Monthly Archives: March 2014

Can you feel it?

Opening Day is right around the corner!  Well, I’m not really counting the Australia games.  Did anyone actually pay attention to them?  And I guess I am not counting the Sunday Night Baseball game either, but at least we can all follow it.

Red Sox open up Monday at 3:00.  Seems to have snuck up on everyone…well, me anyway.  The Bruins have been smoking hot, the Celtics have been the opposite (much to most people’s delight this year though) and the Patriots have made a few impact free agent moves.

The fact that this Sox camp has been largely uneventful is probably another big reason as well.  Not to mention that instead of coming off a “chicken and beer” year or a Bobby Valentine debacle year, they are coming off a World Series Championship year.  I suppose that helps keep things in perspective.  (Side note:  speaking of “chicken and beer, have I mentioned that the strength coach for the Sox that year is now working (at least part-time) at a small gym in Billerica, MA?  Seems like quite a fall…especially considering he apparently was on the Diamondback staff during their World Series as well.  Feel kind of bad for the guy actually.  The players walked all over him in Boston, he said a few things publicly the ensuing winter suggesting as much, the team pretty much made him a scapegoat and canned him…and now he seems to be blackballed out of baseball completely altogether.  He probably deserved better.  But anyway, I digress…)

The team came to Spring Training this year without much controversy.  Dempster “retired” right before camp.  No big deal, he was basically insurance anyway.  Wouldn’t have minded that insurance, but I guess that is why they got Chris Capuano.  Not sure why they had to do that, as Workman seemingly had earned that spot on the roster, based on his work specifically in the playoffs.  But that’s really kind of a minor issue.  There weren’t really any spots up for grabs on the roster.  You knew most of the kids (other than Bogaerts and maybe Bradley) would be seasoned more in the minors…cuz that’s how the Sox roll.  Certainly the young pitchers.  Always good to have 15-20 pitchers that can contribute to the pitching staff of a team over the course of the year.  So try the Badenhop’s and Capuano’s early.  Keep guys like Francisco Cordero, Tommy Layne and Rich HIll in Pawtucket if they are ok with it.  Keep the kids down until they prove they are ready.  Gonna need them all.

The biggest noise came from the contract situations (see previous post).  Jonny Gomes shot his mouth off about how great he is.  And the endless Stephen Drew stories.  (Love how he is still completely delusional…as well as Boras.  Scotty Boras generally gets his guys deals that most people can’t fathom, but this time…not so much.  Kind of telling that when a great team like Detroit loses their SS, likely for the year (old friend Jose Iglesias), they go out and trade for two others not named Drew within a week:  Some Romine guy no one has ever heard of…and the corpse of Alex Gonzalez.  Gonzalez used to be a wizard at short, but A:  He is 37 years old, B:  He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for years and C:  Milwaukee actually played him at 1B last year, as I believe Baltimore was doing this spring before dealing him.  So much for Stephen Drew.  But Boras said recently that he has a 3 year, 39 million dollar offer on the table for him.  Sure thing chief).

Oh, Jonathan Herrera beat out Brock Holt for the utility infield role.  That was pretty major…not.  They actually could use a guy like Drew as a backup on the left side of the infield.  Solid veteran who could help out if Bogaerts and/or Middlebrooks falls flat on their face.  But not for 14 mil per.  Goes without saying.  Glad the team is going with these two guys though.  Xander should be playing SS, until he proves otherwise.  And I didn’t want to give up on Middlebrooks yet.  Which brings us to about the only story on the actual playing field this spring…and the last kid who was SUPPOSED to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day, Jackie Bradley Jr.

Not that the Sox were handing Bradley a job, but they kind of were when they let Ellsbury walk and didn’t sign anyone else of significance.  Grady Sizemore was supposed to be a gamble…anything he could give you would be a bonus.  Hadn’t played in two years, has been essentially useless for five.  Now he is the darling of camp.  Just cuz he played a few games.  33 at-bats and all of a sudden people are talking like he will be a 30-30 guy again this year.  Let’s pump the brakes on all this folks.  Grady was a pretty good player in his early to mid-twenties.  But now he is 31 and hasn’t done much for a half a decade.  Everything he will do this year IS a bonus and we can’t forget that.

