Red Sox GM figures to stick with winning formula from last offseason
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
It’s appropriate that both the general managers meetings that open Monday in Orlando and the winter meetings that commence in the same locale about a month later are within jogging distance of Fantasyland.
Thirty teams are dreaming big, although it remains to be seen whether the model adopted by the Boston Red Sox last winter — eschewing the biggest prizes on the market for lesser, complementary pieces — will be embraced by other clubs seeking to emulate the extraordinary strides made by the Sox in one dizzying worst-to-first leap.
Of more interest to Red Sox fans, of course, is whether GM Ben Cherington will remain faithful this winter to the philosophy of modest moves that worked wonders for him last year (it was a year ago Sunday that the Sox came to terms with the first piece of their puzzle, catcher David Ross, followed 11 days later by the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes, the first moves in the rebuilding) or will succumb to the budget-be-damned impulse the Sox have followed in past years.
What makes that discussion especially relevant in the coming weeks is that some of the players so vital to the Sox’s success this season — most notably Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli — are among the free agents expected to reap some of this winter’s greatest financial rewards.
By this point, it should be widely understood that Ellsbury is not coming back to Boston unless the Sox make an exception and sign him for top-of-the-market years and dollars. Agent Scott Boras will make the most of market precedents the Sox themselves helped to establish when they gave Carl Crawford a seven-year, $142 million deal three years ago. Someone will give Ellsbury that kind of money; it’s very doubtful it will be Boston. (Let him walk. He’s already proven injury prone and is obviously on the wrong side of 30. The Sox can more easily find a stop-gap to platoon with Shane Victorino if they feel Jackie Bradley Jr. needs more time.)
Napoli, however, would seem to be a candidate to fall within the kind of parameters the Sox set last winter, when they showed a willingness to overpay in terms of dollars in exchange for shorter years. The Sox struck such a deal with Napoli on the first day of the winter meetings in 2012, coming to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal, which subsequently blew up when Napoli failed his physical because of a degenerative hip condition.
Napoli’s performance this season, when the hip condition did not surface as an issue, would seem to put him in line for, at minimum, a similar deal this winter. It should also work in Boston’s favor that he appears so eager to return.
(Personally, I’d rather see the Sox sign Nap to a 2 year deal with roughly $26 million plus incentives and fulfill the original 3 year proposed deal than sign him to additional years based off a performance year already in the books.)
Napoli and Ellsbury both received qualifying offers of $14.1 million from the Red Sox, which places Boston in line to receive a first-round draft pick as compensation if they sign elsewhere. Shortstop Stephen Drew received a similar offer; all three players have until 5 o’clock Monday to accept a qualifying offer, which would make them a signed player for 2014.
None is expected to do so, as all three players figure to have other suitors. Teams interested in Ellsbury will not be stalled by the loss of a compensatory first-rounder; that also figures to be the case with Napoli, one of the few power bats on the market. Drew could prove to be a more interesting case, although he should benefit from a soft free-agent market at his position.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, also a free agent, did not get a qualifying offer, for the simple reason the Sox didn’t want to risk him accepting it, placing him at a salary level they have little interest in paying him. That should not be interpreted, however, as the Sox deciding against bringing Saltalamacchia back.
The most attractive free-agent catching option is Brian McCann, late of the Atlanta Braves, but he will come at a much higher price than Saltalamacchia would and will require more years. The Sox are looking for a bridge to take them to their catcher of the future — Blake Swihart, perhaps in some combination with Christian Vazquez — so signing McCann for four or more years, while also having to surrender a first-round draft pick, would seem to be a questionable proposition.
Saltalamacchia had 54 extra-base hits last season, including 40 doubles (a club record for catchers), and an .804 OPS. On the defensive side, he made noticeable strides, even though John Farrell opted for his better defender, Ross, in the World Series, a decision made easier by Saltalamacchia’s October slump. His return, while not assured, is eminently plausible.
(Agreed. Salty would be a better choice for a two to three year pick-up, based off the lesser money and the fact he’ll still be fairly young should the Sox decide to trade him before the expiration of the contract. Between he and Ross there is a great tandem of experience to spell the big club till the youngsters are more seasoned. Though young and on the upswing, Jarrod has difficulty hitting outside of Fenway and that should limit his suitors.)
On the trading front, Cherington can expect to field inquiries about his starting pitchers, though teams likely will be far more inquisitive about some of the team’s young arms (Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Henry Owens) than the pieces he probably would be more open to dealing, such as Ryan Dempster or Jake Peavy. The Sox value their young arms, which isn’t to say they wouldn’t move any of them, although Barnes, Ranaudo and Owens almost certainly are not going anywhere. There would seem to be little downside, from a depth perspective, to keeping Dempster and Peavy, neither of whom is signed past 2014.
What the Sox do in the coming weeks will be dictated in good measure by what happens with their own free agents; once they have clarity there, they will know what holes must be filled. In the meantime, the inquiries they reportedly are making about the likes of Carlos Beltran and Tim Hudson and Carlos Ruiz are nothing out of the ordinary; the Sox have a history of making contact with just about everyone on the market.
Coming decisions also will be shaped by their judgments on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s readiness to take over in center field (indications are a qualified yes) and their willingness to entrust the left side of the infield to rookie Xander Bogaerts at short and Will Middlebrooks at third. Middlebrooks’ name often is bandied about as trade material, but the Sox still project him as a useful corner piece with 25-home run power, not an easily found commodity.
With so many good young players who potentially could be included in a trade package, there has been speculation that the Sox would take a run at Marlins slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but one Marlins source reiterated Sunday he believed there was “no way” Miami would move him.
Staying on our Dodger Blue theme…
I peiced this together from various sources, including Gordon Edes and ESPN Boston.
On August 25, 2012, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a 9-player deal which sent past-present-and probably future All Stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and (indepensible utilityman) Nick Punto to Los Angeles for the (until then) forever underperforming James Loney and four minor leaguers.
