH/OF: Like Thome, Godzilla could find a late career flourish in Fenway as Big Papi’s replacement. He’s still a threat in the middle of the line-up and my gut tells me he’ll continue the pilgrimage north (LA to Oakland) to Seattle and play alongside Ichiro for the Japanese owned Mariners.
Takashi Saito, RP: He’s older but still a workable component to a bullpen. Plus, we’ve had him before. Worth the look. (Signed by Arizona 12/12)
Jason Varitek, C: ‘Tek appeared to adapt well to his new role of mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season. As a tag team, their numbers were comparable to many others at catcher in the league, especially during the mid-months when the Sox were the best team in all of baseball. Ryan Lavarnway is still at least a half-season from a steady role on the big club, and while some have called for any old veteran to back-up ‘Salty, I say stick with what works. Let him continue to groom Jarrod, then work more with Lavarnway and transition from mentor to his next life as an MLB coach and future manager. His silence during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ and ‘Pitcher-gate’ (after all, he is The Captain) is the only reason I could see him not being offered a return. As many Yankees fans have noted in regards to FA Jorge Posada, I can’t see ‘Tek in another uniform.
Tim Wakefield, SP/RP: Like Varitek, The Time Lord is a proven veteran commodity for the Sox. He can pitch from wherever he is asked to and can flash that knuckleball on many an occasion. He’s 6 wins away from tying both Clemens and Young for all time on the Red Sox wins list, and could easily get there with a solid rebound year. While he too was silent during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ as well as ‘Pitcher-gate’, he’s an established veteran that could assist the new manager in the rotation, bullpen and clubhouse. Though, like in the case of ‘Tek, it may just be sentimentality.
How about a Red Sox pitching staff edition of “Where are they now?”
Matt Young. Young would pitch for the Red Sox for two seasons before being released days before the start of the 1993 season. He became part of baseball history during his tenure with the Red Sox. On April 12, 1992, Young faced the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a doubleheader, allowed two runs on seven walks and an error by shortstop Luis Rivera en route to the fourth no-hitter by a losing pitcher. On that day Roger Clemens pitched a two-hit shutout in the second game of the double-header, giving Young and Clemens the Major League Baseball record for the least number of hits (2) allowed in a doubleheader. While Young sent the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Major League Baseball, in a rule created prior to the season, did not recognize the performance as a true no-hitter, as Young, playing for the losing team on the road, only pitched eight innings in his complete game loss. According to Seymour Siwoff, who was on Baseball’s Committee for Statistical Accuracy, the feat could not be listed with the “pure” no-hitters because “Young didn’t get the chance to go out and pitch the ninth…who knows what would have happened if he did.” Had the no-hitter been officially recognized, it would have been the first no-hitter by a Boston pitcher since Dave Morehead did so in 1965, also against the Indians, and was the fifteenth time, at that point, that a Red Sox pitcher had completed a game without allowing a hit.
Young would be released by the Red Sox in 1993, appeared in 22 games for the Indians in 1993, spent a month on the Toronto Blue Jays roster before being released a final time in September 1993.
Steve Avery. With his career in a sudden and premature decline, Avery signed with the Boston Red Sox on January 22, 1997. He pitched two years for the Red Sox, going 16-14 over two seasons as the number two starter behind Pedro Martinez. However, his ERA was 5.64, and he was clearly finished as the brilliant pitcher who dazzled fans and batters in 1991.
He signed a one year contract with the Reds for the 1999 season. He was 6-7 when he was lost for the rest of the year in July. He signed with the Braves during spring training in 2000 and again during spring training in 2001, but failed to make the club each time.
In 2003, Avery made a brief comeback with the Detroit Tigers team that threatened to break the 120-loss record of the 1962 Mets. He made 19 relief appearances, including the final appearance of his career on July 20, 2003, at U.S. Cellular Field against the Chicago White Sox. His final pitch was a double play caused when Paul Konerko lined to Avery and he threw Magglio Ordóñez out before he was able to get back to first base.
