Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Theo Compensation: Chris Carpenter...

Photo by J. Daniel/Getty Images
Misleading headlines are fun, aren't they? According to multiple Twitterings from Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald out of Chicago, the Cubs and Red Sox have settled the matter of compensation for Theo Epstein between themselves (read: without the help of Uncle Bud.)

Chicago will send minor-league pitcher Chris Carpenter (obviously not that Chris Carpenter) and the ever-infamous player to be named later (which generally never really amounts to anything at all) to the Red Sox for Theo and a PTBNL (to be decided by April 15th). The teams and league had to keep things on the up and up and since this was a baseball trade in the end, the PTBNLs had to be included.

Miles also tweets that Carpenter is a "Hard thrower, can hit 100. Potential closer down the line."

This seems to be a fair deal for all involved, especially since Baseball America has Carpenter listed as the 13th best prospect in the Cubs system (down from no. 6 in 2011). Hopefully he can can turn into a solid 8th inning guy within a year or two and provide some support for Bailey.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Making Cody Ross Sweat It Out

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Now that Yoenis Cespedes is in Oakland, all eyes on the international scene have turned to 19-year old Cuban wonderboy Jorge Soler. He's 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and looks to be either a firstbaseman or most likely, an outfielder.


Wait for it...

The Red Sox need a rightfielder.

Sure sure, they have World Series superhero Cody Ross, and Ryan Sweeney whom they grabbed in the Andrew Bailey deal from Oakland (among others) to man the position for now, but Ben Cherington has got to be thinking about other, more long term solutions (will Ryan Kalish ever get healthy?).

The Cubs last week had been rumored to have a deal in place for Soler--on the day Cespedes signed no less--but that somehow fell through. It's possible his fellow Cuban's contract changed his mind on the whole thing. Other than Chicago, the Blue Jays, Phillies, White Sox, and Yankees have all been mentioned as contenders for his services.

So what about Boston? Here's the latest on the situation from the Globe's Nick Cafardo:

"Jorge Soler, OF, free agent - The Red Sox are one of about eight teams that would love to land the Cuban outfielder. Some of those who elected to stay away on Yoenis Cespedes because of the hefty price and uncertainty about how his game translates to the majors have decided that Soler is a better value, because he has more upside and can be put in the development system for a while for seasoning. Soler is not yet available because of citizenship issues, but once he is, those teams might be in for sticker shock. Two general managers have told me that he will go for more than the five years and $15 million-$20 million most thought he’d settle for."

Clearly, as with Cespedes, any sort of logical projections for Soler would be about as legitimate as alchemy at this point, even Bill James can't save us on this one. In addition, his citizenship status in the Dominican hasn't been established as of yet, so it may be a while before he hits a major league camp.

Despite that, major league scouts are excited about him, and there seems to be a bidding war 'a-brewin.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wakefield to Announce Retirement

Well, it's official. Tim Wakefield is finally calling it quits according to a tweet from The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham this morning:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can Manny Still Be Manny?

"Chief Wahoo isn't a real person?"
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
It's hard to figure out Oakland's interest in Manny Ramirez, other than it must be that Billy Beane thinks he has more left in his swing than faded memories of former teammate Chief Wahoo.

The 39-year old DH hasn't had a productive full season since 2008 (pre-drug suspension '09 notwithstanding,) and his character issues and mashups with teammates, clubhouse attendants, family members, and retirement are well documented. The man to your left is clearly Dr.-Steve Brule-crazy, just one glance at his eyes will tell you that.

Yet we still have this out of Oakland:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Greek God of...Limping?

Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
Advanced metrics. At times, they can be a tough tool to rely on--especially when it comes to measuring a fielder's effectiveness. Currently, the best--or at least most widely used system is Fangraph's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).

I won't get into how it's calculated--Fangraphs itself does a much better job than I can pretend to here for those interested--and admittedly it has its flaws like any method of measuring a player's effectiveness, but over a period of a few seasons (preferably at least three) it can be more than a decent indicator of a player's worth in the field.

Which is why it's so tough to get a bead on Kevin Youkilis' effectiveness as a thirdbaseman. 

