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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10-13-2011: Some random thoughts on free agents

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to leave all this clubhouse talk behind and start thinking about next year. We’ve got a number of decisions to make on our own guys, and I’ve heard lots of names bandied about, which I’d like to weigh in on and discuss.

David Ortiz, DH (age 36 next year)

The guy has been great for us, and he had a wonderful bounceback year. I expect he’ll be wanting a three- or even four-year deal, but I would like to see the Sox spend no more than 2/20 on him if he stays. Is anyone convinced that he will definitely duplicate his numbers next year? How about in two years? Three? Given his age and his recent comments, maybe we SHOULD let him go, take our draft picks and let Kevin Youkilis DH. We can sign a stopgap third sacker and let him compete with Jed Lowrie/Mike Aviles for the job until Will Middlebrooks is ready.

C.J. Wilson, SP (age 31 next year)

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9-7-2011: Just how good are these prospects, anyway?

The Red Sox had a lot of their top prospects succumb to injury or slump in 2011, but not all the news is bad. Once these guys get up to the Double-A and Triple-A levels, it becomes possible to project what their batting lines might be based on their component rates (how often they walk, strike out, hit home runs, etc.).

Here’s a quick look at what we might get out of these guys next year, based on their track record so far (all numbers assume starting roles for the Red Sox next season, adjusted for Fenway Park).

Josh Reddick, RF (.261/.321/.433 with 35 doubles and 18 HR in 557 AB)

Reddick finally got healthy and got the chance to open some eyes this year with his bat, his glove and energetic play. While he had a great season, most of his batting average came from an unusually high rate of singles, as shown by his high-ish .329 BABIP. His projected 7.6 BB% and 20.9 K% rates for next year suggest that he might be on the cusp of a starting role. It’s worth noting that it won’t take much to better the .232/.304/.360 the Sox got out of their right fielders this season. I fully expect the Sox to give him a shot at the job in the offseason, but they should bring in a short-term veteran for him to compete with.

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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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Links 11-4-2010: Sox hire Young, re-up Ortiz and Atchison, acquire Dlugach, BA prospect rankings

The Sox announced the hiring of Curt Young as their new pitching coach. He’s had a lot of experience working with young pitchers in the Oakland system, and helped them to some good success, even at young ages. Let’s hope that he can work some magic with the veterans here as well. He’s a quality hire by all accounts, and the timing was perfect for us, having just lost John Farrell.

Well, it’s official. As expected, the Red Sox chose to exercise their one-year options on David Ortiz and Scott Atchison, but let utilityman Bill Hall and MI Felipe Lopez go to free agency. While it might be shrewd to save a few million by letting Big Papi go out on the market, it’s not worth saving those millions if he signs with a potential contender like Tampa Bay, who has been looking for a true DH for years. The Sox still have the option of extending him if they so choose later on in the offseason. Atchison is a solid back of the bullpen guy with minor league options, so he was a no-brainer. As for Hall and Lopez, the presence of a healthy Jed Lowrie (knock on wood) makes it unnecessary to pay them big money to back up Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro.

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Links 9-20-2010: Beckett and Lackey, farm awards, V-Mart, crowdsourced contracts

Joe Pawlikowski examines Josh Beckett and John Lackey, and concludes that Beckett is probably more likely to return to form next season.

The Red Sox announced their minor league awards for 2010. Pitcher of the year is Felix Doubront, who did great as a starter, then bit the bullet to relieve for the Major League club.

After years of our top prospects kind of flaming out and struggling, Ryan Lavarnway and Anthony Rizzo are building some real value after very strong 2010 campaigns. And don’t forget Oscar Tejeda and Jose Iglesias, who also performed very well this year. Prospect guru John Sickels believes that Rizzo has passed up Lars Anderson as the top 1B prospect in our system.

The Red Sox signed four more international players, according to the Full Count blog.

Sully at Red Sox Beacon puts Darnell McDonald’s season into context for us. Yes, his defense was exposed in center field, but McDonald was better than a lot of  “name” outfielders out there this year. Without him, this team would have been sunk a while ago.

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7-26-2010: Tough trip continues, Martinez back today, Lowell and Ellsbury soon

With a split in Seattle, the Red Sox are having yet another tough West Coast trip. Despite getting some incredibly good starting pitching in that series with the Mariners, poor offense and the struggling bullpen contributed to the disappointing finish. With both New York and Tampa winning yesterday, the Sox can not afford much more underperformance. They need to win against teams like Seattle, and they need to at least hold their own against contending teams.

Hopefully the addition of Victor Martinez today helps. Just pray that his thumb holds up to the ardors of catching. Mike Lowell went 4-4 at Triple-A, and looks like he could be back (or traded) soon, and even Jacoby Ellsbury will begin playing rehab games this week. Dustin Pedroia may skip rehab altogether and land back on the club in two weeks. This Red Sox team could get healthy again in a hurry, but is it too little, too late?

Michael Bowden was optioned back to Pawtucket, but I’d expect him back after his 10 days are up. The bullpen is too shaky for us to go without him for too long. We’ll see how many arms we can add by the July 31 deadline.

Speaking of the trading deadline, I expect the Sox to make at least one minor move, and possibly a medium-sized one, but I don’t foresee anything big. The Tigers have recently expressed some minor interest in Lowell, but it looks like they are more in need of an outfielder right now.

The Hardball Times agrees that picking up David Ortiz’s option is not really good economically at this point, but they suggest signing him to a 1-year, $9M contract or a 3-year, $18M one. I’m not sure I like three years, though I’d consider two with a vesting option.

Ryan Lavarnway is making some progress with his catching at Double-A Portland. The hitting is already looking good, but he’s going to have to make some strides if he wants to stay there.