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.¬†It 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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Links 11-10-2010: Sox contact every free agent, offseason predictions, Crawford vs Werth

We should clear up something: just because the Sox have contacted Jayson Werth doesn’t mean they’ve targeted him as THE acquisition for the offseason. In fact, Theo Epstein tends to work like a shrewd hedge fund manager and plan for contingencies, diversifying his free agent portfolio. Basically the Sox have many possible plans of action, and which one they take is determined by the market. If the price for Werth climbs too high, they default to another plan with someone else. Accordingly, the Sox have contacted just about every major free agent already to try and gauge who would fit well and what their expectations are. This serves the double purpose of masking our true intentions, in case someone out there wants to bid us up.

Offseason predictions

The writers at MLB Trade Rumors have taken a stab at predicting where this year’s free agents will end up. Their consensus is that the Yankees will land Cliff Lee, and the Angels will nab Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre. I agree about Lee; after re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to pricey deals, I think the Yankees will land him (at over $20M per season) and basically be done. The Halos need to make a big splash, and while they love speed and are in dire need of the outfield defense Crawford would provide, they have other big problem areas, most notably third base and the rotation. I find it unlikely that they will land both Crawford and Beltre, who will command upwards of $30M/year between the two of them. The Angels featured the worst third base production in the Majors last year, and they have no internal options there. They love their Hispanic players, so my guess is Beltre goes with them (he likes the West Coast anyway).

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Links 11-2-2010: Free agent news, AFL, Farrell farewell, Fenway changes, Fielding Bible, the pitching market

Thing are moving more quickly this offseason, with new rules in play. Three Sox are free agents already, and those with options will find out by Thursday if they are still Red Sox. With Adrian Beltre sure to become a free agent, Kevin Youkilis is doing the prudent thing and preparing to play third, just in case. Peter Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox being able to keep Victor Martinez anymore. They squandered their chance when they offered only two years and didn’t see him catching for them beyond that timeframe. If he walks, the Sox will have to acquire a veteran catcher as well as make a big splash somewhere else in order to make up for his lost bat. Gammons believes that Boston will sign Carl Crawford, who doesn’t like being the stolen base guy atop the order. With Jacoby Ellsbury already filling that role, he won’t have to be that here. Of course, don’t forget that there are several teams with big money to spend.

The official Elias free agent rankings have been released, and Victor Martinez and Beltre are Type A free agents, as expected. David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell are Type B free agents.

The other move that is percolating (probably at the next trade deadline) is the potential acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres have all but admitted they can’t re-sign him beyond 2011, so they’ll be looking for a big return before he walks. With most of the big budget teams set at first base already and not much other competition, we could finally land the big bat we’ve coveted for so long.

Don’t look for Daisuke Matsuzaka to be dealt this offseason (barring a REALLY good offer from some team). While he hasn’t lived up to the hype, he has been more than serviceable as a middle/back-end starter.

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Links 10-15-2010: This year, next year, and prospect news

About This Season

Pitching and defense¬†didn’t work because we didn’t pitch well and we didn’t play defense. At least not well enough. But we did still finish 6th overall according to this sabermetric ranking of teams. The Giants? Eleventh.

What exactly did the injuries cost us this season? Could we still be playing, had things gone differently? It’s a question many people are asking, including Brian MacPherson. On the other hand, putting our injuries into the context of MLB shows that while we did lose a lot of position players this year, our pitching staff actually fared quite well.

He didn’t miss much time because of it, but Marco Scutaro was playing hurt a lot this year. I was quite pleased with his performance for the most part, but the OBP was slightly disappointing.

Exactly how good was Jon Lester this year? If you look at the total of no-hit innings pitched this year by each pitcher, Lester finished second, behind Felix Hernandez. That’s pretty good company. On the other hand, we should expect a bit of regression next year from the lowest ERA on our staff.

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2010-2011 Offseason: Third base

The other big position of concern this offseason is third base, where Adrian Beltre is going to free agency after a tremendous season. There’s no chance that he won’t go there; his agent is Scott Boras. Beltre, who will be 32 next season, will likely command at least 3 years and $12-13M per year. He is also a Type A free agent and would cost a draft pick to any other team that signs him.

The in-house options at third are limited, leaving us with little leverage in negotiations; Jed Lowrie might make a respectable third baseman if he can stay healthy, but his bat plays much better as a middle infielder. With no other Major League-ready prospects, the Sox may be forced to look at a trade if Beltre leaves.

Yes, we have Kevin Youkilis, who can play a reasonable third base and is willing to do whatever the team needs, but moving our Gold Glove first baseman back across the diamond should not be option number one. This only makes sense if we acquire a big bat who can only play first base. I think this option only occurs if we can’t re-sign Victor Martinez at catcher.

Prediction

There are not a lot of top third base options available this offseason; Beltre is head and shoulders above the rest of his free agent class, and Boras will leverage that into a lucrative three- or four-year deal. The only option to keep him at the top of his value is to overpay, which the Sox are reluctant to do. The other name you would know is the soon-to-be 33-year old Aramis Ramirez, who is coming off of a .241/.294/.452 debacle of a season (a classic buy low scenario, which Theo Epstein likes, but could seriously backfire).

