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Was the Price right?

Of course it was!  We are of course talking about David Price…in case that was a mystery.  Well, he did sign with the Red Sox about a week ago, so maybe it was…

Sure, he has underperformed in the playoffs, to put it nicely.  He has a history of listening too closely to fans/media/outside noise…not a great thing when pitching in Boston.  After Game 1 against Texas this past postseason, he claimed that he is nervous in his first postseason start of the year (fair enough), but also nervous during his “first spring training start” and “first bullpen”, etc.  And then used some sort of duck analogy.  Ok, a little weird.  So maybe some of these things are a little concerning.  Or a lot concerning.

But the Sox needed an ace…and thankfully they have moved on from the “5 aces” crap of last year.  Price was the best out there.  The Sox have the money.  This move HAD to be made.

You may say giving a 7 year contract to a 3o year old pitcher is stupid.  John Henry would have said that last year, but since he changes his mind every year, he didn’t care last week.  You may also say well, Jon Lester was age 30 last offseason and Henry and the Sox wouldn’t give him 7 years.  I would say the Sox didn’t really want to sign him at any price.  I think Larry Lucchino’s original offer of 4 years, 70 million should have told you that right from the start.  We’ve covered all that before though…

Let me also ask you this:  Would you rather have David Price at 7/217 or Jon Lester at 6/145 (plus 25 more in a 7th year or a 10 mil buyout)?  I don’t care how well Lester pitched in Boston, especially in the playoffs.  I don’t care if Lester came through the Sox’ system.  I don’t care if Jon Lester loves Boston.  The answer is easy…and it’s Price.  Price is a clear #1.  Lester, as good as he was here, really is more of a #2.  Take a look at his first year in the National League too.  11-12, 3.34, 207 K’s in 205 innings.  Not horrible, pretty good actually.  But not worth 25 laaaaaaaaaahge.  Obviously there is a long way to go to judge both of these deals.  But I’d take Price any day of the week and I think most of you would too.

If you are balking at the deal because of the 217 mil, well, have you seen the other contracts out there?  Greinke:  6/206.5.  Yikes!  But it goes way beyond that.  Johnny Cueto is still unsigned.  But he wants 25 mil plus.  These 3 were the “Big Three” of the free agent pitchers.  Fine, give them a boatload of dough.  Look deeper at the next “tier”.  Jordan Zimmerman:  5/110.  Jeff Samardzija:  5/90.  Hisashi Iwakuma:  3/45.  Mike Leake:  Unsigned, but looking for at least 15 mil/per.  Mike Leake??  If you ask me, John Lackey’s 2/32 is a steal when compared to the above contracts.  But still 16 per for a 37-year-old pitcher.

Sure, the money on the next level is less and the years are less.  But I’d still take Price’s contract over any of those.  Dig a little deeper.  Look at these:  Marco Estrada (2/26); JA Happ (3/36); Brett Anderson (1/15.8).  Rich Hill had 4 meaningless September starts for the Sox and got 6 mil from one of the cheapest teams out there in Oakland.  Switch gears to relievers:  Darren O’Day (4/31); Ryan Madson (3/22); Joakim Soria (3/25); Shawn Kelley (who?) (3/15); Tony Sipp (3/18).  Throw in position players:  Ben Zobrist (4/56); Chase Utley’s corpse (1/7); Colby Rasmus (1/15.8); Asdrubel Cabrera (2/18.5).  Chris Iannetta, a 32-year-old backup catcher who hit .188 last year…4.25 mil for him.

Ok, so the last paragraph was likely unnecessary.  But I like numbers, so deal with it.  The point has been driven home though I think.  The money is being spent out there.  May as well spend it on the best.  Especially when you still have guys like Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Wade Mil…ummmmmm, nevermind on him…still in your rotation.

So I liked the Price signing, that’s pretty clear.  Did I like the Wade Miley trade?  Glad you asked!  The answer is…I don’t know.  But I think I do.  Wade Miley is a nice #4 starter who you can seemingly lock into 30 plus starts and close to 200 innings.  That is a positive for any staff.  But he is still…Wade Miley.  Who is to say Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright…or any other Joe Blow can’t step into the #4/#5 starter role and replace him decently enough?  Plus, as much as I am not excited about John Farrell coming back as manager next year, when Miley pulled that stunt in the dugout with him after being shelled earlier last year, well, let’s just say I didn’t love that.