Entering 2013, Gonzalez had $127 million remaining on his contract and Crawford had $102.5 million remaining. This was the first time in MLB history in which two players were involved in a trade with $100 million remaining on their contracts.
* Carl Crawford (via ESPNLA.com): “That was one of the toughest times in my life, ever, from when I was a little kid, 1 year old. It definitely was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life to be traded over here. You make $20 million, but it’s not like they’re begging me to hit a home run every time I go up there, you know what I’m saying? It’s not like I need to go 5-for-5 every at-bat and, if I don’t, I’m considered the worst player on the planet.”
Jonny Gomes was a teammate of Carl Crawford with the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Red Sox outfielder said he can’t relate to where Crawford is coming from when he talks about about how “bad” he wants to beat his former team, the Red Sox. “To tell you the truth, every team and organization and manager and GM I’ve left, I’ve left on good terms,’’ Gomes said. “I talk to ’em all, talk to a lot of ’em in the offseason, reach out to ’em all. No hard feelings against any of ’em. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me. The last thing I want to do is ‘try harder’ against my [former] teams. I try hard every night.’’
* Josh Beckett (via WEEI.com): “It just got way too personal for me,” he said while rehabbing in the Dallas area. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, you suck on the baseball field.’ It was now, ‘Hey, you’re a bad person.’ It was getting personal. It wasn’t even about baseball anymore. It was definitely time to make a change. I think everybody from the front office to the players recognized that, we’ve moved on and now here I am.”
The Red Sox are 84-80 since the deal (remember, part of that includes the Bobby Valentine regime), the Dodgers 91-70, with each in playoff position at the moment.
The financial impact
The Dodgers had a 2013 Opening Day payroll of $216.6M, the second-highest in MLB behind the Yankees ($228.8M). That was a significant increase from their 2012 Opening Day Payroll of $95.1M, which was 12th-highest in MLB.
The $121.5 million opening day payroll increase was easily the largest in baseball between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Next on the list is the Toronto Blue Jays, who increased their payroll by $42 million.
There’s still quite a bit of money left over on the contracts of the players the Dodgers acquired. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett will be owed a combined $213 million after the 2013 season ends.
With those savings, the Red Sox were able to re-load in the offseason, spending more than $125M on impact free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Koji Uehara.
Victorino has posted 4.4 WAR this season, better than any player the Red Sox sent to the Dodgers has performed this season.
The star: Adrian Gonzalez
Of the five major-leaguers involved in the trade, Gonzalez has been the most valuable for his team this year, with 3.3 Wins Above Replacement. Gonzalez’s value has come in the form of big hits. He has six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later, the most of anyone on the team. Gonzalez rates fourth in the majors and second in the National League in Win Probability Added, a stat that sums the value of every plate appearance (and stolen base/caught stealing, based on how much it adds to that team’s chance of winning). The only players who rate higher than Gonzalez are Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt.
Though Gonzalez has provided value, his power numbers are still not to the level that they were from 2009 to 2011 (and, by his own admittance after his arrival in L.A., probably never will be the same following his shoulder surgery while a member of the Padres). Gonzalez had a .536 slugging percentage and .231 isolated power (extra-bases per at-bat) over those three seasons. The last two seasons, those numbers are .460 and .162.
* Adrian Gonzalez (via ESPNLA.com): “For the most part, we underperformed last year in Boston and we didn’t win. The year before, we won. We just didn’t make it to the postseason at the end. I had a good time. The only things I had there weren’t really a big deal.”
Both Crawford and Beckett have dealt with significant injuries that have been hindrances to their value. But another player has been a surprise contributor.Punto has been worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement for the Dodgers this season. If that holds up, it would be the third-highest single-season total of his 13-year career, his highest since posting a 2.4 WAR in 2008.
Punto’s value stems from that he can play a pair of positions adequately. He’s contributed five Defensive Runs Saved at both shortstop and third base, two spots where he’s had to fill in due to injuries.
Punto may not be an imposing hitter, but he’s an annoying one for pitchers to face. His 4.29 pitches per plate appearance rank tied for fourth in the majors, among those with at least 250 plate appearances this season. In addition, in 13 games this month, Punto has a .475 on-base percentage (fifth in the NL among players with at least 30 plate appearances) and eight RBI.
* Nick Punto (via ESPNLA.com): “Pedroia is the heartbeat of that club, and when he’s not happy, it’s not a good thing. He was definitely not very happy.”
And the results have definitely shown for both teams.
The Red Sox are looking to become just the seventh team since the current divisional format began in 1995, and the first in the AL since the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, to go from worst-to-first in their division. This would be the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox won their division/league the year after finishing in last place.
A few days taken for a family emergency… but nothing too exciting had been missed, in Red Sox Nation anyway.
The Patriots won 23-20 over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game: The Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5. It will be the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach (2000-present) and is the Patriots’ seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls. For Brady, he ties his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, with his 16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback.
Just a ‘Classic’ game. At one point, Brady’s emotions showed as he was jawing with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the quarterback scored on fourth down goal-line drive in the fourth quarter, a play in which he took a big hit from Lewis. The Ravens had a chance to win with 22 seconds left when Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass. Then, after cornerback Sterling Moore deflected a pass on third down, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the game. A breath-taking ending.
The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth about $3 million: Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly (initially, he was seeking a three-year deal) and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist. The signing followed the Sox’ trading of infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades. Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, even though his 2011 season could be considered a slight disappointment. Ross, 31, is a .261 career hitter with 100 homers in eight seasons with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, Florida and San Francisco.
Right-hander Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to create space for Ross on the team’s 40-man roster.
The Sox are still interested in adding another starter to the mix at the right price. Roy Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals (the free-agent turned down an offer from Detroit). If they do not succeed in signing Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer (supposedly for $5 Million), a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.
