Moving On Up

In the interest of making this website look a bit more, you know, real, Peter and I have decided to fork over some dough and will be making an upgrade to the site. Nothing fancy I assure you, but a better format to be sure.

With this, the site might go down for 1-2 days. Please bear with us and be sure to check back soon. We appreciate all who read and comment and hope this will make everything easier to use.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to you all.

Irony

There is no team in sports more connected with the concept of the free market than the Yankees. When free agency launched in baseball, the Yankees jumped in with both feet. Through the years they have vigorously fought attempts to reign in their spending. Yet now they are going to try and stop fans from being able to benefit from that very market.

The Yankees don’t like Stub Hub and they don’t like MLB’s deal with Stub Hub. For the past few years, if you had a ticket account with a MLB team you could list your tickets on Stub Hub directly and buyers of those tickets could download them directly. It’s worked pretty well for buyers and sellers. If you have a season ticket package and can’t attend some games, there is an easy way to sell them. If you want to go to a game, you have choices besides the box office.

And that’s the problem. Fans have realized that instead of submitting to the Yankees’ pricing choices and fees, they can go to Stub Hub and see if they can get a better deal. The problem for the Yankees is that they have already sold these tickets and therefore don’t earn any money from these sales while their remaining inventory goes unsold.

So, the Yankees are going to opt out of the new Stub Hub deal and try and come up with a new one with Ticketmaster. I can pretty much guarantee that part of that deal will be some sort of cut for the Yankees on every ticket resold in their system. But, the problem for the Yankees will be that they can’t stop fans from still listing their tickets on Stub Hub anyway. For a team that has embraced and benefited from the free market, this is a silly way to operate.

And here’s the part that makes me really mad. The Yankees make oodles of money already. If they want more “butts in the seats” why don’t they lower prices? When the payroll shrinks in 2014 and the club saves $50 million where will that money go? Into the pockets of ownership of course. That’s fine, it’s their right to make as much money as they can, but do they have to try and squeeze their customers at every corner in order to do so?

The Blue Jays

While Peter and I obsess about all things Red Sox and Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays have aggressively thrown their hat in the ring. It’s a giant hat…think a Three Amigos sombrero.

Adds:

R.A. Dickey – Reigning N.L. Cy Young Winner.
Josh Johnson – Career 3.15 ERA.
Mark Buerhle – 3.74 ERA in 2012 and career 3.82 ERA.
Jose Reyes – 29 years old with speed and some pop.
Melky Cabrera – While we all finally confirmed what we suspected, if his ability to hide future drug use is good, then you have a good to great player.

These acquisitions added to their existing core of Jose Baustista (27 HR in 92 games in 2012 and 43 HR and 54 HR respectively in 2011 and 2010), Edwin Encarnacion (42 HR in 2012), Brett Lawrie (disappointing sophomore season, but still young), Adam Lind (2nd half far better than 1st half), Brandon Morrow (tore it up as a starter) and Casey Janssen had a fine first season as a closer, make the Jays a frontrunner in 2012.

The Jays have gone all in and the rest of the A.L. East has certainly taken notice, or as a Red Sox fan, I hope they have.

Why Do the Red Sox Like the Drews?

Reports have it that the Red Sox have agreed to terms with shortstop Stephen Drew on a 1-year, $9.5mm deal. If a .657 OPS yields $9.5mm a year, then imagine what you’d get if you were a good player?

In fairness, Drew isn’t a career .657 OPS hitter, but he was last year, an injury filled campaign. Stephen isn’t an OBP guy, like his brother J.D., but he does have decent power for the shortstop position. If healthy, we might be lucky to see a .800 OPS.

I understand why they made this deal, Jose Iglesias isn’t ready to hit Major League pitching (or professional pitching) and he’d have been a void in the 9th spot. Drew buys him another year of offensive seasoning. I get that. But why shell out $9.5mm on a guy who hasn’t hit well since 2010? And he was injured last year. Wouldn’t $5mm have gotten it done?

See, the Red Sox have all of this payroll flexibility now and they are bringing in new players all over the place and because they want to keep the deals short, they are being forced to shell out higher average annual salaries as a result. Again the hope being that in 2-3 years, Red Sox minor leaguers are manning most of the positions and pitching staff slots. It’s a bridge.

The Red Sox now look like this:

c – Saltalamacchia/Ross/Lavarnway
1b – Napoli (reports say he failed his physical and the Red Sox don’t want to go 3-years on him anymore)
2b – Pedroia
3b – Middlebrooks
ss – Drew
lf – Gomes
cf – Ellsbury
rf – Victorino
dh – Ortiz

This is a line-up heavy on platoon players (all catchers, Gomes, Drew and Victorino), and some solid major league hitters (Ortiz, Ellsbury, Pedroia, Napoli and hopefully Middlebrooks).