Ramón Martinez. Ramón started the 1999 season in the minor leagues for rehabilitation. He was called up by the Red Sox in August, to pitch again alongside brother Pedro, making four starts for a 3-1 record with an ERA of 3.05. Martinez was less successful in 2000, with a record of 10-8 and a 6.03 ERA, and his option for 2001 was not picked up by the Red Sox.
After his two years with the Red Sox, he signed again with the Dodgers, but they released him at the end of spring training. He played briefly with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001 before retiring.
Ramiro Mendoza. Mendoza was the only player in the last 75 years to win a World Series ring with both the New York Yankees (1998–2000) and Boston Red Sox (2004) before Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske joined that club in 2009.
After recovering from shoulder surgery during the 2005 offseason, Mendoza returned to the Yankees after September 2005 callups, becoming one of three members of the 2004 Red Sox to play for the 2005 Yankees, along with Mark Bellhorn and Alan Embree. After the 2005 season, Mendoza signed a minor league contract with the Yankees.
He played for Panama in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In February 2009, he signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers and received an invitation to spring training, but departed spring training after failing a physical. Following his release, he subsequently retired from major league baseball.
Matt Clement. As a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 2005 season, Clement was named as an All-Star Game selection for the first time in his big league career, replacing injured Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. Clement’s record was 10-2 before the All-Star break, and he finished the season at 13-6 with a 4.57 ERA. On July 26, 2005, Clement was struck in the head by a line drive from Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Clement made just 12 starts in 2006, posting a 5-5 record with a 6.61 ERA,before having season ending shoulder surgery in September. He was rehabilitated at the Red Sox extended spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida, but did not make a major league appearance in the 2007 season.
On January 3, 2008, Clement was signed to a major league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals’ team doctor said that Clement was healthy and would be able to begin the season playing regularly. The Cardinals cited his recent rehabilitation and physical as reasons for adding him to the starting rotation for the 2008 season with no expected limitations upon reporting to Jupiter, Florida for spring training. However, Clement would begin the year on the disabled list after making no appearances in Spring Training. On June 3, Clement made a minor-league rehab start at Single-A Palm Beach, allowing only 1 hit over six innings. He was released by the Cardinals on August 2.
Clement signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on December 12, 2008 and was invited to Spring Training. After being unable to make a spot in the rotation, Clement announced his retirement from baseball on April 5, 2009.
John Smoltz. On January 13, 2009, Smoltz signed a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox for a reported base salary of $5.5 million with roster time incentives and miscellaneous award incentives which could net as much as $10 million.He made his first start in the Boston Red Sox rotation June 25, 2009, allowing seven hits and five runs through five innings. Smoltz struggled his entire time with the Red Sox posting a 2-5 record over eight games with an 8.32 ERA and no quality starts. He was designated for assignment on August 7, 2009, after a 13-6 loss to the Yankees, giving the Red Sox 10 days to release, trade, or send him to the minors.The Red Sox offered Smoltz a minor league stint in order to prepare him to be placed in the bullpen, but he rejected the offer, leaving the Red Sox the options of either releasing or trading him. On August 17, 2009 the Red Sox released Smoltz.
On August 19, 2009, Smoltz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Smoltz made his debut against the San Diego Padres on August 23, 2009. In his first game for the Cardinals, Smoltz went five innings, striking out nine and walking none, while setting a Cardinals franchise record by striking out seven batters in a row. That win against the Padres with the Cardinals was his only win with them that season. Smoltz finished 1-3 with an ERA of 4.26 with the Cardinals. He was 3-8 with an ERA of 6.35 overall with the Red Sox and Cardinals. In Game 3 of the 2009 NLDS, Smoltz finished with a 4.50 ERA after pitching 2 full innings, giving up 4 hits.
On March 16, 2010 it was announced that Smoltz would serve as a color analyst alongside Joe Simpson for the 45 Braves games on Peachtree TV. Smoltz also tells a joke once a game on Peachtree. John is an analyst for MLB Network and he would also serve as a guest analyst, from time to time, on TBS Sunday Afternoon Baseball. Smoltz is also part of the TBS post-season coverage.
