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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12-6-2010: Gonzalez announced, who’s next?

Adrian Gonzalez was introduced at a press conference this morning, and he gushed all the usual things from a free agent who’s just signed a fat deal: it’s his (second) dream to play here, etc. He seems like a smart player, and knows that he needs to hit the ball in the air to be successful in Fenway. It seems that the Sox have an extension agreement in place with Gonzalez already, and it will likely be announced just after Opening Day. His agent says they’re finding a nice compromise, so I’d expect something along the lines of 6 years with a vesting option worth $130-150M.

Theo Epstein mentioned in his comments that he would like to add a right handed outfielder. But with Jayson Werth signing a massive deal with the Washington Nationals yesterday, the question is who? Carl Crawford, the top free agent outfielder, is left-handed and his signing would arguably tilt the lineup too far to the left, making us vulnerable to strong lefties, like CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, who could be teammates again next year. Also, we have to be thinking about the future, as players like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz start earning real money. I’m not sure we can absorb another 6-7 year maxed out deal without letting everyone start walking in a couple of years. So maybe we want to shoot for a short-term option or a second-tier target (after all, we do have Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish, who look just about Major League ready).

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Links 8-26-2010: Consensus building, Damon, Lackey and lefties, Reddick back

I’ve been saying it since Dustin Pedroia went back on the DL, but it appears that more and more people are priming their forks to stick into the 2010 Boston Red Sox. The playoffs are a tough sell at this point, but hey, anything can happen in baseball.

For every good thing that happens to the Sox, it seems that there is a black lining to it. Jon Lester was cruising along, but then he gets blown up in his last start. Josh Beckett is back, supposedly healthy, but he still looks shaky. Clay Buchholz has been dominating, but Patrick Sullivan reminds us that his numbers rest on a lot of “luck”. Hideki Okajima is being held at Pawtucket because of his last poor outing. They don’t want him to come to the Majors on a bad note.

There are some interesting names on the waiver wire, though I don’t expect the Red Sox to be able to land any of them. Scott Downs and Manny Ramirez are both out there. I’d like to add Downs, but no way would I claim Manny. The White Sox are reportedly interested in getting him, though. And guess what else? Man-Ram wants another contract extension. Surprise, surprise.

Unlike some, I was not at all surprised at Johnny Damon’s decision not to return to Boston. With the Sox on the very fringe of contending, what reason does he have to come here? The management refused to pay him what he thought he was worth, the fans have given him an icy reception several times, most of his “idiot” friends have moved on, and most of all he knows how this club works. If he came here, he’d be a part-time guy who would only play against righties. I don’t blame him in the least, though I think he could definitely help this team right now.

It appears that more than one observer has commented on John Lackey’s inability to put away left-handed hitters this season. Southpaws have hit .308/.381/.435 off of him this year, but righties hit him to the tune of .301/.353/.493 back in 2008. Splits can be tricky, because of sample size. We don’t know if this is a real problem or just a blip due to a bad year, and we won’t know until at least next year.

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2010 AL East Preview: Sox, Yankees reloaded

As Spring Training finally dawns, we are looking at two teams at the top of the division with significant turnover from this offseason. The Yankees have shed several older, oft-injured players and added a powerful left-handed bat in OF Curtis Granderson. For their part, Boston has decided to focus on run prevention with the signing of John Lackey and even sacrificed OBP in order to improve their team defense in this “bridge year”. The Tampa Rays have another year of development and polish on their young and talented core. Meanwhile, Toronto has gone into rebuilding mode with the trade of Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and the Orioles’ youth movement is on the cusp of paying dividends. What can we expect to see in 2010? Read more of this post

Hot Stove 2010: Options to fill LF

The offseason is all about choices, especially for a big market team like the Red Sox. What choices give you the best chance of winning, while preserving value and organizational depth? Filling a hole by getting the best available player now may not be the best move, because it could leave you hamstrung somewhere else. As a team with a number of needs this offseason, let’s take a look at some of the options to fill left-field and compare them.

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2010 Hot Stove: The case against Bay

Look, I love Jason Bay as a human being. And I appreciate all that he’s done for the Red Sox since arriving in Boston a season and a half ago. But he’s just not the guy for the Red Sox to sign this offseason – he’s coming off a career year and a half, and he plays defense roughly like a bump on a log. To think that he may sign a deal on par with or even bigger than Matt Holliday this offseason just boggles my mind.

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2010 Projections: Free agent LFs

My new and improved projections for 2010 are already nearing beta status. Without further comment, projections for some key free agent left fielders (ZiPS added for comparison where available, denoted by -Z):

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