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Pricey Price

Well, Dave Dombrowski can’t be accused of being a liar.  He said his main goals this off-season were to sign a top flight starter, acquire a back of the bullpen arm and a complimentary right-handed bat off the bench.  Check, check and check.

The Red Sox traded for Craig Kimbrel last month, yesterday signed Chris Young and have agreed to terms with lefty starter David Price.  Price’s deal is reportedly for 7 years and $217m or $31m a year and he has an opt-out after the third year.

Price is definitely what the Red Sox needed, a top of the rotation starter.  Someone who can eat up 220 quality innings per year.  His addition allows the Red Sox to push their existing group of starters back a spot and perhaps consider moving Joe Kelly to the pen as he hasn’t shown anything as a starter and has a power arm.  The opt-out clause is interesting as it has been a trend for top talent to ask for the it in hopes of tacking on 3 years or so to their original deal at even higher money.  The hope by me is that Price pitches lights out for the first 3 years and then the Red Sox let him walk as he’ll be 33 by then.  Because the contract for 7 years and this much money is crazy even in the world of baseball.  Face it, if Price doesn’t opt out and/or pitches poorly, this could be a very bad contract for many years to come.

There is no doubting the Red Sox are a far better team now than they were at the end of the 2015 season as they have address very important issues.  At the risk of getting way ahead of myself, let me offer this look:

Rotation (Player, ERA+) : David Price: 172, Clay Buchholz: 132, Eduardo Rodriguez: 112, Rick Porcell0: .87 (he is making $20m this year…but his 2nd half, 3.53 ERA, was far better than his first half, 5.90 ERA) and who knows, Wade Miley: 96 or Henry Owens: 94.

Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel: 1.42, Koji Uehara: 194, Junichi Tazawa: 104, ummm, then the wheels fall off a bit as there is a lot of riff-raff to choose from like Robbie Ross, Tommy Layne, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and the list goes on.  Dembrowski, will likely want to add to this area.

Line-up (Player, OPS+): Xander Bogaerts: 108, Mookie Betts: 118, Dustin Pedroia: 113, David Ortiz: 141, Hanley Ramirez: 90, Pablo Sandoval: 76 (wow he was terrible last year and has to improve), Rusney Castillo: 73 (he too needs to show us something or else he will be traded), Jackie Bradley: 120 and Blake Swihart: 90 (not bad for a 23 year old rookie catcher).

Bench: Travis Shaw: 115 (great but can he do it again?), Brock Holt: 96,  Ryan Hanigan: 81 and Chris Young: 112 (mashed lefties last year).

So all in all there is some promise for this team, the rotation and bullpen could use quality upgrades and the line-up needs to be sorted out but I am happy thus far.  I especially like the off-season because Dombrowski hasn’t traded away the major league ready talent, he has kept the young core of positional plans, Betts, Bradley, Swihart and Bogaerts, in place.  The idea of building both through the farm and select free agency bets is the best way to build a team in my book.  Relying too much on either one can be disastrous.

But let’s not kid ourselves, the Red Sox really need to add depth to the rotation and especially to the bullpen for this team to make a deep push in the postseason.

David Price

Reports are swirling that Dave Dombrowski has made the signing of free agent starter, David Price, a top priority with one report saying Dombrowski is all in.

The Red Sox do need a front line starter and Price certainly fills that role, but there are a few red flags that will come with Price.  First off, his age, he is 30 and starting pitchers, with very few exceptions, rarely age gracefully.  In addition, Price owns a 5.12 career postseason ERA.  That’s not what you are hoping for with your ace.  Consider this, had the Red Sox instead re-signed Jon Lester last year, they would have signed a 30 years old starter (31 now) who owns a 2.85 postseason ERA in far more innings (98 for Lester vs. 63 for Price).  Alas, the Lester decision was made by the former administration and is in the rearview mirror now.

Price would help immensely, and allow the Red Sox to line-up their other starters behind a dominating regular season pitcher.  Price has struck out 200 batters 4 times in his career and owns a great career ERA, WHIP and K/9.  The cost for Price is going to be overwhelming, something Boston has been loath to do in the past with its starting pitching.  Get ready fans, if Price does come onboard, it will be $25m or higher per season for a minimum of 6 years…staggering numbers to tie up in one player, albeit a starting pitcher.

Having traded a fair amount of prospects in the Kimbrel trade, Dembrowski has only one avenue to acquire his ace, free agency.

As a Red Sox fan, I obviously want Price but really worry about the last half of the contract like the one he’ll sign.  Look at the Yankees dealing with expensive contracts for Sabathia, Ellsbury, ARod and Texiera (the latter 2 having bounce back seasons but always a major risk for season ending injury/suspension).  Big market teams like Boston and New York can absorb a bad contact like this but when they start piling up, it can get ugly.