So Miley should be replaceable.  Maybe his replacement will be Roenis Elias…who knows?  Elias is a couple of years younger, so that is a positive…for whatever that’s worth.  Losing Jonathan Aro?  Meh.  Carson Smith?  Kind of makes you wonder why Seattle would give up a cheap guy under control for several more years.  But trading a reliever for a durable starter?  Maybe that’s why.  I often would not trade starters for relievers.  But again, Miley can be replaced by…anyone.  And if Smith can help solidify the back-end of the bullpen…probably worth it.  I can’t really get all that worked up about it.

I AM however all worked up about trading Garin Cecchini for a bag of used balls and a couple of beat up fungo bats.  Ok, I am not.  I did find it surprising that Cecchini was DFA’d over a guy like Bryce Brentz…but since absolutely no one but me cares, I’ll save those thoughts for myself.

So with the signing of Price and 4th outfielder Chris Young and the trades for Smith and Craig Kimbrel, Dave Dombrowski says he is essentially done.  (Aside on Kimbrel:  I usually don’t love trading for closers when they can be “found” (see:  Uehara, Koji).  Nor do I love giving up prospects for 60-70 innings a year…4 of them to boot.  But I normally would trade prospects for proven players.  And I am not sure I am worried about any of the 4 prospects becoming someone the Sox regret they gave away.  Even Manuel Margot.  The Sox need bullpen help.  Sooooo…I came to terms with it).

Anyway, Dombrowski said something to the effect of that he “doesn’t like to lie as it sets a bad example…”.  I hope he is stretching the truth then anyway.  There is more work to be done.  I’d still like to see a solid #2 starter.  Is it Eduardo Rodriguez?  Maybe.  But I sure as hell hope it ISN’T Clay Buchholz.  I’d love to see him dealt.  It isn’t Rick Porcello…though his contract doesn’t look so bad anymore, no?  Maybe Ben was somewhat right on one thing at least.  Anyway, there is rotation depth yes, but I’d take another upper end starter.  Bullpen?  Good start with Kimbrel, Uehara, Smith and Tazawa.  Maybe Elias.  Maybe Joe Kelly?  Matt Barnes?  I guess.  Robbie Ross Jr. is a decent 10-11 guy I suppose.  I wouldn’t mind seeing another proven guy out there though.

Hanley Ramirez has to go as well.  Easier said than done, I am well aware of that.  But the outfield experiment did not work last year.  Do we really think the first base experiment is going to work this year?  Cancer in the clubhouse…all that.  Just do whatever it takes to get him out of here.  I think it happens.  But it’s going to take some time…and the Sox eating a lot of dough.  Maybe even until spring training when someone on another team gets hurt and a team panics.  I don’t know how it will happen, but it needs to.  I’d also investigate trading either of Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo.  I’m not sold on either of those guys really.  Maybe trade one of them while they still have some value.  Although I can live with the 4 guys (Young and Mookie Betts the other 2 of course) in the outfield if I have to.

A couple more months until Spring Training…still time to make some decent tweaks to the roster…

 

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Winding down the disappointment…still…

…as promised (warned?), I wasn’t done from yesterday:

*Xander:  By all accounts, Xander Bogaerts has had an unbelievable season.  But has he?  Please let me preface this by saying the arrow is certainly pointed up.  And he turns just 23 in a couple of weeks.  So please do not take this as extreme criticism of the kid.  Just pointing out facts.

Before Friday’s action, he was hitting .321.  Very nice indeed.  Looks like he will compete for 2nd in batting in the AL.  Hell, Miguel Cabrera leads at .336, and currently qualifies with enough plate appearances.  But Miggy is 38 shy of the 502 necessary at season’s end and if the Tigers shut him down early, X can win it.  Ok, unlikely they will do that, but…anyway, the average is nice.

Only 25 walks puts his on-base percentage at .352.  Not horrible…still tied for 23rd in the AL.  And better than the .297 in 2014.  He’s cut down on his strikeouts from 138 to 85.  His OPS is up over a hundred points to .767.  But .767 for a #3 hitter?  That actually puts him at 38th in the AL.

The glaring thing for me is the FIVE home runs.  He even had 12 last year.  Jackie Bradley Jr. has 8.  Travis Shaw has 11.  Mookie Betts has 15.  The first two listed here have a third of X’s plate appearances.

The kid has had a nice year.  They put him back at shortstop from the start and he has responded.  The future looks very bright.  I’m a big fan.  All I am saying is let’s not get carried away like some of the local yahoo’s have and put him in Cooperstown yet.  There’s a lot more of the upside yet to be realized.  Let’s hope he realizes it before Scotty Boras shuffles him out of town in a few years.

