Monthly Archives: February 2015

B’s Trade Deadline Primer…Pete, you awake?

Nothing…

Silence…

Crickets, maybe…

Because that is all I expect to hear.

Disconcerting?  Probably.  Mostly, actually.  Ever since Johnny Boychuk got traded for a couple of second round picks before the season…and even before that, when the Bruins could not re-sign Jarome Iginla, or work out a deal with someone comparable…I have been waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop”.  In no way did I think they’d go 75%+ of the season with no real first line right wing, or the likes of Adam McQuaid playing the role of 4th D-man.  Neither did anyone else.  GM Peter Chiarelli even said as much when explaining the Boychuk move…something about “making moves now, so you can make moves in the future” type of garbage.

Listen, we all know they were up against the salary cap at the beginning of the year and had to make moves to be cap compliant.  We’ve all talked all season about why they couldn’t instead use a combination of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Jordan Caron, Matt Bartkowski and/or others to shave some dough off the roster.  Paille and Campbell have historically been nice players and it helps that they can play well shorthanded.  But 4th liners are fungible, my friends.  Caron is useless…how many more chances is he going to get?  Bartkowski has not fulfilled his promise and with Kevan Miller capable of being on the 3rd D pairing and other 7th D-men available such as Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky and Joe Morrow around, what was the need to hand him 1.2 mil?  Actually, if Boychuk stayed, Miller and McQuaid would have been 6/7 (or 7/6) and the other names would have been #8, but who’s counting?

And Pete has responded by doing nothing.  NOTHING!  Wait, he signed Simon Gagne to help at RW…maybe even at some point the plan was to play him on the first line consistently…once he got his legs back from sitting out all of last year.  Oh, and he has also rotated guys like Seth Griffith, Matt Fraser, even Craig Cunningham on that line.  A murderer’s row.  David Pastrnak has played mostly there recently, but as much as many love his talent, is the 18 year old really ready for that kind of responsibility?  In reality, Pete should have let “Soup” and Paisy go and not signed Gagne and rotated these guys on the 4th line…in addition to other dudes like Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Lindblad and Brian Ferlin.

But we know all this.

So what is next?

Again, I say nothing.  The Bruins are still up against the cap.  And now seem to have more holes than we thought.  One solution is to put David Krejci on Long-Term Injured Reserve.  Then use his money to go get someone.  Reports I have seen on what “his money” is appears to be close to 6 million.  Kevan Miller is out for the year as well.  He has to be around 1 mil, right?  7 mil or so I suppose could be available.  NHL rules apparently dictate that the B’s can put Krejci on LTIR, use his money for acquiring players and have the new guy(s) not count against the cap, then bring Krejci back for the playoffs and his salary still would not count against the cap.  Perfect, right?!  But in a radio interview yesterday, Cam Neely seemed to indicate that this is not a direction they would pursue.  Seemed to imply that the B’s would be manipulating the rules by doing that.  WHAT?!  It’s LEGAL!  And Krejci’s injury is real, not a phantom back injury or something.  Didn’t stop Chicago from placing Patrick Kane on LTIR immediately after his injury.  Granted, his injury timeline is longer, but still.  They still didn’t waste any time in making that an option for their team.

Here’s a few things I have been thinking about as well.  What if Krejci’s injury is more serious than they are telling us?  And in combination with the stuff he was dealing with early in the year, he really is not going to be back at all.  And if he is, he will be at far less than full-strength?  Throw this in with the fact that I believe Zdeno Chara has not fully recovered from his injury.  Or maybe he is just old.  Or worn out because Claude plays him 25 minutes a game in spots he doesn’t need to.  Also, Dennis Seidenberg seems to be a lesser guy this year, maybe he is not all the way back?  Most of the rest of the roster may be healthy, but most of those guys have underperformed.  The defense has not been a typical “Claude Julien” defense overall.  Have the players tuned Claude out?  Has Cam decided already to move on from Chiarelli, barring some miraculous finish?  Throw in the salary cap issues and WHAT IF…the Bruins don’t WANT to spend the money (and leave them more hamstrung against the cap going forward), just do the best they can with what they have and then in the offseason there is a sort of housecleaning?  Face it, without Krejci and with Chara and Seids at less than full strength and the remaining underachieving roster…what are their chances in the playoffs anyway?  So why go spend more money with only 20 some-odd games left for no reason?

May be a little far-fetched to some.  But you have to admit, it is plausible.