Brad Penny. On January 9, 2009, Penny signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox with a base salary of $5M. Incentives and performance bonuses were included to increase the total deal another $3M.
Penny recorded his 100th career win on June 17, 2009, against his former team the Florida Marlins, in a five inning effort only giving up one unearned run. The win came on the Red Sox’s 500th consecutive sell out at Fenway Park.
During his last five starts with the Red Sox, Penny was 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA. After a disastrous start against the rival Yankees, it was decided on August 22, 2009, that Penny would be replaced in the rotation by veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield who was coming off the disabled list soon. During Wakefield’s August 26 start, Penny was placed in the bullpen as insurance, but was never needed with Wakefield pitching a strong seven inning effort giving up only one run. With Wakefield completing a healthy start, reliever Billy Wagner being added to the roster, and Penny not wanting to be a reliever, the Red Sox granted his wish to be released late that night. During his time in Boston, Penny’s record was 7-8, with a 5.61 ERA.
On August 31, 2009, Penny signed with the San Francisco Giants after clearing waivers. The Giants paid Penny only the pro-rated remnant of a $400k MLB minimum salary (i.e. under $100k), with the Boston Red Sox picking up the remainder of his $5M salary for the year. In his debut, Penny pitched eight shutout innings in a 4-0 win over Philadelphia.
On December 10, 2009, Penny agreed to a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. On May 21, 2010, Penny hit his first career grand slam, to give his team an 8-4 lead during interleague play against the Angels. He was pulled the next inning with an injury and therefore did not earn the win. The injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing oblique muscle strain that landed him on the disabled list for the remainder of the season.
On January 18, 2011, Penny agreed to a one-year $3 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.
Frank Viola (1992-1994)
Jamie Moyer (1996)
Bret Saberhagen (1997-1999, 2001)
David Cone (2001)
Hideo Nomo (2001)
John Burkett (2002-2003)
Wade Miller (2005)
First week of September and right on schedule we are hip deep in the post season race. As it should be.
However, the Sox can feel free to address Josh Beckett’s breakdown at any time now. Penny and Smoltz performed in similar fashion and were sent packing… at least management addressed the issue. Beckett has apparently either subscribed to the NASA Moonshot program for home run baseballs or his arm is in need of rest. I know, let’s throw him out there again, see how many homer’s he helps launch in a losing effort and address the situation at that time. Get him in a side program for rehabbing the arm, plan him for extra days rest or spot starter for the next week or so and let’s get the Ace ready for the post-season. Keep feeding him to the salivating line-ups who currently have no fear of his fastball or anything else in the arsenal and see what happens… he’ll be physically and emotionally wrecked for October.
And just what the f#@& is up with the Red Sox pitching mojo anyhow? Smoltz, a dedicated and proven veteran comes in and can’t get it done. Ejected. Now he’s pulling a Cy Young out of his pocket for the Cards. Brad Penny is a traveled ‘Hoss who though a bit broken down over the years is a study in fireball pitching who signs on, has a fairly good first half, less than mediocre second half… ejected to the land of the Giants where he’s going eight innings (8 friggin’ innings!) and is looking like the 2003 World Series Marlins Brad Penny. Now, I understand this whole going to the ‘other league’ stigma of new hitters, no one knows your pitching style blah blah woof woof…. but c’mon. These are National League pitchers returning to the NL, shouldn’t they be familiar. Should they not have had an edge on the AL hitters not vice versa? The AL is the supposed ‘lesser league’ are we not? DH ruined the game and all that crap… are we now the most dominant hitting side of the MLB coin? I guess we are! All hail Big Baseball!
Or is it as a few chronic masturbators have noted that perhaps the Red Sox pitching coaches are so unfamiliar with these guys they are shrugging their shoulders and moving on? I would seriously hate to think that and obviously, doubt it…. but what the hell?
