4-17-2011: Adrian’s extension

I’m a couple of days late on this one, but Adrian Gonzalez made it official with the Red Sox this week, signing a seven-year contract extension worth $154M that goes from 2012 through 2018. The always competent Theo Epstein-led front office saved quite a bundle by announcing the extensions of Clay Buchholz and Gonzalez after the season began, due to the way the 2011 competitive balance tax salary (CBT, or luxury tax number) is calculated.

What can we expect going forward?

Gonzalez is a perennial All-Star, and a hard worker and role model to boot. Already his leadership qualities are being extolled, after just a couple of months with the team. Given the way he’s looked following off-season shoulder surgery this year (.250/.368/.396 with solid defense and some aggressive baserunning), he’s a good bet going forward.

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1-31-2011: Pedey’s foot in question, watching ST, prospect rankings, random factoids

Pedey’s foot

Dustin Pedroia set off alarms around Red Sox Nation this week when he said in a radio interview that “there have been some surprises” with his foot recovery this offseason. Things are not going as quickly as he thought, but it’s still pretty early. I think it mainly affects his conditioning at this point, but it’s not like he’s Pablo Sandoval here. Don’t panic unless he packs the crutches for Florida.

Spring Training TV Schedule

NESN released their spring schedule.

Prospect rankings

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1-24-2011: Papelbon and Ellsbury sign, looking at the recent AL East moves, SS controversy?, the farm system

Warning: long post ahead! If you get bored, check out the countdown to the pitchers and catchers report date here.

Sox avoid arbitration with Papelbon and Ellsbury

Never fear arbitration, Red Sox Nation – Theo Epstein is here. Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury both agreed to new one-year contracts last week, avoiding arbitration despite what were seen to be complex cases. Epstein did the right thing by both players, finalizing the payroll and letting us move on to the more important questions.

For Papelbon, he’s accumulated elite closer stats at a young age, but there are indications that he’s losing his dominance in recent years, and reports that the Sox considered trading him this offseason; that didn’t prevent him from getting a $12M deal for his last year under team control. Should Papelbon leave via free agency after this season, he will almost undoubtedly be a Type A free agent. But those two compensation picks are not guaranteed, since Paps is someone who might actually accept arbitration should the Sox offer it. One look at this year’s reliever deals (apart from Rafael Soriano’s deal), and you’ll see why making $13-15M with the Sox for one season might look better than signing elsewhere, especially if the Yankees (currently with two closers under contract for 2012) are out of the running. Not to mention that several other big-name relievers could hit the market for 2012, including the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton and the Padres’ Heath Bell. This has led to speculation by some that the Sox will try to trade Papelbon during this season, so as to get something for him rather than let him walk for nothing. I think that if the Sox do as well as we all think they will, they will keep him on the squad, and he can walk. It’s worth it if he pitches well.

Then there’s Ellsbury, who looked to be on the up and up until the “unstoppable” Adrian Beltre derailed him for basically all of 2010. With a possible rift between him and the team, questions about his toughness and ability to play regularly, some were arguing that the Sox should try to lowball Ells. That would have been a bad move, and will not work with Scott Boras. As it is, he’s satisfied for now and will try to reestablish his value for next year’s arbitration negotiations.

Manny, Damon and Vernon Wells…

The Rays, Jays and Yankees all made some moves recently in what looks like a bid to catch up with the Red Sox. In what seems like a bad joke, Andrew Friedman reeled in both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez this week. Damon gives them someone who can play left and give Desmond Jennings a chance to take his time, and he can even spell Dan Johnson at first. Manny will probably be the first legitimate DH they’ve ever had.

Name Pos PA AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Damon LF 622 559 151 30 7 13 87 60 61 90 20 0.271 0.344 0.422 0.766 0.351
Ramirez LF 459 397 114 23 3 18 61 65 56 87 3 0.288 0.384 0.491 0.875 0.391

Damon is still a very solid hitter (though the defense is a problem), and with Manny, they may not even feel the loss of Carlos Pena. Both former idiots are aging players and Manny has got his team chemistry issues, but winning solves all ills, so it could work out well for them at a very low cost.

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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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