*Fat Panda:  Having back issues.  What a big surprise.  I would love if Dave Dombrowski could unload this contract.  Fat chance of that happening, pun totally intended.

I will say, if somehow he gets in some sort of shape…I don’t have to tell you how big an “if” that is…maybe his second year in the AL goes better than the first.  If this lineup is what it should be, all he has to do is do what he did in San Francisco.  And then maybe they can unload him as the deal gets cheaper.

*Kids (offense):  Even though it may have seemed harsh above on Xander (age 22), he has taken a step up this year for sure.  Mookie (22) has as well.  JBJ (25) has shown some competence…more than previous years.  Blake Swihart (23) arrived earlier than expected and survived a rough start to get up around .275.  Rusney (28), though not as young as the rest, has flourished somewhat with regular playing time.  Shaw (25) has been a little bit of a find.  Christian Vazquez (25) missed the year of course, but in 2014 he obviously showed some promise for the future.

These are only the guys that are already here.  There are others like Manuel Margot, Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, et al, that may be here soon enough.  Those are the names you hear most, but according to “people who know”, there are other decent prospects in the lower levels too.

Some of the above will probably go in trades.  Can’t possibly keep them all.  But it is hard not to be excited about the talent we have already seen at the major league level.  Sprinkle in a few pieces here and there and the offense looks like the foundation is set.  Now, for the opposite…

*Rotation:  Thanks to Ben, it appears the 2016 starting rotation is just about set as well.  But ummmmm…this is not a good thing.  Rick Porcello’s 20-plus mil contract kicks in next year.  There is no way anyone is biting on that.  If someone does, Dombrowski deserves Executive of the Year in a landslide.  (How’s that Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson for Porcello trade looking as well, Ben?  Ugh…).  DD has already essentially acknowledged they will pick up Clay Buchholz’ option at 13 mil, “if he is healthy”.  That’s a huge stretch for Clay of course, but at that money and with his stuff, I suppose you kind of have to pick it up.  Despite the fact that he will never be a 200/220 inning guy with 16-20 wins, like his stuff often suggests.

Wade Miley is on the hook for about 15 mil over the next 2 years.  Sadly, he will end the year as the teams’ best starter.  For that price he won’t kill you.  But he also may be tradeable at that price.  I don’t see them doing that though.  DD has already floated that he expects Joe Kelly to be a starter.  Hopefully that was just lip service.  This guy has middle relief written all over him.  Fine one time through the order, but after?  All bets are off.  Throws 98 but doesn’t miss bats.  That’s a nice 10th pitcher on any staff I say.

But there are 4 of the “5 aces” Ben put together at the start of 2015.  Mercifully, Justin Masterson is long gone.  But the other 4 mediocre guys remain.  Throw in the kids that have thrown pretty decent this year, Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens, and one that supposedly has promise in Brian Johnson.  Now all of a sudden you have a crowded rotation…and possibly no room to get that one “ace” that you really need.

Thankfully, Dombrowski is no stranger to the trade market.  And I would guess any one of the above could be had for the right price.  Not that I would just give any of those guys away…other than Porcello.  But I believe that DD will indeed land a top-notch #1 over winter.  David Price would just cost money.  But there are always those studs on small market teams that are heading to arbitration or free agency and can be had for prospects.  Gotta believe he will land that #1 somehow.  I think that interview from earlier this week about “building up the pitching staff, starting from the bullpen” is somewhat of a smokescreen.  Though we’ll talk about the ‘pen later.

What I would do?  Glad you asked!  Go get a #1 for whatever it takes.  Slot Bucky, Porcello, Miley and E-Rod 2-5 (yikes!).  Kelly goes in long relief.  Steven Wright also in ‘pen.  There are your spot starters.  Acquire 87 stout bullpen arms.  If Owens and Johnson are still here in the spring, stash in Pawtucket for the time being.  If Bucky gets off to a hot start, immediately deal him and get a reliable #2.  Try to get a reliable #2 anyway, someone proven.  Something like that anyway.  Bottom line, if Bucky gets back to exhibiting ANY trade value whatsoever…TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!

With all the contracts and limited trade value of a lot of the guys here, that may be the best we can hope for.  It’s easy to say “go get 2 #1’s and a #2, then…”.  But not entirely realistic…no matter how much money you have.