I don't want to think this thing to death, but after seeing David Ortiz coming back for another season following yesterday's arbitration settlement, it seems to me that this will be Papi's final year in Boston regardless of how he performs in 2012 (historically, hitters just can't hack it at age 37 and beyond without steroids). Especially with Youkilis' injury trouble over the past few years and Will Middlebrooks, who by all accounts looks like a spectacular defender, looming on the horizon, it seems as if Youk is primed to be the DH in 2013.

That is, if he re-signs after this season (his 4-year, $40 million dollar contract is up at the end of the year.) But contract talks and injuries aside, we're definitely in for another season of Youkilis at third for better or worse. 

So how to the numbers bear out?

Back to that pesky UZR. The 32-year old came in a below league average rating of -2.3, and -3.7 when prorated over 150 games last season. Compare that to league leaders Adrian Beltre (AL-12.3) and Placido Polanco (NL-14.0), and you can see that Youkilis' numbers don't exactly inspire confidence.

I can hear all of you screaming "But he was injured!"

Okay, okay, calm down. You're right. But can it safely be argued that he'll be healthy enough to get in a full season at the hot corner in 2012, which by the way, would only be his second at the position in his career? Probably not. 

The problem comes in that he doesn't really have the games played at third to effectively measure his performance over a three year period. He racked up 948.2 innings at the position in 2011, his next highest total coming in 2004--his rookie-season, in which he rated a whopping 7.0. 2009 saw him play 494.1 innings with another dismal -1.4 UZR rating. 

Will all of this add up to a new thirdbaseman for Boston in 2013? Possibly. My guess is that he will still be a valuable enough hitter to warrant keeping around at DH, despite his poor showing last year. Hopefully he stays injury free and earns himself an extension.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Olney Report: Ortiz Settles

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, David Ortiz and the Red Sox have settled at the midpoint of $14.5 million dollars. Good situation on both sides: Boston gets one of the most productive DHs in the game for another season and saves $2 million off the sticker price, while Papi gets a nice raise following a good season.

Best of all? The Red Sox get a happy, or at least content Ortiz. Because if he'd lost his case, his attitude would've made everyone in the room feel as awkward as being hugged from the back from their favorite teacher (shivers).

Also, does anyone think it's time to up that $6 million dollar offer to Roy Oswalt with the cash they're saving?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Josh Beckett and the Personal Catcher

Type "Josh Beckett Complains" into Google, and you're treated to 1,510,000 results. Hit Google image search, and you can bear witness to this dreamy image:

Clearly, this really isn't a fair assessment of anything, as you can probably get a 500,000-plus Google hits on anything from "Abe Lincoln fights a grizzly" to "Donald Duck is a facist pig." Doesn't make it true. But what it does illustrate is that Josh Beckett has gained a reputation as a bit of a complainer.

Tony Massarotti and Mike Felger of afternoon drive fame on 98.5 the Sports Hub here in Boston have dubbed him the "Texas Tough Guy," a nickname I whole heartedly endorse--if only because it makes me chuckle every time it comes up. His distinction as a big game pitcher gained in the '03 and '07 World Series has suffered greatly here in recent years, a change which can probably be pinpointed somewhere around the '08 ALCS implosion vs. Tampa Bay.

It's true that Beckett hasn't exactly lived up to the billing of a number-one starter since the sweep in Colorado, aside from flashes here and there. Accusations of complacency late in the season abound, with the pitching staff and Beckett in particular taking the brunt of that ire. Fine.

But what is forgotten in all of this is that Josh Beckett had a more-than-decent season in 2011, posting a 2.93 ERA and nearly hitting the 200 inning mark. He was better than many thought, while no longer bearing the expectations of staff ace (outside of his own mind anyway). But he did so with Jason Varitek calling the shots behind the plate.

Beckett pitched exactly zero games without the former captain as his backstop last season, and it remains to be seen how this will affect him in 2012. I was all set to put together a nice chart comparing Beckett's numbers with Varitek catching and without--because, you know, stats prove a point a hell of a lot better than humor does--but there's nothing to report. JV was his one and only.

How weird will it be for the Texas Tough Guy this year? Will he feel unfaithful and a little unclean with Saltalamacchia back there? Who knows what goes on in the mind of a baseball player. My guess is that it will probably affect him a whole lot less than he thinks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Keep Papi, No Matter the Cost

David Ortiz looks like the Cookie Monster. Does this make him a good DH? Not necessarily. But among baseball players who resemble Sesame Street characters, he's almost certainly the best of the bunch. And that's got to be worth something.