The most radical move would be to can Claude at the end of the year, specifically after giving him that 3 year extension a few months back.  But if the players don’t listen to him anymore, what choice do they have?  Players often need a new voice.  It happened to Doc Rivers and the Celtics, Terry Francona and the Red Sox, even nationally to guys like Joe Torre of the Yankees.  Sometimes it is just time for change.  Some may argue then why it hasn’t happened to Bill Belichick with the Patriots?  My short answer is that there are way more players on a football team and that there is often great turnover from year to year, even within the core, so that his voice has the ability to stay “fresh”.  Just an opinion…

But everything else seems reasonable.  Especially when you see trades happening all over the league recently, well in advance of the deadline.  Especially when you hear that Pete was “in” on guys before they were traded (although he loses out on guys every year, so I guess that is not so outrageous).

I expect Pete to do nothing more than get another Corey Potter or Andrej Meszaros, like last year.  All year long I’ve been hearing about Chris Stewart.  Do you really want to give up a prospect and a pick for that guy?  Is he a game changer?  Doesn’t seem to be.  Honestly, I don’t know who else I would use Krejci’s money on.  I don’t know who is available.  Hell, I don’t even know half the guys that have been traded over the last week or so.  I blame the fact that I don’t play Sega NHL Hockey ’92, ’93 or ’94 24/7 anymore to know all the players in the league (or rather PlayStation or Xbox ’13, ’14, ’15…but let’s not split hairs).  But I just don’t see them making a big splash, regardless what the reason ends up being.

The Panthers landed Jaromir Jagr today.  Damn, looks like that option is out…I’m sure Pete would have parted with a first rounder or two…

 

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Cubans for everyone!

Cigars, of course.  In celebration of the Yoan Moncada signing with the Red Sox today.  If you are celebrating the signing, that is.  Couple of brief thoughts on this and another recent Red Sox related matter:

*Moncada.  Hey, it’s not my money.  The Sox apparently shelled out 31.5 mil to the player.  They also handed Major League Baseball a matching 31.5 mil as a luxury tax for signing him.  Hey…what the hell is 31.5 million right?

I personally have no problem when my team spends money on good players, even if it is perceived to be an overpayment.  All indications are that this kid is a good player.  Potentially great.  The Sox always have money to burn, despite what they always try to tell you.  So why not?

Sure the tax hurts.  But will that preclude them from making other major moves?  It shouldn’t.  And it probably won’t.  Although, as I wrote previously, I don’t believe they will make any major moves anytime soon, I do believe one or even two will come at some point this year.  I mean, they HAVE to get a stud pitcher, again, despite what they tell you.

This move should help.  Adds another prospect to the mix.  Of course they won’t trade Moncada.  But it frees up another prospect on the list to be traded to get that ace.

As for worrying about where the kid plays when (if?) he gets to the majors…no need to be concerned about this now.  The kid is 19.  He still has some growing to do.  Although reports are he looks like a fullback.  So maybe not.  But his body will change as he gets older, and also as he gets adjusted to “American” training.  Something different in the water in Cuba.  Especially when you don’t play games for a year and apparently just trained, as Moncada supposedly did…and was similar to what Rusney Castillo did the year before he joined the Sox.  Ummmm…let’s leave it at that.

Just hoping the investment is more worthwhile than the exorbitant investment in Dice-K…

*John Farrell.  The contract extension through 2017 with a club option for 2018.

Was it necessary?

I say no.  He had this year and an option year next year.  If the goal was to eliminate “lame duck” status, couldn’t they have just picked up the option?  Granted, Farrell won a World Series in his first year here.  But promptly followed that up with a last place finish.

Go ahead and blame Ben Cherington for not upgrading the roster for 2014 after the improbable Series win.  And various injuries.  And Ben selling off many pieces of the team by the trading deadline, including 4/5’s of the Opening Day rotation.

But Last Place?!  Doesn’t seem right for a World Series defender.  Not to mention an organization with plenty of resources.  And some talent, if not necessarily “repeat World Series winner” talent.  Though the San Francisco Giants have won 3 out of the last 5 World Series without the best talent in the world.

Throw in the two mediocre Toronto years, where he seemed to lose the clubhouse at the end of the second year, and 3 of his 4 years managing are less than stellar.  Does winning the World Series one year overrule three other bad years?  I guess it does in this case.

Listen, I am not a John Farrell basher by any means.  I don’t mind the guy.  Some of his in-game decisions leave me scratching my head.  But I suppose I could say that about probably all of the managers that have rolled through Boston.  I’m just saying it really wasn’t necessary to re-up him right now.  What if the team goes out there this year with this re-tooled roster that should be a contender and falls flat on its face again?