This I know, the Red Sox need starting pitching.  Go get it Dave.

Mongo Like Kimbrel Trade

Peter rightly asked me to post about tonight’s Red Sox trade, even if I just said “Mongo Like.”

Well, Mongo Like the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel, with apologies to the late Alex Karras.

As I look back over the last 12, maybe even 24 months, there hasn’t been a signle Red Sox transaction that has me as excited as this…other than maybe the Red Sox announcing Hanley Ramirez would be shut down for the rest of the 2015 season.

Speaking of Ramirez, when he was signed, when Pablo Sandoval was signed, those moves wreaked of an overreach, an overpay and both players disappointed greatly, almost predictably.

The Red Sox bullpen was a train wreck last year and Red Sox President, Dave Dembrowski, has addressed it.  By signing Kimbrel, the Red Sox either have insurance should Koji Uehara falter, or they have the luxury of moving Koji to the set-up role and moving Junichi Tazawa to a 7th inning role.  The Red Sox just added major depth in hopes of nailing down leads late in games.

The Red Sox gave up 4 prospects but none were knocking on the 2016 roster save for perhaps Margot.  It’s about time the Red Sox started to use the surplus of highly touted prospects and turned them into major league talent.

Now onto the rotation, right Dave?  The rotation isn’t good and needs improvement, right Dave?  You now have 4 fewer prospects to trade but could consider free agency along with trading prospects.

This, however, is a very good start.

That John Henry is Full of…

Remember the line when Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn are driving into what they think is the Rockies only to see a vast plain?  “That John Denver was full of crap!”  Well, John Henry is too.  Just 2 months after saying this about Ben Cherington, “The GM is going to be the GM of this club for a very long time,” we find out that Dave Dombrowski has been hired as President of Baseball Operations and Ben Cherington is out.  Apparently Cherington was given the option of staying but when you lose your – authority, it probably makes sense to move on…along with your recently signed 3 year extension.

What does this mean for the Red Sox?  Dombrowski, fired by the Tigers in June, is a more traditional baseball mind, preferring old-timey scouting vs. modern analytics.  The Red Sox under Cherington had become heavy in analytics and sometimes I felt that the numbers were the only reason for moves.  Things like personalities and hard work were overlooked as long as a player’s Fenway splits were solid.  Hanley Ramirez is a good example of an analytic signing whereas a traditional baseball mind might have said his tendency to dog it is a reason to stay away.  Heck, even Hanley warned a Dodger teammate not to be like him, hated by his teammates…wasn’t that warning enough Ben?

This calls into question what will happen with analytical people like Bill James.  Will they leave, get fired or figure out a way to co-exist with Dombrowski?  Regardless, this all happened very quickly and came out of nowhere.  When Dombrowski left Detroit, a fairly well-known writer (can’t remember if it was Ken Rosenthal or Buster Olney) tweeted that the Red Sox had no interest in him.  Well that turned out not to be the case and today we have a decidedly new way of doing things.

Dombrowski, won a World Series with Florida in 1997 and went to 2 others with Detroit in 2006 and 2012.  There will be, most likely, many other changes with the Red Sox between now and the start of the 2016 season.  That can be said of any season, but the front office, which has been largely stable since Henry took over save for the moving of Theo Epstein, is undergoing a makeover and one that was needed as continuing this trend of feast or famine can’t be allowed.

2015 Trade Deadline Blog

Check back here throughout the day for updates on your favorite Yankees and Red Sox player trades.

4:08pm- Looks like that may be it. I will recap any additional moves later.

4:02pm- Cubs get Tommy Hunter according to Ken Rosenthal.

4:01pm- Jack Curry reports the Yankees did nothing.

4:00pm- We have reached the deadline, but trade reports can still come in.

3:58pm- Bob Nightengale is reporting that both the Red Sox and Yankees are standing pat.

3:56pm- Sherman tweets that unless something changes in next five minutes, the Yankees are not making a move.

3:55pm- Five minutes…..

3:52pm- Ken Rosenthal confirms the Cespedes move.

3:51pm- Jason Stark reporting Mets have traded for Cespedes.

3:49pm- Astros are apparently out on Kimbrel.

3:48pm- Looking back at last year’s trade deadline blog, the last trade report came at 4:11pm.

3:45pm- Bruce and Chapman are with the Reds, though Bruce is reportedly getting a day off.

3:44pm- Blue Jays tweet they have traded Felix Doubront to the A’s for cash.

3:40pm- 20 minutes to go….

3:38pm- Sherman reminds everyone that Cespedes cannot be offered arbitration, so if the Tigers want something for him in case he signs elsewhere they need to trade him today.

