Red Sox December 2004

December 27, 2004

 

Subject to Change

 

Things sure can change quickly.

 

A week ago, the Red Sox were in need of a starting catcher, help for an aging and brittle rotation and something fans could hang their collective hats on. Good news. Jason Varitek was re-signed (and made captain), Wade Miller was added to the rotation and suddently things don’t look so bad.

 

Varitek’s re-signing is not only a boost to the line-up, it is most certainly a boost to the pitching staff. The Red Sox admitted as much themselves, Varitek brings many intangibles to the table. One being his ability to work with pitchers.

 

The Red Sox line-up was going to be good starting off 2005 with or without Varitek, but his on-base ability and power should not be discounted.

 

A quick look at the projected 2005 opening day line-up without Varitek and with Varitek. I used Mike Matheny as his replacement. In other words, this is his impact on the starting nine based on last year’s (2004) stats.

 

Without Varitek (Matheny instead):

 

Player Pos Avg G AB R H HR RBI BB SB PA OBP SLG OPS
Damon cf .304 150 621 123 189 20 94 76 19 702 .380 .477 .857
Bellhorn 2b .264 138 523 93 138 17 82 88 6 620 .373 .444 .817
Ramirez lf .308 152 568 108 175 43 130 82 2 663 .397 .613 1.009
Ortiz dh .301 150 582 94 175 41 139 75 0 669 .380 .603 .983
Millar 1b .297 150 508 74 151 18 74 57 1 588 .383 .474 .857
Nixon rf .315 48 149 24 47 6 23 15 0 167 .377 .510 .887
Matheny c .247 122 385 28 95 5 50 23 0 419 .292 .348 .640
Renteria ss .287 149 586 84 168 10 72 39 17 642 .327 .401 .728
Mueller 3b .283 110 399 75 113 12 57 51 2 460 .365 .446 .811
Totals .290 1169 4321 703 1251 172 721 506 47 4930 .366 .484 .850

 


With Varitek:

 

Player Pos Avg G AB R H HR RBI BB SB PA OBP SLG OPS
Damon cf .304 150 621 123 189 20 94 76 19 702 .380 .477 .857
Bellhorn 2b .264 138 523 93 138 17 82 88 6 620 .373 .444 .817
Ramirez lf .308 152 568 108 175 43 130 82 2 663 .397 .613 1.009
Ortiz dh .301 150 582 94 175 41 139 75 0 669 .380 .603 .983
Millar 1b .297 150 508 74 151 18 74 57 1 588 .383 .474 .857
Nixon rf .315 48 149 24 47 6 23 15 0 167 .377 .510 .887
Varitek c .296 137 463 67 137 18 73 62 10 536 .390 .482 .872
Renteria ss .287 149 586 84 168 10 72 39 17 642 .327 .401 .728
Mueller 3b .283 110 399 75 113 12 57 51 2 460 .365 .446 .811
Totals .294 1184 4399 742 1293 185 744 545 57 5047 .375 .496 .870

 


I’m not trying to pick on Mike Matheny, from all accounts, he is a valuable catcher, but there is no doubt Varitek is far superior with the bat. His presence forced pitchers to work hard as evidenced by his .390 OBP. A .390 OBP, with a .482 SLG is potent, especially when it is your catcher.

 

I have to admit I’m not fond of spending $10m or more on a single player per season. Then again, it isn’t my money….wait, it is my money. I spend $40 to sit in right field grandstand seats that face the bleachers, slowly, but surely, sever my patella tendon and force me to go far too long without refreshments. Ok, got a bit fired up there. What I mean is that the Red Sox are fortunate in that they can spend a bunch of money, but I do believe they have a budget and each bad signing impacts their ability to sign good players for the future.

 

So spending $10m or more on one person is crazy to me, but in this case, I’m ok with it.

 

Theo Epstein has once again assembled a line-up that gives the opposing pitchers no rest. In the National League, a pitcher can count on the 8th hitter and the 9th hitter (the pitcher) as some time off. They aren’t guaranteed outs, but they are easier outs.

 

In the American League, there isn’t the luxury of facing the opposing pitcher in the 9th spot, but there still are some easier outs there. In 2005, the Red Sox will put forth a line-up of discipled hitters. Edgar Renteria is the lone weak spot in on-base-percentage at .327 in 2004, but that was an anomoly considering his career OBP is .346. Not great, but not bad either. Renteria did post a .394 OBP in 2003.