That would be a real indictment on Farrell.  The lineup should be infinitely better, despite Panda’s weight, Papi’s age, Hanley’s fragility, etc.  So they definitely should be competitive there.  It will come down to pitching.  Farrell made his bones as a pitching coach.  And he claims they have “five #1 starters”.  I know, what is he supposed to say, that they have 5 stiffs?  But you know what I mean.  That’s kind of an asinine statement, even for a manager to say to support “his guys”.

If the lineup produces as expected and the pitchers are subpar, doesn’t that reflect even more poorly on Farrell?  I know Juan Nieves is technically the pitching coach.  But you can’t tell me Farrell has no input.  You know, since he was a pitcher in the majors and again, came up as a pitching coach.

Furthermore, what if the remaining young pitchers don’t develop under Farrell?  He is on record as saying the “6th starter” will come from a group including Eduardo Escobar, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright.  All who are young ‘uns, other than the knuckleballer Wright.

Factoring in the relative failure of the “kids” who came up last year (Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, you may even add Rubby de la Rosa…who I did like, but they didn’t think enough of him to keep him around obviously), this could be a real black mark against Farrell if none of them develop.

Granted, all of the kid pitchers will not blossom into aces.  Just not conceivable.  Some of them will be merely bullpen fodder and bounce around as journeymen.  But if NONE of them develop, isn’t that saying something?  Something to consider…

Truck Day!!

Ok, it was yesterday.  But still got me thinking about the warmer weather.  Been quite a lovely few weeks around Beantown, but that’s the kind of thing we sign up for every once in a while for living in this region of the country.  Snow, cold, snow…and some more snow.  Some winters anyway.  As the immortal William Belichick would say, it is what it is.

Anyway, with the Red Sox equipment truck heading to Spring Training in Florida yesterday, it obviously also got me thinking again about baseball…and the Red Sox in particular.

Since the flurry of moves in mid-December, I have been saying that the Sawx are not done shaping the 2015 team.  They can’t go into the year having a rotation full of #3 starters (and saying “#3” may even be generous in a sense), nor can they go in with 112 outfielders either.  OK, people are actually counting Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz as outfielders.  Yes, OF technically is their position, as listed on the roster.  But they aren’t playing on this year’s team, so I think we can safely say they don’t really count at this point.  So the number of outfielders the Sox have is not quite that high, but there is still an excess.  It has always seemed as if more moves were actually necessary.

But are they?

Of course they are!!  But I don’t feel the Red Sox feel the same way, at this very point in time anyway.

They absolutely need an ace…or at least a #2 type.  I think they know that.  That’s why you hear all the whispers about Cole Hamels.  Sure, the Sox will take him.  But the Phillies asking price seems to be a little high.  I have no idea what they are asking for, but he is still in Philly in mid-February.  That pretty much tells me the price is too high for any team.  Rumor is they want either one of Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart.  Among other players, I am sure.  And probably eating a significant amount of his remaining contract (looks like 4 years, 94 mil, with another option year that could be a factor as well).

I almost always would trade any prospect for a proven major league stud at any position.  Almost always.  The Carl Pavano/Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro deal was one of my all-time favorites.  But for Cole Hamels?  Not so sure.  I do like Hamels as a pitcher, no question.  But a lot of mileage on that arm.  31 years old now.  NL pitcher his entire career.  Lot of dough to come up with.  Would make me wonder why they just didn’t re-sign Jon Lester…or even sign James Shields, for that matter.  Just would have to spend the money in those cases.  For whatever reason, I’m just not feeling this one.

You start talking Chris Sale though, or a pitcher of that ilk?  Goodbye Mookie.

The Sox are spending a ton of money…and they should.  But personally, I like it when they are able to integrate some homegrown prospects into the mix each year.  Or young prospects that were acquired somehow…you get the point.  As of right this second, I am not trading Betts, Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Zeke Spruill…whoops, no, you can have Zeke.  Those first 4 for sure, and there may be others in the minors that have somewhat elite potential (I hear the names Rafael Devers, Manuel Margot & Brian Johnson a lot), that if I knew them any better I may say I don’t want to trade them either.  And I’m not trading Xander Bogaerts.

Maybe every single one of those guys turns out to be a bum.  But I’ll take my chances.  I think Red Sox management will too…at least for now.  This seems like the first time in quite a while people other than the Red Sox themselves say that the organization has this many high ceiling prospects.  It’s been building over the last decade of course, but it appears they have accumulated a lot of “assets” over the years and are at its highest point currently.  They traded a few of those earlier this winter.  I’m ok with that.  Other than Rubby de la Rosa, who I liked what I saw from him last year, the other guys on the way out seemed to be expendable.  Have never been impressed with Allen Webster.  Anthony Ranaudo?  Maybe.  Raymel Flores and Gabe Speier?  Who the hell knows with those guys?  Will Middlebrooks?  Hahaha…good riddance dude!

