With lots to prove in 2010, the Red Sox could have five 15-game winners come October.
Over the weekend, Dasiuke Matsuzaka admitted that he hid a thigh injury, incurred during the World Baseball Classic, through much of his lost 2009 season. Red Sox Management and the fanbase assumed the he simply threw his arm out too early while pitching for the Japan team and then struggled to stay in shape while arguing with the coaching staff about his training program. Much of that turned out to be true, but he specifically says that the leg injury forced him to throw more with his shoulder and less with his legs - killing his fastball and effectiveness.
With all of that drama behind them, Matsuzaka have made amends and have agreed to begin his 2010 season with a stint at the renowned Athlete's performance institute in Arizona before joining the rest of his teammates in Fort Myers. Matsuzaka says he is determined to bounce back and "become a world champion again."
Dice-K won 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008. After such a drama-filled 2009, he should be the most motivated player on this team in 2010, but he's not alone.
Josh Beckett will be pitching for his last big contract in 2010. Beckett lead the Red Sox staff with 17 wins in 2009, but he's been on a strange career path over the past five years, pitching great in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and struggling in 2006 and 2008. In short, Beckett has struggled in even-numbered seasons, but he has every reason in the world to snap this trend in 2010.
Jon Lester emerged as the co-ace of the staff. That alone would motivate any teammate. But Beckett and Lester are no longer the only candidates for the role of ace. Fellow Texan, John Lackey signed an $82 million deal with the Red Sox this offseason and spent the last five years as the Angels ace in L.A. Just having another quality pitcher in the rotation would normally offer plenty of friendly competition, but Beckett will be pitching for that same contract during the 2010 season.
Lackey is 31. Beckett will turn 30 in May. If Beckett has a mediocre season, winning 10-15 games with an ERA around 4.00, he'll still land a deal close to Lackey's thanks to his postseason success. But if Beckett has a 20-win season and leads the Red Sox to another World Series he could earn $100 million in 2011...
Speaking of Lackey... he too has alot to prove in 2010. The Red Sox couldn't get a deal done with Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, so they gave the money to Lackey. Now Red Sox Nation is wondering how the Red Sox plan to keep up with the New York Yankees without Bay and his 100+ RBI.
The answer? They don't.
John Lackey is one of many additions the Sox made to ensure that they have the strongest "run prevention" team in the league. Lackey gives the Sox three potential aces - four if Matsuzaka bounces back. But Lackey is 31 and struggled with injuries in 2008 and 2009. Lackey has the stuff to win 15+ games, but he's only done it once in his career (19-9 in 2007). He's not a strikeout pitcher, so he'll be relying on the improved defense to help him out in his first season with Boston.
If he pitches well and stays healthy, Boston will quickly embrace Lackey and his firey spirit. But if he struggles or continues to breakdown physically, the fans could turn on him (and the front office) and the Red Sox will certainly feel it in the standings.
Then there's Jon Lester. After battling back from cancer, I don't think Lester needs any more miotiovation, but if you think that he is going to let Beckett and Lackey battle it out for the top spot in the rotaion, you're crazy. At age 26, Lester is just a few months older than Buchholz, but he lead the team in strokeouts last season with 225 and would have been a Cy Young candidate with a little more run support. He's still growing as a pitcher and already has two 15+ win season under his belt. One If By Land recently pointed out how much the improved defense in the second half helped Lester in 2009... with the 2010 defense looking even better, Lester might be the favorite on this team to win 20 games this season.
Lastly there is Clay Buchholz. and Tim Wakefield. Wake doesn't have anything to prove to Boston... he'll simply provide depth at the back of the rotation, as long as he is healthy. That said, he did win 11 games in 21 starts last year. If a starter shold go down along the way, Wake could get 25 starts and win 10-15 games.
Buchholz is the guy we really want to focus on here. Buchhy went 7-4 with a 4.21 ERA last season, but pitched very well in September, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.87 ERA while fanning 26 batters and walking only nine. He'll be granted a starting role in 2010, but Buchholz may have as much to prove as any other starter.
Buchholz has been the centerpiece of a number of proposed trades over the past few years, the biggest being the trade for Johan Santana that never happened and the current potential trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Theo Epstein has repeadedly refused to trade Buchholz, 2010 may be the year he is rewarded for his faith in the young starter. But Buchholz and Epstein will be in a awkward position through the first half of the season...
If he Buchholz pitches well, Epstein might be convinced that Buchhy to the future of the Red Sox. But his success will also make it easier to convince Jed Hoyer and the Padres to send A-Gon to Boston... If Buchholz struggles in the first half, his trade value will decrease and Red Sox Nation will be wondering wht Theo didn't trade him for proven talent when he had the chance. Either way, it's in Buchholz best interest to pitch well in 2010 and if he's given 30 starts and keeps the ball down in the zone, like he did in September, he could defintiely win 15 games.
