Red Sox

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.

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.

Night Two

Will tonight be the night that Jon Lester makes his decision? It is reportedly a two-team race between Boston and Chicago as Lester has informed the Giants he won’t be joining them. (Props to Lester for phoning them himself). Most of the free agent market is waiting for Lester, so it would be great if he would decide.

Let’s focus on a few other notes.

Interesting admission by Brian Cashman that the Yankees didn’t make an offer to David Robertson and had no intention of ever signing him and Miller, but pretended they might because they didn’t want to hurt his value because they liked him. I can’t imagine the other teams in the league are thrilled that the Yankees tried to help Robertson get a bigger contract.

You have to wonder if the Giants turn to Chase Headley now that they know they won’t be spending money on Lester.  I have to think that the reports that Headley had a four-year/$65-million offer were wrong. Why wouldn’t he have accepted that by now?

Once Lester signs, who is next? Francisco Liriano went back to Pittsburgh today for three-years/$39-million so he is out, but there are a ton of arms out there. I am surprised that James Shields seems to have escaped notice by most people.

A pet peeve of mine is how many baseball people don’t understand the point of Moneyball. It wasn’t that Oakland valued OBP above all else. It was that Oakland realized that OBP wasn’t being valued and therefore they could exploit it. Oakland’s whole mind set is to exploit the areas in baseball that are being undervalued while selling the areas they think are overvalued. That’s why they built a defensive juggernaut a few years back and why they traded a bunch of prospects this year.

Interesting situation building in Cincinnati. Apparently they want to contend in 2015, but they also feel the need to cut payroll. That’s a tough needle to thread.

Max Scherzer reportedly wants a deal bigger than $200-million. Good luck to him with that.

More tonight if news happens in the next hour or so.

Lester News-UPDATED 7:25PM

Ken Rosenthal just tweeted “Barring late change, Lester choosing between Cubs and SF Giants”

I think we all know that “late change” means more money from Boston. Let’s see what happens.

UPDATE 4:55- As BL points out in the comments, Lester’s agent denies this report. Jon Heyman reports that Giants and Cubs are “favorites” but Red Sox have not been informed they are out. Buster Olney speculates that Lester’s agents like to present teams with a “take down price” and that Boston has been presented with that. Rosenthal hasn’t tweeted anything beyond his initial report.

The Giants part intrigues me as they obviously need a third baseman. They went to a $150-million payroll last season and they already have almost $130-million committed for 2015. Are they willing to go well above $150-million?

UPDATE 7:25- I was waiting for this- Jerry Crasnick tweeted “Don’t count out the Yankees with Jon Lester”

If the Yankees are going to sign a major free agent pitcher, and I hope they won’t, I hope it is Jon Lester. Is that a backhanded endorsement?

 

Crank Up The Rumor Mill

The Winter Meetings are upon us. The hot stove will be ablaze and plenty of moves will follow. We will post frequently as news warrants.

For now, a few predictions about what will unfold over the next four days. These are guaranteed to be wrong, but let’s have some fun.

1- Max Scherzer doesn’t come close to signing a deal, but everyone keeps reporting that he does.

2- David Robertson gets a 5-year/$50 million deal from Houston.

3- Jon Lester gets a contract over $150 million

4- The Red Sox trade for Jordan Zimmermann

5- The Yankees trade for Danny Espinosa

6- Melky Cabrera gets $100-million deal.

And away we go!

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.