Let Me Count the Ways

For all the kudos Theo Epstein receives, and rightly so, he has also made his fair share of terrible moves. Recent moves and results magnify his bad deals. Here are a few:

John Lackey – Just grim right now and signed at big-money for many more years. Overall grade thus far (including 2010): F+. The grade should be higher as his 2010 wasn’t terrible, but Lackey has demonstrated the ability to completely not play the part of a competitor in post-game interviews. He will mention personal issues, vague physical issues, and just sounds terrible when pressed. He’d be better off pulling a JD Drew and just not talking. The Red Sox are screwed if Lackey doesn’t pull it together as he’s going to be here awhile.

Mike Cameron – A 2-year, $15.5mm deal. Cameron might have been a great teammate, but injuries coupled with ineffectiveness made this deal awful. Grade: D+.

JD Drew – 5 years @ $14mm per year.

2007 – .796
2008 – .927
2009 – .914
2010 – .793
2011 – .666

Drew was average in year 1, he definitely excelled in 2008 and 2009 and has slipped since, especially this year, where he has been a non-factor. The big problem I have with this deal is that Drew doesn’t play hurt (either can’t or won’t) and he doesn’t produce (68 RBI is his Red Sox high, remember he gets paid $14mm a year). Drew does play good defense, but only when he is on the field. He manages to pass through the night undetected most games and even if I can’t perfectly quantify it, there is just something missing from his game. Overall grade: C. $70mm demands better than a C grade.

Carl Crawford: Grade: Incomplete. Obviously giving Crawford a grade yet is premature. But he got off to a horrific start this year and then started to turn things around before getting hurt. But here we are, 55% through the season and he has a .659 OPS. His April OPS was .431 (what, really?!?), May – .810 and June .761. What is really concerning is that even in May when he hit .304, his OBP was only .328, anemic. To quote Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, “Earn this, earn it.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka – While the Red Sox only committed $52mm over 6 years to Matsuzaka, they also paid a whopping posting fee of $51,111,111.11 to his former team the Seibu Lions. While that $51mm+ didn’t count toward payroll, it was a fantastically huge number that could have been deployed in any number of ways (additional player contracts factoring in luxury tax, park renovations or even cheaper beer which as of last night’s game, was $8.00 per Bud Light). He gets good grades for his first 2 seasons (both statistically and considering the expected adjustment needed), but he derailed when he demonstrated poor conditioning and inability to work with Red Sox coaches in developing a workable game plan for success. With Matsuzaka shelved the rest of this year and at least half of next, this deal is a bust. Grade: D+.

Bobby Jenks: Incomplete, but headed in the wrong direction. Normally I wouldn’t bother commenting on a middle reliever (see Dan Wheeler), but given the financial commitment, this deal hasn’t worked thus far. Jenks might very well turn it around and pitch well for the rest of 2011 and all of 2012, but so far, we are on the wrong boat.

There are others (Renteria), but I wanted to condense this post.

Epstein has helped bring 2 World Series trophies to Boston and has also helped build a competitive team year over year, but that doesn’t mean he should be excused for his flops. Given the Red Sox financial strength, it is easy to overcome bad contracts, but wouldn’t it be nice if Red Sox management could shoot better from the line.