2009 Offseason: Boston adds Smoltz, Baldelli

The Red Sox, not satisfied with Brad Penny as a veteran starter, have signed 41-year old pitcher John Smoltz to a one-year deal worth $5.5M with another estimated $4.5M in incentives.

Smoltz is a potential Hall of Fame pitcher, holding a 210-147 record and 3.26 lifetime ERA, but he made only 5 starts for the Braves last season before a season-ending shoulder injury. He’s also been a part-time closer for Atlanta, notching 154 saves over 4+ seasons (though he definitely wants to be a starter). There are some parallels he shares with Curt Schilling, including his reputation for being a clutch guy in the postseason (15-4 with a 2.65 ERA over 207 IP).

It has been reported that extensive offseason surgery means that he likely won’t be ready to go until mid-season. Despite his age, Smoltz still boasts a strong strikeout rate and great K/BB ratio. He still sits in the low- to mid-90s and throws all his pitches (and he has a lot of them). In his last full season in 2007, he showed good durability, throwing 205.2 innings and reaching 6 IP in 28 of his 32 starts. He pitched at least 7 innings in 14 of those starts. However, we’ll have to see how those anchors do in holding his shoulder together. He’s what we might expect from Smoltz this season, if he reaches 15 starts:

6 wins, 97.1 IP, 104 H, 11 HR, 23 BB, 84 K, 3.77 ERA and 1.31 WHIP

This is a great signing for the Sox, very low-risk, and really bolsters the rotation, unlike Penny, who merely provides some depth. This move may finally signal that one of Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden may be heading out of town in a trade for a young catcher, as has long been speculated. It may also signal that Tim Wakefield will not pitch much in 2009, as there has been a rumor floating around that his balky back will force him to retire.

Baldelli to be the fourth outfielder

The Red Sox landed Rocco Baldelli, a supremely talented Rhode Islander, to be their extra outfielder in 2009. He can earn $1.75M if he spends 165 days on the active roster, and up to $5.25M in incentive bonuses if he reaches 600 plate appearances. A right-handed hitter, he will provide a great complement to and insurance for Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield, as well as the ability to spell either J.D. Drew in right or Jason Bay in left, both considered injury risks.

Once considered a top prospect, Baldelli is athletic, excellent in the field, and hits with power. The only problem is that his body has prevented him from playing much in recent years. Once thought to endanger his career, his mitochondrial disorder has been rediagnosed and Baldelli expects to play much more this year. Boston has a top-notch medical staff, and it will be their job to make sure he can play. My rough projection:

.268/.309/.470 with 14 HR, 48 RBI and 8 SB in 339 AB

On the sad side of this, knuckleballer Charlie Zink was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. After he won the IL Pitcher of the Year last season, I was hoping that he’d get some sort of shot with Boston, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Red Sox add Baseball Ops people

Even in the recession, the Sox are expanding Baseball Ops. Tom Tippett was hired as the director of Baseball Information Services, and they added two more pro scouts in Dean Decillis and Steve Peck. Tim Hyers will be our new amateur scout in Georgia, and Fernando Tamayo is joining the international scouting team.


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