2009-11-17 Links: Minor league free agents, Adrian Gonzalez, Hermida

The Red Sox lost a number of players to minor league free agency this week. These players are no longer a part of the organization, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them come back:

P Devern Hansack, P Charlie Zink, P Jose Vadequano, SS Angel Chavez, SS Iggy Suarez, P Dave McKae, 2B Travis Denker, P Jarod Plummer, P Derrick Loop, OF Brad Correll

The Red Sox also lost a number of players when they were taken off the 40-man roster and they opted for free agency:

RP Takashi Saito, RP Javier Lopez, 2B Nick Green, C George Kottaras, 1B/OF Jeff Bailey, 2B Gil Velasquez, RP Marcus McBeth, RP Billy Traber, RP Enrique Gonzalez

No one expected Saito to return, but the loss of lefties Lopez and Traber means that we have to sign at least one lefty reliever this offseason. There are a number of quality major league free agents available, and names like Casey Fossum and Chris Capuano are available as minor league free agents.

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Wakefield hits the DL; Bowden Boston-bound?

Pitcher Tim Wakefield will be placed on the 15-day DL with a stiff shoulder and is scheduled to miss two starts. He will receive a cortisone shot and rest his throwing arm. The injury is not unlike the shoulder pain that kept him off the playoff roster last season, and it was expected that the 41-year old would probably need some time off this year. This move serves the double purpose of giving Wakefield some extra recovery time and a chance to pace himself for the stretch run.

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Schilling done; Sox still have enough arms

The trade rumors are spreading: C.C. Sabathia and Erik Bedard are available, as well as a growing number of other veterans. What do you think, should be be trading for these guys? Cleveland would likely want Jed Lowrie and someone like Brandon Moss for their burly lefty rental (there’s no window to negotiate a contract extension), while Seattle would want a bit more. There’s no way 2-3 months of Sabathia is worth that price, but they can ask for a lot because a lot of teams have come calling. We’re still involved, of course, just in case we can land a bargain.

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Another loss and why Red Sox Nation need not panic

Daisuke Matsuzaka had yet another lackluster Spring start yesterday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He needed a lot of pitches to get out of the first inning, in which he gave up a three-run shot to Matt Kemp. But not everything was bad; he settled down afterwards, finishing out his three innings and striking out five, despite the three hits and three walks. Bryan Corey followed with two perfect innings, and David Aardsma struck out two in his frame of work (I really like what I’m seeing from him). Jon Switzer threw an inning scoreless, though Devern Hansack struggled with control in his inning. That body of work is an encouraging sign for bullpen depth this year.

Doug Mirabelli had two of Boston’s five hits, and drawing just three walks on the day is not going to cut it, especially when it happens against Esteban Loaiza.

BTW, Check out this nasty curveball from Dodgers top prospect Clayton Kershaw. Sean Casey is still trying to figure out how this happened:

I know, the Sox have lost six straight Spring games. The rotation looks like a mess, with everyone giving up runs. Josh Beckett has “no timetable” for his return. With Curt Schilling out, we were counting on the young arms to carry us, but Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz haven’t looked very good so far. There’s talk that Bartolo Colon may have convinced the Sox to start Buchholz at Pawtucket this year.

Do not panic.

I know that the media has really transformed Spring Training into a big deal for Red Sox Nation, but it’s important that we keep some perspective here. No matter what you see on the field, these are Spring Training games. Players, especially veterans, are not focusing on winning so much as getting their game in line, doing the small things they’d like to improve for the season. Young players are still getting the butterflies out. And what you see is such a small sample size that it would be ludicrous to draw any conclusions about the 2008 season based on our Spring record or a couple of bad performances. These are still the World Champion Red Sox. This is still the same pitching staff that led the AL last year. Just chill and enjoy watching the games. The pitching will come around, as will the hitting (which typically takes a little longer). As for Buchholz, the Sox never planned to play him all season at the Major League level (if they could help it), given that he’s supposed to top out around 180 IP total this year. They are looking for an excuse to demote him, and that excuse weighs 300 lbs and is named Colon.

2008 Projections: Pitching

In order to project the team’s performance this year, I’m going to look at each pitcher’s projections and trends for the coming year and use that to generate an estimated runs given up total.

Defense should be roughly the same, given that we basically have the whole starting lineup back; substituting Jacoby Ellsbury for Coco Crisp will probably cost us a few runs defensively in the short run, but I don’t expect that to be incredibly significant.

Rotation (listed in order of appearance)

1. Josh Beckett (200 IP, 3.80 ERA)
Beckett is a known commodity now, though I am allowing for one avulsion or blister incident during 2008 in his innings count. He’ll come back to earth in terms of more walks issued and probably a few more HRs this season, but everything else looks sustainable for this 27-year old. Chalk up 88 runs for the bad guys with this kind of performance.

2. Daisuke Matsuzaka (210 IP, 3.75 ERA)
The loss of Schilling means a huge burden lands on the shoulders of this man. If he’s not ready to be our #2, the Sox will be in trouble early on. But as I’ve said, I’m confident that he’s up to the task. I’m not saying he’ll be good all season; I expect a hot streak around June and a swoon in either May or September. But an ERA this low would translate into just 90 runs for the opposition.

3. Tim Wakefield (160 IP, 4.80 ERA)
A good year for Wakefield would be about 180 IP, but the man’s going to be 41 this season; there’s a good chance he’ll miss bits of the season here and there. At just below league average, that’s worth about 90 runs here.

4. Julian Tavarez (90 IP, 5.15 ERA)
Given the Sox’ penchant for going with what’s proven, even if it’s proven to be just mediocre at best, Tavarez should get a few starts early on. The man’s just not very good as a starter, with a 5.08 ERA lifetime. This will cost approximately 56 runs.

