With free agents cashing in big this off-season, it’s wise for teams to revisit some of the horrible contracts of the past. From extensions for franchise players to ill-advised free agent deals, there have been countless misfires by Major League Baseball general managers and owners in recent years. Here are seven contracts that quickly turned into nightmares for the teams in question.
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Though critics were horrified by the deal, Ryan Howard was all smiles when the Phillies offered him a five-year contract extension worth $125 million. Instead of waiting until the end of his contract, which expired after 2011, the Phillies locked up their aging slugger early in 2010.
This move became a case of how not to manage a franchise’s money. Age and injury caught up with Howard quickly, making the deal a major black eye for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. Philadelphia still owes Howard $25 million per year through 2016 for what is likely going to be average production.
A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees
As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, A.J. Burnett made mincemeat of mighty Yankees lineups. When it came time for Burnett to hit free agency, it coincided with the Yankees opening their new stadium after missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. The Yankees pounced, inking the right hander to a five-year, $82.5 million deal.
Aside from a successful 2009 campaign — which culminated in the Yankees’ 27th World Series title — New York and Burnett were a disaster together. The Yankees eventually pawned off the right hander to Pittsburgh for a few no-name prospects, eating much of the remaining cash owed to Burnett in the process.
Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
The signing of Barry Zito may have sounded good in theory, but few baseball minds thought the southpaw was worth $126 million over the course of seven years. The Giants were dismayed early and often by Zito’s performance, though the lefty did contribute to one World Series win for San Francisco. Now that his contract has ended, we’re able to see what he delivered to the Giants for $126 million: In 208 appearances, Zito went 63-80 with an ugly 4.62 earned-run average.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
Too early to call? It’s possible, but it looks as if the Los Angeles Angels have an albatross on their hands with the 10-year, $240 million contract they handed to Albert Pujols after the 2011 season. Pujols has had the two worst seasons of his career thus far for the Angels, with his 2013 campaign enough to depress even the most optimistic of fans. At $24 million per year, 17 home runs simply won’t do the trick. This may turn out to be the worst contract of all time when it terminates after the 2021 season.
Carl Pavano, New York Yankees
Four years for $40 million doesn’t sound like an awful contract. However, the Yankees got next to nothing from the underachieving, tabloid-starring whipping boy that was Carl Pavano in pinstripes. Pavano was victimized by one curious injury after another while under contract for New York, with a buttocks injury keeping him out of the rotation at one point.
In terms of sheer uselessness, it’s difficult to top the Pavano contract. The right hander pitched just 145 innings in 26 appearances over four seasons for the Yankees. That amounts to $273,972 per inning.
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels
Hitting Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton behind Mike Trout sounds like the makings of a new murderers’ row, but it hasn’t panned out that way for the Angels. After signing a contract worth $125 million over five years, Hamilton hit a career-worst .250 with just 21 home runs in 2013. At $25 million per year, those numbers simply don’t cut it. The Angels will need both Hamilton and Pujols to return to form for the franchise to right itself.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
At 10 years and $275 million, there was really no way the Yankees could have gotten their money’s worth from the ill-advised contract they dished out to Alex Rodriguez at age 32. A-Rod went from MVP to PR nightmare for the Yankees, who have watched the once-epic player become an embarrassment to the organization, sport, and himself.
Both sides would benefit from a swift resolution to the pending lawsuits, suspensions, and other legal affairs hanging over Rodriguez. Once upon a time, he seemed destined to be one of Major League Baseball’s all-time greats.
I’m sure if went a little further back in the time machine, we’d find a good number of Tom Yawkey and later Lou Gorman inspired nightmares for the Sox of the 1970’s through the early 1990’s. Jack Clark ring a bell? Let’s not even get into Carl Crawford.
The Phillies are looking to trade high-priced closer Jonathan Papelbon, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
Papelbon, 33, is coming off a 2013 season in which he pitched to a 2.92 ERA, 131 ERA+ and 5.18 K/BB in 61 2/3 innings of work. Papelbon has long been one of the elite closers in the game, as he owns a stellar career ERA+ of 184 to go with 286 saves and a save percentage of 87.7.