The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Clay Mortensen, received from Colorado in the Scutaro trade, will compete for a spot in the bullpen, but more likely will open the season in Pawtucket. Don’t look now, but the Sox have the makings of a potentially strong bullpen, especially if Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller can click from the left side. If the Sox succeed in acquiring another starting pitcher and elect to return Alfredo Aceves to the pen, on paper they look strong with Andrew Bailey closing and Mark Melancon sharing setup. If Bobby Jenks can be healthy and Matt Albers proves he just ran out of gas last season, the Sox pen has a chance to be strong and deep. If.. If.. If…
With Jorge Posada announcing his retirement Tuesday after 17 seasons with the Yankees, it would appear to be a matter of time before we hear similar announcements from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, said the 45-year-old knuckleballer just returned from a vacation in Mexico, and that he hasn’t had substantive conversations with him in about 10 days. He acknowledged that while there have been inquiries from other teams, there’s nothing in the works. As Bobby Valentine noted the other day, it’s inconceivable that Wakefield would accept a minor-league offer from the Red Sox. Varitek turns 40 just after Opening Day and got married in the offseason. No word from the player or his agents on Varitek’s plans, but the signing of Kelly Shoppach virtually closed the door on a return to Boston, and while Varitek last spring expressed a desire to play for as long as he can, he may have reached the endgame.
Tim Thomas Skipped the White House: Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas “felt very strongly about not going” so the team respected his wishes. He said the team didn’t make the event mandatory because “we didn’t think it would be an issue.” Neely said he doesn’t expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins’ chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.
Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”
Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”
Of course, Timmy ‘The Tank’ is not alone. Theo Epstein, who had made a campaign appearance on behalf of John Kerry, was not on the stage when President Bush honored the team in 2005, choosing to sit in the front row of the audience next to Stacy Lucchino, wife of the Sox CEO. The reason, he said, was because he wanted attention focused on those most deserving. Epstein was with the group of players who subsequently visited wounded vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center. Bush was still in office when the Sox won again in 2007. Epstein did not attend the ’08 ceremony, citing “family reasons,” and his absence barely registered. It was overshadowed by the no-show by Manny Ramirez, whose absence from the stage was noted by the President himself.
And then of course… there’s this:
Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs. “For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit—and I really believed him,” Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.” The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad. Detroit plays at Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Jim Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.
Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series. After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City. “This is awesome, it’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.” Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning. Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars—Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.
It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth. It’s a lineup based on power, not speed. That much is clear. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder. The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invitees to compete for that job. “I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.
Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.
Isn’t it crazy that the Hot Stove season can be just as exciting as the real deal?
Due to the ongoing CBA negotiations and other technical stuff which isn’t expected to be resolved till the Thanksgiving time-frame, the real heat of the Hot Stove could be closer to December.
Teams that could definitely make a splash:
The Los Angeles Angels. Several members of the Halo’s front office were let go following the rather inept offseason of 2010-2011. The ‘Napoli’ fiasco (turning Texas down and then trading him to Toronto knowing Texas would obtain him from the Jays) and taking a pass on Adrian Beltre (who lives 30 minutes from the Stadium) who both went on to solidify their only division rival (well, with money, anyway) and have great postseason stats will do that. Even with the division facing expansion (The Houston Astros joining the AL West) the Rangers are their biggest foe (in town rival Dodgers should be fairly quiet facing their sale to new ownership) and the Angels need to make up ground to keep pace.
The Miami Marlins: New stadium, new branding and a good deal of dollars to invest. The Fish are looking to become ‘Latin America’s Team’ and have already taken a few steps to push that. Signing Ozzie, Latin baseball’s poster boy went a long way as did the geographical name change but look for a few changes in the playing personnel too, especially with a number of Latin free agents available and the owner’s decision to increase payroll.
The Washington Nationals: They’ve rebuilt and now it’s time to contend. The Nat’s have shown some signs of brilliance and an ability to contend in the NL East (the Braves and Phils aren’t going anywhere) with the talent assembled. Like Miami, they have money to spend and a hungry fan base. Plus being friends with Scott Boras helps.
The Chicago Cubs: Theo has arrived and brought a number of his former Red Sox employees with him to build a new Dynasty in baseball’s only other historic Cathedral. He may not have as much payroll as he did in Boston but he has enough to make a splash and be taken seriously in the market. No, the Cubs won’t be serious playoff contenders next year, but building for two and three years down the road starts right now.
The Los Angeles Dodgers: No, I don’t see them being serious contenders for Prince Fielder (though they should have been under better circumstances) or the top five to ten in the market, but with a pending sale both Frank McCourt and MLB may believe a few prize pieces to complement the established core could go a long way to frost the cake.
The New York Mets: Again, I don’t see a lot of big name consideration but the brain trust finally came to the overdue decision to bring in the fences at CitiField and by cutting loose Jose Reyes and possibly David Wright they’ll have money to spend on some flashy re-treads who could show some power. The owner’s financial situation may be too shaky for a Pujols or Fielder to settle on. Plus they need to contend with the Yankees on the back page.
Now, I’m not expecting the Sox to be big players in the market, they have a set team and may be playing ‘gun-shy’ because of their recent past signings (Crawford, Lackey, multiple members of the bullpen), but they will dabble and pick some fruit from the lower B & C tier. After all, anyone in their right mind knows Carl Crawford will rebound and so for that matter could John Lackey. If I had a bum arm, a wife with cancer who decided to divorce me and was in a generally p!ss poor mood for the entire season… yeah, I’d be a rather poor teammate, drinking and fast food pickin’ in the clubhouse who had one of the worst starting pitching seasons in Sox history (and we had Matt Young in early 90’s too.. Yeesh!). Just remember, now he has something to prove (or at least should) and will be easier to off load if he turns it around.
Anywhoo! Here is a list of the Scarlett Hose free agent players: Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Obviously, of these eight, Big Papi and Pap’ are the one’s to watch while Wake and ‘Tek are the sentimental faves.