5. Jon Lester (110 IP, 4.85 ERA)
Lester will be given a shot, and no one knows how he’ll respond. All indications are that he’s stronger this year, but is he mentally ready to take the ball every 5th day? Lester threw about 153 innings total last year between Triple-A and the bigs, so he’ll likely throw about 170-180 this year, and much of that split will be determined by how he does early on. His K rate and BB rates improved last season over 2006, so I look for that trend to continue. This means about 62 runs here.

6. Bartolo Colon (60 IP, 5.00 ERA)
Colon had the best K rate in 2007 he’s had in years, but it still wasn’t that great. His control slipped, though he suffered from a .364 BABIP, which should come back down slightly. When the Sox deem him ready enough, and when they’ve had enough of Tavarez, they’ll call on Colon, probably around mid-May. My guess is that he won’t show enough to stick, and they’ll move on to Buchholz in early June. 35 runs against.

7. Clay Buchholz (110 IP, 4.30 ERA)
They’re going to want to limit his exposure this season, but the need for starting pitching won’t let them. Buchholz appears ready to be very solid, if not spectacular at times. 55 runs against.

8. Curt Schilling (40 IP, 4.75 ERA)
This could end up being 40 innings, or it could very easily end up being zero. The Sox will need to supplement with starts from Devern Hansack, David Pauley or Kyle Snyder if Schilling is out. Or they could look to trade for a pitcher at the deadline. 23 runs against.

Bullpen

Closer. Jonathan Papelbon (60 IP, 2.80 ERA)
How do you predict an ERA for a guy who keeps posting such ridiculous numbers? You don’t. But I’ll just be conservative here and say he’ll post the highest ERA so far in his Major League career this year. 20 runs.

Setup. Hideki Okajima (65 IP, 3.50 ERA)
He can’t be amazing two years in a row, can he? Actually, I think he can. But again, conservatism is the rule here. 26 runs against.

Setup. Manny Delcarmen (60 IP, 3.20 ERA)
The Sox look ready to trust him in higher-leverage situations this year, and he’ll end up in this role by mid-season. If he just keeps within himself and lets his curveball work its magic, he’ll allow just 23 runs this year.

7th inning. Mike Timlin (50 IP, 4.40 ERA)
He’ll still throw plenty of valuable innings this year, but all the secondary stats suggest that we should be getting the fork ready. 26 runs scored on him.

7th inning. Javier Lopez (40 IP, 3.50 ERA)
JLo will redeem himself as a LOOGY this year, but righties will hit much better than they did against him in 2007 (.176/.300/.265). 16 runs allowed.

Long man. Kyle Snyder (60 IP, 4.65 ERA)
I like Snyder a lot, but last year was his best ever, so I think a projection like this is safe. Like I said above, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a couple of spot starts here and there in his swingman role, upping his innings over last year. Will cost us 32 runs.

Various callups (120 IP, 4.70 ERA)
I didn’t realize how many more innings the Sox pen would have to make up to match last year. I’m thinking some combination of Bryan Corey, Hansack, possibly even Craig Hansen or Bryce Cox. About 65 runs against.

Analysis

Totaling up the runs here, I get 707 runs scored against us (it was 657 last season). Combined with our offensive projections for 2008, which I had at 935 runs, that’s a very strong differential of 228 runs, even better than last year’s gap of 210. The Pythagorean W-L for that kind of performance would be 103 wins. Whew. Gotta like that.

Of course, this all hinges on Beckett and Matsuzaka being all they can be (as well as the offense), and Wakefield being healthy enough to make most of his starts. One observation: the bullpen depth could be made slightly better, in case of injuries.

Given all the caveats here, I’m comfortable penciling the Sox in for 95 wins and a playoff berth.

2008 Offseason: Three file for salary arbitration

Kevin Youkilis, Kyle Snyder and Javier Lopez were among the Major League players filing for salary arbitration yesterday. You consider this something of a formality, because Theo Epstein has never gone to arbitration with any Red Sox player, and I don’t expect him to start this year. He will either offer each of these players a one-year contract or non-tender them before the arbitration hearings take place.

Youkilis will of course be given a deal, and there is some buzz on whether he will be signed to a multi-year contract this offseason. I think Youkilis is a wonderful player, but you have to remember that single-year deals give the Sox the greatest flexibility; for example, with Mark Teixeira likely to become a free agent after 2008, they might want to look at signing him long-term to play first base. With Youk in just his first arbitration-eligible season, there’s no rush to sign him for big money, and Epstein would only give him a 3-4 year deal if he would give a hometown discount.

I like Snyder a lot, and think he’s a perfectly good swingman to have in the bullpen. Only problem is that we already have Julian Tavarez to fill that role, and he’s even better at it. Unless we trade Tavarez, there’s a chance the Sox let him go and let someone cheaper, like Devern Hansack, take his spot on the 40-man. These are the tough decisions you have to make as a GM.

As for Lopez, I think the Sox should probably non-tender him. He failed miserably as a LOOGY last year, allowing them to hit .293/.366/.439 off of him last season. Surprisingly, he was very effective against righties in 2007, which has not been the case over his career. The only problem here is who we get to replace him. We had Jay Marshall off of waivers from the Athletics, but then they claimed him back in subsequent roster moves. We could give Craig Breslow a shot at this job, but should he fail, we’re looking at Abe Alvarez as the next option. Hmm… We could always fill this position via trade. The remaining free agent options are not so attractive: there’s Jeremy Affeldt, but he wants a 4-5 year deal and a chance to start (now that’s optimism for you). There’s 38-year old Ron Villone and 39-year old Mike Myers. How about Trever Miller or Ray King? No? Didn’t think so. Maybe Lopez isn’t so bad after all…

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