With all that said, trading Papelbon will be a tall order for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. That’s mostly because Papelbon is still owed a minimum of $26 million over the next two seasons, and that’s not counting a $13-million vesting option for 2016. (Yes, that was an insane contract for a guy who pitches 60 to 70 innings a season.)
On top of all that, Papelbon has a partial no-trade clause, is likely past his prime and, as CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweets, has alienated some parts of the Philadelphia clubhouse.
In other words, the only way the Phillies will trade Papelbon is if they pick a large portion of his remaining tab.
Not really any surprise in the weekend signing of Jonathan Papelbon to Philadelphia’s 4 year $50 million offer sheet… unless your Ryan Madson. Well, maybe some surprise that a deal of this magnitude for the premier closer in the market actually went down before Thanksgiving… and maybe some surprise that it would be the richest deal for a relief pitcher in baseball history (given that Mariano Rivera is part of the history), but certainly not that Papelbon landed in a Phillies uniform. But there’s no need for ‘Why didn’t the Sox match?” or “Where’s the loyalty..?” or any of that pouty-faced crap.
Toronto management, in recent days, noted how the asking prices from many of the FA closers was seemingly ‘too high’… think it’s going to get better now? The Phillies have built a reputation in recent years of targeting a player they want, then through either trade or free agency, landing him. Nuff’ said. More power to them.
Papelbon, to his credit, lived up to his mercenary foreshadowing. For several years now, Pap’ had only negotiated one-year deals while building towards his dip in the free agent pool (remember a few years ago when he joked about signing with the ‘Bombers to replace Rivera?), knowing he’d make a splash. Yes, there was a surplus (if that word could ever apply) of closers in this year’s FA Market, but Papelbon was the premier closer, ready for the premier closer’s payday and jumped on it. Boston has long said (preparing for moments like these) that they prefer not to pay too heavily for relief pitchers, which is one of those double-edged swords… but either way, congrats to Papelbon for getting a massive, record-setting payday and doing so with a club that will annually contend for a championship. It was also noted that he will continue to wear #58, but will obviously be changing his intro music.
So, technically, if we believe what Ben Cherington would tell us, this should clear the way for the Sox to bring back Big Papi. Since the idea was to bring both back on deals that ‘made sense’, now it’s only Ortiz sense of fairness to deal with and it won’t be cheap to ‘show the love’. Ortiz however is in a much different situation as his options are far more limited. While several teams have ‘talked’ of their interest in Ortiz, many have not been of the big market contending types and none have been from the National League. The Pinstripes have quietly addressed Big Papi, but nothing serious as they have more internal DH candidates than external (hence letting Jorge Posada walk). While I see him landing back at Fenway, if he’s unsigned going into mid-December, it could be just to see what the left-over Prince/Pujols market in the American League will look like and then all bets are off.
With nearly 200 Free Agents on the market this winter, there’s oodles of Hot Stove speculation, especially since The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs and both the Phillies and Yankees dropped out in the first round.
Looking at the list, here are a few FA’s that I feel the Sox should give consideration and in the order most of the experts have them ranked.
C.J. Wilson, SP: Wilson is the top pitcher in the market and deservedly so. He’s won 15 games the last two seasons as part of the Texas Rangers machine but fell apart in this years playoff run. The talent pool for starters is thin and Wilson will probably command a greater price tag than the $82 million or so both John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received, and that would be a lot for a guy who’d project as the 3rd or 4th starter. Inquire but move on. (Signed by LA Angels @ Winter Meetings)
Roy Oswalt, SP: Oswalt, as he did in Philadelphia, could fill the #4 hole in the Sox rotation, but as the Phillies already established by declining his option, it won’t be for silly money. Chances are he could return to Philly, but the Rangers (he’s established in the Lone Star State) and probably Yankees will inquire with some real interest.