David Ortiz: A Type-A free agent who has ranked in most experts Top 10 or close to it. Yes, he had a great year, almost a ‘comeback’ year but in the end it was a ‘contract’ year. Papi has the cache to demand his price for a what will probably be his last big payday but the market for a professional DH has dwindled greatly. Sure, the power is there and he can still be a middle of the order threat in the right line-up (taking home his 5th Silver Slugger), but the stars still need to align both contract wise and probably (with most veteran players) championship caliber talent wise as well. No, he won’t be as beloved elsewhere. He’s a big personality and a great media darling but he’s a part of Red Sox lore and you can’t just transplant that, even if he did shoot himself in the face with the ‘Yankees are great’ comments in the Francona/Theo fallout, plus the fact Youk may require more DH time to avoid these late season breakdowns, especially with Will Middlebrooks seasoning in Pawtucket. I don’t forsee much NL interest due to his limited mobility at first.
Teams who might show interest:
1. Boston: Obvious.
2. Los Angeles Angels: A big-ticket draw who can re-shape that line-up in a hurry and appeal to LA’s latin fan base. They are contenders in the West and would sign him to keep Texas from thinking about it.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: A power hitter who does well at the Rogers Center but they Jays could climb as high as 3rd in the AL East.
4. The Texas Rangers: A world champion and veteran presence who could change the face of an already great line-up. If they can’t sign Prince Fielder, he may be a power hitting 2nd chance prize.
5. New York Yankees: He’s a part of Boston’s folk-lore, so he’s worth a look just as the Sox looked at both Jeter and Mo Rivera last off-season. They’re the ‘Bombers so they can afford him and will obviously be in contention, but they don’t need him and don’t really have the roster space. With A-Rod declining in the field, he’ll need more DH time to avoid injury as will a grooming Montero, aging Posada (should they re-sign him) and possibly Jeter as well.
I see him staying put, but if the Angels or Rangers offer 3 years and silly money…
Jonathan Papelbon: Type-A free agent who had a good rebound year but more importantly progressed as a leader with maturity. Pap’ has said for years he’s been drooling to hit the market and I don’t see him jumping without due diligence. There are several other closers on the market, however, Papelbon is obviously the best pick, ranking in the mid to late teens on most experts FA lists.
1. Boston: Obvious
2. Philadelphia: The closer’s role has been somewhat by committee the last few seasons and after the downfall against the Cards in the NLDS, they may be the serious contenders for a proven closer.
3. Los Angeles Angels: He’d go great with the Rally-Monkey.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Would be another jewel to package with the young core to entice a new owner.
5.1 Washington Nationals: If they’re making an honest push, they’ll make contact but K-Rod or maybe even a Joe Nathan could be a cheaper alternative if Prince or Reyes are on the radar.
5.2 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs can offer a ‘reasonable’ contract, and Theo’s experience will definately dictate that as the former Sox GM praised Pap’s progress as a mature leader who found the next level in his game.
If he doesn’t go to Philly, the Sox may be the next best landing spot for a big payday and shot at another title. If he can accept a leadership in rebuilding role, Theo’s Cubs could be a very distinct Darkhorse candidate.
Tim Wakefield: Sure, he’s closing in on tying both Clemens and Young for all time Sox wins and is old enough to say he played in Scarlett Hose with the Rocket, but he fits in where ever he is asked and he’s still the Time Lord who can flash some brilliance in the flutterball. His silence in the ‘Pitcher-gate’ fall out may go against him as a veteran leader in a clubhouse looking for change.
Jason Varitek: He rebounded a bit with a lighter work load in his role as mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season. With Lavarnway still needing some seasoning in Pawtucket for both his defensive and offensive prowess (probably a mid-season call up with some back-up catcher/DH duty), I can see ‘Tek coming back for one more year as back-up before transitioning to his life as a coach and manager in the major leagues. Like Wakefield, he may suffer from the silence regarding ‘Pitcher-gate’ and the fall-out may go against him.
Now, a few of the other groceries available in the winter market…
1. St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a an established legend in a rabid baseball town and two-time WS Champion with the ‘Cards. However, LaRussa was his mentor and King Albert may not be giving a hometown discount.
2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins should be hip deep in the biggest Latin player this side of Ozzie Guillen, who just happens to be the new manager for the Fish. While increasing payroll, it still might be too steep to relocate the King.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays are looking to compete in the AL East and obviously Pujols would be the trigger to get them on the right track. He’d put a$$es in the seats but probably limit them beyond that.
4. Los Angeles Angels: Since the Dodgers can’t do it, it’s up to the Halos to try to bring one of baseball’s biggest marquee names to LA. Arte Morneo would love to put this Latin juggernaut in the line-up, but may need to pick up more pitching and line-up depth for the money.
5. New York Mets: Nothing serious, but it would trump the Yankees Hot Stove season on the back pages.
This will probably drag out but will make a great Christmas present to either Miami or front-runner St. Louis.
Prince Fielder, 1B: He’s only 27 and been one of the best hitters in either league for the past six years. Probably not A-Rod money (Rodriguez was younger in his initial free agency), but easily Mark Texiera dollars.
1. Washington Nationals: He’s the cornerstone to build on and become the new ‘it’ team in the NL East. They have the money to spend and have taken years to rebuild to this point. Baltimore is an afterthought in this mid-Atlantic market and the Nats can finally put the Montreal stigma in the rear-view mirror.
2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers, for all their power and prowess, went to the WS without a bona-fide 1st baseman. Adding Prince shores up the corner position, adds incredible power to an already potent line-up and ensures Texas a ticket to the dance for years to come.
3. Chicago Cubs: Theo will call in for King Albert but could give serious consideration for the Prince instead. Fielder is younger and will most likely be cheaper, but could easily carry the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans while kicking Brewers fans in the gut. Plus, one would think the smaller confines of Wrigley may increase those already gaudy numbers. It may be the first big step in Theo’s plan for the future.
