The Finishing Touch

In very quick fashion, the Red Sox have become a different team, especially when it comes to team defense and pitching.

Assuming Mike Lowell does get traded, we might be looking at this as an opening day line-up:

cf – Ellsbury
2b – Pedroia
c – Martinez 
3b – Youkilis
rf – Ortiz
lf – Cameron
dh – Drew
1b – Kotchman
ss – Scutaro


The defensive improvements would be seen at 3b, SS (not over Alex Gonzalez, but all the shortstops in 2009) and LF while 1b would stay about the same (you could argue a slight decline with Kotchman vs. Youkilis at 1b).  If Ellsbury is traded (see below) and Hermida plays left with Cameron moving to CF, then the CF position would have been upgraded defensively with LF staying the same.

As for the rotation (age next season):
Lester (26)
Beckett (30)
Lackey (31)
Buchholz (25)
Matsuzaka (28
Wakefield (43)

The rotation sports a combination of quality and pitchers either entering or smack in the middle of their prime, with the exception being Wakefield.  The depth the Lackey and Cameron signings created, now allows the Red Sox to consider dangling either Buchholz and/or Ellsbury in front of Jed Hoyer’s nose in an attempt to land Adrian Gonzalez, something I mentioned back in mid-November.

An upgrade like Gonzalez would allow Boston to maintain good defense at 1b while giving the line-up a big boost.  It would mean the Red Sox improved their rotation, defense and at worst maintained their offense which was 4th in MLB in runs scored in 2009 and in fact, might even have improved the offense.

Out (OPS+)
Lowell (106)
Bay (134)
Gonzalez, Alex (95)
Ellsbury (97)

In (OPS+)
Cameron (111)
Scutaro (111)
Gonzalez (166)
Hermida (94)
 

Now all of this is predicated on the Red Sox being able to acquire Gonzalez.  Various tweets and reports suggest the Red Sox are working on it, but they will have to pay a high price.

Next Up, Mike Cameron for Boston

Ken Rosenthal is again at it along with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, both are reporting that the Red Sox are looking to sign Mike Cameron to be their left fielder. If true, we can say goodbye to Jason Bay (and Matt Holliday for that matter).

The Red Sox aren’t kidding when they say they want to become better defensively. Cameron played CF last year, and has a grand total of 9.2 IP in left in his career, but Boston must be thinking the transition will be easy. The other thought might be to move Jacoby Ellsbury to LF as Cameron was a far better defensive option in CF than was Ellsbury in 2009 according to UZR/150.

No word on the dollars involved, but the reports suggest it will be a 2-year deal.  Cameron hit .250/.342/.452/.795 in 2009 almost exactly in line with his career averages.  He has decent pop, but has always been known for his defense with 3 gold gloves under his belt.  He’ll be 37, so that might be the main reason they move him to LF.

Cameron hits lefties better than he does righties (.859 OPS vs. .765).  Conversely, Jeremy Hermida hits righties better than he does lefties (.792 OPS vs. .697), so we might be seeing a platoon here.  Hermida’s defense isn’t great however, so maybe LF is Cameron’s job full-time with Hermida the 4th OF.

While I wish we were talking about Jason Bay right now, I don’t mind this move.  Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe wrote an interesting piece the other day stressing that wins and losses are all about run differential and that it doesn’t matter how you created run differential.  It is common sense, but it is also easy for that basic principle to get lost in the shuffle.  You can either score more runs, or allowed fewer runs (or both heaven forbid).  The Red Sox have clearly chosed the latter.

Now, I still expect a move for a hitter as Clay Buchholz just became far more available than he was yesterday.  The obvious candidate I’d like to see would be Adrian Gonzalez with Kevin Youkilis moving to 3b.  If they can pull that off, I think we’d be looking at keeping the runs scored about the same as 2009 but improving the runs allowed.

So Lackey and Cameron all in one day.  Lackey will cost them a draft pick but Cameron was not offered arbitration, so no draft picks are due.

The AP is now reporting that the Red Sox have reached tentative deals for Lackey and Cameron, both pending physicals.  Ken Rosenthal is reporting it is in the vicinity of 2-years, $15.5mm for Cameron.

Thank You, Hideki

It’s official Hideki Matsui is headed to Anaheim.  It’s a one-year deal for $6.5 million. 

Matsui was a wonderful Yankee, never causing problems and playing every day before he broke his wrist and then his knees started to give out.  It’s those knees that made signing him too risky a move for the Yankees.  The fact is that the Yankees didn’t play him in the field once in 2009 and he still had to have his knees drained at least twice during the season by my count.  New York can’t afford to keep the DH spot locked down with one guy in 2010 and while I am sure Matsui will thrive out West, they are taking a big risk if they put him in the outfield.  

None of that diminishes the loss I am sure most of you join me in feeling tonight.  Watching Matsui was a joy and I will miss seeing that statue stance in the left side of the box and knowing if it was a big spot that he would deliver.  

PItching Moves Aplenty

It sounds like John Lackey is headed to Boston while Roy Halladay is headed to Philly with Cliff Lee going to Seattle. 