David Ortiz, DH/1B: Big Papi would be foolish to leave his folk-hero status in Beantown but this is a business and easily his last chance at the big paycheck. Aside from the Scarlet Hose, I feel the Angels and Rangers could be real contenders for his services while Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Cleveland test the waters. The ‘Bombers could send out a phone call or two just to p!ss of Sox fans. (Accepted arbitration from Boston)
Mark Buehrle, SP: Many ‘in the know’ have mentioned St. Louis as a possibility while others believe he’ll stay put in Chicago. He’s a good talent and calming presence worth a look. Since Texas, Miami, possibly the Angels and probably Yankees will be looking, we should too. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: Cherington has said he’d love to bring back both Ortiz and Papelbon for deals that make sense to everyone… however Pap’ is the best closer on the market and will be of interest to Philadelphia, possibly Miami (a showboat presence for a showboat manager) and any other team who can both spend big and be a contender. If he’s not in Boston, look in the Phillies bullpen. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/13)
Ryan Madson, RP: Philly could be looking to keep him as he might be an alternative to Papelbon or a Heath Bell. Madson has progressed nicely over the past few seasons and depending on what Boston plans to do with Daniel Bard or Aceves (convert them or make one closer in waiting), with or without Pap’, Ryan should be on the radar. (Signed by Cincinnati 1/11/12)
Grady Sizemore, OF: Sizemore is not the Indians slugger from just a few scant years ago, but he is still only 29 and worth a look. A year removed from microfracture surgery most believe Grady should be eased back in to a starring role, getting 70 to 80 starts as a OF/DH platoon. Rushing back to be the Cleveland slugger and star outfielder may have been what caused his several setbacks. He could be worth a one or two-year deal to a big market team with room for him in such a situation. Both he and Josh Willingham present better alternatives to Carlos Beltran (whom I omitted from this list). (Signed by Cleveland 11/29)
Heath Bell, RP: All signs point to Bell staying put in San Diego but he’s definitely worth the effort of a phone call or two should the Papelbon contract drag out or just not materialize. (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)
Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham played in Oakland whose stadium, the O.co, is massive and still put out 15 homers and a respectable slugging percentage. Now, put that right-handed bat in Fenway and watch his numbers flourish. He could platoon well in RF and present a viable option to Carlos Beltran. (Signed by Minnesota 12/14)
Paul Maholm, SP: A left-hander on the market is going to get attention no matter what (see Darren Oliver and soon to be returning Jamie Moyer), so at 29 Maholm could be worth a look. He finished the season with a shoulder problem sending him to the DL, but his consistency to cause grounders could be a great lefty complement to Lester in the rotation. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/10/12)
Jonathan Broxton, RP: He’s a reclamation project coming back from non-reconstructive elbow surgery, but then again the Sox love those low-risk high-reward incentive laden contract players. With the way the bullpen collapsed in September, call him. (Signed by KC Royals 11/29)
Kerry Wood, RP: Wood has salvaged his career as a late-inning specialist (if only Brad Penny would follow his lead) and put the gloom of lost potential in the past. The Sox considered him at the trade deadline the last two seasons, so there’s no reason not to consider him now. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/13/2012)
Jim Thome, DH: Thome could present a poor man’s solution to David Ortiz should Big Papi take his talents elsewhere. Thome is a legendary clubhouse presence and could still hit a few of those HOF home runs at Fenway’s friendly confines. I expect he’ll return to Cleveland (if the Indians ‘do the right thing’) but anyone in the AL who can’t land Ortiz or Beltran may come calling. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/5)
Hideki Matsui, DH/OF: Like Thome, Godzilla could find a late career flourish in Fenway as Big Papi’s replacement. He’s still a threat in the middle of the line-up and my gut tells me he’ll continue the pilgrimage north (LA to Oakland) to Seattle and play alongside Ichiro for the Japanese owned Mariners.
Takashi Saito, RP: He’s older but still a workable component to a bullpen. Plus, we’ve had him before. Worth the look. (Signed by Arizona 12/12)
Jason Varitek, C: ‘Tek appeared to adapt well to his new role of mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season. As a tag team, their numbers were comparable to many others at catcher in the league, especially during the mid-months when the Sox were the best team in all of baseball. Ryan Lavarnway is still at least a half-season from a steady role on the big club, and while some have called for any old veteran to back-up ‘Salty, I say stick with what works. Let him continue to groom Jarrod, then work more with Lavarnway and transition from mentor to his next life as an MLB coach and future manager. His silence during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ and ‘Pitcher-gate’ (after all, he is The Captain) is the only reason I could see him not being offered a return. As many Yankees fans have noted in regards to FA Jorge Posada, I can’t see ‘Tek in another uniform.
