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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12-10-2010: Revised projection for Adrian Gonzalez

Alright, I’ll admit that the first projection I put up was a little too conservative. It’s because I was using a flat adjustment for the NL to AL transition. Works well for average players, doesn’t work so well for superstar players. I’ve adjusted my methodology to a component-correlated one, and used it as a basis to regress towards 50%. Using this new method, here’s what I get for Gonzalez in Fenway:

Age AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRAA
29 606 175 39 1 30 98 105 81 121 2 0.289 0.378 0.505 0.883 0.392 46.2
30 615 176 38 1 30 98 106 80 122 2 0.287 0.375 0.501 0.876 0.389 44.6
31 617 175 37 1 30 97 106 78 121 2 0.284 0.370 0.495 0.864 0.384 41.2
32 612 172 35 1 29 95 103 74 118 2 0.281 0.363 0.485 0.848 0.377 36.0
33 600 166 33 1 28 91 99 68 114 2 0.276 0.355 0.473 0.828 0.369 29.5
34 580 157 30 1 25 85 93 61 109 2 0.271 0.346 0.459 0.805 0.359 21.9
35 552 147 27 1 23 78 85 53 103 1 0.266 0.335 0.443 0.778 0.347 13.7
36 517 134 24 1 20 71 76 45 95 1 0.259 0.323 0.425 0.748 0.335 5.5

I feel much better about this projection. One interesting thing I found was that even top sluggers who go from the NL to the AL lose a lot in terms of home run rate, and vice versa, for whatever reason. There’s a big difference once you change leagues, whether you’re Manny Ramirez or Matt Holliday or Mark Teixeira. That’s reflected here in Gonzalez losing 5 HR compared to his NL projection. I hope Adrian bucks that trend and hits 40, but it looks like the over/under number for 2011 is about 30.

Links 12-1-2010: The plan forming, Victor as a DH, compensation picks, trading Scutaro, Guerrier, Parraz, Spring Training schedule

It’s starting to look like a near certainty that the Red Sox will sign one of either Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford. As I’ve said before, I like the idea of adding Werth as a long-term right-handed bat with some punch, though Crawford would be a good add as well. Werth is pretty good on defense as well, while Crawford is stellar in that category. Signing either would go a long way towards replacing the offense we’ve lost from last year’s team.

Yes, it’s been a slow offseason so far, but before you start complaining about how the Sox never spend money, read this. They are simply waiting it out. Werth is a Boras client, so any offer made now would simply be used as leverage to drive up the price. Werth will almost certainly not sign before Christmas, and may even hold out until late January.

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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 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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6-21-2010: Sweep of LA, roster changes, 2010 draftees play, Sox sign Broughton

The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Dodgers this weekend, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Turns out Manny Ramirez’s return was nothing at all. I told you Inter-League play is a good time for Red Sox Nation. Now tied with Tampa Bay for 2nd place, we are in a very strong position going forward. Game-by-game notes:

Game 1: Felix Doubront was not half bad in his Major League debut, and it was good enough for the victory. Guided by Jason Varitek, he showcased a strong 92-93 mph fastball and mixed in a couple of decent curves and changeups. He got 80% first pitch strikes, didn’t make too many mistakes, and he didn’t pitch scared. He was promptly sent back to Pawtucket, and the Sox called up Robert Manuel.

Game 2: Tim Wakefield continues to do what he does, torn 43-year old labrum and all. A lot of errors in this one, but hey, it’s the Ws that count, not the Es. It’s not like the overall defense is bad; rather, the opposite is true. Give some credit to Daniel Nava on Dustin Pedroia’s game-winning, walk-off single.

Game 3: That changeup Clay Buchholz throws is simply unfair. The “hand of God”, as it has been dubbed, made the Dodgers just look bad at the dish. That heads-up play by Pedroia in the 2nd inning proves why he is just so valuable to this team; aware that no one was covering 3rd base because of the shift on David Ortiz, he immediately got up and took the extra bag. That, children, is the way baseball is meant to be played. Adrian Beltre just makes it look so easy over at the hot corner. He calmly picked that rocket by Jamey Carroll on a mid-hop and threw him out. Another thing he makes look easy: smacking the ball to the triangle. How in the world does he generate all that power with one knee on the ground? Watching Darnell McDonald stumble around in right really makes me appreciate J.D. Drew’s defense (hopefully he’s back Tuesday). Speaking of outfield defense, Mike Cameron didn’t look his best in center, but that’s probably because he’s not anywhere near 100% yet.

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6-18-2010: Sox sweep Dbacks, Manny happy returns?

Game notes: The Sox draw to within just TWO GAMES of first place! Both John Lackey and Dan Haren are having down years, in what should normally have been a pitcher’s duel last night. Lackey was shaky all game, working high in the zone and they were smacking him all over the ballpark. That errant throw to first in the 3rd was very ill-advised. Anybody else find David Ortiz’s slide in the first inning to be hysterical? Judging from Kevin Youkilis’ out at second, the Sox could use a refresher on sliding. Manny Delcarmen allowed some baserunners, sure, but he was locating alright and getting ground balls; they just found their way through the infield. Lastly, is it jsut me, or has Jonathan Papebon dropped his arm slot even more? It looked like he has moved to a low 3/4 slot yesterday, which allowed him to locate heat right at the knees. Hope it doesn’t indicate anything health-wise for him.

As the Dodgers come into town tonight, this article by Peter Abraham just about sums it up. I can tell you for my part that I will not be cheering for Manny Ramirez. Yes, he did a lot for this ballclub in his day, but he received all the applause he’s getting from me. I refuse to support that kind of player.

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