Jeff Bianchi

An addendum to all the Red Sox related posts recently.  Who is Jeff Bianchi?  Who the F cares?!  But I found his plight interesting.  No one else did, most assuredly.

Not that I care about the player specifically.  But I found that what went on with him within the Red Sox organization seemed to just kind of sum up this season so far, in a nutshell.

Anyway, here is an e-mail I wrote to a group of Sox fan friends on 6/12/15.  Didn’t think it was worthy of a post back then, but now?  Still probably not…but what the hell?  It read as follows…and has been edited slightly for clarity’s sake:

Raise your hand if you knew we had some guy Jeff Bianchi on the roster?

This is a minute point, but kind of falls into line with the way the Sox have been “managed” this year…both by the GM and manager.  A microcosm, if you will:
 
Bianchi is some journeyman infield stiff that apparently the Sox signed to a minor league contract in the winter.  Didn’t make the team, got reassigned to AAA, blah, blah, blah.
 
For some reason, they felt they needed him and called him up on 5/24 to replace Shane Victorino on the roster.  He got into the game in the 9th, no ABs.
 
When they acquired Carlos “we hardly knew ye” Peguero on 5/28, Bianchi was Designated For Assignment, with no further appearances since his Sox debut on the 24th.  On 5/30, he was sent outright to Pawtucket, refused assignment, so he became a free agent.
 
THE VERY NEXT DAY, 5/31, Bianchi was re-signed to a MAJOR LEAGUE CONTRACT.  And has been on the active roster ever since, not even coming close to sniffing game action.  
 
This may be stuff that only interests me.  But in addition to the high profile questionable signings (Hanley, Panda, Masterson, Porcello, etc.), they have even mismanaged the back end of the roster, signing a guy that is completely fungible to a deal probably about 500k more than they needed to…and of course, they really don’t need him since he hasn’t played an inning in the 2 weeks he has been back.  Sure they have money to burn, but still…
 
Also goes to show you that EVERYTHING has gone wrong this year…just everything…

End of e-mail…but not actually the end!  This note is from 6/12.  On 6/13, Bianchi got in the game when Fat Panda got hurt and got 2 at-bats, including one in the 11th inning with Mike Napoli still on the bench and down a run.  Napoli being a stiff this year has already been noted in my recent posts, as well as John Farrell’s poor decision to let Bianchi hit in this particular spot, despite having 1 at-bat in like 3 weeks.  Amazingly enough, in order to have a better shot to tie the game, common sense would indicate that Napoli would have been the better choice there.Then on 6/14, Bianchi cleaned up for Xander Bogaerts at SS in a blowout, no at-bats.

6/15?  DFA’d again.  Money well spent.  Again, the Sox can swallow the dough.  But what was the whole point of it?

Silent no more…even more…

As promised (warned?), now what I want to do with the position players:

Immediate moves, in no particular order:

*Release/trade if you can Mike Napoli.  The final nail in the coffin may have been Tuesday night.  0 for 4 with 4 K’s.  Golden Sombrero.  Batting 8th in the lineup, mind you.  He should’ve been planted on the bench long ago.  But there is always that “hot streak” everyone is waiting for.  He had great series against his former team, the Angels, like a month ago.  And like 70 forgettable games otherwise.  Time to pull the plug.  Someone MAY actually give you a low level prospect or something.  Let’s do that before he plummets even further.

If you want to recall Allen Craig and give him one last shot at 1B…since the team is on the hook for another 2 years and 20 mil (plus a 2018 13 mil option or 1 mil buyout)…I could go with that.  Maybe regular playing time at a position he is actually suited for (not the LF & RF he was playing in Boston) would work.  Hey, he is hitting .286 with a .422 OBP at Pawtucket…so maybe…but I like the next idea better.

*Move Hanley Ramirez to first base.  What, you don’t want to stunt his progress in left field?  What progress?  But really, who cares if he can’t play left?  The Sox have a laundry list of guys that were poor left fielders.  The whole thing is overblown, I say.  His effort level is not overblown, but didn’t everyone know that he was a loafer (to be kind)?  Especially the dudes who actually gave him all that cash?

In any event, don’t tell me he can’t play first.  Considering he was a shortstop and sometimes third baseman in his career.  Let him finish the year there…since this year doesn’t matter anyway.

*Keep sitting David Ortiz against lefties and DH Hanley when that happens.  I personally think Big Papi has something left.  But perhaps not against lefties.  .289/10/27 against RHP and .122/0/4 against LHP (9 for 74).  Yikes!  But it’s only natural that he slow down someday.  And it’s not all because of the expanded strike zone, as Papi and the Sox radio announcers would have you believe.  (Aside…PLEASE Joe Castig and Dave O’B.  You don’t have to keep excusing Papi’s and Napoli’s lack of performance this year because of the expanded strike zone EVERY AT BAT.  Thank you.).

