Hoist the White Flag

This is the earliest the Red Sox have given up on a season that I can remember.  The Nick Punto trade in 2012 happened in August and since the new ownership group and even back into the Dan Duquette era, the Red Sox were always sniffing at a playoff spot late into the season.

A.J. Pierzynski was DFAed today and Jake Peavy is rumored to be heading out of Boston.  These are moves of a team that has capitulated.  This also means the Red Sox are likely to deal Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, and maybe John Lackey (who is set to earn the major league minimum for veterans next season) as they might not want the headache of having a veteran playing for the minimum and publicly displaying his displeasure every pitch of the way.

Wednesday night’s game featured 5 rookies in the line-up, Jackie Bradley Jr. Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, Christian Vasquez (major league debut) and Xander Bogaerts and a rookie starting pitcher.  Unheard of in Boston but a very good thing for the future of the team.  I think perhaps Betts and Vasquez were brought up a bit early and risk being like the endless line of rookies the K.C. Royals rush to the big leagues, but otherwise this is valuable playing time for young players.

As a Red Sox fan, I am perfectly fine with a season like this.  A reload, a chance to give younger, future franchise players playing time is a good thing, as long as it isn’t happening every other year.  What begs the question is just what did management see in this team?  Did they think Pierzynski was going to be a major contributor?  Did the Red Sox really need to sign Stephen Drew for $10 million?  Obviously with hindsight, these both look like very dumb and very expensive moves, not that I pay the bills but we now can look forward to seeing the future of the Red Sox develop in front of our eyes, instead of in Pawtucket.

A quick scouting report on the young positional players:

Vasquez – Advanced defensively, with ability to handle a pitching staff and a very good arm.  His offense is a work in progress and doesn’t project to be much more than mediocre.

Betts – 4 tool player with potential to be a 4.5 to 5 tool player if his power rounds out and depending on where he settles on a position.  Command of the strike zone is top shelf.

Bradley Jr. – Elite defensively with good eye at the plate and 10-12 HR power projection.  Offense improved with with more time at each minor league level.  The hope is that he is getting ready to take off offensively.  His defense this year has been outstanding.

Holt – A career minor league average of .307 with a .410 OBP makes his 2014 success not a major surprise but is countered by the fact he is 26.  Old for a rookie but some players take longer to mature.  Defensively he isn’t great anywhere but has proven the ability to player anywhere with competence.  He’s played LF, CF, RF, 1B, SS and 3B this season year all the while hitting .313.  When Holt was included as an apparent throw-in in the Joel Hanrahan deal, I remember thinking there must be something wrong with this kid personality-wise as he had good minor league numbers.

Bogaerts – He was doing well until Stephen Drew arrived.  Seriously, the minute Drew was added to the 25-man roster, Bogaerts started slumping.  That also was when he was moved from SS to 3B.  He is only 21 and has a bright future ahead of him, but I wonder if the Red Sox will try to move Drew (is that possible with him hitting .131?) and give the SS position back to Bogaerts.

If the Red Sox can trade a few more assets for additional future growth and with their financial clout, they might just be gearing up for a prolonged run at success

 

Now What?

This much we know, the Yankees have placed Tanaka on the DL. What we don’t know is what is wrong with him beyond elbow “discomfort”. He is heading back to NY for tests, which makes the DL move even more curious as wouldn’t the normal way to handle this be to  run the tests and then decide on the DL? But the Yankees didn’t go that route and now we are left to wonder how bad this injury is?

Let’s take a step back and assess the current state of the Yankees. The good news is that they are 3-1/2 games out of a playoff spot. The bad news is they are one game over .500 and have given up 32 more runs than they have scored and 4/5’s of their Opening Day rotation is on the DL. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 25% chance of making the playoffs.

Now back to Tanaka. I think we can all agree that without Tanaka, the Yankees’ odds of making the playoffs grow much, much smaller. Clearly, if he is out for a lengthy period of time, the Yankees need to think strongly about next year. Even if he isn’t, when does a pitcher ever make it back in his expected recovery time?

So I would say that barring incredibly good news, this is the sign that the Yankees need to get them to start building for 2015. The question is, will they?