*Bullpen:  What a colossal disaster.  Combination of washed up major leaguers, “not ready” minor leaguers and veteran AAAA guys right now.  And I am not even including Rich Hill, who somehow dominated a start last week.  Get ready for 3 1/3 IP & 7 runs if he gets another one.  Look at the names:  Breslow, Cook, Mendez, Machi, Layne, Hembree, Ogando, Aro, Barnes, Ross and some dude named “Noe”.  Of course Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are their best 2 relievers.  But, predictably, Koji is hurt and Junichi’s arm actually fell off earlier this month.  Ben clearly missed the trade window on these guys…but they aren’t the first players he missed trade windows on, ssssooooo…it just sucks that a lot of us have been pining for the return of Edward Mujica.  Ok, maybe not…but the point has been made I believe.

Solution?  Keep Koji and Taz, but don’t warm them up 3 times a game every game through June whether or not they get into the actual game.  Think the trade value on them now is low, so there is not really much choice.  Sign/trade for 2 or 3 REAL relievers, preferably ones that throw hard.  Overpay if you have to…you can, you are the Red Sox!  Load up on 5 other decent guys and then see what falls out in March.  Stash a few in AAA if you can.  Tell Barnes he is either a starter or reliever and have him prepare accordingly over the winter.  Maybe he can be salvaged.  Bullpen arms are tricky.  Never know what you are going to get from year to year.  Just toss some dough at bunch of them…can’t really give you anything more scientific than that, unfortunately.

*Kids (pitching):  At various points in 2014, think of all the young arms the organization was touting:  Owens, Barnes, Rodriguez, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Johnson, maybe even Drake Britton or Eduardo Escobar…maybe more.

Well, like a year later, where do these guys stand?  Not necessarily pretty.  de la Rosa was fairly decent last year.  Webster was not anywhere near that.  They both were dispatched for an average Miley.  And those 2 remain about the same in AZ.  Ranaudo was sent straight up for Robbie Ross Jr.  That should tell you all you need to know.  And Ranaudo has been shelled in TX when up this year for good measure.  Britton was terrible in Pawtucket last year in the bullpen, and was busy getting blasted in the Cubs farm system this year as well, both starting and relieving.  Escobar was hurt essentially all year.  Johnson got hurt in the 2nd half.  Though Owens has pitched ok this year overall, his stock has fallen in the past couple of years.  Barnes wasn’t very good as a starter or reliever.  The only one that came close to matching all the hype was Rodriguez.

As opposed to the kids coming up through the system as every day players, the ground has not been as fertile for the young pitchers rising up.  All the more important for DD to make the right decisions here over the winter and through into next season…guess that goes without saying…

 

 

 

 

Winding down the disappointment…

…otherwise known as the 2015 Boston Red Sox season.  17 games left.  Pitchers dropping like flies or getting shut down.  Position players playing all over the diamond in a bit of spring training-ish experimentation.  Journeymen getting called up to actually throw in real games down the stretch.  All that and more to look forward to over the last couple of weeks.  Per usual, a bunch of haphazard notes will follow, in no particular order:

*President/General Manager:  Haven’t commented on the Dave Dombrowski hiring yet.  Probably didn’t really need to actually.  It was no secret that I thought Ben Cherington should have gotten the gate even sooner than he did.  And that I wanted some sort of “baseball” guy in place in that chair, instead of some young whippersnapper whose main focus was sabermetrics.  Again, sabermetric analysis absolutely has a place in today’s game.  Just not as much as people think it should have.

DD hasn’t tangibly done much to this point, from what I can tell.  Unless you count the waiver deadline deal of Alejandro de Aza something worth noting.  I don’t, but if you do for some bizarre reason, then that has to be a positive, right?  In any event, it’s only been exactly a month since he was hired.  Plus it is toward the end of a lost season.  So there really isn’t anything we should have expected him to do by now.  The offseason will be the time for changes on and off the field and I am excited for those.  And I am sure he is doing his homework all around right now.  So some of my faith has been restored in the organization as we sit here now.  Let’s hope it keeps trending in the right direction.  And the ownership group, specifically Tom Werner, let him do his job.

*Manager:  Sorry that John Farrell got cancer.  Don’t wish that upon anyone.  Well, maybe some people…but I have no real reason to wish it upon him.  But at the same time, I am happy that he is not managing the team anymore, as macabre as that sounds.  Look, I just used a big word!  Hopefully I used it correctly…anyway, I was done with Farrell long before the diagnosis.

I have no interest in seeing him return to the team as manager next year.  Hopefully Dombrowski sees it the same way.  Delicate situation?  Of course.  But that’s why people spend big bucks on public relation firms.  One of the heavyweights in that field should be able to help the Sox spin it to make it look like they are focusing on Farrell’s health…or doing him some sort of favor by not retaining him.  John Henry can afford it.