Greg Maddux (18-9, 2.22)
Tom Glavine (20-6, 2.47)
Denny Neagle (16-11, 3.55)
Kevin Millwood (17-8, 4.08)
John Smoltz (17-3, 2.90)
The 2010 Red Sox might be closer to the 2003 Athlietics (Zito, Hudson, Mulder and Lilly), but with the proper motivation and the talent to get it done, the Red Sox could end up with the best rotation baseball has seen in 20 years.no comments
You can argue that Jason Bay wasn't worthy of a 5-year deal here in Boston, but you can't argue with the fact that he was our best clutch hitter.
In 2009, Bay lead the Red Sox in homers, RBI and OPS with runners in scoring position. Now, he's a New York Met, and the Sox have replaced him with Mike Cameron and his career .788 OPS.
But the issue of clutch performance doesn't end with Bay and Cameron. The Red Sox have restructured their roster to improve on a dismal defensive performance in 2009. In doing so, they've sacrificed offense, and more specifically, offense in key situations. Jason Bay has been replaced with Mike Cameron. Once the Sox make a decision/trade, Mike Lowell will be replaced with Adrian Beltre. Marco Scutaro has stuck his foot in the revolving door at shortstop. And with Mike Hall coming to Boston, it's looking more and more like Jed Lowrie will start the 2010 season in Pawtucket.
Knowing that, below are the clutch OPS stats for the 2009 roster.
Bay and Kevin Youkilis were our best clutch performers and JD Drew, Mike Lowell, and even David Ortiz (thanks to a solid 2nd half) were next in line.
Now here's a look at the clutch OPS stats for the projected 2010 offense:
I've used the past three years worth of info to make sure we get a true representation of the how good the new guys are in key situations. The results aren't good.
Scutaro is an improvement over Gonzalez at the plate, and he's been pretty consistent in the clutch since 2007, but we have to remember that he had a career year at age 34 in 2009.
Mike Cameron actaully had his best "clutch" performance in years with a 0.964/1.042 line in 2009. Those numbers would make him one of the best clutch hitters on this team if he can repeat that performance, but in 2008 he posted a 0.790/.658 line...so I think it's safe to assume that he will be back in the high .800's in 2010.
That's the good news.
Adrian Beltre may have one of the best gloves in the game, but Mike Lowell is a far better hitter in the clutch. And our bench guys aren't exactly world-beaters either with their backs against the wall. Jed Lowrie still has alot to prove, but Mike Hall isn't really an upgrade... especially when you consider the strikeouts.
Cameron, Beltre and Hall all hiT for a lower average than the guys they are replacing and they all hit poorly in the clutch. Not only that, but they all strikeout more often. Add David Ortiz's decreasing OPS and increasing K rate, which was still over .225 in the 2nd half of 2009, and you get a signifgant drop in "clutch OPS" and a heart of the lineup that isn't going to scare anyone.
The new guys may be able to avoid needing to be clutch by holding the opposing team down with solid defense, but this team is positioned to be in a lot of tight games in 2010, and you can win if you don't score.
Bottom Line: We knew this 2010 squad wasn't going to out-hit the Yankees (or even the 2009 Red Sox squad), but these guys aren't just going to hit for a lower team average... they're going to struggle when it matters most.
Buckle up kids... it's going to be a bumpy ride.no comments
Hall is due $8.4M, the last of a four-year, $24M deal. Were the Mariners to pick up most of his salary — something they could do with the $7-8M received from the Brewers when they dealt for Hall last summer — Hall could help the Sox’ luxury tax numbers quite a bit. He would represent a savings of about $1.5 for the purposes of luxury tax calculations. That, along with the roughly $3.5M saved by dealing Casey Kotchman, is what allowed the Sox to sign Adrian Beltre with a minimal luxury tax hit.
With Youk capable of helping out at third and Victor Martinez capable of playing first, Kotchman no longer had a role here in Boston. Bill Hall hasn’t hit above .250 in three years, but he’s even more of a Swiss Army knife than Youkilis is. As Troy points out at FBAL, Hall offers average/above average defense at six different positions, mostly in the outfield and at third base. Basically, the Red Sox traded a back-up first baseman for a super utility player.