 

Wade Miller, in my book, is a great signing. He is guaranteed only $1.5m in 2005, but can reportedly earn an addition $3m in incentives.

 

Miller comes on the cheap because A.) He was released by the Houston Astros and B.) Because he has a frayed rotator cuff. He was shut down last year to rehab the shoulder so he could get ready for 2005. He did not undergo any surgical procedures, so his rehab is limited to strength and flexibility work. Much like Pedro Martinez after he was diagnosed with a partially torn/frayed rotator cuff in 2001.

 

If it is possible to draw comparisons between Miller’s and Martinez’s injuries, then we might expect some slippage in Miller’s fastball for 2005. Martinez used to throw 95-97mph at will, but once he went down with shoulder problems in 2001, his regular fastball topped out at 91mph.

 

Now I can’t hit a 30mph fastball throw by a little-leaguer, but I’ve heard the difference to major league hitters is drastic.

 

The addition of Miller pushes the 5-man rotation to a 6-man rotation. That’s ok though as Curt Schilling has publicly stated he doesn’t think he’ll be ready until May.

 

So get ready for these five:

 

David Wells
Wade Miller (if healthy)
Matt Clement
Bronson Arroyo
Tim Wakefield

 

It’d be a bit better with Schilling anchoring that staff though…

 

Lastly, it looks like the bench players will be Kevin Youkilis, Jay Payton (platoon with Trot Nixon in right as Nixon can’t hit lefties), Doug Mirabelli, Doug Mientkiewicz and Ramon Vazquez. It is safe to assume either Kevin Millar or Doug Mientkiewicz will be traded before April 4, 2005. If that’s the case, perhaps Youkilis and Vazquez will be the infield back-ups, Payton will be the primary outfield back-up, Mirabelli the back-up catcher and perhaps an Adam Hyzdu, or Adam Stern will be the 5th man on the bench.

 

Regardless of how it falls into place, the Red Sox will once again have a pretty good bench. It might not be as good as 2004, but so be it. I’m interested to see if Epstein and Terry Francona will give Youkilis more time at firstbase.

 

Well, have no fear New England, the Red Sox are looking solid going into 2005. I still maintain there will be a major starting pitching acquisition by the 2005 trading deadline, so what you see now is probably not what you’ll get by August 2005.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2004

 

Out with the old…

 

I suppose I got my wish. In my last post, I asked for the Pedro negotiations to be done quickly. Well they wrapped up quickly and Pedro is now a New York Met.

 

I don’t know what to say about his parting shots. Peter Gammons made a great point in his 12/18 column that Pedro chose to talk about the Red Sox at his press conference instead of the New York Mets. That might show you how committed he is to New York.

 

Regardless, he is a goner and Red Sox management acted fairly quickly, but probably not completely. They signed Matt Clement to a 3 year, reported $25m – $25.5m contract. Because Clement hasn’t taken his physical yet, the deal hasn’t been formally announced by the Red Sox. Contract details are still sketchy.

 

Here is the 2005 Red Sox team for the most part:

 

Rotation

 

Curt Schilling
David Wells
Matt Clement
Tim Wakefield
Bronson Arroyo

 

Bullpen

 

Keith Foulke
Mike Timlin
Alan Embree
Matt Mantei
John Halama
Byung-Hyun Kim

 

Line-up

 

c – Varitek???
1b – Millar/Mientkiewicz
2b – Bellhorn
3b – Mueller
ss – Renteria (WEEI told us he’d be called Edg-a Renterier soon)
lf – Ramirez
cf – Damon
rf – Nixon
dh – Ortiz

 

Bench
Youkilis
Mirabelli
Millar/Mientkiewicz

 

That equals only 23 I think, so there is a bit more work to be done.

 

How many of you are happy with the line-up? I would imagine, assuming they re-sign Varitek (not a given certainly), that most would be very happy.

 

How many of you are happy with the bullpen? Ditto.

 

How many are happy about the rotation? Here is the problem. I bet most are a bit concerned about this. So, what can be done?

 

I don’t know. I believe though that Theo Epstein is going to save his remaining trade bait and go after one of the premier starters in baseball.

 

Who are the premier starting pitchers? Good question. I had this debate last night while enjoying a tall wobbly pop with 2 friends. I could be like Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons and refer to them as “Shooter” and “Bulldog” but in fact, their names are Chad and Matt. Lame, I know.