That being said, I’d have him break camp with the big league club.  If he has anything to offer, might as well get it out of the gate.  Instead of him going to Pawtucket, or probably extended spring training, and wasting his hits down there.  Problem is, you’ll need someone capable of playing CF when he can’t.  And apparently we can’t count on Victorino to do that, because of injury and whatever else.  The talk of playing Nava there is a joke (remember a stint he had out there last year when Ellsbury was a late scratch one night and Victorino was unavailable?  It was ugly if you don’t remember.  And another side note:  What is all this talk by Farrell about “trying” to get Nava some time in center and “trying” to get Carp some time at 3rd still?  Haven’t you had the last 6 weeks to get those guys time at those places?  Many games, major, minor and intrasquad?  You are the manager, if you want to get them experience at those positions, just put them in the lineup already).

Bradley should also break camp with the team.  As opposed to last year, he has done squat in the spring.  But so has Papi with his 2 for 35.  OK, different situations, I know.  But Bradley can stay here for his defense and pick up some valuable major league at-bats in at least a platoon scenario.  Unfortunately, the way the roster is constructed, there may not be room for him.  Because you still have Nava, Gomes and Carp in the OF as well.  Do you really need all of those three though?  I’d rid myself of Gomes personally, since he extremely overrates himself and Farrell feels the urge to play him too much.  But they won’t.  Nava should suffice since he is serviceable at LF/RF/1B and switch hits.  Carp is expendable.  They love how he can hit cold off the bench, but so what?  That was one year and he was atrocious in the playoffs.  There is supposedly trade value out there for him.  What are they waiting for?  You can find a Mike Carp anywhere.  Deal him, open the spot for Bradley.  It’s best for the team.  Mike Carp?  Please.

My favorite part about the beginning of the regular season?  In all honesty it could quite possibly be the end of two straight months of “feel good” stories from all the local blowhard writers that are everywhere.  Enough already…nauseating…

 

Papi got his dough!

So…I guess he can stop whining?  Love Big Papi, but his contract talk over the years has been tiresome.  As for the contract?  Ugh.  I was on the side of giving him an extra year…at as much as 20 mil.  ‘Roids or no roids, the guy had earned it.  Even if he proceeds to hit a buck-fifty with 6 dongs in 2015.  Who cares?  Parting gift.  For all he has contributed throughout the years, I had no problem giving him one more year in 2015.  Not like the Sox don’t have the money.  They can just sell a few more bricks.

But the option years?  Not sure those were necessary.  Not to mention that they will be fairly easy to attain as well.  425 plate appearances?  Not really a lot.  What happens if he is hitting .220 in 2015 towards the end of the year…and has around 400 plate appearances in mid-September?  THAT will be interesting.  Ortiz most assuredly will think he deserves the 2016 option regardless of what he does in 2015.  So he will start squawking then.  And can you even imagine the chirping if he sucks in 2015 and they bench him at the end of the year so he doesn’t meet the requirements?  That could get ugly.  Club options with him in the past haven’t been so smooth, as everyone undoubtedly remembers.

Should have just given him the one year extension and called it a day.  After that he will be 40 and he would have to just deal with going year-to-year.  It’s not like anyone would overspend to get him then.  If they did?  Really wouldn’t matter.

Speaking of contracts, the whole Jonny Lester situation is an interesting one.  Lester had a good year in 2013, capped by a tremendous postseason.  He has, by and large, been a pretty good pitcher throughout his career of course.  If not an ace, at least a #2 guy.  Pitches in a tough division, gives you 30 plus starts and 200 plus innings every year.  Always being on a good team has helped.  Nice pitcher to have on your staff.  But people forget how brutal he was in 2012.  I guess the whole team was that year, so it’s easy to dismiss.  But the fact of the matter is that he isn’t a shutdown ace.  He just isn’t.  So him asking for 25 mil a year for 6 years makes me kind of shudder.  Not much of a “hometown discount”, as he claims he would be willing to take.