Side note:  You can argue the return in all of those deals for sure.  An old backup catcher for Middlebrooks (who despite all of his criticisms is still relatively young and has power potential)?  De la Rosa, Webster AND Flores for Miley?  Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson AND Speier for maybe one year of Rick Porcello?  Ranaudo for Robbie Ross?  To me, the Sox overpaid in all of those deals.  But that’s me.  I also would have kept Drake Britton, who was designated for assignment to fit Alexi Ogando onto the 40-man roster.  Yes, Britton was wretched in Pawtucket last year.  But he is 25 years old, lefty and has had some success in the majors, albeit in limited action.  I’d have kept him over a guy like Tommy Layne.  Because he is, well…Tommy Layne.  Nice run last year.  But basically a career minor leaguer himself.

Anyway, after thinking about all of this recently, I think the Sox’ Opening Day Roster is actually set right now, with the players they already have.  And no ace coming or surplus outfielders going.  I see it as:

Starting pitchers (5):  Clay Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson

Relief pitchers-left (3):  Craig Breslow, Layne, Ross

Relief pitchers-right (4):  Anthony Varvaro, Ogando, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara

Catcher (2):  Christian Vazquez, Hanigan

Infielders (5):  Mike Napoli (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Bogaerts (SS), Pablo Sandoval (3B), Brock Holt

Outfielders (5):  Hanley Ramirez (LF), Rusney Castillo (CF), Shane Victorino (RF), Allen Craig, Daniel Nava

Designated Hitter (1):  David Ortiz

To those that are actually paying attention, they may count two notable omissions from my list.  Mookie Betts and to a lesser extent, Edward Mujica.  Mujica was largely atrocious last year, but pitched better in the 2nd half.  Maybe the pressure was off since the team was bad.  But either way, there has been some smoke around his name lately.  I see this as being their only move of the spring, as of now.  They probably move him for a bag of baseballs to free up the spot.  John Farrell seems to like 3 lefties in the bullpen, so they all stick.  It really doesn’t matter that Ross is more effective against righties…I guess because Varvaro is more effective against lefties…so they say.

As for Betts, that’s a little more difficult.  Holt needs to be on the team for the simple reason is that he is the backup shortstop.  Also in this scenario he is your backup centerfielder.  Not to mention you can plug him in anywhere else in a pinch.  You could free up a spot for Mookie by trading any one of Napoli, Nava, Craig or Victorino.  But Nappy is hopefully primed for a comeback year with his sleep apnea surgery and with one year left on his deal, I don’t see it.  Craig’s value is as low as it could be.  Nava is who he is and has minimal value.  He will be an asset against righties though.  No one is taking Vic’s 13 mil unless the Sox pay 12.95 of it.

My feeling is this:  Between the roughly 1,400 plate appearances combined from 1B and RF, Napoli probably gets 500 or so and the other 3 will split the rest.  Or I believe that to be the initial plan.  Even if there is no way that is how it will work out.  Victorino is not likely to stay healthy, nor will Hanley for that matter.  Ortiz will take some days off.  They laughably have Craig taking grounders at 3B, so maybe they try and give him AB’s there as well.  All these guys will get a decent amount of playing time somewhere on the diamond though.  I also include Betts in that projection.  The Sox will start with this plan and as soon as someone gets hurt or they get a decent offer for one of them, Betts will be up and likely playing RF regularly.  But my sense is he starts the year in the minors.  And that’s why I don’t think they are dealing any OF’s anytime soon.

Same goes for the pitchers.  Other than Mujica, projecting the staff right now was easy.  Unless the Hamels price comes down, they will stand pat I believe.  I feel that they WILL add an ace at some point, but not immediately.  I’m not saying that they should proceed this way, I just feel like they will.  They’ll see how this setup goes and work from there.  Maybe someone gets hurt and they call up Rodriguez or Matt Barnes and they get a look first too.  The bullpen, as always, will be volatile.  A guy like Brandon Workman will start in Pawtucket as well.  But he will be in the mix at some point.  Probably Eduardo Escobar, Heath Hembree, Steven Wright and Spruill as well.  And/or one of the veteran arms they signed to a minor league deal, like Dana Eveland or Mitchell Boggs.

As disappointing and even disheartening it will be to some, it appears that what you see is what you get and this is the team we will see heading into April.  Just hope that they make the necessary adjustments quickly along the way, especially when that rotation proves to be putrid…

 

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