Tim Wakefield, SP/RP: Like Varitek, The Time Lord is a proven veteran commodity for the Sox. He can pitch from wherever he is asked to and can flash that knuckleball on many an occasion. He’s 6 wins away from tying both Clemens and Young for all time on the Red Sox wins list, and could easily get there with a solid rebound year. While he too was silent during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ as well as ‘Pitcher-gate’, he’s an established veteran that could assist the new manager in the rotation, bullpen and clubhouse. Though, like in the case of ‘Tek, it may just be sentimentality.
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.
“Well, if you’re going to make up some ground.. better do it now. The next two weeks are slightly different for the Pinstripes than the Scarlett Hose. The Yanks will be returning from Redlegs country to face the Rockies and the Brewers in The Bronx Zoo…. with neither team having been overly impressive lately. July opens with ‘Subway’ series @ Citi Field and depending on the fill-ins for the ‘Bombers, it could be a fairly even match (should the Metropolitans still be fairly streaky). The Boston Americans meanwhile will be taking on the entire state of PA with stops to meet Captain Jack Sparrow’s Bucs and then the pitching goliath known as Philadelphia Philadelphias (which I might add, many have picked as the World Series showdown this season.. PHI pitching versus BOS hitting). From there it is into Houston… so as you can see, two thirds of that trip will be fairly uncomfortable.
So fear not Virginia… like your summer, things are about to get more exciting and a lot warmer.”
As Captain James T. Kirk once said, “Those words were spoken by me.” I made this comment back on the 21st in response to Miss Virginia’s ‘Bomber’s Blog (http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com/ which is a recommended read)… I’m a friggin’ genius… oh joy. Why can’t I pick lottery winners this well? Well that’s fine, now the Scarlett Hose can feel free to live up to my prophecy and kick some Texan ass in Houston to make up the lost ground on the Pinstripes. The standings as of this second read something like this…
The New York Highlanders
The Boston Americans (2.5)
The Tampa Bay Smokers (4.0)
The Toronto Blue Jays (9.5)
The Baltimore Browns* (12.5)
*note: Formerly the St. Louis Browns (or original Milwaukee Brewers) not to be confused with the former Cleveland Browns. So Baltimore can’t keep it’s own teams and colors (team called the Yankees, colors went to the NY Baseball Giants) but keep taking other city’s teams named ‘Browns’ who happen to share the color scheme? Whatever works.
If we can take the Colt .45’s before heading into the last home stand before the break where we face the lower half of the AL East in the Maple Birds and O’s we should be in fairly good shape to set fire in the second half. We’ll have to be since the Eastern Division love-fest continues with trips to Tampa and the aforementioned Baltimore. The month will run through with a home stand against the Seattle Nintendos (think Ichiro could be moved by then?) and Kansas City Royalty. We close with a visit to the Chicago Bleached Hose who haven’t been especially nice this season. Riding into the break on a high note could be fairly important as the Pinstripe’s will be looking at a fairly matched schedule coming out of the second half gate. They’ll close out with a Subway series at Citi Field against the still surging Metropolitans then travel to Cleveland to face Chief Wa-Hoo’s tribe before finally closing in the Bronx Zoo against the Rays. They then get hip deep in the love-fest as they travel to both Toronto and Tampa before returning to the House That Ruth Financed to play the Athletics (diggin’ those yellow retro uniforms) and the Nintendos before closing the month with the O’s.
This past week was to be the preview of the Fall Classic… well, let’s hope we fare better in the fall. But like a few of the MLB and BB Tonight analysts have said, “This was just a feeling out period…” Curt Schilling did raise a fairly interesting point though, that the emphasis now has to fall on the All-Star Game because home-field in the World Series could make or break the series. Think of the Sox having to open at Philly versus their fully healthy rotation with no DH? (And before anyone out there starts giving me protests over “How do you know it will be the Sox?” Fine. Think of the Yankees doing it, cause if it isn’t an AL East team versus the Phillies in the World Series you better pack your sh!t and jump in the TARDIS because the Earth will have officially fallen off it’s axis… ’nuff said)
Congratulations go out to ‘Tito’ for winning his 700th game as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Throw in two Championship titles since he took over in 2004 and I’d say he’s done a lot better than the people in Philadelphia ever imagined. Also, Jon Lester’s victory on Wednesday was the 100th decision of his career (71-29). For all he’s been through in his still young career and developing into his prime, kudos to him.