That kind of coin for a guy like Lester is silly.  Fans also get caught up in the fact that he has pitched for the Sox for his entire career.  They want to spend extra dough on keeping him because of this, and he has been part of two World Series championships and all that crap.  They are not thinking rationally about giving a 6 year deal to a 30 year old pitcher.  For ace money, typically a guy with a mid-2 ERA (Lester’s career low ERA?  3.21 in 2008, his first full season).

That all being said?  I’d still consider giving that kind of deal to him…but hopefully no more than over 5 years.  For one, as stated above, the Sox ain’t hurting for dough.  For two, there are some contracts coming off the books over the next few years, so there’s room.  For three, presumably the kids from the “ripe” farm system will take those open roster spots, at significantly less dollars.  So there will be more room.

But the most important thing to look at is the pitching staff overall, as it is currently constituted.  Lackey and Peavy are old and average at best.  And both probably gone within 2 years.  Dempster is already gone.  Buchholz can’t ever stay healthy and Doubront is inconsistent, making them both unreliable.  Capuano?  Haha!  And then you have the seven kids that are on the cusp:  Workman, Britton, Barnes, Ranaudo, Webster, de la Rosa and Owens.  Not all of these guys will be in the Sox rotation going forward of course.  Some will go to the bullpen (de la Rosa?  Workman?), some will be part of trades and some will just flat out suck and not make it.  They could sign a big name free agent, but that may be a trick or treat option.  May not be able to handle the AL East or primarily the heat that comes with pitching in Boston.

So who is left?  A guy that has been here for a while, stayed healthy, been pretty consistent over the years, always takes the ball and has had great postseason success.  This may be the best reason to give him the dough.  We may find out within the next week.

Patriots free agency chatta

Welp…we are almost here.  Another offseason to watch the Pats reach into the bargain basement bin for free agents to find value.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not want them to go out and sign a bunch of Adalius Thomas’, who get the money and then coast.  I don’t want them to be like the Redskins and throw money around willy-nilly.  I love to find value guys as well.  But as everyone is saying, the “window” is closing.  They haven’t won a championship in 9 years, despite being deep in the playoffs most years and having one of the best coaches and QB’s in NFL history…and plenty of other talent.  They also do spend money and go close to the cap, despite a lot of people saying otherwise.  So I don’t have tremendous issues with how the Patriots do business.  It’s been a pretty good run.  I just want them to spend SOME money on an impact player or two and make an even more serious run at a championship or two before Brady is done.  In recent years, they seem to be that impact player or two short.  I’m really not asking for much.

Using cap figures from Overthecap.com, I have some ideas on what the Pats should do.  Some of these have been discussed far and wide already.  Some of this is pretty much common sense.  But hopefully I have some value to add…pun intended…

*Release Gregory–oops, already done long ago.  3.7M cap number for a #3 safety at best.  Thanks for your time Steve.

*Try to restructure Wilfork.  He may not be up for this.  I think we all recall the negotiations to get this contract initially.  Not smooth, to be kind.   But an 11.6M cap hit for a 32 year old coming off a serious injury is way too steep.  I’m sure he hasn’t kept himself in great shape with the Achilles recovery either.  If he is not game for a restructuring…I’d release him.  Very tough call on the surface.  But based on the outward facts, it really is not.  The Patriots have always looked at the facts, not the connection the player has to the team.  They usually have been very cold, generally letting a player go a year too early than a year too late.  But there is precedent for keeping a year too late as well.  Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi were done in their final years with the Pats.  Bruschi played a lot, but not well.  Brown was hurt most of the year and inactive for the rest of it.  But they were both taking up roster spots that they probably shouldn’t have.  The Pats let Vince travel with the team last year, not something they usually do.  So there is a different kind of relationship there obviously.  Other facts to consider is that they made the AFC Championship game last year with the 30th ranked run D and guys like Chris Jones and Joe Vellano at DT.  Do they need Vince in today’s NFL?  I personally think the money is better spent elsewhere.  But in the end, I think the Pats keep him even if he doesn’t restructure.

*Mankins at 10.5M?  Probably too much.  Did not play as well as usual last year.  But played on a torn ACL the whole year in 2012.  And talk about contentious negotiations to get his contract.  In 2014, I’d leave him where he is.

