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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.

Your All-Time Line-Up

We haven’t yet arrived at Spring Training but baseball is around the corner.  That got me to thinking about the Red Sox line-up and that got me to think about the best line-up ever.

Let us know your best line-up ever.  Price is not an issue.  The players in your line-up need not be living.  And in a nod to baseball purists, perhaps things like personality, effort and other intangibles can be included.  After all, a team of Ty Cobbs might all be murdered by season’s end, a team of Pete Roses in trouble with a bookie and a team of  Barry Bonds unable to fit their heads through a door.

We are looking for the line-up order too.

Hers is my first crack at it and I’m using a DH:

1.) Rickey Henderson – DH – The best lead-off hitter of all time.  A blend perfect blend of on-base skill and speed.

2.) Rogers Hornsby – 2B – Hit .400 or more 3 times with a career 1.010 OPS.

3.) Ted Willams – LF – Not much of a fielder but you can hide that in left field at Fenway, but his hitting was otherworldly.

4.) Babe Ruth – RF – Best baseball player of all-time.

5.) Willie Mays – CF – Tough choice between Mays and Mantle, but I think the defense here is too much to ignore.

6.) Lou Gehrig – 1B – Impossible to get out and I realize it is insulting to him to have him bat 6th, but so be it.

7.) Mike Schmidt – 3B – A brilliant combo of power and fielding.

8.) Johny Bench – C – Not quite the hitter Mike Piazza was but 10 times the fielder, the only person to consider at catcher.

9.) Honus Wagner – SS – Ozzie Smith was considered here as his defense was better but offensively, no comparison.  I had to hit someone 9th.

Some interesting notes, it is very difficult to gauge defensive value with old-timey players as they used far different equipment and as a result their fielding percentages were almost always lower  when compared to modern players using modern equipment.  And the ability for defense to be evaluated using visual evidence is something not afforded older players, so reputation is playing a part here for me.

But getting past the fine print, how great would this line-up be?  Putting 2 lefties in Williams and Ruth back to back isn’t ideal, but hey, it’s Williams and Ruth and I think they’ll be just fine.  There are some defensive liabilities in this group, but the offense just cannot be overlooked.

What does your line-up look like?

 

 

Lester

The departure of Jon Lester was set into motion 8 months ago when the Red Sox offered him 4 years and $70m.  Considering Chicago signed him for 6 years and $155m (plus a vesting option), then you can understand why Lester felt the Red Sox hadn’t built much good will with such an initial low-ball offer.  Any notion of a home town discount ended when they put forth that bid.

First off, a question I’d love answered is, are the Red Sox happy they didn’t land Lester?  Did they just continue to stay close enough in negotiations so they could turn around and tell Red Sox fans they tried?  Are they happier with the idea that they will have to not only trade prospects to get a top-flight starter, but that they will also have to pay that top-flight starter as well?  Lester just cost money, a guy like Cole Hamels will cost much talent and money.

For them to think 6/$135m would get it done is laughable which makes me think indeed, they really didn’t want to resign him.  If the Red Sox had matched the Cubs offer, I am guessing he’d have taken it.  So for $20m, they will have to ship a Betts, a Swihart, a Bogaerts or another top prospect and they’d best hope the prospect they are sending doesn’t turn out to be an impact majorleaguer as that in turn will cost them far more than $20m.

Also, are we going to get a smear campaign, a very distasteful thing we’ve seen when people leave the Red Sox.  Terry Francona’s departure is a first and foremost example and while I cannot pinpoint it on any one person, the fact is, there are Red Sox sources who leak the worst kind of information, personal information.  As a Red Sox fan, I am thrilled they have won 3 World Series in the past 10 years but they way they conduct business leaves much to be desired.  For instance, using their high horse to disparage the way the Yankees do business, specifically spending large sums of money on free agents, then to turn around 12 months later and do the same thing themselves.  The previously mentioned smear campaigns are upsetting.  If I am to believe former GM Theo Epstein, he said of signing Carl Crawford, that he felt a pressure from above to “feed the monster” that was the Red Sox marketing juggernaut.  Feeding the monster means signing players not for what they bring to the success of the baseball team, but rather what PR boost, what ratings boost, what revenue boost a signing might deliver.

I’d like to think that winning ballgames and doing so in a classy manner aren’t mutually exclusive.

Of course the main concern I have is who the hell is going to start for the Red Sox next year?  I sure hope Ben Cherington has been staying at a Holiday Inn Express of late because he is going to have to work miracles over the next 2 months.  Seriously, the rotation is a total and complete mess and as it stands today they won’t have any chance of making the postseason.

Boston Today

The Red Sox sure have a way of surprising.  My thought going into this off season was to try to acquire a starting rotation.  But with offense down and pitching up in MLB, Ben Cherington has decided to do just the opposite.  One would assume he is acquiring the difficult to acquire asset with goals of moving some of that asset to acquire the supposedly easier asset to acquire in pitching.