A few more former members of the Boston Americans who made an impact while in Scarlett Hose for consideration. Again, they’re members of the Red Sox Hall of Fame and on the Bubble.
And yes, there just might be yet another controversial pick….
Bill Lee, nicknamed “Spaceman”, played for the Boston Red Sox from 1969-1978 and on November 7, 2008, Lee was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame as the team’s record-holder for most games pitched by a left-hander (321) and the third-highest win total (94) by a Red Sox southpaw. In addition to his baseball experience, Lee is known for his adherence to counterculture behavior, his antics both on and off the field, and his use of the Leephus pitch, a personalized variation of the eephus pitch. Lacking a good fastball, Lee developed off-speed pitches, including a variation of the Eephus pitch. The Leephus pitch or Space Ball, the names for Lee’s take on the eephus pitch, follows a high, arcing trajectory and is very slow. Lee was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher during the first four years of his career. During that period, Lee appeared in 125 games, starting in nine, and compiled a 19-11 record. In 1973, he was used primarily as a starting pitcher. He started 33 of the 38 games in which he appeared and went 17-11 with a 2.95 Earned Run Average, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He followed 1973 with two more 17-win seasons. He started two games in the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His first start came in Game 2 of the series which the Reds won 3-2. In Game 7, Lee shut out the Reds for five innings and the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead. Lee left with a blister and the Red Sox lost the game by a score of 4-3, and the 1975 World Series four games to three. During the 1978 season, Lee and Red Sox manager Don Zimmer engaged in an ongoing public feud over the handling of the pitching staff. Lee’s countercultural attitude and lack of respect for authority clashed with Zimmer’s old-school, conservative personality. Lee and a few other of the more anti-authority Red Sox formed what they called “The Buffalo Heads” as a response to the manager. Zimmer retaliated during the season by relegating Lee to the bullpen and convincing management to trade away some of them, including Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and Bernie Carbo. Jersey #37
Bruce Hurst and Roger Clemens will forever be remembered as one of the best one-two punches in the Red Sox history. Hurst was a specialist at changing speeds. Consistently good but never overpowering hitters, his fastball was hard enough to get in on right-handed hitters, and he mixed it with an excellent curve and a slider as well. He also had a decent forkball at times. Thanks to his great control, Hurst was able to work corners well and had a profuse knowledge of each hitter. He won 88 games for the Red Sox in a span of nine years, posting his best season in 1988 with an 18-6 record. In 1986, despite spending six midsummer weeks on the disabled list with a pulled groin, Hurst posted a 2.99 ERA with 13 victories and helped lead the Red Sox to the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. He won Game 1 1-0 and Game 5 4-2 to give Boston a 3-2 lead in the Series. The score in Game 6 stood at 3-3 after nine innings. The Red Sox scored in the top of the tenth on a home run by Dave Henderson, then added an insurance run. With nobody on and two outs in the bottom of the tenth, the Shea Stadium scoreboard was all set to display “Congratulations Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions”, with Hurst being selected as the World Series Most Valuable Player. Suddenly, the Mets rallied to win the game with three runs, forcing decisive Game 7. With three days rest, Hurst had given up only three singles through six innings and left the game tied 3-3. The rest is history, with the Mets winning the World Championship. Believers of “The Curse of the Bambino” have pointed out the letters in the name BRUCE HURST can be re-arranged as B RUTH CURSE. Jersey #47
Jerry Remy was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the 1977 season and continued as the Red Sox starter at second in 1978, being selected to play in the All-Star Game, in which he did not appear. He continued as their starting second basemen for the next six seasons, although he was often hampered by injuries. Bill James, in his Historical Abstract rated him as the 100th greatest second baseman of all time as of 2002. Since 1988, Remy has found success in broadcasting, working for the New England Sports Network (NESN), as the color commentator for all NESN Red Sox broadcasts. Since 2001, Remy has been teamed with play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo. NESN celebrated Jerry Remy Day on June 24, 2008, in honor of Remy’s 20 years of service for the network. He is currently serving as the first president of Red Sox Nation. Jerry Remy was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006. Jersey #2
Fred Lynn, after graduation from USC, started his career for the Red Sox with a phenomenal 1975 season in which he won the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards, the first player ever to win both in the same season. (The feat has since been duplicated by Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.) Lynn and fellow rookie outfielder Jim Rice were dubbed as the “Gold Dust Twins” because of their combined baseball talents. In 1975, Lynn led the American League in doubles, runs scored and slugging percentage, finished second in the batting race with a .331 average, and won a Gold Glove Award for his defensive play. On June 18 he bombed the Tigers with 3 HR, 10 RBI, and 16 total bases in one game. Unfortunately, Lynn found it difficult to duplicate the extraordinary success of his first season, and was hampered by injuries. These sometimes were caused by fearless play, such as a broken rib caused by crashing into an outfield wall, or knee injuries from breaking up double plays, but most were simply of the nagging variety, such as strains and sprains. Although he didn’t maintain the same level of his rookie season, he still excelled, winning three more Gold Gloves in 1978-80 and finishing 4th in the 1979 MVP voting, while being elected to the All-Star team every year with the Red Sox. Jersey #19.
Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis, nicknamed “The Million Dollar Outfield“. In 1910 the Red Sox signed Duffy Lewis, who became the left fielder, and, with Speaker and Harry Hooper would form Boston’s “Million-Dollar Outfield”, one of the finest outfield trios in baseball history, playing together until Speaker was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1916. Harry Hooper, who batted left-handed and threw right-handed, broke into the majors with the Red Sox in 1909, and still holds many of the team’s records. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in the 1921 season and finished his career in 1925. On May 30, 1913 Hooper became the first player to hit a home run to lead off both games of a doubleheader, a mark only matched by Rickey Henderson 80 years later. Beside this, Hooper is the only person to be a part of four Red Sox World Series championships: in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918. On October 13, 1915, he became the first player to hit two home runs in a single World Series game. Hooper was also the captain of the Red Sox in 1919. Tris Speaker, considered one of the best offensive and defensive center fielders in the history of Major League Baseball, compiled a career batting average of .345 (fourth all-time), and still holds the record of 792 career doubles. Defensively, his career records for assists, double plays, and unassisted double plays by an outfielder still stand as well. His fielding glove was known as the place “where triples go to die.” Speaker helped lead the Boston Red Sox to two World Series championships. As a manager (for Cleveland) his innovations, most notably the platoon system and the infield rotation play, revolutionized the game. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in its second year of voting, 1937. Duffy Lewis won three World Series championships with the Red Sox (1912, 1915, 1916) and is considered perhaps one of the best ever in fielding skill. At bat, Lewis was a renowned line-drive hitter who consistently finished in the top ten in most offensive categories despite a short career which was interrupted by World War I.
Mo Vaughn became the center of the Red Sox’s line-up in 1993, hitting 29 home runs and contributing 101 RBIs. In 1995, he established a reputation as one of the most feared hitters in the American League when he hit 39 home runs with 126 RBIs and a .300 average. He also garnered 11 stolen bases. His efforts, which led the Red Sox to the playoffs (only to lose to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series), were rewarded with the American League MVP award. Vaughn had his career year with the Red Sox in 1996, batting an average of .326, playing in 161 games, with 44 home runs, and 143 RBIs. On May 30, 1997 playing a game against the Yankees, Vaughn went 4-for-4 with three solo homers in the Red Sox’s 10-4 win over the Yankees. Vaughn continued to improve over the next several seasons, batting .315 or higher from 1996 to 1998 and averaging 40 home runs and 118 RBIs. The Red Sox lost in the American League Division Series in 1998, once again to the Cleveland Indians, although Vaughn played well, hitting two home runs and driving in seven runs in game one. Vaughn formed a formidable middle of the lineup with shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The two combined for 75 home runs in 1998, Vaughn’s final year with the club. He was noted for “crowding the plate”; his stance was such that his front elbow often appeared to be hovering in the strike zone, which intimidated pitchers into throwing wide and outside. Jersey # 42
Kevin Millar played for the Marlins between 1998 and 2002, and was later sold to the Japanese Central League Chunichi Dragons. In order for the transaction to be completed, he first had to clear the waivers requested by the Marlins, but the Red Sox broke an “unwritten rule” and blocked the deal with a waiver claim. In an unprecedented deal brokered by MLB, the Marlins later repaid the money that the Dragons had paid for Millar, and the Sox also paid a similar sum to the Marlins in return for Millar. He became a clubhouse favorite and a sort of cult hero for the Red Sox fans because of his iconic “Cowboy Up” rallying cry. His clubhouse presence and offensive production helped spark the Red Sox to the 2003 American League Championship Series and the 2004 World Series. Millar was active in team interviews and conversations throughout the playoffs. He was often outspoken and made friends with many teammates. During the 2003 playoffs, Millar came up with the phrase “Cowboy Up,” and in 2004 referred to his team as “idiots” to keep his teammates loose during the stretch run to the World Series Championship. Probably one of his most memorable quotes came during the 2004 American League Championship Series when, while warming up before Game 4, with the Red Sox down 3 games to 0 against the arch-rival New York Yankees, he kept repeating “Don’t let us win tonight!” Further developing on that quote, he added “This is a big game. They’ve got to win because if we win we’ve got Petie coming back today and then Schilling will pitch Game 6 and then you can take that fraud stuff and put it to bed. Don’t let the Sox win this game.” These words became prophetic as the Sox rallied in 12 innings in game 4 to win 6-4 and went on to come from behind and win the ALCS 4 games to 3, capping off the biggest comeback in MLB playoff history and setting the stage to bring about death to the Curse of the Bambino. Jersey # 15
