Links 8-20-2010: Prospects post, playoffs slipping away, some bright spots, Papelbon

All told, the Red Sox spent a team record $10.66M on signing bonuses for this year’s draft class, guys who had not pitched a professional inning. It was a necessary infusion of talent into a farm system that has been drained of top prospects and had some of our best young guys get injured or tarnished this year. Considering we drafted well and signed all of our first 10 picks, evaluators have been picking the Sox draft as the best in our division this year.

Baseball America published their “best tools” series this week, and many Red Sox prospects got recognition, especially the superb defense currently at Double-A Portland.

Catching prospect Adalberto Ibarra did not pass his physical, so he renegotiated his contract with Boston to the tune of $700-800k. That’s a far cry from the $3M guaranteed deal that he originally agreed to. Sure, it saves money, but it must have been a significant issue for him to backtrack so much on the numbers.

Goodbye 2010?

Just when you think the Sox are ready to turn the corner, a day like yesterday happens. Dustin Pedroia is held out with foot pain, and Josh Beckett gets lit up by a so-so lineup in the Angels. Jarrod Saltalamacchia gets sent to the DL with a mystery leg infection. Add that up with no more Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, and you’ve got a boring October looming.

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Links 7-16-2010: Mid-season analyses, Escobar to Jays, more fun stuff

Lots of fun analyses from all over as we start the second half after the ASB. Despite our recent slide, both BP and THT peg us with a 40-45% shot at the playoffs. I agree with Sox Therapy – we’re not in a bad position, all things considered. The consensus seems to be we should do something to shore up our bullpen and outfield. Here are some of my favorites:

Here’s a visual look at how the rotations and offenses stack up in the AL East based on FIP and OPS. Didn’t I tell you we’d have a good rotation? The problem was early that the defense was poor, and now some of our key pitchers are injured… For those of you who are convinced Daisuke Matsuzaka was one of the worst signings ever, here’s proof that that’s not the case at all. While it clearly wasn’t a jackpot signing, Boston has gotten a somewhat decent return for their money.

Our bullpen is another story. But when bullpens get overused, pitchers get exposed. And injured. That’s been one of the secrets to the success of the Rays’ bullpen, which is probably the best in the division right now.

The Hardball Times has a new visualization of “value” called PayScale, and they compared the 3 giants in the AL East. Boston is more efficient with their money than NY, but not as efficient as Tampa Bay. But we knew that… With the acquisition of Cliff Lee last week, the Texas Rangers are putting all the pieces in place to really make a run. Don’t underestimate them – I have their pitching staff as one of the best in baseball BEFORE the trade; it’s masked somewhat because their home field is so run-prone.

Speaking of defense, how has the improved run prevention strategy served the Red Sox so far? Here’s a look by BP based on defensive efficiency rating. According to them, the Sox are the third-most improved team defensively this season.

What about baserunning? In typical fashion, the Red Sox are the least out-prone team on the basepaths this year. The problem is, without Jacoby Ellsbury, we don’t steal a whole lot to begin with.

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Hot Stove 2010: New-look Red Sox

It hasn’t escaped most people’s attention that the recent off-season signings by the Red Sox have been a bit out of character for Theo Epstein’s Red Sox. Don’t get me wrong, the team was always meant to feature good pitching and defense, but the offensive philosophy was founded on plate discipline, seeing a lot of pitches, wearing down the starter and getting on base. We don’t really see that with the recent position player signings:

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Hot Stove 2010: The shortstop situation, more on Halladay, Sox acquire Hulett

The Toronto Blue Jays signed Alex Gonzalez this week to a one-year deal for $2.75M. They also hold a $2.5M option for 2011. The Sox reportedly had offered one year and $3M, but they weren’t ready to sign Gonzalez without checking out their other options at the upcoming Winter Meetings, so they lost him. This is one case in which Boston’s circumspection hurt them. Some see Marco Scutaro as the only remaining viable option on the free agent market, but he’s 34 and coming off of a career year (he has mentioned Boston as one of his top choices). Don’t be surprised if the Sox try to get a younger shortstop via trade rather than give an overpriced three-year deal to Scutaro and a first-round pick to Toronto.

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2010 Free agent profile: Marco Scutaro

I’m beginning to agree with Darren at Sox Therapy, I think that Boston is going to be pretty conservative this offseason, and that they’ll bring in a veteran shortstop to plug that hole. Could it be Marco Scutaro? Scutaro had been seen as a utility-type player, but when given a chance in Toronto, he turned in two very good years in his age 32 and 33 seasons. One of the best contact hitters in the game with just enough pop to make him valuable, Scutaro could be a godsend for a team in need of a quality, short-term shortstop.

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Hot Stove 2010: Sox bring back Victor Martinez, Wakefield

With the initial GM meetings underway and time running out to re-sign potential free agents, the Sox have announced that they have exercised the $7.1M option on C/1B Victor Martinez. We fully expect that Martinez will stick around and be a major contributor this season, a contract year.

They have also announced a two-year contract with longtime Sox starter Tim Wakefield worth $5M plus roughly $2M more in incentives. I think Wake was already a bargain at $4M/year, so this is icing on the cake for the Red Sox.

Earlier this week, the Sox declined the $6M option on shortstop Alex Gonzalez as well as the $5M option on Jason Varitek.

Hot Stove 2010: Sign Matt Holliday

You’re going about this all wrong. Would it be nice to get an elite slugger or a young ace this offseason? Of course! But at what price? Despite how it looked at times, the lineup is strong, and finished 3rd in runs scored, despite playing Nick Green and Jason Varitek as much as we did. And the rotation already has four strong pitchers if Daisuke Matsuzaka can come back. Trading Clay Buchholz now is the wrong move; he will give you 80-90% of what Hernandez will over the next four years at a bargain price. The Red Sox have talent and should continue to build from within. We certainly need to address that left field vacancy, as well as the lack of pop in the lineup; signing Matt Holliday should be enough on both counts, and we can fill in as needed around these guys. Here’s how to approach the off-season with measured restraint:

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Hot Stove 2010: Trading for Felix Hernandez

Look, you’re being too short-sighted here. Getting a big bat would be great, but this is a contract year for Josh Beckett and we don’t know what we’ll have in Daisuke Matsuzaka. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are great, but two guys does not a rotation make. What are we gonna do if Beckett flies the coop for a deal near $20M/year? What we really should be doing is trading to ensure our future. Solidify the rotation, then you you can go and build the rest of the squad. And there’s no better building block out there than 24-year old Felix Hernandez. Here’s fantasy off-season option B:

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Hot Stove 2010: Trading for Adrian Gonzalez

It seems that an Adrian Gonzalez trade is drumming up the most excitement in Red Sox Nation so far, so let’s formulate an off-season plan revolving around acquiring him from Jed Hoyer’s Padres. Hoyer has noted that a contract extension with Gonzalez is “definitely on the docket”, and he would like to keep him playing for his native San Diego; however with A-Gonz in line for a major free agent deal after 2011, it makes you wonder if the Padres and their $40M payroll will be able to hang on to him much longer (former Padres GM Kevin Towers agrees). Okay, so here’s fantasy off-season plan A (for Adrian):

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Post-2009: Roster locks and losses

We’ve covered our impending free agents here. Now we need to step back and see what the team looks like, sans those guys we’re gonna let walk. Then we can examine our strengths and weaknesses and formulate a plan for the offseason. Let’s take a look at what the Red Sox have already in-house, and what players could be gone:

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