If the season started today, here’s my line-up:

cf – Mookie Betts (R)

2b – Dustin Pedroia (R)

dh – David Ortiz (L)

lf – Hanley Ramirez (R)

3b – Pablo Sandoval (S)

1b – Mike Napoli (R)

ss – Xander Bogaerts (R)

rf – Rusney Castillo (R)

c – Christian Vasquez (R)

The obvious observation is that the Red Sox line-up remains heavy on the righties.  This kind of reminds me of when the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, adding to lefty hitter with the Red Sox already extremely lefty in their line-up, especially their top 5 hitters (Gonzalez, Crawford, Ortiz, Ellsbury with only Pedroia being a righty).

But we are still several months away from spring training, let alone opening day.  With a stockpile of offense, albeit in, my opinion, not the best talent, the Red Sox do have chips to work with to acquire a starting rotation.  Namely if they can move a player like Cespedes and his salary, then perhaps Jon Lester fits in rotation as a free agent.  In addition, there must be room for the likes of Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks on other teams…um, when I write those names, I lose total confidence that anyone would provide 100 cents on the dollar for any of them.

So aside from Cespedes, the Red Sox might have to be willing to trade minor leaguers like Blake Swihart, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini (where would he ever play? The Red Sox just signed 2 players in Ramirez and Sandoval to the 2 positions he plays.), Devon Merrero and a few others.

I would expect over the next 21 days the Red Sox to start to move the above assets in exchange for quality starting pitching and hopefully the signing of Lester.  And let’s hope other MLB teams are willing to play the game with Boston, lest they leave Cherington with all offense and no defense, I’ve heard that can leave a GM a dull employee.

A Team of Outfielders

This morning I’m left scratching my head.  Yes, part of it is my dandruff condition, but also the Red Sox now have 8 outfielders in the fold.  Oh yeah, and they are doing exactly what they said they wouldn’t do and that is sign 30+ year old players to big contracts.

Reports are flying around this morning that the Red Sox have agreed to terms with both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.  Both men have reportedly agreed to 5 year deals worth in the range of $90-$100m.  The Ramirez deal seems firm while there are suggestions the Sandoval deal isn’t a lock so let’s focus on the Ramirez deal.

With Ramirez, who will be 31 when the season starts, the Red Sox have perhaps a third baseman or a left fielder.  If Sandoval signs, Ramirez will be in left, if Sandoval doesn’t sign, Ramirez is your new third baseman.  Signing both would mean the Red Sox have the following major league outfielders on their roster:

Ramirez, Betts, Victorino, Cespedes, Castillo, Bradley Jr., Craig and Nava.  Holt played a few innings there too last season, but let’s leave him out of this discussion.

What are they going to do with all of those outfielders?  Really, what?  I think this means Cespedes is a goner.  He has 1 year left on his deal, has told the world he will test free agency and the Red Sox aren’t allowed to tender him meaning they would not get a draft pick if they lose him.  Yes he has power, but he produced a sub .300 OBP last year and despite having a great arm, doesn’t seem to have a glove.  There were also whispers, quickly refuted by the Red Sox, that he wasn’t a teachable player.

That still leaves a logjam, but it is a start at clearing it out.

Ramirez wasn’t popular amongst his Red Sox teammates when he was traded in 2005 but he is a good offensive player when healthy and 9 years later, perhaps he has tamed his attitude a bit and won’t cause any friction.  Signing him is a direct contradiction to proclamations last year that long term deals to older players is a mistake.  Perhaps that leaves me with hope that Jon Lester still might re-sign.

I guess I have nothing left to say as there are far too many holes in the Red Sox team for me to get excited over 1 or 2 free agent signings.  Someone still has to pitch and right now their rotation is a mess.

Kung-Fu Panda

ESPN is reporting that the Red Sox are “all-in” in an attempt to sign Pablo Sandoval.  While the free agency process is filled with posturing and interesting rumors, there’s no doubt Sandoval would be a useful addition.

The worries, however, start with the fact he is not a highly conditioned athlete and history shows that those types don’t generally have long-lasting careers.  Couple that with the fact he is at free agency for the first time and trying to make a financial score, and this might not be the best thing for the Red Sox to do.

He is only 28 years old but let’s consider other baseball players who aren’t/weren’t in tip-top condition:

Prince Fielder – 30 years old and in the middle of a massive contract.  He played in only 42 games in 2014 and while it is too soon to count him out, I’d be very worried if I were the Texas Rangers.

Cecil Fielder – He starred in his 20’s but as his last all-star season was at age 32.  He was out of baseball at age 34.

Greg Luzinski – Now I was young when Luzinski was playing, but I remember him as a large fellow.  Please correct me if I am wrong. His career was done at 33.

John Kruk – At his own admission, he is not a fitness freak and was out of baseball at 34 (although was reasonably productive in his last years).

Ryan Howard – Wow, am I picking on Phillies players or what here?  Ryan is 34 and posted a .690 OPS this year.  His last good year was at age 31 and his contract runs for a few more years so I’d not be optimistic if I were his GM.

Adam Dunn – Announced his retirement at age 34.  His last very good year was at age 30 when he posted a .892 OPS.