I think the resolution of the Halladay situation is a good one for the Yankees.  This moves him out of the division and into the NL.  That’s perfect from a New York standpoint.

I would have liked to have seen Lackey come to New York, but I also understand why the Yankees didn’t want to give another pitcher a five-year deal (Lackey is reportedly getting five years and $85 million)  He gives the Red Sox some protection if Beckett leaves in 2011 and a very nice 1-2-3 of Beckett, Lester and Lackey next season.  But where I think it will hurt the Yankees the most is with what it makes the Angels do now.

Think about the Angels for a second.  They are losing their ace.  They are watching Halladay, a pitcher they tried to get head to Philly and worst of all, Cliff Lee is going to Seattle where he will join former Angel Chone Figgins.  Clearly, the Angles need to make some noise and it sounds like part of that is going to be Matsui headed out there.

Now Matsui, was not the priority for the Yankees because I don’t care what anyone says, playing him in the outfield is a bad idea.  But, he gave New York options if Damon signed elsewhere.  The Yankees could have turned to Matsui and given him the DH role in 2010, keeping the lineup deep and dangerous.  Now, if you lose Damon you probably don’t have that fallback.  The Yankees still have plenty of options, but it would be worth their while to start forcing the issue with Damon and Boras.  They need to get Plan B going if Damon is not going to return.

One final note, this trade strikes me as off from the Phillies standpoint.  Halladay is a wonderful pitcher, but is he that much better than Lee?  Lee is slightly younger, cheaper and proved he could pitch when it counts in the 2009 playoffs.  Halladay for all he has done, has never really even pitched in a pennant race.  With both players free agents after 2010, why not just keep the guy you have?  It will make more sense if Philly got prospects included or something like that, but on the surface I am scratching my head.  

Who Are You Calling a Lackey?

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that former Angels pitcher John Lackey took a physical today with the Boston Red Sox, "an indication that he is close to an agreement with the team, according to a major-league source."

Rosenthal said the deal will look somewhat like the deal AJ Burnett signed with the Yankees last year.

At first glance, this could mean many things.  First, they have lost their minds and clearly thing Lackey is a great pitcher (if the money/terms are true) and furthermore, it might be a prelude to yet a larger deal.

Consider a starting rotation of:  Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Buchholz and Wakefield, unless Wakefield is not progressing quickly enough from off-season surgery, or the Red Sox are pioneering a 6-man rotation, it could mean a deal is in the works to trade Buchholz for an offensive upgrade.

After not hearing about Adrian Gonzalez for a while, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe mentioned that Boston and San Diego have discussed a deal for Gonzalez, but couldn’t agree on players.  The mention of talks was encouraging to me as I hadn’t heard any of trade talk between the 2 teams.

More to come…

Like Ken Rosenthal did, I should note that Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse broke this story.  Price is the same guy I said I hadn’t heard of before and therefore assumed was a slacker…YankeesRedSox.com management disciplined me.

Wilson Pickett Would Be Proud

11:07pm here in NYC and we still don’t know who the Yankees are non-tendering.  They have 53 minutes to decide and I will update this post when the news comes down. 

(And for those of you who don’t get the title, please use google and then ITunes- he is well worth it.)

UPDATE: Chien-Ming Wang has been non-tendered. All the other Yankees will be back.  And, in other news Gomes is a free agent and Navarro has agreed to a new deal with the Rays. 

The Next Big Deadline

Tomorrow night is the deadline for tendering players a contract for 2010.  For the Yankees, it’s a 99.9% certainty that it will mean the end (for now) of Chien-Ming Wang’s career in pinstripes.  And while I don’t think they would non-tender him, you have to at least consider the possibility that Chad Gaudin could get cut because he made $2 million last year and you have to offer a tendered player at least 70% of his previous deal. 

Much more interesting will be the list of players across baseball who get non-tendered.  The Red Sox famously profited from this when David Ortiz was cut by the Twins. Though, I think the Twins should be given a pass in light of what we have learned about Mr. Ortiz’s activities. 

There are two guys that interest me for the Yankees, Dioneer Navarro and Jonny Gomes.  Navarro was of course originally a Yankees’ prospect before he became part of the Randy Johnson trade.  He made $2.1 million last year and he had an awful season with the bat- .218/.261/.322.- or Jose Molina numbers.  But, part of that is based on a .231 BABIP.  In 2008 when his BABIP was .318 he put up a line of .295/.349/.407.  Considering that Posada is 38 and Cervelli is really unproven, signing Navarro to a deal may not be the worst move in the world.  Plus, he is still only 25, so he still has the potential to improve. 

Gomes had some good years in Tampa and he put up some nice numbers for the Reds last year.  He has always hit lefties well and that continued in 2009 with a .914 OPS against them.  He can play either left or right and just turned 29.  He might be a better bet to provide righty power/platoon potential off the bench than Hoffmann for a low price. 

So, keep an eye out tomorrow as the names start showing up, the Yankees could do some bargain shopping based on who gets the axe. 