Is Torey Lovullo the answer?  My sense is no.  After all, he has been under Farrell since Johnny’s Toronto stint.  So some of the same habits have to have seeped into Lovullo’s managing acumen, no?  (Another big word I hope I used correctly!).  And he has said some really stupid things along the way while closing out this season.  To wit:  After Matt Barnes’ first Major League start, where he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, Lovullo said, “Matt did exactly what we wanted him to do out there tonight”.  Excuse me?  Wow, aiming high I see.  It’s one thing to support your players.  It’s completely another just blatantly lie like that.  At least I hope he was lying…

The team has played better since Lovullo took over, I will allow.  But I chalk that up to a variety of factors.  Some of the opposition playing out the string.  September minor league callups diluting the talent in the majors.  Pitchers such as Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly and Wade Miley throwing games more at their level of mediocrity than the level of atrociousness they were throwing at earlier in the year.  The lineup doing more damage as the year has gone along.  A great deal of the youngsters stepping up their game.  Possibly the “Dombrowski effect”, where players are now not feeling comfortable under Cherington’s excuses for them and knowing the new guy in charge now can drop the hammer.  Probably others too.  But I am not convinced it is Lovullo’s skills that have led the charge.

Who do I want to be the next manager?  Good question.  Depends on who is available in the offseason for one.  I’ll give that some more thought as time goes on…

*First base:  Does having Hanley Ramirez play 5 games or so at first base at the end of September really make a difference?  Why bother?  DD also mentioned “6, 7 weeks of Spring Training” to evaluate him there.  Didn’t Hanley have that time last spring to adjust to left field?  How’d that work out?

I think it’s all a smokescreen.  My opinion is that DD eats a ton of dough and unloads Hanley in the offseason.  To whoever will take him.  Just a gut feeling.  For now, everyone is just saying the right things.

I also think Travis Shaw will not be at first next year.  He’s had a decent run.  But not sure he is the long-term answer.  May even be time to deal high.  Brock Holt?  Garin Cecchini?  Fat Panda Sandoval?  Surely, you jest.

I think the one major offensive piece Dombrowski gets this offseason is here.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be “major”.  Just someone competent.  So maybe it is Shaw that sticks.  Chris Davis?  Leaning toward “no thanks”.  Too unpredictable.  Plus I just found out Scott Boras is his agent.  He will get Davis his big contract, but hopefully elsewhere.

*Outfield:  Despite his scorching hot 6 week run or so, I am still not convinced Jackie Bradley Jr. can consistently hit major league pitching.  Case in point is his recent 1-27, 15k slide.  But again, .225-.250 will do it for me here.  He is that awesome defensively.  Since trading Dustin Pedroia and moving Mookie Betts to 2nd is a pipe dream, Betts is out here.  Along with Rusney Castillo.  Funny how Castillo gets a few hits and all the “he looks like he never played the game of baseball” clowns from the spring all of a sudden flip back to how they loved him back last September.

Anyway, the big focus is on how these three will align going forward.  I say, who cares?  If all three are above average defensively and each can play all three positions out there, can’t you just mix and match by stadium if you are to play to defensive strengths?  For instance, Bradley could play RF at Fenway, LF at Yankee Stadium and CF most other places?  Something like that?

People will whine, “baseball players are creatures of habit…they want to know where they are playing every day…blah, blah, blah…”.  I say, that is total garbage.  Brock Holt can play all over the diamond, especially last year when he picked up a new position every day, but these guys can’t have some sort of rotation?  Plenty of other people can move around too.  So why can utility guys do it successfully, but BETTER players can’t do it?  Jeez…I see where Texas has had Mike Napoli in LEFT FIELD a couple of times recently.  Napoli?!  People may point to the Hanley Ramirez failed experiment.  But he is older, bulked up too much and really didn’t fit the OF mode anymore.  Plus, it doesn’t help when you don’t practice and seemingly don’t care.  But I guess that is besides the point.  In any event, these kids are young and fast.  Shouldn’t be a problem.

If they insist on staying in one position, I’ve got that answer too.  Castillo, Bradley, Betts, left to right.  Castillo has the better arm for 81 games in right at Fenway Park, but Betts is the better fielder and athlete, so he goes there.  I want my best defender in center.  So despite Betts being more than competent there, I want JBJ in center.  Period.

I’m also not ruling out a trade.  This Manuel Margot dude down on the farm is rising fast.  Maybe not for good next year, but possibly for a cup of coffee or so.  If he is the real deal as scouts say, then this has to play into the outfield picture I would say.

As usual, I am not done…but done for now…

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