The hitting is obviously correcting itself as predicted and right on schedule as well. But with this weird flux in the rotation we may want to worry… no, not Red Sox Nation push the Panic Button and go Ape Sh!t everyday kind of worry, but the “Hey, what’s wrong with this guy?” kind of worried. Beckett is the Ace (NO disrespect to Lester who will be the ace and fairly soon) and we have to start wondering why he’s falling apart so badly over the last two months. Common sense tells us he’s tired… but this is the age of psychological baseball and as we’ve seen so many times, pitchers are fragile little creatures who break fairly easy on the mental side of things… Rick Ankiel, Dontrelle Willis for larger than life examples.
Now that we are in September and ‘The Callups’ have arrived, get Josh the rest he needs. Let’s not push it and have an ineffective top of what should be a very effective 1-2-3 postseason rotation.
Speaking of the aforementioned Penny….. do you think his signing with the Giants, the Dodgers long storied and most hated rival may have anything to do with his wanting just a tiny tiny bit of revenge on the boys in Dodger blue (Larry Bowa anyway) for saying he was a lousy teammate and a subpar pitcher in the offseason? Hmmm… maybe a just a little? Though I’m sure it will tickle Alyssa Milano (Diehard in Dodger Blue, season ticket holder and MLB ladies apparel titan… Penny’s ex) to know he’s there to thwart her Dodgers post season dreams… yeah.
This move I have no problem with and was somewhat expecting. Yes, The Sox had a back-stop need in Penny for Wake’s return and possibly for Tazawa. But Wakefield was fairly stellar in his return while Tazawa does indeed deserve a little faith at this point and I’m sure having Hoss’ looking over his shoulder would be of little help. That and the fact Penny, a (majority of the time) powerball starter (I won’t say fireballer) just couldn’t feel at home in the Pen. I don’t blame him either. Just as one couldn’t blame Smoltz for the same thing, though I still feel the 20 year veteran with a reconstructed shoulder was slightly mishandled by the big club. Perhaps, like Smoltz, Hoss’ will return to the NL (I could see the Rockies need for him more so than the Marlins but there is the 2003 connection in FLA) and regain some of the form that has escaped him. I’m sure he’d love to get to Denver and shove it right up the Dodgers’ strike zone.
Big Papi is NOT fading from the radar this week. Yet another excellent sign in the September forecast. With the success against the ChiSox this week, hopefully Beckett and Lester won’t feel they have to win every start and get back to their respective comfort zones.
“The last becomes the first” as told from Jack to Ted on Inaguration Day 1960.
The last of America’s true royal dynasty and an icon of government and social reform. Thank You for all you have done.
Well the ‘Dog Days’ are carrying on for ‘The Nation’ and more than hot summer air is hitting the fan. Jubilation turned to fits of panic quickly this weekend and perhaps rightly so.
The Sox took a good hold of the Tigers last week, a team with newly established pitching and re-establishing their hitting game. Something Red Sox Nation should be keeping in mind. Of course, the joyous cries of “We’re saved!” sounded from the rooftops of New England in response to actually winning a series since the All-Star Break. Awesome… we’re Wild Card champs and on our way to re-taking the East.
Enter The Dragon… or perhaps Dragon Slayer, or just the Texas Rangers. Now, I’ll admit, just a week ago I gave an opinion that while the Rangers’ pitching got younger, it hadn’t gotten particularly stronger. Yeah. Well, a weekend series with the Sox and they look like a Cy Young collective. Not only that, they ran their a$$es off on us… or is that they ran our a$$es off? Granted it was not Varitek’s fault. Brad Penny is not only a ‘hoss but a house and his delivery reflects such. Anyone who can run, will on Brad. Twice this season a team has stolen 8 bases on Penny & Varitek, which again shouldn’t reflect on Jason, but will give his ‘boo-birds’ plenty of ammunition… especially with Victor Martinez in hand.