 

Anyway, we came up with the following players:

 

True # 1’s
Jason Schmidt
Curt Schilling
Roy Oswalt
Ben Sheets (while acknowledging he’s only had 1 great year)
Johan Santana
Randy Johnson

 

Borderline # 1’s
Pedro Martinez (slipped in 2004)
Kerry Wood (injuries)
Mark Prior (injuries)
Tim Hudson (injuries)
Rich Harden (youth)
Mike Mussina (off-year, injuries)
Oliver Perez (youth)
Roger Clemens (would have been a true # 1, but might retire making him iffy)

 

Basically we all agreed on the first list and each had differing opinions on the second list. Additionally, I might have forgotten a name or two, but you get the idea.

 

The reason I brought this question up was because I’m convinced Epstein will pull off a trade between now and the 2005 non-waiver trade deadline (late July 2005) for one of these guys.

 

You can probably eliminate Pedro (gee,I wonder why), Johnson (doesn’t want to play in Boston), Santana (because is he young and cheap right now), the same can be said about Perez and Harden (both young and inexpensive).

 

Mussina, (too expensive), Hudson (just landed in Atlanta), Clemens (might retire but has publicly said he’d either pitch in Houston or not at all).

 

That leaves, Sheets, Schmidt, Oswalt, Woods and Prior.

 

It’d be tough to pry Schmidt loose as he is the anchor for the Giants staff. They can afford him and really need him. Woods and Prior would also be tough. Chicago needs them but each also has health worries that might scare the Red Sox off.

 

Lastly you have Sheets and Oswalt. Doug Melvin, the GM of the Milwaukee Brewers, has stated he will not trade Sheets. That might be true given Sheets won’t be eligible for free agency until 2007 and is just entering elite status. Still, it’ll be tough for the Brewers to give him enough money to convince him to forgo his first year of free agent eligibility, so they might be forced to unload him for prospects/players rather than lose him for nothing.

 

That leaves Oswalt. He is going to be a free agent in 2007, just like Sheets. He already made $3.25 this year in his first arbitration eligible year. He’ll probably make about $6-8mm this year given he did win 20 games in 2004. Houston might determine they just can’t afford Oswalt after 2005. Should that happen, he might be put on the trading block.

 

Looking again at the overall list, it’ll be tough to acquire anyone of these guys. But it can happen, just look at the trades of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and the pending trade of Randy Johnson.

 

Anyway, my money is on Epstein getting one of these guys. Otherwise, a rotation of Schilling, Wells, Clement, Wakefield and Arroyo, is subject to age related injuries (Schilling, Wells and Wakefield), inconsistency (Clement, Wakefield and Arroyo) and a general lack of star power.

 

With Hanley Ramirez, Jon Lester, Jon Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Moss and Dustin Pedroia to name a few, Epstein certainly has the bullets to make a big trade.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

 

The Winter Meetings

 

The rumors are hot and heavy in Anaheim. Too many to mention them all in fact.

 

Here are the supposed done deals for the Red Sox:

 

David Wells – Theo Epstein got a bit creative here. The breakdown looks like this:

 

2 years
$3mm signing bonus
Salaries of $2.5mm in 2005 & 2006
Incentives – $200k for starts 11-20 & $300k for starts 21-30.

 

So if Boomer can make 30 starts both seasons, he can make a total of $18mm over 2 years. Interesting. I’ll be honest, at first glance at the 2 year, $18mm headline, I almost fainted. That is a bunch of money for a 41-year-old (he’ll be 42 in May).

 

Then I saw the structure and felt a bit better. Basically Wells is due $8mm in guaranteed money. The other $10mm is based on his performance. I’m sure many think this deal is too expensive, but I’m ok with it. If Wells is able and allowed to start 30+ starts per season, that means he pitched well. If not, that means he either got hurt or pitched so poorly that Francona took him out of the rotation.

 

So, if he pitches well, he gets the full $18mm and the Red Sox get 2 good years. If he pitches poorly, he gets far south of $18mm and the Red Sox limit their losses.

 

John Halama – I was surprised by this one. Again, it took me some research to get on board with this. It is a short contract and reasonably short money.

 

1 year, $1mm.

 

Halama has been a serviceable major leaguer. I remember him mostly from his days in Seattle. With a 4.52 career ERA though, I was initially skeptical. Then I read, on ESPN I believe, that he was going to be used as a reliever and nothing else. That is good news.