An Upgrade UPDATED

On the surface, the McCarthy for Nuno swap between Arizona and the Yankees looks like little more than a shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic. But, beneath the surface, the Yankees have made themselves a bit better.

You our have to look beyond ERA to evaluate this deal and become comfortable with the notion that pitchers have no control over what happens to balls hit in the field of play. They could have a good defense behind them that gets to everything, or they could have a terrible defense behind them that let’s everything drop in. In either instance, their ERA would be greatly impacted.  That’s where FIP comes in. It attempts to neutralize the affects do defense and give you an ERA for a pitcher based on things they can control- strikeouts, walks, home runs.

Vidal Nuno has been awful this year, but the Yankee defense hasn’t helped him. Nuno’s FIP is 5.15, but his ERA is 5.42. Basically, he should be a bit better than his numbers suggest, but a FIP over 5 is still bad.

McCarthy has been bad, but the Arizona defense is to blame for a bunch of that. His ERA is 5.02, but his FIP is 3.79. If you look at his raw numbers compared to Nuno this makes sense,  he records more strikeouts, walks batters at about half the rate as Nuno, and gives up fewer home runs. Using WAR, he is about one win better than Nuno so far.

But there are two problems with this analysis. The Yankee defense will not help him and he is switching to the AL. He should still be better than Nuno, but this is not a huge upgrade. It is more like adding a fifth starter in exchange for someone who should not be starting. Value is created, but that is more a factor of how big some of holes the Yankees have to fill are than the talent of the player they acquired.

UPDATE. Yankees have DFAed Soriano. Not a shock, but it does make you wonder who is coming up and what their role will be. Maybe this means Jose Pirella’s time has arrived?  We probably won’t find out until after the game today or tomorrow as the Yankees have recalled Brian Billings for now.

International Love

The Daily News gave the best explanation of what the Yankees are doing today, and it sounds like the Yankees are cornering the international market today. Buster Olney says they have either signed 10 of the top-15 or 11 of the top-18 prospects out there. Let’s delve into this a bit deeper.

The Yankees are blowing past their pool allotment. Probably by $15-million or so. That will bring them a huge penalty of around $10-million and they will not be able to sign anyone next year for a bonus of more than $250,000. Despite the warnings in the Daily News, this is exactly what the Yankees should do because of five clear facts.

Fact 1- The Yankees need young talent right now.

Fact 2- Most teams are signing their potential free agents before they reach free agency.

Fact 3- You can’t pay over slot like you once could in the MLB draft.

Fact 4- Big payrolls incur big tax penalties and revenue sharing.

Fact 5- The system could change in the next CBA which expires December 2016.

So what the Yankees have done is flexed their substantial financial muscles in the one area they still can. They will not be able to do this again in 2015, but they will in 2016. It’s sort of like a NBA team that has the ball with 40 seconds left in the quarter. They are going 2-for-1. They will overload in 2014 and 2016, while being basically shut out of the 2015 international market.

The problem is that projecting players who are 16 is tougher than projecting players who are 18 or 20, so expect a lot of misses out of this approach. But, if the Yankees develop one All-Star out of this class, it will be well worth it.

A-Rod Part 40

Sports Illustrated released a new A-Rod story today. Before you shrug your shoulders and return to your day, consider the title- “How MLB let A-Rod use PED’s during the ’07 Season”  That probably got your attention.

Now one of the things that has mystified me during this process is how the Yankees could let those home run clauses in A-Rod’s contract stand uncontested. Why would the Yankees pay A-Rod for home runs that were hit with the help of PED’s? I think we might have an answer.

A-Rod applied for and was given an exemption to use testosterone before the 2007 season by MLB. Personally, I find that amazing, but shock is probably something I should stop feeling when it comes to MLB and PED’s.  You can make the argument that MLB wouldn’t necessarily have told the Yankees about that exemption, but I can’t really believe that. And if the Yankees knew about that and then signed him to that massive deal, they lose any credibility they would have had in a courtroom.

So my first question as a member of the press to the Yankees’ brass today would be, “Did the organization know that Alex had a testosterone exemption for the 2007 season?” My second one would be, assuming the answer to the first one is yes, “How did that affect your contract negotiations with him after the season?”

Stay tuned.