11-3-2011: Replacing Papelbon

And now for part two of our free agent series. This time, we take a look at Jonathan Papelbon going forward. Paps had a really strong 2011 campaign, and he showed a new commitment to strength and conditioning which I believe reflected in his numbers: a 2.94 ERA and 12.2 K/9 against just 1.4 BB/9. His FIP was a miserly 1.53, easily the best of his career. His velocity did not slip at all from previous years, and if anything his fastball popped just a bit more, and he was able to locate his splitter down out of the zone, making it a hugely effective out pitch.

At the tender age of 30, he already has piled up 219 saves, and is quickly climbing the leaderboard in that category. Here’s what our projections see for him going forward, from ages 31-34:

Year IP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 WHIP ERA
2012 67.3 0.69 2.95 10.38 1.16 2.95
2013 65.5 0.71 2.99 10.27 1.17 3.02
2014 63.0 0.73 3.05 10.13 1.19 3.11
2015 60.0 0.76 3.13 9.96 1.22 3.21

Papelbon actually looks like a pretty safe signing for the next 3-4 years. The question is, will that be enough? Most players will not outright tell you that they are out to break the bank – Papelbon has done exactly that, comparing himself to Mariano Rivera and insisting at every contract negotiation that he be paid more than any closer in history.

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Links 12-14-2010: More about Crawford, Lee signs with the Phillies, Blanton?, Rule 5

The Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford was a pleasant surprise for the Nation. After telling reporters that he was done with his major acquisitions, Theo Epstein went and snatched Crawford, who was all but ready to sign with the Angels. Hard to remember that just a week ago, we were trying to decide between Josh Willingham and Magglio Ordonez. Here are his contract details. Maybe the happiest Red Sox is Jason Varitek, who doesn’t have to pretend to try to throw him out on the bases anymore. The Sox could do this deal because of all the money coming off of the books, and because they have the young talent and draft picks to remain sustainable for the years to come.

Red Sox Beacon thinks that the infield grass at Fenway will hurt Crawford’s ability to get infield hits. I think it will lessen the number of grounders that make it through, but I think it might actually help him on balls that roll dead in no man’s land.

Where will Crawford hit? He doesn’t really like to lead off, but he’s willing. If Jacoby Ellsbury can return to form, my guess is he’ll hit either third or fifth, since Dustin Pedroia is locked into the two hole (and Terry Francona likes going lefty-righty at the top).

I’m actually excited about Crawford playing next to Ellsbury in the outfield. That’s the fastest outfield in baseball. While people say that playing him in front of the Green Monster is a waste, it allows Jacoby to shift over towards right-center. It makes everyone better out there; not too many balls will fall in either alley as a result.

And then seemingly out of nowhere, the Philadelphia Phillies came in and swooped up one Cliff Lee yesterday, leaving the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers open-mouthed and empty-handed. Lee signed for less guaranteed money then either the Yankees or Rangers were offering, so perhaps he wasn’t psyched about playing in either place (count the option, and it’s actually better). And this is yet another piece of good news for the Red Sox. For a team that is loading up on left-handed hitting, it’s a godsend that Lee, one of the top lefties in baseball, will not be playing in our division or even our league. The Rays lost Crawford to us (plus half their bullpen), and the Yankees have few options with which to boost their rotation. This is a huge shift in the balance of power in the AL East.

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12-03-2010: Varitek re-signs, non-tenders, more Hot Stove

Varitek back for one more dance

The Red Sox brought back 39-year old team captain Jason Varitek on a one year deal worth $2M plus incentives. Given Tek’s lack of production the past two years, it’s safe to say that he would not have found that money elsewhere. But given the Sox’ catching situation right now, I think it’s a good idea.

I have Varitek projected at .221/.305/.377 for 2011, a wOBA of just .309. But historically, he has performed well at the beginning of the year. We could use a good April/May from him as we use that time to evaluate Jarrod Saltalamacchia a bit more. Let’s get something straight – Theo Epstein did not sign him to be our starting catcher. I also don’t think that we will enter 2011 with Saltalamacchia atop our depth chart. There will be another move because…

2011 Non-Tenders

This week was the deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players, and a good number of them hit the free agent market yesterday. There are some catchers you might recognize on that list, including Russell Martin (former All-Star with the Dodgers) and Dioner Navarro. I think the Sox will be in on one of these guys. Just for fun, my 2011 projections for them:

Name AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO SB Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Martin 492 132 22 2 11 72 60 70 77 11 0.268 0.366 0.387 0.754 0.350
Navarro 382 95 19 1 8 41 42 30 54 2 0.248 0.308 0.362 0.670 0.305

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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 7-1-2010: Bullpen troubles, Beltre’s increasing value, Rivera’s cutter

The bullpen woes continue. Manny Delcarmen, who has actually been pretty good the last month or so, has an elbow issue that led to a terrible outing against the Rays yesterday. He may go on the DL, which leaves us with precious few relief options other than Daniel Bard and the rapidly deteriorating Hideki Okajima. If he goes on the DL, I expect to see Robert Manuel up here shortly. To improve depth, the Sox have signed Milton native Rich Hill to a minor league deal, and he will start out at Pawtucket.

His success this season pretty much guarantees that Adrian Beltre won’t return next season, but Brian MacPherson points out another likely benefit of Beltre’s great year – Type A free agent status and two compensation draft picks for the good guys.

Via David Pinto’s Baseball Musings, the New York Times has a really cool video explaining what pitch makes Mariano Rivera the best closer of all time.

5-20-2010: Is Papelbon a concern?

I have been a staunch defender of Jonathan Papelbon here on this blog, even through the shaky times last season. He has simply gotten the job done, but his blown save against the Yankees a couple of games ago gave me some pause. Sure, it was his first blown save in 22 chances, dating back to last season, but what a blow it was. Papelbon allowed two home runs in the same game for the first time in his career, but what concerned me more was the two first-pitch meatballs he threw up there to Alex Rodriguez and then strikeout machine Marcus Thames.

Since Papelbon likes to compare him self to Mariano Rivera, let’s ask the question: how many times has Rivera allowed two HRs in the same game (as a closer)? The answer is twice – once on July 18th, 1998 against the Jays (a non-save situation) and once on May 7, 2009 against the Rays (allowed two runs to break a tie and assigned the loss). Rivera had pitched 13 years as a closer before suffering that kind of an outing as a closer in a high-leverage situation. Blown saves with 2 HRs allowed is not uncommon though – it’s happened 8 other times this year alone (twice to Trevor Hoffman). But let’s take a closer look.

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