4. St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols is obviously the priority but should talks stall, turn ugly or just not meet on paper, another star of the NL Central certainly couldn’t hurt.
5. Darkhorse: It’s hard to imagine an off-season like this, with a player like Prince Fielder, where both the Dodgers and Mets are basically tied up in a corner and forced to watch. This could give teams like Miami, Seattle or Toronto a chance to get into a better negotiating position.
Too close to call for me. The Cubs offer history and a massive media market to a shy kid who could be the darling of a hungry fan base while Texas may be the best chance at a quick fix WS title. I’d avoid St. Louis and the endless comparisons to Albert and settle for Washington, whose money is still green, if I had to.
1. Miami Marlins: Jose is friends with Hanley Ramirez (who already supposedly stated he’d move to third or another bag for his buddy) and could flourish under Ozzie Guillen. If Pujols is off the radar, signing Reyes and maybe an Aramis Ramirez could go a long way remaking and re-branding ‘Latin America’s Team’.
2. Washington Nationals: Again, they have the money and he could fit nicely with what the Nats hope to do this offseason.
3. San Fransisco Giants: Jimmy Rollins may be a better investment for the G-Men but I look for them to make a fairly serious inquiry on a still moderately young big name.
4. New York Mets: It’s a longshot at best but he’s been there, has a fan base and is still marketable as a Met.
5. Darkhorse: The Red Sox may only be a bit off the radar if they feel Jose Iglesias is going off track, especially since Scutaro isn’t a long-term fix. St. Louis is in the market as well and don’t count out interest from the Yanks (Jeter and A-Rod are aging…).
I can easily see him amending his asking price / years to be part of something special in Miami. Anywhere else, he’s cashing in.
C.J. Wilson, SP: He’s had a couple of above average regular seasons now, but fell apart in the playoffs. However mediocrity is always rewarded (John Lackey & A.J. Burnett) when starting pitching is thin.
1. Texas Rangers: Texas is certainly a good place to be these days, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to leave. But if the Rangers are going for Prince Fielder then it may tie things up.
2. Los Angeles Angels: Hometown OC kid who the Halos can afford to add to an already impressive front half of the rotation (and lure away from rival Texas).
3. New York Yankees: He’s a big-ticket AL pitcher. Nuff’ said.
4. Boston Red Sox: I think the Sox will take a fairly serious look at a young guy who can win 15 games. I think the Bombers will take it more seriously as Cherington may want to avoid a big-ticket pitcher for a rehab/low-cost alternative for the #4 and #5 starter.
5. Darkhorse: Obviously each of the bigger market teams will have a look with Chicago (both), St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Seattle on the bubble but he has WS experience now and again the market is thin.
The Angels should be able to pry him free, especially if he’s perceived by Texas as a choke artist in the playoffs.
Carlos Beltran, OF: 2011 was supposed to be the contract year but once he got to San Fransisco the remainder of the year stalled out on him. There’s still a market for his bat, even if his outfield mobility is waning. The Red Sox and Yankees are expected to make calls on him as are several other clubs. I’d imagine he’ll land in the AL for a platoon OF/DH role but probably won’t be worth the years/money expected. Grady Sizemore may be a better alternative for someone wanting to take a chance.
Roy Oswalt, SP: He’s older and obviously a bit more hittable, but he’s still Roy Oswalt. He’s not necessarily out of Philadelphia, but he’s going to be cheaper if he’s in. Most teams will call in on this one, especially from the NL, but The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees love older innings eaters who cost money. The Rangers will probably give some serious consideration for mid-range money for the guy who carried the Astros for years.
Jimmy Rollins, SS: He’s not the same player he was four or five years ago but his skills, passion and leadership could easily make him a valuable alternative to Jose Reyes. He’s looking for four years, but an incentive laden three years plus an option for a contender may work. Both the Cardinals and Giants could go deep for his services, but San Fransisco might win out as the Cards wait on Pujols. Washington and Seattle (and don’t count out the Mets) could call on him for some veteran stability as well.
Grady Sizemore, OF: He’s not going to rate very high on anyone’s FA list due to his injury plagued past, but he’s only 29 and will be a year removed from micofracture surgery. For a big market team in need of a platoon OF/DH type, he could definitely be worth a try. Boston should be on the phone with serious consideration (after all, they used to have J.D. Drew) as could a team like the Rays. If he gets the right situation and is held to under a hundred games, it could supply enough rest to build towards his old self. He could fall somewhere between Carlos Beltran and a Josh Willingham.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B: He opted out of Chicago which may have saved Theo the buyout fee. One of the better hitting 3rd basemen in the NL, there aren’t a lot of options on the market this off-season. Definitely not Adrian Beltre but may translate as a 3B/1B/DH for an AL club. Look for the Miami Marlins to give a serious look as a Pujols fall back plan to team with Reyes and Hanley.
David Ortiz, DH/1B: see above.
Ryan Madson, RP: Like Oswalt, he’s not necessarily out of Philly, but with the steps he’s taken in the past few seasons he’s definitely sought after. The Phillies and Red Sox (depending on what they plan to do with Bard) could be at the top of the list (especially if both end up scrambling for Papelbon) but so could any big market team in need of late-inning help.
Edwin Jackson, SP: Yes, he’s a WS Champion but he’s been traded more than a few times and you really have to wonder why for such a young and seemingly capable guy. He’ll command a salary in the market (perhaps too pricey for a #4 or #5 type guy the Yankees or Red Sox need) but that could leave anyone to step-up.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: see above
Carlos Pena, 1B: His average was down but over all Pena still performed for the Cubs. Most figure he’ll land in Milwaukie to replace Prince Fielder but I could see the Rays (he has a history), Rangers (if they don’t land Fielder) and Pirates (could be cheap but established) calling as well.