 

Over the past 3 seasons, here are Halama’s splits:

 

Starter
ERA WHIP W L IP K
5.30 1.58 12 11 192 92

 

Reliever
ERA WHIP W L IP K
2.64 1.14 4 5 126.1 88

 

I’m not sure I expected to see such extremes. Perhaps Halama approaches a relief appearances as a “let it all hang out” thing. I have no idea. Just glad he’ll be in the pen and not the rotation.

 

Matt Mantei – The former Arizona Diamondbacks closer is looking to rebound from a terrible 2004.

 

1 year, $750k with additional incentives (I haven’t seem the specifics yet).

 

I see this is a small gamble with big upside. Mantei has a career 3.86 era and has averaged 1.27 strikeouts per inning. He only went 10 innings last season due mostly to shoulder problems.

 

If Mantei can rebound, a great signing. If not, only $750k down the drain. Easy for me to say….

 

Some of the rumors:

 

Edgar Renteria – I would love to see this guy in a Red Sox uniform, but at 4 years, $40mm? That seems steep. I had an interesting discussion yesterday. Who would you rather have, Renteria or Julio Lugo? First off, I realize Lugo has had some domestic issues that make him, perhaps, less than ideal for an organization aiming to be fan friendly, but as a player, I was surprised to see how close Lugo and Renteria actually are performance-wise.

 

I won’t bore you with the details, but take a look at Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo on Baseball-Reference.com. As batters (OBP & SLG), runners (Steal %) and defenders (fld % & range), they are fairly close.

 

Anyway, the latest rumors now indicates a deal with Renteria, originally thought complete, is now not as likely.

 

Pedro Martinez – Rumor has it that a deal is basically in place, only dollars remain unsettled. In other words, the basic premise of the deal is NOT in place. I’d like Pedro back, but not at the cost of financial flexibility. Additionally, I’m getting tired of how long this is taking. Either re-sign or beat it Pedro.

 

Jason Varitek – Another instance where many people thing it is a forgone conclusion Varitek will re-sign. A local paper today suggested that with only the Pittsburgh Pirates in need of a catcher (and they can’t possibly meet Varitek’s asking price), the Red Sox have the leverage on this. They’ve supposedly offered 4 years at $9mm per. Varitek wants 4 years at $10mm per. Theymight be happy to let Varitek and his agent Scott Boras drift in the wind a few weeks. Just figure it out boys.

 

Jay Payton and Ramon Vazquez – A trade of Dave Roberts and Byung-Hyun Kim (that is BH Kim, not BK Kim) to the San Diego Padres in return for Payton and Vazquez.

 

Payton would be the 4th outfielder and Vazquez the utility infielder.

 

Roberts wants to start again and while he would be ideal for the Red Sox bench, Epstein is going to try and get him to another team to start again. I think if Epstein succeeds here, he will be buying himself a great deal of respect from many ball players in the league. Let’s face it, not every GM would try and trade a guy for the purpose of letting him start again.

 

Payton would be a solid addition. Like Gabe Kapler, Payton was once highly touted, but never really put it all together. So him landing in Boston might be a good fit. I don’t know a thing about Vazquez, but I do see he has played a bunch of the infield positions and is average with the bat. Payton stands to earn $3.5mm in 2005, but if the Red Sox can unload Kim and his $6mm salary, great.

 

Kazuo Matsui – The Mets shortstop wasn’t all many expected last year. In addition, he is due $7mm in 2005 and $8mm in 2006. Rumor has it Doug Mientkiewicz would be the guy going to the Mets.

 

I think this would be a great move. Especially if Boston can get the Mets to even out the $. The two hitters I think most people think about when they think of Japanese hitters are Ichiro and Hideki Matsui. Well Kaz Matsui was the 3rd highly touted hitter to cross the Pacific. While his rookie year didn’t impress many people, it should be noted that Hideki Matsui’s rookie year didn’t go as well as expected either.

 

In no way did Hideki have a bad first year, it was just no where near as good as his second season. So why can’t Kaz experience the same thing?

 

Even if he doesn’t, his defense at shortstop is decent (his fld % could use work, but his range is excellent) and his bat wasn’t all that bad for a shortstop. I’d pull the trigger on this one, as I mentioned, especially if the two teams can even out the $$$.

 

More to come I’m certain. There is talk of a trade for Tim Hudson and many other ideas.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)