Dempster, Uehara and How Things Look

The Red Sox are rumored to have agreed to a 2-year, $26.5mm deal with Ryan Dempster pending a physical. Normally the physical would be a formality, but given the fact Mike Napoli has yet to ink his deal, you never know.

By all accounts, Dempster is a great clubhouse guy and can also pitch. But, let’s not get carried away, the lifetime 124-124 pitcher has a career 4.33 ERA having pitched almost entirely in the National League. I think the best thing about Dempster is that he has been a workhorse over the past 5 seasons. I like this deal and expect something like 12-14 wins with a 4.50 ERA, assuming he can stay healthy.

Of course there is the Harry Caray impression, that is never a bad thing.

Dempster offers depth and allows the Red Sox to put Franklin Morales into the bullpen at the ready to start if need be.

The rotation looks like this:

Lester
Buchholz
Dempster
Dubrount
Lackey

Having decent starting depth in the bullpen is a great thing as opposed to having AAAA starters in Pawtucket making those emergency starts.

Dempster’s signing is again an attempt by the Red Sox to compete in 2013 and 2014 but he isn’t a game changer. None of their new players are game changers. The Red Sox are trying to buy enough time to allow their minor leaguers to blossom complemented by a better free agent class in a year or two.

2015 projected line-up (guess work):

c – Lavarnway
1b – Bogaerts
2b – Pedroia
3b – Middlebrooks
ss – Iglesias
lf – Bentz
cf – Bradley Jr.
rf – Victorino
dh – Napoli

The Red Sox also signed Koji Uehara. At $4.25mm, he ain’t cheap, but for the pitcher with the best career K/BB ratio in MLB history, you have to ante up (I get it, a very small sample size). Great signing, if he stays healthy, he is an absolutely dominating pitching to add to the back of the bullpen.

I still maintain this is an 82 to 88 win team but if John Farrell can get Lester and Daniel Bard back to their old ways and if Middlebrooks can do again what he did in 2012 (minus the broker wrist part), Ellsbury has a 2011-like year, Ortiz doesn’t regress, and Napoli and Victorino earn their contracts, then they could nudge their way into a wild-card spot, but that’s a lot of “ifs.”

Youkilis

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Kevin Youkilis has agreed to a $12-million/one-year deal with the Yankees.

Youkilis gives the Yankees someone who can play third in A-Rod’s absence and also provide some righty power, two things they really need. Furthermore, he is only signed for one year which won’t affect the 2014 payroll and he will certainly be motivated to play for his next contract. But, he is very brittle. He hasn’t played over 140 games since 2008.

It’s hard to judge this move without seeing how the other pieces of the Yankees offseason will work. Youkilis looks like a solid bet for a rebound year as his BABIP last year was .268 compared to .322 for his career and his line drive rate was right in line with his career average. But, I have to ask, why wasn’t Eduardo Nunez given a chance at playing third? In fact, what is the Yankees’ plan with Nunez?

If the Yankees are not planning on giving Nunez a lot of playing time next year, they need to trade him. Nunez is 25, his prospect clock is essentially up, its time to see what he can do. Unless Derek Jeter’s ankle keeps him out at the beginning of the season, it is hard to see how Nunez will get a lot of playing time since the Yankees are insisting he is a shortstop only. And, with the signing of Youkilis and his injury history, the Yankees probably won’t be able to carry Nunez on the roster because of his positional flexibility.

Assuming Ichiro is next, as rumored, the Yankees still have some heavy lifting to do. They need another righty bat, to balance the lineup and it isn’t clear who the DH will be. The Yankees can’t count on A-Rod in 2013. Youkilis protects them at third, but they will need more oomph in the lineup.

Perspective

I thought Brian Cashman had the best quote of the offseason so far when he told a reporter, “There are no games scheduled for tomorrow”. It’s a great point, this isn’t the team the Yankees will put on the field when the season starts.

I can’t get too worked up about the Yankees missing out on Jeff Keppinger or being outbid for Russell Martin. I also think it is silly to say the Yankees won’t spend money when they have offered Kevin Youkilis a $12-million deal. (In fact, this is money I wish they wouldn’t spend.) Remember it wasn’t until almost mid-January 2012 that the Yankees signed Kuroda and traded for Pineda. Up until that point we thought they would have huge holes in their rotation, so patience isn’t a bad idea.

