11-1-2011: Replacing Big Papi

The two biggest expiring contracts we have to deal with this offseason are those of DH David Ortiz and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Even though we can’t imagine a Red Sox team without these two integral players, they are both Type A free agents. Letting them walk and signing a replacement would result in a net gain of one or two high draft picks, which is very tempting. Should they be replaced? Can they be replaced? And with whom should they be replaced are some of the biggest questions facing new GM Ben Cherington. Let’s look at the DH problem first. Paying less for a DH seems like a very good way to drop payroll, as no other team has been paying $12M/year for their DH (of course, no other team has been getting our production from the DH spot, either).

What will we be missing?

Ortiz has become THE definition of a prototypical designated hitter, producing a number of stellar seasons since being signed by Theo Epstein before the 2003 season. In his first 5 seasons with Boston, Big Papi produced slugging percentages around or exceeding .600, but has fallen to earth quite a bit since then. Entering his age 36 season, we face the tough choice of re-signing this face of the franchise, or possibly letting him go to a division rival.

Ortiz had quite a renaissance 2011, slashing .309/.398/.554 and smacking 29 home runs. He cut his strikeouts significantly, becoming a much more selective hitter in the process; he posted a career-best 83.3% contact rate. His .321 BABIP suggests that it wasn’t just lucky hits that inflated his numbers, but it was in large part actual performance. Even with the excellent year, here’s what we see for the aging slugger over the next three seasons:

Year AB HR RBI Avg OBP SLG wOBA wRAA
2012 543 27 97 0.266 0.354 0.488 0.374 29.9
2013 513 23 86 0.258 0.337 0.462 0.356 17.6
2014 475 19 74 0.249 0.320 0.434 0.336 6.0

Looking at these projections, you can see why a lot of people have been warning against anything longer than a two-year deal for Ortiz; it’s thought that he’s looking for three years. There’s a very good chance that his offensive value just crashes in 1-3 years, so I really would not sign him for more than two years plus maybe a team option. Read more of this post

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1-24-2011: Papelbon and Ellsbury sign, looking at the recent AL East moves, SS controversy?, the farm system

Warning: long post ahead! If you get bored, check out the countdown to the pitchers and catchers report date here.

Sox avoid arbitration with Papelbon and Ellsbury

Never fear arbitration, Red Sox Nation – Theo Epstein is here. Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury both agreed to new one-year contracts last week, avoiding arbitration despite what were seen to be complex cases. Epstein did the right thing by both players, finalizing the payroll and letting us move on to the more important questions.

For Papelbon, he’s accumulated elite closer stats at a young age, but there are indications that he’s losing his dominance in recent years, and reports that the Sox considered trading him this offseason; that didn’t prevent him from getting a $12M deal for his last year under team control. Should Papelbon leave via free agency after this season, he will almost undoubtedly be a Type A free agent. But those two compensation picks are not guaranteed, since Paps is someone who might actually accept arbitration should the Sox offer it. One look at this year’s reliever deals (apart from Rafael Soriano’s deal), and you’ll see why making $13-15M with the Sox for one season might look better than signing elsewhere, especially if the Yankees (currently with two closers under contract for 2012) are out of the running. Not to mention that several other big-name relievers could hit the market for 2012, including the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton and the Padres’ Heath Bell. This has led to speculation by some that the Sox will try to trade Papelbon during this season, so as to get something for him rather than let him walk for nothing. I think that if the Sox do as well as we all think they will, they will keep him on the squad, and he can walk. It’s worth it if he pitches well.

Then there’s Ellsbury, who looked to be on the up and up until the “unstoppable” Adrian Beltre derailed him for basically all of 2010. With a possible rift between him and the team, questions about his toughness and ability to play regularly, some were arguing that the Sox should try to lowball Ells. That would have been a bad move, and will not work with Scott Boras. As it is, he’s satisfied for now and will try to reestablish his value for next year’s arbitration negotiations.

Manny, Damon and Vernon Wells…

The Rays, Jays and Yankees all made some moves recently in what looks like a bid to catch up with the Red Sox. In what seems like a bad joke, Andrew Friedman reeled in both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez this week. Damon gives them someone who can play left and give Desmond Jennings a chance to take his time, and he can even spell Dan Johnson at first. Manny will probably be the first legitimate DH they’ve ever had.

Name Pos PA AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Damon LF 622 559 151 30 7 13 87 60 61 90 20 0.271 0.344 0.422 0.766 0.351
Ramirez LF 459 397 114 23 3 18 61 65 56 87 3 0.288 0.384 0.491 0.875 0.391

Damon is still a very solid hitter (though the defense is a problem), and with Manny, they may not even feel the loss of Carlos Pena. Both former idiots are aging players and Manny has got his team chemistry issues, but winning solves all ills, so it could work out well for them at a very low cost.

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12-23-2010: Sox offense in good shape for 2011

Nobody yet knows what lineup Terry Francona will use next season, but we know that whatever lineup he uses will be pretty good. We also know that should a player go down, whether in the infield or outfield, we’ve got some pretty good contingency players in Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron, guys who could be starters for some teams out there.

If you plug in our projections into the Baseball Musings lineup analyzer, you get an average of 5.502 runs per game, or about 891 runs on the year. Take away 8% due to the play of substitutes, and we project this squad for 820 runs in 2011. This is actually slightly lower than what we projected for the 2010 squad by 12 runs. But assuming that our regulars play more than they did this year, we are still looking good.

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Links 11-10-2010: AL Gold Gloves, corner infielders, Salty as the man?

The AL Gold Gloves were announced yesterday to kick off awards week, and it is a Yankee-fest. Robinson Cano wasn’t a standout in the field. And Derek Jeter again? Are you kidding me? It seems they’ve mixed up hitting and reputation with fielding yet again.

It looks like we will be in need of a corner infielder, for 2011 at least. The top free agent third basemen are Adrian Beltre, and then nobody we want. First basemen include Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche. Taking the guys out who figure to sign long-term deals, that leaves us with Berkman, Lee and possibly Pena. I’d be happy to add any of these guys for 1-2 years at $5-9M/year.

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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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2009 September callups and that Kazmir trade

With their grasp on the AL wild card tightening, the Red Sox can take a slightly less accelerated route for prospect promotion this September. So you may not see Michael Bowden or Josh Reddick up here again this season. As of today, they have recalled OFs Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright (remember that backup CF trade I mentioned at the July 31st deadline? Here they are.) SS Jed Lowrie and C George Kottaras will almost certainly join the club, now that rosters have expanded. Lowrie was recently given the all-clear to play.

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2008 ALCS: Second-guessing the second-guessers

Terry Francona is getting a lot of criticism for some of his moves in the 9-8 extra inning loss at Tropicana Field last game. All of Red Sox Nation would have been ecstatic if the Sox had pulled that one out and all but locked up the series, but I don’t think it was poor managing that cost us the game.

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