1-14-2011: The Yankees and Soriano, 2011 draft picks, Sox offseason pays off

The Yankees signed a pretty good reliever in Rafael Soriano yesterday, but curiously, I’m fairly positive about it. I’m happy because his 3-year, $35M deal (with TWO opt-out clauses) smacks of desperation. It’s like they were trying to copy what we did with Bobby Jenks, but botched it badly. Nobody pays this much to a setup guy, but somehow Scott Boras made the Yankees just look foolish. Brian Cashman had to directly go back on his word to sign Soriano, and they gave up their first-rounder to Tampa Bay in order to do it. They also ensured that we would get Texas’ first-round pick for signing Adrian Beltre. The Yankees haven’t improved this offseason, and they have some heavy payroll commitments coming up. I’m not saying that Soriano won’t make them better. He’s a very good player when healthy. But they could end up flushing quite a bit of change down the toilet on this deal.

We’ve done pretty well on gathering draft picks while also improving as a team (getting younger and more athletic). Only Tampa Bay has acquired more early picks, but I’m of the opinion that they will take a pretty big step back this year, so they’ll need them.

The Red Sox offseason has already paid off, as far as upper management is concerned. They are selling tickets like crazy, and ESPN has picked up four of their early games on Sunday nights. They are relevant again. They also have some ticket voucher giveaways coming right up.

Hideki Okajima has resigned with Boston for one year on the team’s terms. I still think he could be mildly effective, though we probably won’t see any more low-2 ERAs from him anytime soon. I feel somewhat comfortable with him and Felix Doubront as lefty options out of the pen, though even the righties don’t have terrible splits against lefties.

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Links 12-14-2010: More about Crawford, Lee signs with the Phillies, Blanton?, Rule 5

The Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford was a pleasant surprise for the Nation. After telling reporters that he was done with his major acquisitions, Theo Epstein went and snatched Crawford, who was all but ready to sign with the Angels. Hard to remember that just a week ago, we were trying to decide between Josh Willingham and Magglio Ordonez. Here are his contract details. Maybe the happiest Red Sox is Jason Varitek, who doesn’t have to pretend to try to throw him out on the bases anymore. The Sox could do this deal because of all the money coming off of the books, and because they have the young talent and draft picks to remain sustainable for the years to come.

Red Sox Beacon thinks that the infield grass at Fenway will hurt Crawford’s ability to get infield hits. I think it will lessen the number of grounders that make it through, but I think it might actually help him on balls that roll dead in no man’s land.

Where will Crawford hit? He doesn’t really like to lead off, but he’s willing. If Jacoby Ellsbury can return to form, my guess is he’ll hit either third or fifth, since Dustin Pedroia is locked into the two hole (and Terry Francona likes going lefty-righty at the top).

I’m actually excited about Crawford playing next to Ellsbury in the outfield. That’s the fastest outfield in baseball. While people say that playing him in front of the Green Monster is a waste, it allows Jacoby to shift over towards right-center. It makes everyone better out there; not too many balls will fall in either alley as a result.

And then seemingly out of nowhere, the Philadelphia Phillies came in and swooped up one Cliff Lee yesterday, leaving the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers open-mouthed and empty-handed. Lee signed for less guaranteed money then either the Yankees or Rangers were offering, so perhaps he wasn’t psyched about playing in either place (count the option, and it’s actually better). And this is yet another piece of good news for the Red Sox. For a team that is loading up on left-handed hitting, it’s a godsend that Lee, one of the top lefties in baseball, will not be playing in our division or even our league. The Rays lost Crawford to us (plus half their bullpen), and the Yankees have few options with which to boost their rotation. This is a huge shift in the balance of power in the AL East.

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12-10-2010: Revised projection for Adrian Gonzalez

Alright, I’ll admit that the first projection I put up was a little too conservative. It’s because I was using a flat adjustment for the NL to AL transition. Works well for average players, doesn’t work so well for superstar players. I’ve adjusted my methodology to a component-correlated one, and used it as a basis to regress towards 50%. Using this new method, here’s what I get for Gonzalez in Fenway:

Age AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRAA
29 606 175 39 1 30 98 105 81 121 2 0.289 0.378 0.505 0.883 0.392 46.2
30 615 176 38 1 30 98 106 80 122 2 0.287 0.375 0.501 0.876 0.389 44.6
31 617 175 37 1 30 97 106 78 121 2 0.284 0.370 0.495 0.864 0.384 41.2
32 612 172 35 1 29 95 103 74 118 2 0.281 0.363 0.485 0.848 0.377 36.0
33 600 166 33 1 28 91 99 68 114 2 0.276 0.355 0.473 0.828 0.369 29.5
34 580 157 30 1 25 85 93 61 109 2 0.271 0.346 0.459 0.805 0.359 21.9
35 552 147 27 1 23 78 85 53 103 1 0.266 0.335 0.443 0.778 0.347 13.7
36 517 134 24 1 20 71 76 45 95 1 0.259 0.323 0.425 0.748 0.335 5.5

I feel much better about this projection. One interesting thing I found was that even top sluggers who go from the NL to the AL lose a lot in terms of home run rate, and vice versa, for whatever reason. There’s a big difference once you change leagues, whether you’re Manny Ramirez or Matt Holliday or Mark Teixeira. That’s reflected here in Gonzalez losing 5 HR compared to his NL projection. I hope Adrian bucks that trend and hits 40, but it looks like the over/under number for 2011 is about 30.

12-9-2010: Sox sign Carl Crawford!

