In Comic Books they are known as ‘What If?’ (Marvel) issues or ‘Elseworld’ (DC) tales, taking the established character out of their established norm and seeing what would have or could have happened if….
A decade later, we revisit called-off engagement between Rodriguez and Boston
From: Gordon Edes
They rank among the great what-might-have-been stories in Red Sox history.
What if an organization with a history of racial intolerance had given more than a sham tryout to Jackie Robinson or listened to the urgings of a scout named George Digby to sign a young outfielder named Willie Mays?
What if Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had, in the cold light of morning, decided to follow through on the trade arranged over drinks the night before with Yankees co-owner Dan Topping, one in which the Sox would have swapped Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio? (Note: This deal also was scuttled due to the Yankees reluctance to include a young catching prospect named Yogi Berra.)
And what if the Red Sox had succeeded in their audacious effort 10 years ago to acquire Alex Rodriguez, generally acknowledged as the best player in the game at the time, from the Texas Rangers?
Ten years ago Monday, Rangers owner Tom Hicks declared that effort “totally, totally dead.” He would soon send a letter to Rangers season-ticket holders pledging that Rodriguez would be the team’s shortstop on Opening Day 2004. Then, on Valentine’s Day, he traded him to George Steinbrenner’s Yankees.
With A-Rod now shamed and a shell of his former self, a player who went from being championed by the game’s ruling class to pariah, it is easy to regard Boston’s failed courtship as a blessing, a disaster averted.
But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the Sox — and A-Rod — were bitterly disappointed that it did not come to pass, this deal first proposed by Hicks to the Red Sox within days of their crushing Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.
Hicks was looking to get out from under the game’s biggest contract, a $250 million, 10-year deal that in its first three years had not lifted the Rangers out of mediocrity. He asked for Nomar Garciaparra in return. The Sox countered by offering Manny Ramirez, whom they had placed on irrevocable waivers only weeks before without any takers.
With that deal in play, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made another at the winter meetings, arranging to trade Garciaparra to the White Sox for slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez. That second trade was contingent on the A-Rod deal being approved, but when Epstein entered the hotel room of his new manager, Terry Francona, and rattled off a prospective lineup that included Johnny Damon, A-Rod, David Ortiz and Ordonez, on knees made unsteady by multiple surgeries, Francona climbed onto his bed and did an impromptu dance.
That same night, Epstein slipped out of the meetings in New Orleans and flew to New York to meet with Rodriguez and his then-wife, Cynthia. Owner John W. Henry had already met with the couple in Miami, granted extraordinary permission to do so by commissioner Bud Selig, who had run into Rodriguez at Sammy Sosa’s party in the Dominican Republic and listened to A-Rod earnestly express his desire to play for the Sox.
I was working for the Boston Globe at the time, and I, too, went to Miami to meet with Rodriguez. I liked him. He was smart, engaging and gracious. I believe he really wanted to play for the Sox. I had seen him when he’d made his major-league debut at Fenway as an 18-year-old from Miami, and I was impressed with his appreciation of Boston and what it would mean to his legacy if he would be the one who led the Sox to a World Series title after 86 years without one.
The deal was complicated and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. The Red Sox, for luxury tax reasons, wanted to reduce the value of Rodriguez’s contract by $4 million a year, a total of $28 million over the remaining seven years of his deal. That was a nonstarter for the union. Any reduction, the union lawyers said, would require “added benefits” from the Red Sox — like the Mets gave Mo Vaughn when they added two more teams to the no-trade provisions in his contract in exchange for a $500,000 reduction. The Sox tried to sell the union on an “added benefit” of allowing A-Rod the chance to opt out of his contract after two years and become a free agent, a proposal ridiculed by the union, which argued that A-Rod, because his contract was so much more than anyone else’s, probably would have been looking at a pay cut. They made a counteroffer the Sox deemed unacceptable.
Hicks, meanwhile, was seeking some immediate financial help and not only wanted the Sox to assume A-Rod’s contract, but pay a portion of Ramirez’s deal so that he could pursue some pitching in free agency. That was not going to happen. But on his own, A-Rod contacted Hicks and offered to pay, out of his own pocket, the $15 million Hicks wanted from the Sox. That’s how badly he wanted to come to Boston.
By the end of talks, there were bruised feelings on all sides. Henry was upset that Hicks had made little effort to keep negotiations quiet. Hicks was furious with Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, to the point that Tom Werner became the Sox point man with the Texas owner. Lucchino and union lawyer Gene Orza took whacks at each other. Garciaparra never recovered from the shock of learning that the Sox had sought A-Rod, even as Henry later explained he initially thought that they could have co-existed. And A-Rod resigned himself to remaining with the Rangers.
The upshot, of course, is that the Sox won two World Series in the next four seasons without A-Rod, and won their third in the 10 seasons in which Rodriguez has been a Yankee. And A-Rod alienated his longtime friend Derek Jeter, the first of many soap operas that would mark his time in New York. And then came the PED revelations.
That part of the story, sadly, would have been no different had he played for the Red Sox instead of the Yankees. But the rest of it? Ten years later, I still believe it could have gone a different way for A-Rod in Boston. Instead of a wary Jeter, he would have been embraced by David Ortiz, who remains one of his good friends in the game. He also was very close with Ordonez, who would have combined with A-Rod to more than compensate for the loss of right-handed power Ramirez represented.