There are some rumblings that the teams who want Beltre the most might not be desirable destinations for him, but there are a lot of teams (like the Angels, Tigers and Rangers) who are in position to spend big, and the bidding could get fierce. Either the Sox pony up to keep Beltre, or they go with a stopgap veteran for a year or two. Those available names include Ramirez, Ty Wigginton and Jhonny Peralta. If you go this route, you would need to add some big-time offense elsewhere, such as Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth in left field.

Links 10-01-2010: A quiet October in Boston

Well, we’ve been saying it for some time now, but it is now mathematically official – the Red Sox are out of it. Here’s Theo Epstein’s statement on their elimination. Nothing to do but root for the Rays against the Yankees now. And, of course, begin obsessing about the offseason. Sox Therapy is looking ahead too. Don’t cry over spilled milk, like this post does.

Notes on 2010

Go out and show some love for Mike Lowell on October 2, which has been dubbed, “Thanks, Mike” Night. He’s been a class character and I have the utmost respect for the man. And for God’s sake, someone get him his final home run ball.

Looking for a way to explain how the Red Sox could possibly have ranked second in offense after losing Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia for much of the year? Look no further than Adrian Beltre. His season had some of the hallmarks of an MVP year, with much of his success being found on hard-hit fly balls.

BP’s redux on the Red Sox this year was that it wasn’t just the injuries, but the poor starting pitching outside of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz that doomed the Red Sox. All of the focus has been on the bullpen, but I think they looked extra bad because they were forced to pitch tired by the rotation. Things should right themselves next year as Josh Beckett and John Lackey regress back towards who they were (fingers crossed).

There were some rumblings that the Red Sox seemed to fare poorly against poor teams, while they played well against tough opponents. This study at Dugout Central shows them as middle-of-the-pack in this regard.

David Ortiz downplays his 100 RBI season. Good for him. 100 is just a number, as is 20 wins. Lester still matches up against anyone else just fine.

Terry Francona insists that Jonathan Papelbon is all growed up, but Paps’ complaints about the umpiring tell us otherwise. It’s the game, Paps. Just do your job.

For those of you wondering why the Red Sox claimed Felipe Lopez for a stretch run with little hope and little need for him, Francona notes that he was insurance for Marco Scutaro, who was apparently playing with a lot of physical problems for some time. That, and his departure could net the Red Sox a compensation draft pick. He passed up a chance at the playoffs with the Padres to be here, though, so we’ll see what happens.

Looking ahead

The crowd believes Beltre will command 3-4 years at $13M per season as a free agent. If it’s three years, I might do it, but if it’s four, I’d hesitate a bit at that price.

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Links 9-20-2010: Offer to V-Mart, Ortiz’ option, Youk, Ethier, Drew, Darvish

The Sox apparently made a two-year offer to Victor Martinez, which he understandably turned down. I know they don’t want to sign him long-term to be their catcher, but this is an obvious low-ball offer to one of the upper-tier free agent prizes this offseason. I’d love to see them grab him for 3-4 years, with the understanding that he will transition mostly to 1B/DH towards the end of the deal.

There was an earlier report that the Sox are prepared to pick up David Ortiz’s $12.5M option for 2011. I’d be very surprised if they went this route rather than explore a multi-year deal at a lower annual salary.

Here is a rundown on what the Red Sox rotation could look like next year (hint: it’s very similar to this year’s model). Look for the Sox to try and ink Clay Buchholz to an extension, thought they might want to wait until his stock drops some. His numbers this year are kind of crazy good, and probably a bit better than we can expect from him going forward.

Here are the players going who are eligible to go to arbitration this offseason.

Always the good soldier, Kevin Youkilis has gone on record saying that he’ll play wherever the Sox ask him to next year. Normally you don’t worry about moving a Gold Glove first baseman, but moving Youk to third base could give the Sox flexibility in case they can’t re-sign Adrian Beltre this offseason.

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9-14-2010: Looking ahead to 2011

Sorry for the lack of postings, but I haven’t really been too motivated to write about the Red Sox, with even their mathematical playoff chances circling the drain. Can you blame me? It’s kind of hard to get excited about Darnell McDonald and Yamaico Navarro on a nightly basis. Now I know how Kansas City fans feel!

What went Wrong

If you’ll remember, we came into 2010 with a lot of confidence, and projected for a close finish with the Yankees for the divisional pennant. If you ask me what happened to this year’s team, I’d certainly cite injuries, but beyond that, we got off to a terrible start in April, while the Yankees and Rays roared out of the gate. Yeah, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were on the shelf then, but we didn’t have an excuse to play under .500 baseball that month. Add Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Beckett to that injury list, and you can see where even an incredibly hot May and June wasn’t enough to salvage the season. The bullpen was really bad, yes, but I think that’s more a function of the starters not doing well early on (4.86 ERA in April, 4.36 ERA in May) and burning out the bullpen. Hideki Okajima’s injuries and subsequent ineffectiveness was also a huge blow to this relief corps.

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