Hanley obviously should eventually be the DH.  Papi’s 2016 option will likely kick in later in the year.  He needs 425 plate appearances and was at 267 at last glance.  Fine.  See if he can get his 500 homers (and 600 doubles!) over the next year and a half (24 homers and 41 doubles away…not sure why I care about two-baggers, but 600 is a nice number).  Then give him his 2017 option as a parting gift and let Hanley finish out his contract at DH.

*Keep Blake Swihart as the everyday catcher when Ryan Hanigan returns.  My fear is that because Swihart was recalled earlier than what they wanted, he would go back to AAA when some catchers were healthy.  I still fear it.  But what’s the point now?  He has his average up to .239 and seems to be holding his own all around, so why bother?  Make Hanigan the backup, dispatch Sandy Leon and now, Erik Kratz back to the minors (as if they won’t clear waivers) and move on…

*Recall Jackie Bradley Jr. and install him in CF the rest of the way.  You may say Mookie Betts has handled center well.  You may say JBJ still can’t hit in the majors.  You may be right.  But JBJ is still hitting .316 with a .394 OBP down in AAA.  Maybe he has changed some habits.  Maybe not.  But don’t go by the 0 for 11 in the majors earlier in the year.  Farrell and the team set him up to fail.  The at-bats were inconsistent and they were against a knuckleballer (RA Dickey) and 2 aces (Sonny Gray and King Felix).  His glove is undeniable.  Why not let him run with it for the 2nd half?  Betts moves to right in this scenario (and possibly 2B?  More thoughts on that coming up).

*Release Shane Victorino.  You think Masterson can be a problem?  Wait ‘til this guy gets back on the active roster and sees nowhere to play.  Or the likes of Alejandro de Aza or Daniel Nava when he comes back getting AB’s in his place.  Ugly.  Not to mention Farrell will probably just hand him his job back, or try to anyway.  Not ideal.  Ditch this distraction ASAP.

Longer term:

*Let Rusney Castillo get some games in down at Pawtucket.  Fine.  But you paid him big dough for 6 more years.  No sense in leaving him there.  He has taken some heat for seemingly “not knowing how to play the game of baseball” around these parts in recent weeks.  Haven’t seen every game he has played, but that seems a little harsh.  These same people loved him last September and in the spring.  Seems silly to start killing him after only 77 MLB plate appearances this year.

When you bring him back, he plays left.  Maybe that works better, who knows?  He can spot in the other OF positions when needed.  But leave him out there to play, for better or for worse.

For the sake of completeness, Xander Bogaerts is at SS (Duh!).  Fat Panda sticks at 3B (what else can you do with him…and that contract?!).  Brock Holt continues to spot all over, plays left until Castillo comes back, plays 1B when Hanley DH’s, fills in for rest days at 2B, 3B, SS, CF, RF..etc.  But as long as he’s hitting, he plays every day.

Oops…one more note, likely an off-season consideration:

*Investigate trading Dustin Pedroia.  WHAAAAAAAT???!!!  BLASPHEMY!!!  WHO IS THIS IDIOT HACK WRITING THIS???!!

Yup.  Hard for me to write, I admit.  But consider the facts:

-He will be 32 in August.  His value will not increase.

-Plays 150% EVERY SINGLE PLAY.  Something to admire for sure.  But not of the biggest stature and that style of play would seemingly tend to take its toll.  (See Youkilis, Kevin…who played the same way, had a bigger body that would seemingly handle the wear and tear better…and was out of baseball at age 34).

-Had lingering hand/wrist injuries that he played through in 2013 & 2014…and will always play through those types of things, probably accelerating the “aging” process.

-Now seems to have some sort of knee issue, that again, he will play through and not give time to heal.  Likely affecting his game certainly the remainder of this year at the very least.

-On the hook for 6 more years after this year, for 84 million total.

-Glove is still top notch, though he has made a couple of silly errors this year.  Nitpicking, I know.  But the highlight here is that his glove is still stout and valuable.  Don’t lose sight of that.

-Have in house replacements available…one on the current roster (Betts), one that the Sox paid 63 million for this offseason (Yoan Moncada, though a ways away still of course).

Can’t argue those.  I’m not saying to run out and deal Pedroia for a bag of balls and a couple of fungo bats.  But the GM wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t test the waters.  It is tough to suggest, seeing Pedroia’s value to the team over his career.  But Jon Lester got traded, no?  Everyone is available for the right price.  At least that is the way it should be.  I don’t expect anything to happen.  But his trade value should be assessed, no doubt in my mind.