Ownership is awash with cash and while I do believe they want to spend less than $189 million in 2014, I think that is a one time goal. They are going to spend the money they believe they need to in order to win. They have a big stadium with very expensive tickets that they need to fill and a team that loses 90 games isn’t gong to do that.

And here’s the other thing, what move would you have liked the Yankees to make this week? I think almost every Yankees’ fan would agree that Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke are probably not good fits in the Bronx, so let’s eliminate them. Angel Pagan for $40 million over 4? BJ Upton for $75 million over 5? I know I’m not interested.

It’s funny, but a lot of people are talking out of both sides of their mouth right now, but don’t seem to realize it. You can’t bemoan the A-Rod deal on one hand and then criticize the Yankees for not signing other expensive free agents on the other. Either you want them to take a cautious approach or you have to live with the consequences.

Here’s what I expect will happen over the next month or so. Brian Cashman will pull off a fairly significant trade, this time for a position player. He will probably bring Ichiro or Ibanez back on a one-year deal and find a cheap righthanded outfielder to complement them. He will invite players like Chone Figgins to come to camp and see if they can win a job. And I expect he will ultimately put together a pretty solid team.

Strange

Apparently Eric Chavez is on his way to Arizona. He has reportedly agreed to a one-year/$3-million deal. I’m curious as to why the Yankees didn’t retain him considering the money is small and the need at third is currently great. It could be that Chavez, who is from Arizona, simply wanted to go home, but it is curious. While he is certainly an injury risk, he hit righty pitching very well last year (.298/.365/.543 in 274 PA’s) Chavez could have been a very solid half of a platoon to cover for A-Rod until he manages to get back on the field.

I am also confused by the Yankees’ insistence that Eduardo Nunez is a shortstop and only a shortstop. While there is certainly a chance Derek Jeter takes longer to rehab his foot, the fact remains that he is likely to be in the Opening Day lineup while A-Rod certainly won’t be. Why won’t the Yankees look at Nunez as a potential replacement for Alex?

joel Sherman suggested that the Yankees might go after Mark Reynolds to play third at the start of the season and move to DH when Alex returns. It’s an interesting idea. While he is a bad thirdbaseman, you can generally survive with a bad glove at third much better than you can at any other infield spot. He is a righty power bat, something the Yankees are really lacking right now and he takes a lot of pitches. I certainly would prefer seeing what Reynolds can do at age 29 than taking a flier on Kevin Youkilis at age 34.

Carbon Copy Deal

The Red Sox have also sign Shane Victorino to the same deal Mike Napoli received, 3-years, $39mm.

Victorino is a fine player, but not a superstar. I think it is important to look at some crucial things:

1.) The Red Sox probably aren’t going to be very good next year, I’m thinking 85-88 wins if lucky.

2.) They are trying to put a decent product on the field for 2013 with the hopes of “bridging” the gap to 2014 and beyond when players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Bryce Bentz and Zander Bogaerts are ready.

3.) These recent contracts aren’t going to hamstring the Red Sox in terms of future financial flexibility, so if an expensive option comes along, they will still be able to jump at it.

4.) This free agent class just isn’t very good. Yes, Josh Hamilton is a great hitter, but he comes with a boatload of baggage, same with Zach Greinke. Signing Napoli and Victorino might not be considered exciting, but they can play baseball and will probably make this team better than it was in 2012.

All I can hope is that Ben Cherington is laying the foundation for something much better than what we have on the 25-man roster today. My guess is that the Red Sox are still 1-2 years away from beeing a compelling team.

Napoli Reportedly On-Board

Word on the street is that Mike Napoli is going to get $13mm per season for 3-years from the Red Sox. That’s a ton of scratch for a .227 hitter (in 2012) who isn’t very good defensively. Still, I like this deal. 3 years isn’t a ton and while it is more than I’d like to pay, the Red Sox don’t have anyone internally nearly is capable as Napoli to play first base.

Napoli has power (career 507 SLG) and on-base potential (career .354 OBP). He strikes out a bunch, but otherwise isn’t a pushover in the line-up. Ideally Napoli would be in the 6th spot, but with this team, he could be a 5.

Even though he isn’t particularly gifted in the field, he can catch and play first base, which means almost certainly Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway will be moved, otherwise you’ll have 3 full-time catchers (David Ross) and a part time catcher on the roster. That’s, you know, too many catchers.

The other reason I like this is because Napoli has killed the Red Sox in the past as I alluded to 2 months ago.

So here is the line-up if the season started today:

c – Salty
1b – Napoli
2b – Pedroia
3b – Middlebrooks
ss – Iglasias
lf – Gomes
cf – Ellsbury
rf – Kalish
dh – Ortiz

It doesn’t inspire fear, but it’s a start.