Curt Schilling began his professional career in the Red Sox farm system as a second-round pick in what would be the final January draft in MLB. He began his professional career with the Elmira Pioneers, a then Red Sox affiliate. After two and a half years in the minor leagues, he and Brady Anderson were traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1988 for Mike Boddicker. In November 2003, the Diamondbacks traded Schilling to the Boston Red Sox. The trade to Boston reunited Schilling with Terry Francona, his manager during his final four years with the Philadelphia Phillies. This move meant Schilling and Francona have been part of the rivalries of both New York City baseball teams, though neither were on the New York side (New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox and New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies).
On September 16, 2004, Schilling won his 20th game of the 2004 for the Red Sox, becoming the fifth Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the team, and the first since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1978. Schilling ended his regular season with a 21–6 record. On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS. These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”. The win forced a Game 7, making the Red Sox the first team in MLB history to come back from a three-games-to-none deficit. The Red Sox would go on to win Game 7 and the ALCS and make their first World Series appearance since 1986. Schilling pitched (and won) Game 2 of the 2004 World Series for the Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals. In both series, he had to have the tendon in his right ankle stabilized repeatedly, in what has become known as the Schilling Tendon Procedure, after the tendon sheath was torn during his Game 1 ALDS appearance against the Los Angeles Angels. As in Game 6 of the ALCS, Schilling’s sock was soaked with blood from the sutures used in this medical procedure, but he still managed to pitch seven strong innings, giving up one run on four hits and striking out four. This second bloody sock was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame after Boston’s victory over St. Louis in the World Series. A four-game sweep of the World Series erased the Curse of the Bambino. Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana, who was a unanimous selection, receiving all 28 first-place votes. Schilling received 27 of the 28 second-place votes. Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice.
In 2006 he began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA. On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat.On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez. On June 7, 2007, Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter. Schilling gave up a two-out single to Oakland’s Shannon Stewart, who lined a 95-mph fastball to right field for the A’s only hit. Schilling continued his career postseason success in 2007, throwing seven shutout innings in a 9–1 victory over the Angels in the ALDS, wrapping up a three-game sweep for Boston. However, he did not fare as well pitching in Game 2 of the ALCS against Cleveland, surrendering nine hits—two of them home runs—and five earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings. He did start again in the sixth game of the series, pitching seven complete innings during which he recorded five strikeouts, surrendering no walks with only two earned runs to gain the victory and force a Game 7. He earned his third win of the 2007 playoffs in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series leaving after 5 1/3 innings, striking out four while allowing only four hits. With this win, he became only the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game (Kenny Rogers became the first just one year prior). As Schilling departed in the 6th inning, fans at Fenway Park gave Schilling a standing ovation in what would eventually be his final game. Schilling retired with a career postseason record of 11–2. His .846 postseason winning percentage is a major-league record among pitchers with at least 10 decisions. Jersey # 38