Why does any of this matter?  Aside from indicating that I've been spending entirely too much time with my 3-year old daughter, Mr. Ortiz is up for an extremely rare arbitration hearing this Monday in Florida--a situation which is summed up nicely here by WEEI.com's Alex Speier. He  writes:

"The $3.85 million difference between the salary that Ortiz is requesting ($16.5 million) and the one that the team is offering ($12.65 million) could, in theory, represent the cost of acquiring a player like Matt Garza near the trade deadline."

Clearly, money spent now is money they won't have in July. Obviously Ben Cherington does not want to burn all of his resources immediately and hang himself out to dry at the trading deadline.


What would they do at DH should Ortiz win the hearing and the team choose not to sign him? One possibility would be to give Papi's spot to Kevin Youkilis (which could help some of his injury issues) and hand third base to top prospect Will Middlebrooks. An exciting thought, but Middlebrooks isn't ready just yet, though Soxprospects.com compares his career track to Scott Rolen's.

Rumors are abound that a settlement will be reached, but if Ortiz gets his $16.5 million asking price (as opposed to Boston's $12.65), the team should take it and move on. Sure, he abuses the cookie dough from time to time, but no one's been better than he has at designated hitting over the past few years, despite fan perception that he is falling off.

A quick look at the numbers easily demonstrates this. Last year, of the 11 hitters who had at least 500 at-bats at the position, Ortiz was by far the best. Fangraphs has number 34 sitting atop the fWAR leaders with a total of 4.2, followed by Michael Young of the Rangers at 3.8 and Chicago's Paul Konerko at 3.1. No one else even topped three.

Papi put up a slash line of .309/.398/.554 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 2011. Those number would be stunningly hard to replace at this point in the offseason, even with a Youkilis--who is engaged to Tom Brady's sister oh by the way--slash Middlebrooks shift.

From 2009 (a season in which his power stroke, and therefore his career, was considered done) through last year, Ortiz is third in fWAR with 7.0. That's just behind free agent Johnny Damon's 7.3 and Detroit's Victor Martinez's 10.6. The difference being Papi is primarily a DH while Damon added slightly to his value by playing the outfield and ditto Martinez at catcher.

In any case, David Ortiz still has tremendous value on and off the field and Boston will be better with him in the lineup whether they lose the hearing or not.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oil Can Boyd Used Cocaine During Games

Oil Can Boyd won 60 games while wearing the uniform of the Boston Red Sox. He apparently consumed mountains of cocaine and rarely slept while doing so. The veteran of 10 major league seasons admitted as much in a radio interview from Fort Myers today with WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

Bruce Hurst don't have nothin' on me
"There wasn't one ballpark that I probably...didn't stay up all night, [until] 4-5 in the morning," Boyd stated while indicating the drugs would be in his system from the night before while pitching. He'd even used during games occasionally. The now 52-year old went on to say that he'd been engaged "in a demonic activity. [It was] a very very cold scary world I was living in when I was younger."

I'm a patsy for baseball tell-all books, interviews, etc. Behind the scenes shenanigans get me every time. Which is why this story has two things going for it: it gives me a chance to write the words Oil-Can-Boyd in succession for the first time in my career, and it also burns a quick flashback of 1987, the first year I can remember watching the sport. Anything that can cause those two things to instantaneously occur is okay by me. 

Boyd, who picked up the nickname in Mississippi due to his penchant for downing beers (or Oil Cans), is releasing an autobiography titled They Call Me Oil Can later this year, in which he will no doubt recount just how many cans of oil earns one such a title.

As for the admission, he was a very matter-of-fact about the whole situation. He's not looking for sympathy, and he's certainly not bragging about it, this is a man merely telling it like it was. In light of the recent Josh Hamilton situation, it's pretty clear where I come down on most of these things. Don't judge lest ye be judged and all that jazz.

I will say this though, it seems as if Mr. Boyd was pitching for the wrong team back in '86.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2004: The Remaining Idiots

For the first time since, well since before Scott Hatteberg's catching career threw its arm out and sent itself headlong into the Billy Beane Moneyball machine, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield will not be members of the Boston Red Sox. 

1998 to be exact.

Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
With truck day on the near horizon, the Sox roster is undergoing an out-of-body experience of sorts without the two veterans. Heading into spring with an enigmatic and disjointed team following an offseason which addressed major issues with answers along the lines of "umm" and "kind of," the departure of Varitek and Wakefield has largely flown under the radar. 

Though I wouldn't rule out the possibility of either of the vets returning--especially Varitek--in the face of the very real possibility that  Josh Beckett starts the season 0-3 causing the Texas Tough Guy to send his spittle flying in the face of Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a tidal wave of greasy rage. 

Just sayin'.

But the impending baseball demise of these two franchise icons brings another fact to mind: this has not been a good offseason for the 2004 World Series champions. Or what's left of them. 

Here's a quick rundown of the players from that squad who are still in baseball as of today:

The Holdovers
David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis
And then there were two. With Wake and Tek gone, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis are the only remaining pair who held roster spots during the '04 season. Clearly, Papi's late inning heroics during those epic battles with Mariano Rivera are surpassed only by the Bloody Sock, while Youkilis was in his rookie year in '04. Youk saw limited playoff action in just a single game versus the Angels in the ALDS with only two plate appearances.

The Departed
Bronson Arroyo
An integral part of Terry Francona's inaugural pitching staff, Arroyo is still sporting his silly haircut in Cincinnati. Despite a down year in 2011 (5.07 ERA,)  Bronson has been good for 200 innings and at least four harrumph inducing imitations of Eddie Vedder per year.

Orlando Cabrera
Some thought Cabrera would give Pedro Martinez and Andre Dawson fits in the competition for best afro in Expos history.  Clearly he did not. 

But what he did do was play for 15 seasons with a respectable .272/.317./.390 career slash-line. Alas, according to this tweet from Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes in January, Cabrera plans to call it quits. 

Currently, he's still a free agent and is able to hook on with any team for 2012 so I've included him on this list.

Johnny Damon
Not much to say about baseball Jesus. He's 17 years into his career, and was one of the ringleaders of The Idiots along with Kevin Millar. You all know him, some of you still love him, harbor ire towards him for bolting to New York, or simply adore noodle-armed baseball players. Today he is beardless and searching for a new contract after finishing up last year with Tampa Bay.

Lenny DiNardo
Shocking, but the lefty reliever you probably don't remember is still kicking around. Just 24 years old in '04, DiNardo did not see any playoff action that season and last pitched in the majors in 2009 with the Royals. Yet he was throwing in the A's minor league system in 2011 and a return to the major league club is not impossible.

You can now all hold your collective breath.

Derek Lowe
Can one mention Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek in the same article without bringing up the Heathcliff Slocumb trade? Probably not. I think it's a rule somewhere.

After leaving Boston in '05 to sign a four-year deal with the Dodgers, Lowe has enjoyed the most post-Red Sox success out of this group aside from Johnny Damon. While he never matched the success he had for Boston, his best season after leaving was 2006 when he posted a 4.7 fWAR for Los Angeles. 

The 39-year old righty had a rough go of it last year, putting up a 9-19 record with a 5.05 ERA. This is likely to be his last season as his contract is up ad the end of the year.

Manny Ramirez
Yes he's still facing a 50 game suspension. Yes, he officially retired after failing yet another drug test last season, this time with the Rays. And yes, he should probably stay exactly where he is in lieu of picking up another bat.

But the one thing we always knew about Manny that he was a baseball savant. As nonchalant as his attitude seemed, baseball was and is his life. Not in the Michael Jordan sense of the idea of competitiveness, but in the way that baseball can permeate the very soul of a person.

If Manny gets his way, we'll all get to witness him being himself for one more year.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz's back--it was at least as much a part of last season's collapse as beer, Popeye's, and apathy. But  the only talk about the starting rotation these days has been the status of Roy Oswalt and a slew of not so spry arms from the lost and found bin.

After a stress fracture which kept him out for most of the second half of last year, the status of the expected number two starter has flown under the radar this offseason. I don't think I need to mention why.

After throwing bullpen sessions in Fort Myers following the season and seeing a specialist over the winter, there has been...silence.

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports that "Buchholz is healthy, but after all the time he missed last year, he’s hardly a lock to pitch 200 innings. (Asked about Beckett and Buchholz, Cherington said, 'They’ve both had really good off-seasons, and we don’t expect any issues with either of them going into camp. They’re both motivated to have a good year.')"