3:31pm- Rosenthal, Heyman, and Sherman are all reporting the Yankees offered Mateo to the Padres in a Kimbrel trade, but haven’t heard back.

2:52pm- John Farrell has apparently told WEEI in Boston he doesn’t anticipate any big moves from Boston.

2:47pm- In an addition by subtraction move, the Yankees have announced that they received cash from a Korean League team for Emil Rogers.

2:36pm- Blue Jays are adding Ben Revere according to multiple reports. This is on top of a trade for Mark Lowe earlier today.

2:20pm- Jon Heyman reports the Mets are making a push for Cespedes.

2:17pm- In addition, Chris Capuano has cleared waivers and been outrighted to AAA.

2:15pm- The Yankees announce they have DFA’ed Garett Jones in order to put Ackley on the roster.

1:55pm- Good point by Rosenthal on MLB Network- teams need to review medical records before 4pm today, they can’t review them afterwards, so teams are probably reviewing multiple medicals right now.

1:54pm- Jon Heyman on MLB Network reports that Yankees are not in on Chapman.

1:52pm- Joel Sherman reporting the Padres are working on something big for Kimbrel, but not with the Yankees. Padres won’t trade him to Yankees without Mateo in the deal. <Peter says- Mateo would be a deal-breaker for me in that discussion. No reason to take on all of that money and give up a big contract.>

12:08pm- Arizona is apparently out on Aroldis Chapman

12:05pm- Jerry Crasnick tweets that Broxton is headed to St. Louis.

11:38 am – The Yankees are in on several bullpen arms including Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

11:31 am – ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal are reporting the Red Sox and Padres are having discussions about Tyson Ross and perhaps Craig Kimbrel.

11:31 am – ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting the Red Sox are kicking the tires on Cleveland’s Carlos “Don’t Call me Hector” Carrasco.

 

Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez is set to be enshrined today in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  As you know, I’m not a man of words…good words anyway.  That said, watching Pedro pitch was must see viewing.  There have been better pitchers than Pedro in terms of higher cumulative stats but I would argue, there hasn’t been a better pitcher over a 7 year period than Pedro was from 1997 – 2003.  Sandy Koufax comes to mind but his prime was over 5 years.  Both Koufax and Pedro were similar in that they had relatively short careers for Hall of Famers and whose prime years were other worldly.

Consider this, from 1997-2003, Pedro’s stat line was:

W-L 118-36, 1408 IP, 1009 H, 315 BB, 1761 K’s, 2.20 ERA, .940 WHIP, 213 ERA+.

All of this pitching during the steroid era.  Pedro has been quite vocal on his anti-steroid stance and I fully acknowledge that this alone doesn’t mean he didn’t do steroids himself.  But even if he did do steroids (which I don’t think he did, call me biased or naive, fine) he still did things no other pitcher did during or outside of the steroid era.

I isolated Sandy Koufax’s prime years of 1962-1966 and came up with this:

W-L 111-34, 1377 IP, 959 H, 316 BB, 1444 K’s, 1.95 ERA, .926 WHIP, 167 ERA+.

Koufax’s prime came over 5 years and of course he pitched in a time where 300 IP a season was normal.

I’ve looked and admit, probably not thoroughly enough, I haven’t found another modern day pitcher who’s prime was as dominating in all aspects as Pedro and Koufax’s.  ERA, control, strikeouts, ERA+.  Every element of their games was perfect.  I give the nod to Pedro because he pitched in a hitters era and did so over a longer period of time.

As a Red Sox fan, I realized early on that I was watching a player whose performance would probably never be duplicated again by a Red Sox player.  I didn’t have to force myself to watch Pedro’s starts, I had to watch them, I demanded to watch them.  Start after start of mowing the opposition down, Pedro allowing 3 ER was a bit of a shock, if just didn’t happen that much.

His best game were both against the Yankees.  His 17 strikeout, 1-hit win and his head to head match-up game against Rogers Clemens which was won by a late Trot Nixon home run.  Epic baseball.

Congratulations to Pedro Martinez and thank you for making watching baseball such a joy.

Cruel Summer

Bananarama couldn’t have know that their 1983 hit would be the anthem for the 2015 Red Sox.

It is time to be sellers, not that there is much to sell.  Hanley Ramirez is a train-wreck of a left-fielder but can still hit a bit.  Pablo Sandoval has performed about how you’d expect from a player who cares so little for his fitness.  The rotation has been a nightmare (Porcello at $20m a year for the next 4 seasons, oh boy!).  The only real marketable pieces are Koji Uehara and perhaps a contending team in need of some power in Mike Napoli or leadership in Shane Victorino but the Red Sox would assume most of the salary hit.