Solid Pick

The Yankees used their Rule 5 pick to select Jamie Hoffmann from the Dodgers.  Hoffmann is a 25-year old righty outfielder who can play center and right.  He got a cup of coffee in the majors last year, 22 AB’s, but didn’t do much.  However, at AAA he has hit .285/.362/.449 and he has some speed.  

This is exactly the type of player the Yankees should have taken.  At best, he becomes a solid outfielder off the bench who can play some defense and steal a base.  Plus, he gives you a righty option if you want to sit Granderson against a lefty.  At worst, you offer him back to the Dodgers and move on. 

In the draft, the Yankees lost two players, Zach Kroenke to Arizona and Kanekoa Texeira to the Mariners.  Kroenke had some nice numbers in AAA this year, but he is 25 and the Yankees value Mike Dunn more than him in the lefty reliever department.  Texeira, who came over in the Swisher trade, had a 2.84 ERA in AA, but has never pitched above that level.  It will be interesting to see if he can stick in the majors for an entire season. 

Day 3 for Boston

UPDATE:  The Red Sox acquired Boof Bonsor today according to MLBTradeRumors.com.  He had been designated for assignment earlier this week.  Bonsor is a strikeout pitcher, but is coming off major arm surgery and is hardly a lock to make it back to the major leagues.  I wouldn’t expect much of him in 2010 at the major league level.

——–

Nothing happened on day 3 of the Winter Meetings for Boston, but overnight, the rumors on a Mike Lowell deal started to really heat up.  As of now, there are reports that a deal is in place pending league approval.

Texas Rangers get – Mike Lowell (3b) and $8-9mm to offset salary

Boston Red Sox get – Max Ramirez (c/1b)

Assuming this does go down, that means the Red Sox are in the market for a corner infielder.  Of course Casey Kotchman could handle first base, but I can’t imagine Boston feels good about his offensive potential.

My guess is we’re going to see Nick Johnson in a Red Sox uni with Kevin Youkilis moving to 3rd base full time or Adrian Beltre at 3rd with Youkilis staying at 1st.

To be frank, I’m not excited about either of these options.  I would be thrilled with Johnson if I thought he had any chance of staying healthy, as when he does, he grinds pitchers down and gets on base at an amazing clip.  He played in 133 games last year,

38 in 2008

0 in 2007

147 in 2006 (career high)

131 in 2005,

73 in 2004

96 in 2003

When he plays, he is a near lock to get on base at .400, a trait cherished by Theo Epstein  and his defense is good, but I don’t know why any team would expect him to play a full season.  Kind of like JD Drew with less power…just what all Boston fans want.

Adrian Beltre is an excellent defensive third baseman, but shows a decided lack of plate discipline (career .325 obp) and has only had 1 really good year back in 2004.  Perhaps Boston knows something about his hit chart and Fenway would be a good home for him.  Looking at his career at Fenway, I don’t see anything special with his hit chart at Fenway.

In fairness, Seattle, Beltre’s former home, is a place power hitters can go to die.  I guess I have seen his production (stats not first hand) and it doesn’t excite me and most worrisome is he is coming off a horrendous season, in his walk year no less.  It just doesn’t add up.

As for Max Ramirez, he had been an offensive star in the minors for Texas, but something happened in 2009.  This reminds me of my comments on George Kottaras, another catcher who was humming along in the minors, but then hit a wall offensively.

Ramirez’s career minor league numbers:  .299/.398/.486 in 2146 plate appearances, that includes 334 PAs in 2009 at a .230/318/.334.  Ugly.  Couple that with the fact he is on his 3rd organization and will be 25, after having been drafted in 2004 as a 19 year old.  Why has it taken him so long to make it?  There has to be other concerns.  He did have wrist issues in 2009, but to get some many PAs and still post those numbers is awful.  Consider this though, Ramirez is Veneluazan as is Victor Martinez (and Marco Scutaro).  Perhaps this is shaping up to be a mentoring thing.

So this move clears the way for a new infielder for Boston and now we just have to wait and see if it actually happens.

An Interesting Decision

Thanks to the Brian Bruney trade the Yankees have the first pick in the Rule 5 draft today. It gives them plenty of options, but there is an important catch, the player they select has to stay on the major league roster the entire season.  

That makes it impractical for the Yankees to pick a Class A or even AA player because what are the real chances they would stick?  One player to keep an eye on is Chad Tracy who might be worth a risk. Tracy hit .279/.333/.488 in AA last year and can play first, left and catch in a pinch.  It may be asking too much for him to make the jump to the majors, but it might be worth the risk.  Tracy would give Girardi some flexibility with his ability to catch in an emergency situation and at 24 he could still develop into a decent hitter. 

Otherwise, the Yankees might be better off trading the pick.  Plenty of bad teams could use it and that way they get real value for it.  One approach I hope they avoid is taking one of their own players.  The Yankees have several quality players that are exposed, but why not let another team take the risk of drafting them and keeping them in the majors all season long?  Remember, if the other team doesn’t, they have to offer them back to the Yankees.