While that's seemingly positive--a healthy Buchholz is a happy fanbase--this is not entirely good news. Boston  needs him find his guts and toss up something close to 200 innings. An expectation which is ridiculous and unrealistic I realize. 

The 26-year old has been within shouting distance of that mark just once, throwing 173.2 innings in 2010. That's it. He hasn't topped 100 frames in any other season. So to be reasonable, barring any major injury, we might be looking at a 150 inning season at best from the number two starter. Yikes.

Where are all of these innings going to come from? Alfredo Aceves?

We've all seen the results of taking a flier on a talented retreads, a strategy the budget-conscious Cherington is employing this offseason. Bret Saberhagen, Ramon Martinez, and Steve Avery are a few that come to mind. But while they might show flashes of past brilliance, those cases rarely work in the long term. So hopes are not high in that area. Sorry Carlos Silva and Rich Harden.

In addition Daniel Bard is not going to last a month in the rotation, a case which I'll look at more in-depth before the season. Also, as much as Aceves was bullpen-Jesus for Terry Francona last year, his innings load was heavy, and the team would be lucky to get a repeat performance from the 29 year-old (though, according to baseball-reference.com, his nickname is "Ace" which is oddly encouraging,) nevermind expecting him to carry a significant load in the rotation.

So in early February, a grab bag of question marks that would make the Riddler jealous is what we're left with. Let's just hope Bobby Valentine and Co. can count on Buchholz's back in 2012.

Friday, February 3, 2012

In Defense of Josh Hamilton

I'm a sucker for redemption stories. Read my reaction to Josh Hamilton's slip-up here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Compensation For Theo

It's Groundhog day. So in the spirit of Bill Murray, it's time to review things again and again and again. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Theo Epstein compensation saga!

Listen, Matt Garza is not coming to Boston, and never was. So who, or what, is? The precedent for these things isn't exactly promising, as Baseball Nation's Al Yellon points out:

"In 1994, when the Cubs hired Twins executive Andy MacPhail as their general manager, they sent minor-league pitcher Hector Trinidad — a top prospect at the time — as compensation. Trinidad never pitched in the major leagues."

So the Cubs are the one's stealing everyone's women! I never did trust that little blue bumbling bear. But in a baseball sense, the likelihood that Boston ends up with anything of significance out of this entire process is extremely small. 

Peter Gammons tweeted yesterday that Uncle Bud Selig is still waiting on "written arguments in Cubs-Red Sox compensation case," but the hall of fame writer expects Chicago to send over "an A level prospect." Whom shall that prospect-to-be named eventually be? I won't pretend to have any insight into Uncle Bud's mind, but here's a list of the Cubs' top-20 prospects of 2012 for those of you who are interested.

Here's a list of homegrown Cubs that have done much of anything in the last 20 years: Starlin Castro, Kerry Wood, and Harry Caray's corpse. That's it. Three.

In any case, after a tumultuous but ultimately lackluster offseason, comedian Jim Norton summed up the situation nicely earlier this morning on Twitter: "It's Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil poked his head out and saw the business end of a shotgun."

I simply wonder if there's any room in front of those barrels for a worn out Red Sox fan.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Roy Oswalt: Master Negotiator

As anyone who watches shows like Pawn Stars and other public haggling matches can attest, declaring your intentions before the deal is concluded is terrible form. Almost as bad as stealing Jobu's rum.

Which is exactly why Roy Oswalt has put himself in a terrible position, seemingly sticking by his declaration that he will pitch only for the Rangers or Cardinals this upcoming season. This is starting to resemble one of those slit-eyed retirees who stumble into the shop and simply must sell that Colt .45 under orders from their fire-breathing hag of a wife. Well, it does to me anyway. 

The problem is, it's a tight squeeze for both teams. Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports that "the Cardinals, perhaps trying to exert their leverage, have not made Oswalt a financial offer that the pitcher deems anywhere close to sufficient, according to one major-league source." Which means Boston still might have a chance if they swoop in with a big offer, especially considering the Rangers don't have a spot in their rotation for him. 

Roy Oswalt can still pitch. Roy Oswalt also has a giant head. These are both facts. Yet aside from that, no one, not even the 34-year old righty knows which color the the size nine cap he sports will encircle his head in 2012.