Those are my thoughts.  Yours?

 

Silent no more…more…

Now for the players.  Some things I would like to see.  Again, some immediate and some by the end of the season.

Starting with the pitching staff:

Immediate moves, in no particular order:

*Recall Brian Johnson and insert him into the rotation in Joe Kelly’s place.  Johnson has apparently passed a lot of pitchers on the food chain in the past year or so.  He was getting starts at the end of Spring Training in the big league camp…not that Spring Training means anything (see Napoli, Mike…more on him in the next post).  But it means the club was getting a better look at him as teams were playing their better players as the season was approaching to get a better read on his “readiness”, to some degree.

Johnson is 8-4 in Pawtucket, 2.80 ERA, 1.14 WHIP to go along with that.  69 K’s in 74 innings.  E-Rod was 4-3, 2.98, 1.10, 44 K’s in 48 innings when he got the call.  It’s time to make that move I would say.

As for Kelly, wow.  That playful boast in the spring of winning the Cy Young…ouch.  Another banner start Tuesday night.  So he throws 97…big deal.  A lot of guys do that and are putrid, he seems to be falling in line with that.  I just wonder where all these pundits came from early in this year…the ones who were saying that they expected to see him emerge as the “ace” of the staff because of his stuff.  He’s 27 years old!  And has largely pitched out of the bullpen in his career.  Where were these “experts” previously?  And all of a sudden he is “ace” material?  Ace Hardware maybe.  He’s got the safety glasses for that type of work anyway.  Just never made sense to me.

Seems like a middle reliever to me.  Thought that last year when the Sox traded for him.  Let’s see how that works out now.

*Release Justin Masterson.  I’d be ok if he accepted his move to the bullpen and we’d see if he can get back to something.  He has for now, reluctantly.  But as he keeps seeing Kelly, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley throwing up one stinkbomb after another, you think he is going to keep quiet?  I don’t.  He thinks he is still good.  The evidence doesn’t point to that.  Just get him out of here already.  Too bad.  I used to love the guy.

*Come up with the old Celtics “Hellenic flu” for Porcello and throw him on the DL.  Use the same phantom injury they gave Masterson if need be.  Tell him to stay away for a bit and get his head out of his arse.  Then come back and be ready to go.  That’s the best advice I can give now on him.  I certainly don’t want to see him back on the hill soon.  But I will, I am sure…

Moves over the next couple of months:

*Trade Clay Buchholz.  Admittedly, I am biased.  I just can’t stand the guy.  Brittle.  Baby.  Not competitive.  Wildly inconsistent.  Etc.  When you have to essentially beg a guy to take the ball in the World Series, do you want to go to war with that loser?  Every time he gets the sniffles you have to handle him with kid gloves.  I’m just done with his act.

In an actual baseball sense, the guy has plenty of talent, likely the best pitcher on the staff.  Age 31 in August though, is there any more upside?  2 team friendly options of 13 mil in 2016 and 13.5 in 2017 makes him marketable for sure.  He has rebounded from his putrid start to the season.  And he has already thrown 86 innings, which means an inexplicable injury is right around the corner.

With the team going nowhere, this may be the time to finally rid ourselves of…er, trade the guy for hopefully some value.

*Recall Henry Owens and give him a taste of the big leagues for a couple of months.  Bullpen first, perhaps Bucky’s rotation spot later?  Walking a ton of guys in AAA, but not giving up a ton of hits, so his WHIP is sitting at 1.27.  Not great, but coming down.  Maybe in another month make the move.

*Release Craig Breslow and give his job to a kid.  Breslow is one of those “thanks for 2013 bud” guys that were awesome that year…him, the 2nd half especially.  But generally putrid since then.  No need for a guy like that on this years’ team.  Probably no trade value.  So just let him go.

Pick a guy for his spot.  Heath Hembree has absolutely nothing left to prove in AAA, give him a chance.  Same could be said for Steven Wright.  Matt Barnes may rebound here.  Dailer Hinojosa.  Edwin Escobar.  Anyone that may help for the future.  Breslow is not that guy.

That pretty much covers available options inside the organization, I would have to say.  You are stuck with Miley and Porcello.  Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are fine at the back end of the bullpen of course…as long as they aren’t overused…which they are, ssssooooo…is Koji’s 9 mil next year a holdup for trade value?  Worth considering, I think…but unlikely to happen.  So I won’t waste my breath.

For the sake of completeness, leave Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation, obviously.  You could do worse than Alexi Ogando and Tommy Layne in the bullpen, though I am not married to them.  May as well keep Robbie Ross Jr. around as well…since you traded an alleged top prospect (Anthony Ranaudo) straight up for him.

NEXT:  The everyday players.

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