But this move does raise other questions… If Hall is the new utility player, will the Sox move OF Jeremy Hermida? Hall (30) is four years older than Hermida and appears to be on the decline, while Hermida still has a fairly high ceiling. If the Sox keep Hermida, Hall’s presence could mean that Jed Lowrie will start the year in Pawtucket. Lowrie was set to be the back up infielder, but he still needs to prove his wrist is healthy. Hall will come to Boston on a 1-year deal and could give the Sox the opportunity to let Jed focus on his development and getting healthy in the minors.
Bottom Line: Hall makes the Red Sox even more versatile and helps them out financially. I expect the Sox to turn there focus towards picthing depth now, but don’t expect any blockbusters…
But Theo Epstein, Scott Boars and Beltre surprised us all with a 1-year deal that works for everybody.
One of the concerns with signing Beltre was that his contract would put the Red Sox over the luxury tax limit and he would end up costing the Sox even more than his actual salary. But the WEEI’s Alex Speier explains how the Sox finagled their way around that issue:
[Beltre's deal is for 1 year and $9 million deal that includes a $5 million player option in 2011.]
There is also an escalator clause in the contract that could increase the value of the player option based on the number of plate appearances. By virtue of the inclusion of the player option, the Red Sox’ luxury tax hit will be diminished. Rather than being calculated as a $9 million salary for the purposes of the collective bargaining tax in 2010, Beltre’s deal will be interpreted as being worth $7 million against the $170 million threshold for the 2010 season.
This was a genius move by the Sox and you have to give credit to Scott Boras and Adrian Beltre for agreeing to it. But this deal also works well for Beltre. After four disappointing years in Seattle, Beltre’s value was falling and most teams were unwilling to give him the 4-year deal he wanted at the start of the offseason. By signing a short-term with Boston, Beltre will be able to prove hi worth and re-enter the open market in 2011 or 2012.
Of course, if he surpasses expectations in 2010, the Sox could bring him back at a pretty fair rate in 2011… and that’s a good thing. The Red Sox don’t have a major league ready third baseman in the farm system and Beltre would bridge the gap to one of the youngsters come 2012. The short-term deal also keeps things open for the Red Sox down the road. If they are able to sign Adrian Gonzalez, either this year or next, the Sox could slide Youk to third and part ways with Beltre, or keep Beltre and Youk at the corners and make A-Gon the new DH.
The only real loser in this scenario is Mike Lowell, who now seems guaranteed to be cut loose by the Red Sox. The only question is: How will they do it? A trade will be difficult until Lowell proves that his thumb and hip are healthy, but Spring Training could be awkward if Lowell is forced to prove his worth while sharing time with Beltre at third.
The Sox could just release him, but I’m sure they are hoping to trade him and clear a couple mil’ off the books.
Bottom Line: The Sox got a a Gold Glove third baseman for the price they wanted. If Beltre hits 20+ homers and drives in 90+ runs while hitting .265 and playing solid defense… I’ll be happy.
What do you guys think?
Extra Bases – Jed Hoyer says Adrian Gonzalez is going to be traded this winter and Peter Abraham notes that the Padres were 33-25 at the break last season, so a mid-season trade may not all that realistic either…
MLB Trade Rumors – Tim has a nice list of all the players signed or lost by AL East teams so far this offseason.
WEEI Full Count – Alex Speier takes a “look back” at some of the bigger stories to hit Boston in 2009. The first was “The Trials of David Ortiz.” Here’s my favorite part:
“One thing I’m going to remember about this year is that things got really, really bad — really bad — and I still fight back,” Ortiz said near the end of the season, while reflecting on a year unlike any other in his career. “I never shut it down. That’s the only good thing I can remember.”
“Remember this,” he added. “A bad year for David Ortiz is a hell of a year for some guys.”
One If By Land – Brian agrees with me that adding Adrian Beltre doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox.
Lastly… don’t forget to submit your questions for Youk in the comments section here. The deadline is 10:00 PM EST tonight.
1. Mike Lowell is still on the roster. He successfully repaired his injured thumb yesterday and should be back in 6-8 weeks ready to begin Spring Training. Lowell says he’s not upset about almost getting traded to Texas and appears ready to play one more year in Boston. But if the Sox sign Beltre, Mike Lowell is out of a job. Kevin Youkilis will start at first, Beltre will start at third, Casey Kotchman will back up Youk, Lowrie will be the utility infielder and David Ortiz is the everyday DH. There’s been talk of Lowell spending time at first base, but with Kotchman on the roster and Lowell’s hip limiting his flexibility, I just don’t see that as a legitimate option. We recently discussed Lowell sharing time at DH because of Ortiz’ recent struggles against southpaws, but that would give the Sox a DH platoon costing $26 million – not very efficient.