It is hard to pinpoint just what went wrong with this team, aside from the fact that both the Ramirez and Sandoval signings felt like the signing of Carl Crawford a few years back.

John Henry needs to look at the approach the Red Sox have taken as they are heading for their 3rd last place finish in 4 seasons.  Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino and everyone else needs to be evaluated and some tough choices are needed.  Doesn’t it feel like winning, while important, is getting tangled up with other things like ratings and marketing deals?  I have no direct proof, but signing two flawed players in Ramirez and Sandoval wreaks of some bean counter/entertainment person asking to buy a reason for fans to tune in.  Except that, winning is what causes fans to tune in, not gimmicks or overpriced hacks.

Despite the sinking ship, there are a few glimmers of hope, not for this season, but for beyond.  Xander Bogaerts has become what we all expected, Mookie Betts has been solid, Blake Swihart has started to hit a bit and Eduardo Rodriguez has surprised.  Now if you look at the above mentioned individual stats, none will overwhelm you or even impress you, but they are all very young (23 or younger) and could develop into the future cornerstones of this franchise.  Ugh.

New Deal

Rick Porcello inked a 4 year, $82.5m extension with the Red Sox yesterday.  Good for him.  But why are the Red Sox paying him so much?  Aren’t teams supposed to reserve such high annual salaries for the very best?  Porcello has a career 4.30 ERA and a low strikeout rate.  That isn’t the very best.

I see this as Ben Cherington wanting pitchers only in their primes, Porcello is 26 and this carries through his age 30 season.  Cherington’s idea is to pay for the prime years, even if it means a bit more.  But really, $20m a year?  I think Porcello is a fine pitcher, but he has a ton of innings under his belt for such a young age and while he is entering his most productive age, he has a lack of track record.  Ugh.  I see this deal and just think why did the Red Sox bid against themselves here?  I also think this is the Red Sox trying to convince either themselves or their fans, that they have an ace in Porcello while I don’t believe they do.

Loud Panda

Newest Red Sox, Pablo Sandoval, has been in a war of words with the San Francisco Giants and frankly I’d like him to shut his gob.

For some reason he felt the need to make his criticisms personal by basically telling all his former teammates and his coaches, save for Bruce Bochy and Hunter Pence, that he missed none of them.  Nice Pablo, nice.  You really seem like a good guy.

When someone calls out 23 other players, and however many coaches, well that worries me.  The Red Sox signed him up for how many years?

Sandoval’s former teammate, Aubrey Huff, he of the suspiciously timed boffo seasons (seriously, take a look), fired back at him, kinda like I am now.   Naturally, Sandoval didn’t appreciate the feedback and went off on another juvenile rant.  It’s spring training Pablo, take it easy man.  It’s a long season and don’t forget you are really rich and play baseball for a living.  You should be happy.

All of this makes me really worried about the 2015 team dynamics.  I thought Hanley Ramirez was going to be the problem child given his reputation, but it turns out Pablo might be instead. I’d like to think veteran players like David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia could talk to Pablo and have him cool his act, but given the rhetoric of the past few days, I’m not sure what to expect.  If Pablo really is this immature and this big a clubhouse problem then the Red Sox might have a major problem on their hands.

Oh, and here’s a prediction, Christian Vasquez will be the best catcher at stopping stolen bases this year, percentage-wise.

Cuban Relations

Many sources are reporting that the Red Sox have signed the latest Cuba amateur player offering his services to the highest bidder.  19-year old Yoan Moncada, an infielder, was highly sought after and one NL Scout, per ESPN’s reporting, told Jerry Crasnick that Moncada would go 1/1 if the draft were held today.  And a report says he immediately becomes the best Red Sox prospect and number 10 overall in baseball per Baseball America.  Wow, that is good to hear for Red Sox fans.  Reports are that it is a $30m deal minor league deal meaning he’ll start the season in the minors.

What is interesting is that Moncada plays SS and the Red Sox have their infield set with Napoli at first, Pedroia at second, Sandoval at third and Bogaerts at SS.  Where will they play him, even if he does start the year in the minors?  It is with some sadness that I say if you made me decide today, I’d have to strongly consider moving Dustin Pedroia.  Now I realize it is never wise to bet against him as he has always overcome doubters but the fact is he has declined offensively 4 years running with his OPS dropping from .861 in 2011 to a .713 last season.  His contract is relatively modest and could probably be moved without too much trouble.  He is 31 and at his own admission has been injured for the past 2 seasons, but he is also quick to point out he has never felt better.

At some point, Ben Cherington will have to make a few difficult decisions to free up the logjam both in the infield and in the outfield.  These are good problems to have mind you but as a player, it might be an anxious time trying to figure out where the playing time might come.