Now there are outliers like David Ortiz.  He is a very large man yet here he is at age 38 still being productive and this guy named Babe Ruth played well to age 39.  Also keep in mind, baseball-reference has Kruk still listed at 5′ 10″, 170 lbs.  Sure.  I guess my point is this exercise isn’t scientific but I hope it supports the idea that a 6 year deal at $90-$100m for Sandoval is crazy in my opinion.  His OPS has declined each of the last 4 seasons.  Perhaps you’d get 2-3 good years out of him but also 2-3 lousy years as well.

I’d pass if I were Boston.

 

GM Meetings

The Red Sox have the major task of building a starting rotation.  While they have a handful of OF talent to dangle in any trades, they also have a check book capable of paying some free agents.

2 names that have been discussed in Boston include Jon Lester and the Phillies Cole Hamels.  To get Lester, they need to match his asking price and even if he is offering a “home town discount” it’s still going to cost the Red Sox a great deal to land him.  Hamels, on the other hand, will require spending money (as in paying him his salary) and prospects.  Hamels is on the books for another 4 years at $22.5 each (and a 5th year that vest predicated on durability and good health).  So landing Hamels will mean they are only on the hook for 4 years guaranteed but they spend dearly by giving up prospects.

To me this is a no brainer, they should re-sign Lester.  Let’s say they can get him for 6 years and $120m and please, we all have ideas as to what it will take, but let’s use this as a starting point and acknowledge it could be higher or maybe even lower I if a home town discount is really possbile.  That allows the Red Sox to hold onto their prospects while the down side is an extra 2 years of liability for a pitcher who will be 31 in January.  Still I take my chances on Lester over Hamels.

Lester has proven he can pitch in Boston, not every pitcher can do it.

Now, that’s just one starting pitcher, they need another.  The GM meetings are when both trade and free agent ideas are floated and then the owners meetings are when things start to happen.

Red Sox Overhaul

In the 2 days leading up to MLB’s trade deadline, the Red Sox traded away 4 pitchers and one bat.

The Red Sox unloaded 60% of their opening day starting rotation, they unloaded a great situational lefty and they unloaded an overpaid shortstop. If you go back a full week they have unloaded 80% of their starting rotation as they also moved Jake Peavy.

Let’s start with the starters. In Jon Lester they got rid of the ace of their staff and in return received Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has great right-handed power, but little plate discipline and hits for a poor average, he is very good in the outfield however. Because they only control Cespedes through 2015, I don’t think the Red Sox got enough in return for Lester, especially when you consider all the work they’re going to need to do to be competitive in 2015. Cespedes could just walk after 2015, basically 1.4 year rental.

The Red Sox also moved John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Craig is having one of his worst seasons as a major leaguer and has a .437 OPS over the past 28 days. Joe Kelly’ has been working out of the bullpen although has made starts in his career, but I’m not sure he fits in the Red Sox rotation. Craig will also struggle to find a position unless the Res Sox out him in left and Cespedes in right.

For Felix Doubront, whom they traded yesterday, the Red Sox are receiving a player to be named later.

In return for trading Andrew Miller to the Orioles, the Red Sox received another left-hander I know nothing about but who is considered the O’s 3rd best prospect.

Lastly, and what I considered to be their best trade, they traded Stephen Drew to the Yankees in exchange for Kelly Johnson. A pure salary dump. The best part about this trade is that it allows the Xander Bogaerts to move back to shortstop. Apparently the Red Sox are sending money to NY to even up the money, and because Johnson is on the DL, he might turn out to be a player to be named later.

Where Cespedes will play, where Craig will play, and if Kelly Johnson will play, all remain a mystery. One thing is for sure, the Red Sox are done for 2014 and are clearly looking ahead. But given some of the veterans they acquired, it seems like they’re trying to make a run for next year but I really don’t think they can rebuild the starting rotation that quickly.

They do have a logjam of starting pitching prospects in the minors so they will probably end up packaging a few of those to get established major-league pitchers for the rotation for 2015.

For the rest of this year I see an infield of Napoli at first base, Pedroia at second base, Middlebrooks at third-base, and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. In the outfield I like to see Craig in left field, Bradley in center, and Cespedes in right. With Vasquez catching and Ortiz DH.

The Red Sox New Beginning?

It’s being reported that the Red Sox have traded Felix Doubront. There are also rumors of them entertaining offers for Jon Lester and John Lackey.

I can understand trading Doubront as he seems to be a bit of a malcontent. But moving both Lester and Lackey, your respective one and two starters, means the Red Sox are apparently in overhaul mode.

Today ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that he hopes the Red Sox have a Plan B. He couldn’t be more correct, the Red Sox are basically trying to unload 3/5 of their starting rotation (Felix started the year in the rotation) and if they also move Clay Buchholz, make it 4/5 (he’s the one starter I really won’t miss if he is moved).

Who’s going to start for the next year? One rumor has the Red Sox pursuing the Philidelphia Phillies Cole Hamels. I asked why not just re-sign Jon Lester? You know he can pitch in the American League East, and he’s a known quantity. And it won’t take any draft picks to sign him.

To echo Buster Olney, I really do hope they know what they’re doing.