Not a bridge year indeed. Peter Abraham reports that the Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a 7-year, $142M contract. Ken Rosenthal confirms this too. If this is what Theo Epstein means by a complementary player… There go the theories about shrinking the payroll.

Wow. Just wow.┬áIt has long been known that the Sox coveted Crawford, but I did not expect this. The Sox are opening up the vaults in their best imitation of the Yankees. There’s one major difference, however. Epstein is locking himself into long-term deals, yes. But he is locking up players who are still in their prime and play defense as well as hit, providing value in more than one dimension.

As MLB Trade Rumors points out, scooping up Crawford is a major coup in a division where they are taking him from the Rays and keeping him from the Yankees. Perhaps drinking his own Kool-Aid on Brett Gardner’s excellent 2010, Brian Cashman was a bit late to the Crawford party, and it cost him big.

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12-5-2010: Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez

It happened a bit faster than what I projected, but the Red Sox are reportedly close to completing a deal that would send Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a PTBNL to the San Diego Padres for one Adrian Gonzalez. According to many sources, he has passed his physical and it is a done deal. The Red Sox have until 2 PM today to negotiate a contract extension with Gonzalez, who has just one year left on his contract.

If they don’t extend him right now, the deal can still be completed and he can be extended later on, and that might actually be beneficial, points out Alex Speier. So don’t be shocked if no extension gets announced along with the trade.

What we are getting

Gonzalez is a bona fide superstar, having topped 30 HR each of the past four seasons and 100 RBI in three of those (he had 99 RBI back in 2009). Consider that the Padres offense as a whole has been abysmal, not even reaching 700 runs scored since 2007, so he regularly gets the Barry Bonds treatment (35 intentional walks last year alone). Add to that the fact that PETCO Park is one of the worst hitters parks for left-handed batters in all of baseball, and his track record there is just incredible.

Adjust for the transition to the AL, then playing half his games in Fenway against the AL East, and we get a conservative line of .279/.364/.509 for 2011. That’s more than 4 wins based on offense alone. Once you add everything else, we’re talking about a 5-6 win player.

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11-19-2010: Crazy offseason scenario number 1

All of this Justin Upton talk has me thinking. The Red Sox need two bats to replace Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, and it’s generally thought that we will likely sign a free agent corner outfielder (Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford) and a corner infielder. What if, instead of blowing $100M on two good but aging players, we fill those spots via trade for good young players, utilizing our top prospects? Stay with me here.

Step 1. Send Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Josh Reddick to Arizona for Justin Upton

I know, you’re saying WHAT? But hear me out.

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11-18-2010: Beltre and Martinez projections

Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez represent the top free agent bats at their respective positions this offseason. We have the payroll flexibility, so it seems like a no-brainer that we should re-sign both of them, right?

The problem is not the annual salary, but the number of years we would need in order to place a successful bid on these players. Oakland has reportedly offered Beltre 5 years and $64M. At the end of the deal, he will have played his 36-year old season. Do we really want to sign him for that many years? Martinez may also require 4-5 years to sign as well.

One way to help decide that is to look at aging curves and apply them to our projections for 2011 to get a year-by-year look at what Beltre could do over the term of that deal. Let’s take a look at how their true talent is likely to regress with age if they follow the same aging patterns as most top players in baseball.

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Links 11-17-2010: Bullpen options, Sox cap offers to Beltre and Martinez, Justin Upton

The best-laid bullpen plans…

After a disastrous 2010 campaign, everyone acknowledges the need for a bullpen overhaul. However, relievers are famously volatile, and most teams regret free agent deals. That’s exactly why the Sox went out and got LHP Andrew Miller and then claimed RHP Taylor Buchholz on waivers. It turns out that he IS related to Clay Buchholz, BTW, though he’s only a distant cousin.

Theo Epstein has stated that he is not against doing a multi-year free agent deal for the right reliever. The ideal guy seems like LHP Scott Downs, who has had success in the AL East and can pitch to both lefties and righties. But he is a Type A free agent, which means we would owe our first-rounder to Toronto should we ink him. Brian MacPherson lists some non-Type A guys that are of interest, and I like Joaquin Benoit and Koji Uehara, but I don’t see Downs as a problem if we sign another Type A such as Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre or Victor Martinez, since our first-rounder would go to someone else rather than Toronto.

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Links 11-15-2010: Free agents, offseason progress, Hot Stovespeak

It’s a tough choice this offseason: Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth? As I’ve discussed here, I think getting either one would be a very nice addition, but perhaps Werth is a better fit long-term as a right-handed power bat. Patrick Sullivan agrees, also citing the length of the expected contracts.

As far as Cliff Lee goes, we could certainly afford to sign him, but it’s not the right move this offseason unless he can play third base or catcher. It looks like it’ll be a bidding war between the Yankees and the Rangers (and Nationals???) at this point anyways.

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Links 11-10-2010: AL Gold Gloves, corner infielders, Salty as the man?

The AL Gold Gloves were announced yesterday to kick off awards week, and it is a Yankee-fest. Robinson Cano wasn’t a standout in the field. And Derek Jeter again? Are you kidding me? It seems they’ve mixed up hitting and reputation with fielding yet again.

It looks like we will be in need of a corner infielder, for 2011 at least. The top free agent third basemen are Adrian Beltre, and then nobody we want. First basemen include Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche. Taking the guys out who figure to sign long-term deals, that leaves us with Berkman, Lee and possibly Pena. I’d be happy to add any of these guys for 1-2 years at $5-9M/year.

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