Heath Bell, RP: His K’s were down but he’s still a possible alternative to Papelbon or maybe a Madson. Probably staying in San Diego, he could still command more than a few inquiries.
Francisco Rodriguez, RP: K-Rod will probably get a lot of attention as a Papelbon alternative even though he’s still a 9th inning rollercoaster. A few teams will probably call for his set-up qualities as well as closing prowess, the Reds and Red Sox among them but look for Ozzie’s Marlins to make a big push.
Josh Willingham, OF: Even though he played in the caverns of Oakland’s O.co Stadium, Willingham still posted respectable numbers. Moving to a smaller home field will probably work wonders for him. The Mets, Red Sox, Braves and Rays could come calling. Boston could be a viable option as they need a right-handed RF in Fenway to platoon.
Johnny Damon, DH/OF: Damon has transitioned well from everyday outfielder to spot starter/DH and mentor for teams with younger emerging talent just as he did in Detroit and most recently Tampa. Plus he can still hit. Arizona would appear to need someone to fill those shoes and maybe even the Cubs (Theo won a title with Johnny) but I see him staying in the AL, possibly for Toronto, Seattle or the Angels if not returning to Tampa.
Now obviously there are roughly 200 free agents on this year’s market. I’m not covering them all, just touching on some of the more notable players crossing everyone’s wish lists. There are a lot of B and C type players, veterans, rehabs and retreads who will be circulating as well. In my next post, I’ll touch upon a few more who I feel the Red Sox in particular should explore.
The clock is slowly ticking down to the start of September and the 2011 season is about to hit its stride. However, there is one helluva straightaway before we get to turn four.
Now granted, be it in NASCAR terms or whatever vehicular jargon you like, the Sox are in pit row. The pitching has since sputtered, the line-up is thumping over a blown tire and while the fuel has been fine, thinning the mix for the length of the race has been a problem. Luckily, at this point anyway, we’re not alone as our neighbors roughly 150 miles to the southwest have been in the same race.
Lackey has been anything but the ‘second ace’ we expected were getting when the ink dried on the contract. In fact, from one start to another, you’re not sure which version of the big hoss will show. Wakefield has been stuck, seemingly, in nuetral. However, in Wake’s defense, the Time Lord has pitched fairly well and kept opponents at bay as well Miller or the semi-Lackey but just hasn’t had the stability behind him. Lester is for a better word ‘back’ and Beckett is looking as if he’ll be completing a great ‘comeback’ year. Bedard, well, there is yet another question mark. Yeah, the ERA isn’t horrific but do we have time for a ‘work in progress’ we may only be renting anyway?
Youk, who’s been in and out of the line-up with various injuries (which to his credit he has attempted to play through) may have picked a ‘good’ time to go out on the DL. Big Papi was already riding the bench and should be back and well into getting his swing on by the time Youk returns. A-Gon has been hampered by a neck problem which has stolen his home run stroke and now Jacoby ‘The Machine’ Ellsbury is hitting a slight breakdown. Well, believe it or not, we should still be OK. Petey rode in the slow lane early and has picked up an MVP caliber season since while Crawford, extremely slow to adapt to his new surroundings, is again hitting his stride following the mid-season injury. Combine that with Marco, Reddick, Salty/Tek’ and the on and off mix n’ match pieces we’ve been plugging in… along with A-Gon’s ability to still hit for average if not power… we’re hanging in there.
But not by much.
Now comes the time of year where you need to take every series. Splitting a four game series won’t be enough. Now its three out of four or two of three. Sure, you can’t sweep every series, not should you expect to, but taking the series is without a doubt. So the question is… who do we need to line up in our sights and show no mercy..?
We open a four game set with the Rangers of Texas in Arlington who will obviously be no push-over and then return home for a month-ending home stand. First we see the Athletics, late of Philly and Kansas City (and possibly soon of Oakland), for a three game series and after an off day welcome the New York Highlanders for an all important AL East match-up (of course, we visit the Bronx Zoo in late September for the final weekend of the season, amidst a Baltimore sandwich series). We then open September with the final game of the Pinstripes series in the friendly confines and then welcome… guess who, the Texas Rangers for yet another volley of Defending AL Champs stew. The remainder of the month is as it should be, an AL East love-fest where we play what seems like 400 games against the Blue Jays and Rays (strangely, both teams having towns that begin with ‘T’ and names that end in ‘..’ays’) with the aforementioned Baltimore sandwich with Yankee filler.
Those same Pinstripes will be home for a series against the wandering A’s, a visit to the O’s and then have the aforementioned sleep-over at Fenway. There month however… isn’t as AL East lovey-dovey as ours. In fact, they have a West Coast road trip amidst the love-fest to visit Seattle and the Los Angeles Americans (as compared to the Los Angeles Nationals). The ‘Bombers also will play the final two weeks of the season with no day off as a one-game visit from the Twinkies will fill that date on the calendar.
So all we really need at this point is for the pitching woes to sure-up, the bullpen to get some new life and the hitting to get back on track while the opponents from the city so nice they named it twice to get some serious fatigue and jet lag, but with some of the seniors playing on their team, that might not be a problem.
(That’s a Super Friends reference by the way…)
Well, that’s the first Duckboat Parade down… and one to go. Josh Beckett apparently had that mind this evening down in Tampa, allowing just one hit and collecting his first complete game since 2009. Even sweeter coming against an AL East foe, dropping the Rays some 41/2 back in what will be a stretch where 14 of their next 30 some odd games come against the Scarlett Hose and The Pinstripes. The season is a marathon and this could be the lead in to Heartbreak Hill where we can create some distance. To me however, the best part is seeing a finally healthy, mentally focused Beckett looking like the Beckett we traded for oh so long ago and not the Beckett we were fairly hesitant to extend just a few off-seasons ago.