The last team to steal 8 bases on the Sox? This season’s Tampa Bay Rays. While the Sox have been dancing the dance of poor play since The Break, Tampa has been putting all the peices together and solving their own mysteriously poor first half performance. They have recovered on the mound and are slowly re-establishing their hitting game beyond Longoria. Again, two concepts The Nation needs to keep in mind as the ever evolving August roster unfolds. While we have been skidding along, The Rays have been winning in tandem with The Rangers to seriously challenge our currently inept Sox.
Now let’s look at this as a whole. The pitching has sucked… plain and simple. The ‘back-half’ of the rotation has been fairly Mickey Mouse since before the break. To be serious, it’s been more than half since Wake went down during the break…. Beckett & Lester & hold your breath. Wakefield, the ageless wonder he is, will be back shortly. Dice-K and Paul Byrd are making their way back into game shape… hoo-ray?! It sadly may be too late. Beckett, Lester and Bucholtz have pitched well, Bucholtz pitching better with every start.. but the line-up is giving them little to nothing to work with. You can have 5 starters with an ERA of two or under, but if your boys can’t score one, two or three runs to beat the other team, you lose. Youk will be back and hopefully unfazed by his MLB spanking (as well as the partial bodyslam delivered by that Detroit pitcher) to resume his great all around play. He’ll also be right on time to spell Mike Lowell who has played obviously well. Martinez seems to be adapting, like Youk, to being a multiple position player on a regular basis. Alex Gonzalez? Sure, we got Lugo to replace this guy ’cause he was slowing in production… why not get him to replace Lugo who was apparently slowing in production. Bay appears to slowly be coming around, and at this point slow is better than not at all.
Let’s talk seriously for a moment. The bottom half of the line-up, barring steroids or cyborgs becoming legal in MLB is in serious f^@%in’ trouble. Ellsbury may finally be settling into the lead-off spot (though I believe a nine spot may still work for him if a better alternative to the top spot can be found) and following up with Petey, Youk, Bay and Martinez is solid once they get consistent. Now comes the hard part. Yeah, Big Papi. He’s beginning to look the age that no one really knows he is. We know him, we love him… but it may be time to just sit him. David is no longer 2003 to 2007 Papi… he’s Minnessotta David Arias, a left handed bat off the bench. I don’t think we’re in a position to wait for that hot streak… as we have all season. Would you rather keep getting one to two really good hits a week out of the DH or maybe put Mike Lowell’s bat in and see if we can find some consistency in the 6th spot. I’m sorry Papi. I thank you for 2004 and 2007 and all the wonderful moments before and after, but the train looks to have come into the station. J.D. Drew? I’ll admit, when the Sox signed him to that rather hefty contract a few years back, I was iffy. He has a track record of breaking down to go with that skills set and streaks of great hitting. Well, like clockwork, he keeps breaking down between those streaks of great hitting. If he keeps smackin’ them off the Monster at home we may only really need to worry about him on the road… which means a platoon… once he’s back regularly in the line-up. Rocco has done what we figured he would and Brian Anderson? Moving on. Varitek. Hey, we knew this guy would just keep slowing down as the year went on. Same as last year, same as next year. His worth is behind the plate and gives the bottom half of the order one more empty spot.. a good deal of the time as he is still dedicated and works his tail off. And Gonzalez phase two… Me, I’d rather put him in at 8th and insert Jacoby at 9th and see how it shakes out.
I’m not going to write anything off yet. The Yankees showed shades of the late season breakdown last week which could take effect fairly soon. Remember, with no A-Rod, Tex has little hitting to feast on. They won’t drop out, but they may fall back to Earth. Tampa isn’t really going to fall too far off the radar so their in it as is Texas whose pitching may hit a growing pain or two but will have hitting to carry them through. Right now, the Sox are a good hamstring away from “Maybe Next Year” signs going up all over Fenway. The pitching can’t get worse, neither can the hitting really so it will depend on how long it takes to right the ship. Can you repair the ship at full speed ahead while diverting floating mines? Guess it all depends if you’re piloting a tugboat, the QE II or the starship Enterprise.
I’m banking on the Enterprise. “Mister Epstein, take us out.”