*Re-sign and restructure free agents in the the last year in their contract in 2014.  McCourty (5.1M), Gostkowski (3.8M) and if the Patriots are letting Wendell walk and still think he has something left to play at center, Connolly (4.1M).  The cap will go up yet again in 2015, so Devin and Stephen can take a little less this year (cap-wise) and get rewarded with extensions with higher riches in 2015 and beyond.  McCourty is not as good as his reputation suggests (according to me).  But he is pretty good, knows the D inside and out and has versatility.  Gostkowski is money.  I don’t necessarily want to spend way more on a kicker than I have to.  But he will fit.  Not sure how the Pats view Connolly.  4.1M for him is kind of high.  But he does have versatility and if he is back at center, that has some value as well.  If they re-sign Wendell, then the best move may be to just axe Connolly and go younger at guard.

*Release Sopoaga (3.5M), Adrian Wilson (1.8M) and Jake Bequette (700K).  OK pretty obvious.  And Bequette doesn’t even matter.  I’m just tired of hearing his name.  He may be the worse 3rd round pick ever.  I’ll let others do the research on that though.

*Let Edelman walk.  If someone is going to give him an Amendola deal, see ya bud.  I love what Julian brings to a team.  He has developed as a WR.  Great punt returner.  In a pinch, though I wouldn’t recommend it, he could play DB or QB.  Special teams guy.  Great versatility overall.  Creates a lot of options.  But his injury history is extensive.  Last year was the first time he was healthy the whole year.  He came up big yes.  But Amendola was hurt (surprise) and the kids were new (and Dobson and KT got hurt at different times as well).  Gronk was hurt (another surprise).  He was basically the only guy to throw to.  Especially considering your lead RB’s can’t catch (Ridley & Blount) and your 3rd down back (Vereen) was hurt as well.  If all those guys were even a bit healthier, he ain’t catching 100+ balls.  The Pats have enough weapons without him.  He can easily be replaced.  Not worth the dough.

*Keep Amendola for one more year at least.  Danny has an extensive injury history as well.  But when he is on the field he is better than Edelman.  Trading him will yield next to nothing.  If there is a chemistry issue between him and Brady, than tell Brady to get over it.  If Brady threw to a covered Slater against Denver instead of a wide open Amendola on purpose, then shame on Brady.  Supposedly the Pats can cut Amendola with no cap ramifications after 2014.  Give him one more year and if it still isn’t working, dump him then.

*Let Blount walk.  Nice finish to the year…except Denver.  I’ll take him back if he comes cheap.  But if he wants dough, there is another LeGarrette Blount out there for next year.

*Let Spikes walk.  Obvious and enough said.

*Re-sign Talib, or spend dough on another top CB.  OK, another obvious one.  The hesitation on Talib is his hip and overall health.  Legit concerns.  But he clearly works in their system.  My recommendation?  Re-sign him AND another top corner.  All the moves above should create plenty of cap space for both.  My belief is that the offense will be fine with a few small tweaks.  Spend available dough on the D-backfield…AND…

*Sign a top pass rushing DE.  Chandler Jones is nice on one side.  Ninkovich is useful on the other.  But as an every down pass rusher?  Still don’t like it, never have.  Think he could be more useful as a 3rd DE, coverage LB, kind of jack of all trades on defense.  Cut his snaps and keep him fresh.  Sign one of the names you hear as a stud pass rusher, especially if a few more names get released from their teams in the coming days.  Adding this and the 2 stud DB’s above should be doable.  Then you can get any other adds in your bargain basement bin.

*Bonus…I’d draft a TE and athletic LB high and some young OL later.  Half a season of Gronk plus Hoo-man/Mulligan/DJ Williams/draft pick should suffice at TE.  At LB, with Spikes leaving, after Mayo, Hightower and Collins, there are a bunch of special teamers.  Be nice to have another prospect in the pipeline.  Even if you keep one of Connolly/Wendell and even though Dante is now gone, the starters on the OL should be fine.  But it would be nice to build depth.  DT as well.  I’m not drafting the “future QB of the Pats” yet now either.  Not time to do so at this point.

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