Meanwhile Kevin Youkilis has been nice enough to remind everyone that you just can’t pitch around this Boston Americans line-up. Well, not anymore… the adjustment period is over. If you walk one, you still have to face another. And even when you walk the AL batting leader, you have to face a guy who is not exactly a slouch and is often forgotten for being in the top 5 of AL MVP voting for a few years… sure, you can walk him too.. but then you still have the ever rejuvenated Big Papi…. and should you go around him you have the fire-starting Crawford… of course this all contingent upon the fact you haven’t been initially torched by Ellsbury and Petey in the one two holes…
… Sh!t… we have a damned good line-up.
We’re getting hip deep into the season when the All-Star game is roughly a month away and the weather ain’t the only thing heating up (especially here in Vegas). The Red Sox were enjoying the longest winning streak in the Majors this season, having outscored opponents 83-36 during that span but hit the wall against the Floridians who have been a tough play for them to date.
But streaks are like that… streaky. When one ends, you might just start another.
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 $3 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.
Frank Viola (1992-1994)
Jamie Moyer (1996)
Bret Saberhagen (1997-1999, 2001)
David Cone (2001)
Hideo Nomo (2001)
John Burkett (2002-2003)
Wade Miller (2005)
It’s pretty f*%$!n’ tough being a Boston fan this week..!
Meanwhile the Bruins, who played valiantly in Game 1 dropped it with less than two in the third. OK, I can live with that. But why in the name of Eddie Shore’s balls couldn’t Mike Murphy, the stand-in czar of discipline for the NHL, suspend that idiot Burrows for a very blatant for everyone in two North American nations to see bite on Patrice Bergeron? They say the NHL is a Man’s sport… yet at least two people (Murphy and Commissioner Bettman) lack genitals. For those of you under the baseball rock… Burrows scored two goalstonight in Gamr 2, including the OT game winner, in a game everyone in a public position to judge the sport (NHL Network, ESPN, NBC.. etc..) agreed he should have been watching at home during his one game suspension. Congrats, he earned his playoff bonus.
Now, onto the Sox.
Pap’ and ‘Tek getting tossed in the late innings? WoW! Rough one. Speaking of Varitek, does anyone remember the trade that bought him and Derek Lowe to Boston way back when? The trade Dan Duquette engineered from Seattle? For Heathcliff Slocumb… what did Peter Gammons call him, oh yeah… ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt Slocumb’. Perhaps Pap’ has now earned that unwanted and unlikely moniker. Ever wonder why the Brass have steered away from trading Bard and brought in Bobby Jenks? Could it be for that same fear in the back of the mind reason? I have to admit, I’ve lost faith in him. Beginning last season and carrying into this season, I get nervous every time I see him make his way out the pen. He’s lost a bit off his fastball and appears to just not want to adjust. The American League got over the ‘fishface’ intimidation and adjusted, but he hasn’t. Why? He’s got the talent and demeanor to be dominant… but scrapes by some of the time.
I remember the feathers he ruffled when he made the comments regarding the Bronx Bombers possibly signing him after Rivera retired… but would they really? At this point?
Beckett suffered through two plus years of oft-injured mediocrity and what may have been perceived as being too comfortable before this season (much like The Rocket back in the ’95-’96 seasons). He’s come around and is pitching like the Beckett we traded for. Is Papelbon too comfortable? Dice-K is gone (not just for the season but probably for good), Lackey is nearing a return as is Jenks and while the rest of the bullpen is in flux Pap’ needs to be the anchor. Period. Call the NESN offices and ask his majesty the Eck to give you some lessons on ‘Closing Composure’. You don’t have to be great everyday… but we can’t keep fastening our seatbelt every time we’re ‘Shipping Off to Boston’… even if the defense and Umpires seem to be working against you.
While the rest of the ‘East is West.. we need to get back in the saddle. Tonight was a hard-fought lesson in survival… let’s try to make it count. Salty is coming around, A-Gon is hitting what will be a massive Fenway stride, Papi is looking five years younger and Crawford is finding his stroke… everyone else will follow. We just need to try to get them all to follow on the same page at the same time… meanwhile, we’ll all just have a pint and chill out.
Well, yes… really.
Sure the season hasn’t started off as everyone expected (2 & 8 was actually better than the 1 & 9 I predicted) but did we really need to start slamming our fist through the panic button and then adding new panic buttons in case that panic button didn’t work? No, but we’re used to it. The fear of the old Yawkey/Harrington days still creep around in the deepest darkest parts of the Nation’s basement. Sign a few high dollar talents (usually well beyond their prime) and watch the flames of an uneven team burst and crackle for a few months…. but not this time.
Let’s face it, the Sox have been in a rebuilding mode since 2007 and this past winter was the biggest single piece of construction and brought completion for the most part to the ‘Bridging Year’. But with such an overhaul comes some transition. A-Gon appeared to adjust well, learning the AL pitching and getting used to the cozy confines of his new home field. Obviously as the New England weather begins to warm-up, so will he. With Crawford… I think there’s a definite feeling of being uncomfortable. He’s outside of his home field (a dull, lifeless concrete bubble) and thrust into a spotlight he hadn’t been exposed to in Tampa, even at his level of play. With another two weeks and a really good home stand he’ll be moving up in the line-up.
The problem we’ll be facing is the AL East… Everyone knew Baltimore had improved by signing Vlad, Lee and brought along their youth (luckily this evening was a call to days of future past giving up a 6-0 lead), just as The Jays had been coming along in the same ways… but its far too early to announce either as the new Tampa Bay Rays. However, we may be able to proclaim the Tampa Bay Rays as the new Tampa Bay Rays. Sure they lost their bullpen in the offseason. They lost speed and power in the heart of the line-up (Not just Crawford but Pena as well) and depth from the starting rotation… but again youth and veteran prowess (Damon.. obviously not the completely shameful Manny) came together seamlessly and POW!!! Three Team Race… again. Yes, the Sox are just now hitting their stride and the ‘Bombers are looking very old very quick, nevermind the implosion which may follow the Posada-gate incident (which followed the Jeter-gate incident to open the season) but the patchwork rotation and mismatched bench roster may become a glaring issue.