Maybe keeping Mike Lowell at third for one more year would be easier…
2. The biggest argument for signing Beltre and moving on from Lowell is defense. Beltre averaged a 12.2 UZR/150 ranking over the past four years and that earned him an average WAR value of 3.4. Lowell’s hip injury killed his range and that resulted in a -14.4 UZR/150 last season, giving him a 4.2 UZR/150 average ranking over he past four years and a 2.9 average WAR value over that time frame.
Lowell’s defense improved in the second half of 2009, presumably due to his hip getting healthy and the presence of Alex Gonzalez at shortstop. Lowell will be 36 in February 2010, but it’s not a stretch to assume Lowell will do better than -14.4 with Marco Scutaro at short and his hip on the mend. That said, he’s not likely to flip his UZR/150 rank from -14 to a Beltre-like +14. In theory, Beltre will win the Sox a few games with his glove and with a focus on run prevention, I can see why the Sox like Beltre, but will his bat cost the Sox a few games at the same time?
3. Offensively, Lowell and Beltre are very comparable. Before getting injured in 2009, Beltre was a 20 HR, 90 RBI guy in the middle of a weak lineup, playing in a very unfriendly ballpark. Mike Lowell was also a 20/90 guy, but while attempting to keep Lowell healthy, the Red Sox have limited his playing time, making him a 17/75 player over the past two seasons. The big difference between the two is plate discipline. Beltre has averaged 104 strikeouts per 600 at-bats over the past four seasons, resulting in a .765 OPS and a .268 BA over that span. Lowell been much more selective, averaging just 76 K’s per 600 at-bats while posting an .825 OPS and hitting .293 since 2006.
If Lowell stayed in Boston, the Sox would likely continue to rest him often and keep him under 500 at-bats (120 games), while Beltre would likely log his usual 550 at-bats (145 games). That alone will enable Beltre to potentially out-slug Lowell, but he’ll also be more likely to strikeout in the 9th with the game on the line. Lowell is simply a much better hitter when it matters most, hitting .319 with RISP, .290 with RISP and 2 outs and .333 with the bases loaded since 2007. One could argue that playing for the weak-hitting Mariners hurts Beltre here, but the numbers aren’t even close: .249 with RISP, .220 with RISP and 2 outs and .372 with the bases loaded.
4. Lastly, Beltre is going to be costly, and this might be the most important factor here. Lowell is set to make $12.5 million in 2010. If the Red Sox trade him, they will likely be forced to pay $8-$10M of that salary. Beltre wants $10M per year and the Sox aren’t likely to convince him to take less that $8M per year, so if they sign him, they will actually be paying a minimum of $16 million for their third baseman in 2010.
Adding Beltre would also put them over the CBT luxury, which means Beltre will cost them even more than the above guesstimate.
We also need to remember that Beltre isn’t looking for a 1-year deal. Giving Beltre a 3-year, $30M deal would lock up 1B and 3B for the next three years, but the Sox need every penny they can find in 2011. They need to consider re-singing Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez. They’ll need to re-sign or replace David Ortiz at DH. And they need money to make a run at Joe Mauer or Carl Crawford.
Lastly, adding Beltre might make it tough to trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Beltre and Youk have the better gloves, so the Sox could sign A-Gon to be the new DH, but Gonzalez is one more guy the Sox will have to pay big money to in 2011 and the Sox already have Lackey (16M), Drew (14M), Youkilis (12M), Matsuzaka (10M) and Cameron (7.75M) on the books for next year with Scuatro, Pedroia, Lester and Papelbon all set to make more than $5 million as well.
Bottom Line: The Red Sox could sit tight and let Mike Lowell play his final year in Boston fir $12.5 million and Kotchman and Lowrie can step if he get’s hurt. Personally, I think he can be as productive as Beltre in 2010 and it would save the Sox anywhere from $5-$10 million this season. If the Sox make a trade for Adrian Gonzalez in July, they can shift Youk to third and be covered at the corners for the foreseeable future, and I like the idea of Youk and A-Gon better than Youk and Beltre, don’t you?
Mike Cameron essentially replaces Bay in left field, and while his defense makes up for weaker offensive numbers, Cameron is 37 and has a higher strikeout rate that Bay, averaging 177 Ks per 162 games over the past three seasons. That may not be a huge issues during the regular season, but when you look back at the dismal offensive numbers from the 2009 ALDS, you have to wonder why the Sox didn’t stick to their usual evaluation process and find an OF with better plate discipline.
