11-9-2011: Other areas of need and available free agents

Ben Cherington came out yesterday and suggested that the Red Sox were not likely to be big players on the free agent market this offseason. I think he’s being genuine, but even if they were, what good would it do them to come out and say that?

Here are the problem areas as I see them, and some free agent projections (all numbers assume a transition to the AL East).

1. Starting pitching

With so much money already committed to the rotation, I would be surprised if the Red Sox continued to throw money at this problem. Adding C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish would be nice, but can we afford another $100M contract here, while our core players will be earning more and more every season? Signing a big arm to a long-term deal like that might mean saying goodbye to Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz once their current deals expire.

Name Age IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA WHIP
CJ Wilson 31 182.1 8.2 3.7 0.5 3.42 1.30
Roy Oswalt 34 161.6 7.1 2.4 0.9 3.93 1.30
Erik Bedard 33 64.2 8.7 3.5 1.0 3.94 1.36
Hiroki Kuroda 37 154.8 7.2 2.4 1.0 4.06 1.34
Mark Buehrle 33 189.1 4.9 2.1 0.9 4.10 1.39
Edwin Jackson 28 186.5 7.3 3.3 0.9 4.14 1.45
Freddy Garcia 35 109.2 6.1 2.7 1.0 4.27 1.40
Bartolo Colon 39 93.8 7.0 2.7 1.2 4.28 1.40
Javier Vazquez 35 167.3 8.0 2.7 1.3 4.41 1.33
Jeff Francis 31 123.2 5.6 2.4 0.9 4.58 1.46
Paul Maholm 30 161.2 5.5 3.2 0.9 4.68 1.54
Tim Wakefield 45 118.8 5.8 3.3 1.1 4.92 1.46

As you can see, bringing back Tim Wakefield really shouldn’t be an option; almost any free agent is likely to be better than him going forward. Erik Bedard has huge injury concerns, and that’s not what this staff needs. Hiroki Kuroda doesn’t seem likely to come out east. I think Roy Oswalt could be a fit if he’s willing to take a two-year deal at good money, and Buehrle would be a solid signing if we can get him for fewer than four years. Edwin Jackson scares me a little bit long-term, so I’d avoid offering him more than three years as well.

2. A closer/setup man (or two)

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5-22-2011: Farm report for Portland

The Portland Sea Dogs stand at just 12-26 on the season, sitting in the basement of their division of the Eastern League.

Offense

As a team, there’s a lot to like about this year’s Sea Dogs. They’ve averaged 4.5 runs per game, good for 5th in the Eastern League, but their team line of .270/.348/.399 shows that they have a dynamic offense that gets on base plenty. In fact, most of their regulars show up as being league average or better:

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG OPS BABIP wOBA wRC+
Alex Hassan 166 16.1% 12.5% 0.359 0.472 0.531 1.003 0.384 0.458 194
Jonathan Hee 85 9.9% 25.0% 0.309 0.413 0.441 0.854 0.400 0.400 155
Will Middlebrooks 145 5.0% 24.6% 0.299 0.333 0.500 0.833 0.365 0.376 138
Che-Hsuan Lin 161 12.4% 10.1% 0.268 0.373 0.333 0.706 0.298 0.344 117
Tim Federowicz 156 9.3% 17.8% 0.267 0.331 0.400 0.731 0.300 0.332 109
Mitch Dening 74 8.1% 25.4% 0.238 0.333 0.381 0.714 0.289 0.324 103
Ryan Lavarnway 158 9.2% 21.3% 0.235 0.307 0.404 0.712 0.245 0.323 103
Oscar Tejeda 140 8.8% 18.9% 0.262 0.331 0.361 0.692 0.313 0.323 103
Chih-Hsien Chiang 97 6.5% 21.8% 0.241 0.290 0.425 0.716 0.277 0.322 102
Jorge Padron 148 9.7% 10.1% 0.271 0.340 0.341 0.681 0.293 0.317 98
Ryan Dent 64 7.8% 19.0% 0.224 0.281 0.276 0.557 0.271 0.281 74

The lineup has been paced by LF Alex Hassan, who at age 23 continues to put up very good offensive numbers, despite lacking the HR totals you want to see in a legitimate prospect. He lacks the pure athleticism the Red Sox usually like in their outfielders, but he has always hit well and he can play in right field, so he has some flexibility. His minor league career has been limited by some injuries, but Hassan has always produced, and he does smack quite a few doubles, which means he could still become a pretty decent Major Leaguer.