But as we and all of baseball know… come September the Red Sox will be a delicious orgy of mind-bending numbers.
Putting the start of the season (for the most part) behind us… there are a few other glaring issues.
How long can the Catcher’s position not produce? Yes, we love ‘Tek. He’s not just the Captain but the embodiment of the working class Scarlett Hose (just as Captain Jeter is the embodiment of the Pinstripe Royalty) and the great reminder of the glory days. He can still call a game better than anyone and handle a staff like a catcher who’ll turn future manager should… But the end is here. Salty has the makings of a scrappy, competitive catcher who could learn so much from his veteran mentor… But the time is now.
Who’s going to move once Crawford gets moved up to his proper spot in the line-up?
Should we start worrying about the back-end of the rotation?
Should we start worrying now about the state of the bullpen come August?
Do we regret the Victor Martinez trade?
Since the Dodgers are going bankrupt (was there for a game against the Braves in mid April… great game, empty stadium) should Theo start dialing for dollars and try to strike a deal for Ethier or Billingsly or both? Send ’em J.D. Drew, His Majesty the Mayor Menino, cash, food stamps, a bag of balls…
Guess we’ll see…. stay tuned.
Last year about this time, following the big victory in the World Series, the MLB universe expected John Lackey to sign with the ‘Bombers and ensure another title.
This year, many in that same universe figured the Yankees to swoop in and grab up Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth and maybe even a Cliff Lee a la the 2008 offseason of Sabathia-Burnett-Tex.
But while the Bronx Braintrust was for some reason attempting to make a villian of their single most recognizable player since Don Mattingly (of the now Los Angeles Mattingly’s by the way), the balance of power in the AL East wasn’t just shifted but left the Braintrust realizing there is a great disturbance in the Force.
With Adrian Gonzalez and his potential dominance of The Monstah’ in place, the Rebellion.. ahem, the Sox lanced the hearts of the Imperial egos by snatching up Carl Crawford. The same Carl Crawford who was speculated to be signing with either the Halos or the aformentioned ‘Bombers… because it was widely speculated the Scarlett Hose had shot their biggest salvo in trading for and silently kinda’ sorta’ extending Adrian’s contact for the next seven years or so.
For the second straight year, Theo played his role so well, no one saw it coming. Oh wait, was it no one saw it coming or that no one believed it? Last year was a ‘bridging’ year… Yuck. This year it was made very clear, the team would be making a ‘significant trade and a significant signing’. Check and Check.
Are they done… probably. Aside from the bullpen and some bits, one would believe so. But, as Theo said only hours ago when asked by the media if he’d be looking to make another siginicant position player signing or trade “I wouldn’t count anything in but I wouldn’t count anything out.”…. so who the hell knows. Rumors for Dice-K, Marco and more continue to swirl so stay tuned on that front.
Now, to continue on the Imperial theme….. following ‘Reurn of the Jedi”, the Emperor is supposedly dead, his enforcer gone (having changed his faith once more and leaving the Dark Side behind) and the long believed lowly Rebellion having gotten ‘lucky’ again the galaxy is left in question….
Since King George the Only (a 1st title isn’t fitting since there will never be another) handed control over to the Boys there seems to be, I dunno’, something different about the Bronx Bombers. They’ve always had ego and believed it should be every players desire to wear pinstripes and every fans wish to be a player who desires to wear pinstripes and we are all aware of the massive ego Steinbrenner himself exuded over the team and the lengths he would go to prove it (How’s the Hall of Fame, Dave Winfield?) but making Derek Jeter a posterboy for greed? In New York? Sure, OK.
Could there be yet another wave in the anti-Empire movement? Could it be from the players? Sure the Yankees payout for greatness, but could the new regime be sacrificing respect, integrity and common courtesy for ego? If they would turn on Jeter so quickly, a guy who never wanted to play elsewhere and really didn’t plan on free-agency to begin with, what might they do to someone who isn’t the team captain and currently representing ‘Mister Yankee’? Sure, they always say baseball is a business, but the Steinbrenner’s mean it. While the Sox are making ‘good faith’ agreements with players to complete trades, the ‘Bombers are attempting to make The Derek Jeter, the only respectable (in an RSN fashion) guy in Pinstripes (we here in the Nation just can’t learn to like Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettite no matter what) look like some decrepit hanger-on who was just looking for another big payday at their poor expense. Of course following up a few days later by saying “We have some money to spend…” Yeah, OK. Hideki Matsui wins the WS MVP and they basically tell him “We’ll get back to you when the important signings are done”… hello Halos. This season, they pretty much give word once Cliff Lee is settled, they’ll get to you and now both of the ‘big fish’ are off the market. So what happens if Lee retuns to Texas (the smarter choice for him if he can do with a few million less… after all, how much can you really spend once you’re making $10 million plus for a six month work schedule?) and they get ‘stuck with the ‘B’ level free agents? Will this be considered a massive failure on the new Co-Emperor’s part? How long could Cashman survive? How long will the most fickle fan-base keep paying for extras at a stadium where even the team doesn’t respect the fans or the players? I guess as long as the Mets continue to implode themselves all will work out fine in the New New York.
Besides it’s really fun to hear Brian Cashman have to say “That’s a great move. He’s a great player going to a great team…” Especially twice in one week.
But…. 2011 is looking like an awesome year for the old town team. With a line-up of
Dustin Pedroia #15 2B
Carl Crawford #13 LF
Adrian Gonzalez #23 1B
Kevin Youkilis #20 3B
David Ortiz #34 DH
J.D. Drew #7 RF
Jarrod Saltalamachia #39 C
– Jason Varitek #33 C (welcome back, Captain)
Marco Sutaro #16
with Lowrie, Cameron, Reddick, Nava et al off the bench….
This has indeed been an early Christmas season.
Thank You Darth Santa.