David Ortiz’ OPS dropped from a career high of 1.066 in 2007 to career low of .794 in 2009 thanks to career worst 134 strikeouts… and he’s our DH. Mike Lowell has posted an amazingly consistent K-rate, despite the injuries, but the Red Sox are rumored to be negotiating with Adrian Beltre who averaged 20 more Ks per 162 than Lowell has over the past three years. Beltre’s glove would be an upgrade, but his bat would be a downgrade, in my opinion. And even the “Greek God of Walks” saw his strikeout numbers increase last season: 149 K per 162 G. Youk’s OPS was solid at .961, but now that he is a featured bat in this lineup, it looks like pitchers are attacking him a little more.
And that’s my point. The Red Sox don’t just need a power bat. They need hitter. That’s why losing Mark Teixeira last year still hurts… and why Matt Holliday (now) or Joe Mauer (2011) might be the answer.
The Red Sox were a combined 39-14 (74 W%) against the Orioles, Indians, Royals and Blue Jays – the dregs of the AL. But they were 23-17 (40 W%) against the Yankees, Angels, Twins and Tigers (17-16 if you focus on Division Champs only).
More specifically, the Sox went 2-4 while posting a pitiful .225 BA and a .750 OPS against Seattle – the AL’s best pitching staff – but they dominated the AL worst Orioles, winning 16 of 18 and hitting .335/.951.
So when they were forced to face three solid starters in the 2009 ALDS, they hit .158 with 16 strikeouts and 15 hits as a team. Much like they are today, the Sox were built to win a game 3 to 2, but they were out pitched and out hit by the Angels.
I understand why the Red Sox refused to give Jason Bay a 5-year deal. But I don’t understand why they gave one to John Lackey, who is 31 and has fought through injuries over the past two seasons. Now they need a bat and don’t have the financial flexibility to get one. Beltre will help on defense, but like Cameron, his bat might end up hurting them more than it helps. They reportedly offered Holliday $80 million, but they don’t have that to give anymore and he’s not likely to settle for less than $70M. And Joe Mauer may not even be available in 2011… and despite what you might be hearing out there, the 2011 Free Agent class is not full of better OF options other than Carl Crawford.
Bottom Line: The Sox need to bite the bullet and sign Matt Holliday or make damn sure they get Adrian Gonzalez in July. Otherwise, I don’t see this team scaring anyone in October, regardless of how many “aces” we have.
The NY Post’s Joel Sherman says the deal is for four years and $66 million with a vesting option for a 5th year.
The Sox reportedly offered Matt Holliday $82.5 million before they gave it to John Lackey. With Bay signing for $66M, I’ll be shocked if Holliday gets an offer above $70M – and to be honest – I’m not opposed to offering Holliday a 5yr x $14M or a front-loaded 4yr x $17.5M deal…
What about you guys?
I figured adding Adrian Gonzalez and re-signing Jason Bay would make the Red Sox strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the Teixeira, Arod and the Yankees, but some of you told me I was crazy.
To be honest, I knew it was a long shot, noting that the Sox were already a few pennies away from the $170M CBT ceiling they typically refuse to break, but then WEEI.com posted this:
According to a team source, the Red Sox have had internal discussions about extending their organizational budget to potentially allow for another offer for free agent outfielder Jason Bay. The discussed proposal to Bay would be in the vicinity of the four-year, $60 million deal originally offered the outfielder by the Red Sox.
It was thought that the signing of pitcher John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal, along with the acquisition of outfielder Mike Cameron, would make make such a strategy by the Sox unlikely, with the Sox too close to the $170 million luxury tax threshold to make a run at a free agent the likes of Bay. The New York Mets are thought to be the team currently most interested in the services of Bay, who is seeking a five-year deal.
Bottom Line: If the Sox do bring Bay back, they’ll have to convince Mike Cameron to be the 4th outfielder or trade Jacoby Ellsbury… This may all be a bunch of hooplah, but as I said yesterday, did you really expect the Sox or Yankees to do nothing with all these big names still on the market?no comments
So we asked you guys if you could part with Ellsbury AND Buchholz if it landed Gonzalez…
41% of you said you would be willing to trade Buchholz, but not Ellsbury. Buchholz has always been the starting point in most trade talks, therefore, many of us braced for the inevitable a long time ago, but seeing these results makes me wonder if I should have listed a 4th option: “Trade Ellsbury, but not Buchholz.”
I won’t make another poll on this topic, but you guys can hit up the comments section with you thoughts:
Who’s more important to the future of the Red Sox: Ellsbury or Buchholz?
Keep in mind that we do have Lackey, but Wake has one foot out the door and Beckett won’t be back unless the Sox offer him at least the same $82.5 million they gave Lackey. If Joe Mauer is willing to leave Minnesota, the Sox may have to pass on Beckett and go after Mauer and that would leave them with Lester, Lackey and Dice-K… is that enough?no comments