Che-Hsuan Lin, recently promoted to Pawtucket, is a very good defensive centerfielder, and he handles himself well at the dish. Not much power to speak of, but a high OBP and low K rate are nice to have in a speedy slap hitter. Still just 22 years old, I could see him being a 4th outfielder type as early as next season.

Solid performances from both Tim Federowicz and Ryan Lavarnway, which means that our catching depth will be quite a bit better next year than it is this year.

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4-25-2011: Some props for the gloves

Wow, does it ever feel good to get the standings back into whack (for the most part). The Sox have now won 8 of their last 9 games, and looked really good doing it. Everything seems to be falling into place; even Carl Crawford is getting it started at the plate. The rotation suddenly looks like the collection of four aces I was effusing about before the season, and we are getting innings from them, making the bullpen look very strong recently.

The rotation is getting all the accolades for their recent domination, but don’t forget that a lot of this recent run is thanks to some pretty good defense. The Red Sox rank 5th in baseball with a .734 DER, just behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who we know can really pick it. Though it hasn’t had much time to really stabilize and be reliable, Ultimate Zone Rating likes the Red Sox at +6.6 runs on the year, 7th best in MLB. John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system has the Sox at -5 on the year, but we know that there were some pretty blatant gaffes early that probably contributed to that.

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4-20-2011: Saltalamacchia struggling to earn the trust of the staff

Terry Francona hinted that Jarrod Saltalamacchia may not have the full confidence of the pitching staff:

I think sometimes a catcher can put down the same signs, but depending on who it is, the pitcher throws with a little more commitment. I think Tek has earned that. It’s always going to be hard for the next guy to come in to compare themselves, the way the game’s being run, with Tek.

I’ve said all season that I think this is a problem, as can be seen by Salty’s catcher ERA this year (7.14) versus that of Jason Varitek (2.40). I can see how it would be hard for anyone as the new guy to follow a guy who’s caught four no-hitters. However, Victor Martinez wasn’t the best defensive catcher, and they had no problem throwing to him last year. Salty may just not have the ability to win over his staff, and that’s a problem. If things don’t change soon, I’d like them to give Mike McKenry a look when they have an opportunity (perhaps when Varitek goes on the DL in June or whenever).

3-30-2011: Sox upgrade at backup catcher

The Red Sox made a minor trade yesterday, acquiring 26-year old catcher Mike McKenry from the Colorado Rockies for reliever Daniel Turpen. Like most catchers, McKenry struggles a bit with hitting, but he has some middling power and walks a good deal. Perhaps more importantly, he is a solid catcher defensively, having thrown out a 37% percent of baserunners in his 5-year minor league career and around 30% at Double- and Triple-A. Theo Epstein, looking for depth at catcher, didn’t want to sign another no-hit veteran, but instead added a guy with at least some potential to blossom into a legitimate Major Leaguer.

Mark Wagner was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. I’d be surprised if he is claimed by anyone, and it is likely he will land back at Pawtucket.

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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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Links 12-7-2010: State of the Sox, bullpen, right-handed bat, Gonzalez, Miller, depth signings

Theo Epstein delivered his yearly “State of the Sox” address yesterday, and noted the need for relief pitching and possibly adding a right-handed bat. He didn’t mention catcher, though I’m sure he’ll pick one up if the right opportunity presents itself.

I still think Scott Downs is the top option available, primarily because he’s pitched successfully in the AL East for a long time. He’s also a solid lefty who can get righties out as well, a la Hideki Okajima, ca 2008. Other names that have been mentioned include Koji Uehara, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Ron Mahay. Notice there are a lot of lefties named here. I think two quality lefty relievers is a must in this division.

The Red Sox are indeed showing interest in both Magglio Ordonez and Josh Willingham, right-handed hitting outfielders who could handle left field and fill in for J.D. Drew when he is out.

As we surmised, it seems the Sox have an agreement in place with newly-acquired 1B Adrian Gonzalez which would extend him for 7 years and $154M. For those of you who just can’t get enough Gonzalez Kool-Aid, here’s an interesting post featuring Katron.org’s batted ball park projector.

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