He would have remained at short, where his value to the club would have been greater than it was to the Yankees at third.
In his first five seasons with the Yankees, through the 2008 season, Rodriguez hit 208 home runs. No one in baseball hit more. And Fenway is much kinder to right-handed hitters than Yankee Stadium. He was one of 10 players who had an on-base percentage greater than .400 in that time. He averaged 6.8 in WAR in that time.
Call me naïve, but I think Boston would have brought out the best in him, and he would have been loved for it.
We’ll never know, of course. And in this town, I am well aware, that’s hardly a popular thought. But there’s a part of me that has never forgotten the shining promise of that 18-year-old and laments that it has ended the way it has.
On a personal note: I was at that same game, just a few rows up and sitting between home and the visitors dugout (best seats I ever scored) for that Fenway game where an 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez debuted for Seattle. I sat close enough to see all the awe and wonder on the face of a kid who was walking out into a Cathedral to take his first big league swings. My how times changed as he was on his way to Texas!
Before the PED’s, before the even more inflated ego and sense of entitlement, I was not a fan of the proposed trade. I was a Nomar guy. I didn’t dislike A-Rod at that point, I just disliked the perceived greed and the monster contract and the handcuffs that came with it. How could you as a team hit the free agent market for pitching and additions under those circumstances? Yeesh! Sure the Yankees did it and eventually put a World Series ring on A-Rod’s finger, but we won two in the same amount of time and of course just added the third.
Would or could any of that have happened if we found A-Rod under the tree for Christmas of 2003? Maybe a ring… two at an outside chance? Luckily, this is one of those Scarlett Hose / Bronx Bombers hypotheticals we don’t have to put too much emphasis on… after all, we came out for the better.
Jacoby Ellsbury is just the latest in a long line of Red Sox who have defected (or been shipped to… let’s be fair) to the Bronx.
Yes, Babe Ruth is most famous and spawned the 86 year ‘curse’ that generations of New Englanders swore would (and in many cases did) outlive them. But to be quite serious and objective… The Babe was hardly alone.
Herb Pennock: Somewhat overshadowed by his corpulent teammate (see above), the Hall of Fame lefty went from serviceable starter with the Sawx to an ace for a Bombers ballclub that won its first World Series title in 1923 … and a few more after that.
Sad Sam Jones: Jones, dealt to Boston for Hall of Famer Tris Speaker, won 23 games for the Sox in 1921. So of course that December he was traded to the Yankees. Jones had a bumpy ride in the Bronx, but he did post 21 wins and a no-hitter for the 1923 champs.
Joe Dugan: Boston shipped Jumping Joe to New York midway through the 1922 season, and there he helped the Yanks win their second AL pennant. He’d play in five World Series in pinstripes overall. (The Bombers won three of them.)
Waite Hoyt: In case you thought the ’20s weren’t rough enough for Red Sox fans, this Hall of Fame hurler joined the Yanks in 1921 after two seasons in Boston, averaging 18 wins over the next eight seasons and winning a league-high 22 games for the famed ’27 Bombers.
Red Ruffing: Ruffing lost 20-plus games two years in a row for the Red Sox in 1928 and ’29 — then won 20 or more for the Yankees in four straight seasons, starting in 1936, en route to the Hall of Fame.
Sparky Lyle: Lyle won a Cy Young in 1977 and played on two Yankees title teams. The guys the Bombers traded for him? Danny Cater and Mario Guerrero, who hit a collective .252 in Boston and never played more than 93 games in any of their seasons with the Sox.
Luis Tiant: Unlike the previous players on our list, Tiant joined the Yankees in the twilight of his career, winning 21 games in two seasons in the Bronx (1979 and ’80) after spending several years as the ace of the Red Sox.
Wade Boggs: Boggs put up most of his numbers in Boston, but when it came time for the Hall of Fame third baseman to finally win a title, he did it in the Bronx — famously riding around Yankee Stadium on a horse in 1996.
Roger Clemens: Rocket won three Cy Young Awards in Boston, compared to just one with the Yankees. But two World Series titles (in 1999 and 2000) in the Bronx more than made up for it.
Tom Gordon: Flash became a folk hero in Boston as a starter turned All-Star closer in 1998. He even helped inspire a Stephen King novel, “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.” Did that girl become a Yankees fan when he joined the Bombers’ bullpen six years later?
Doug Mientkiewicz: Eye Chart’s career doesn’t stack up against many of the players on our list, but when the Red Sox finally won a title in 2004, he was the toast of Beantown. The Yanks picked him up in 2007 after he’d had season-long stints with the Mets and Royals.
Johnny Damon: The Caveman tormented the Yanks while a Sox star on the ’04 champs — then crushed Boston fans when he went clean-shaven and signed with the Bombers in 2006. His baserunning heroics in the 2009 World Series won’t soon be forgotten, by either fan base.
Derek Lowe: Lowe was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, helping the Sox break the Bambino’s curse. After pitching for the Dodgers, Braves and Indians, Lowe signed with the Yankees midway through the 2012 season.
Kevin Youkilis: Youk became a Yank prior to the 2013 season, but a back injury limited The Greek God of Walks to just 28 games (and eight bases on balls, if you’re scoring at home).
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.
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)