5 Things I Would Do if the Red Sox Decide to Sell

As I write this before Sunday’s game has been played, the Red Sox are 10 games in back of the Blue Jays for the division. That’s bad. We’re also five back from a wild card berth, with all of the Royals, Twins, White Sox ahead of us in that race. That’s worse. If you’re looking for the bright side, well, we’re a game up on the Atros in the wild card race.

Which means that, yes, even the good news is bad.

All of that being said, it is, as I asserted to Chad Finn above, too early to write the 2014 Red Sox season off as a lost cause. Fangraphs, in fact, has the Sox’ odds of a playoff berth at 18.9%, which are actually better than they’re giving the Yankees (18.7%) who are a mere six games out. As much because the rest of the division has problems of their own as anything else – the Blue Jays are still the only team in the East with a positive run differential – the Red Sox are, improbably, not out of this thing. Which means that if you’re Cherington, you probably have to give them a few weeks yet to sink or swim.

But for the sake of argument, if they did decide to sell, how might they proceed? Finn tackled that question here, and his approach makes sense: don’t trade any real assets for duct tape and bailing wire, don’t trade John Lackey, and if you find a buyer who’s all in on Johnny Gomes’ intangibles, sell high. We differ on one important idea, but more on that shortly. Here are five things I would do if the Red Sox were to shift into sell mode.

Move Minor League Pitching

There isn’t much debate at this point, his walk rate notwithstanding, that Henry Owens is ready for Triple A. The problem is that there isn’t anywhere to put him, with that rotation to be fully stocked with Webster, Ranaudo, Barnes, maybe Wright – and soon enough, De La Rosa and Workman. Unless you think that a) all of those pitchers will end up in a major league rotation and b) you’re willing to live through their growing pains at the major league level simultaneously – much as the Braves once did, some of those arms should be moved. As to which ones, I would generally defer to the front office, but an arm like Workman would seem to have some value to other clubs, particularly in the National League. He throws strikes and has had major league success, which makes him potentially valuable. But he has never been particularly dominating, at least not in the way that Barnes, De La Rosa, Webster or, more recently, Owens have been at times. So while you can never have enough pitching, it might be time to begin converting that surplus into usable parts. The first team I’d call up, by the way, would be the Cubs. They’ve got positional prospects, but they’re light on higher end pitching talent. And Cherington does happen to know their President and General Manager.

Trade Jon Lester

This is where I break with Chad, and I do so with one big caveat. If the Red Sox are ultimately willing to extend themselves sufficiently to retain Lester – let’s say in the $120 million range, conservatively – they should do so now. If, on the other hand, their reported $70 million borderline slap-in-the-face initial offer is within hailing distance of their threshold, then they shouldn’t waste any time and find him a new home as soon as possible. The fact that he’s a pending free agent limits his value, of course, but I’d be surprised if a contending club didn’t offer value above the single pick that the Red Sox would receive in return for his departure. In short, if the club decides that a) they’re not going anywhere this season and b) that they are not in a position to sign him (regardless of whether we think they should), then the only logical outcome to me is c) trade him.

Trade a Reliever (or Two)

Of all of the asset classes that get moved at the trading deadline, none is so disproportionately valued as relievers. Clubs that feel that they’re a mere piece or two away will and do overpay for relievers who might be worth 30 innings down the stretch. Given that the bullpen, with the odd exception here or there, has been an area of strength for the club this year, this is a logical place to deal from. Add in the fact that, as discussed above, the Red Sox have something of a surplus of arms near the majors, moving a bullpen piece like Badenhop, Breslow or Miller for an outsized return while simultaneously creating an opportunity for one of the young arms to work their way into the majors seems like a no brainer.

Do Not Trade John Lackey

John Lackey has had his ups and downs over his career with the Red Sox, and as Jackie MacMullan intimated in an interview earlier this season, his personality hasn’t changed with his performance: even pitching well, he’s still prickly and ornery. But that’s not the important part. The important part is the “pitching well” bit. Fresh off his remarkable 2013 comeback campaign, Lackey has looked much like he did with the Angels: not a true ace, but durable, occasionally brilliant, and capable of delivering quality innings. Also? He’s scheduled to make $500,000 next year. To trade him, then, you’d have to receive not only the value for the type of pitcher he is at present, which is a very good one, but also for the savings he will represent next season – which is easily into the eight figures. Young stars are rarely moved these days because they represent such a unique combination of ability and a low price tag; that’s Lackey next season. So unless you get absolutely blown away, which is unlikely given his age, you’re not going to get comparable value for him. Trading Lackey, therefore, would be foolish. And that’s without even getting into the wider context, which is that – assuming Lester is not retained – a trade of Lackey would leave Buchholz and Doubront as your only major league starters under contract for next year.

Trade Stephen Drew

Somewhere Finn is shaking his fists at this notion, but I am no Drew hater. I would have him playing third instead Bogaerts, but I applauded the signing when it was announced. It’s no secret that I’ve never been much of a believer in Middlebrooks, and Drew does two things well that this team needed (and still needs): he’s solid on defense and he can hit right-handed pitching. Adding him was, in that respect, a no brainer. But he is also gone after this season, as the left side of our infield is getting crowded with potential candidates, from Bogaerts and Middlebrooks who we’ve seen to Cecchini and Marrero who we have not (or in the former’s case, seen little of). Which means that, again assuming the season comes to be regarded as a lost cause, you might as well maximize your return on assets while you’re able. What kind of package might the Tigers put together, for example, to extract both a high leverage bullpen arm and a tier one starting shortstop from us, for example? Such a move would address their two most glaring weaknesses, and could propel them to the title their owner is so desperate to achieve he’s signing Monopoly-money contracts. If you’re in the hunt, I agree that you don’t want to strengthen a rival, but if you’re not you’d hope they’ll extract every bit of value they can. Which means moving Drew.

Two Teams Enter, One Team Leaves

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }



ALCS 2008 logo – Fenway Park, originally uploaded by misconmike.

Two teams enter, one team leaves. Baseball is rarely that simple, but the series of events that led us here is as rare as they come.

Questions abound, as usual. There are lots of questions to be asked about Lester, for example, beginning with the sudden loss of velocity in the second inning of his last start. But I feel good about him, and I feel good about our team, because I believe.

There is a difference, a crucial one, between believing and knowing, but I believe nonetheless. And after the past two games, don’t you too?

Two teams enter, one team leaves. Let’s be that team. Talk to you tomorrow.

Get Up You Son of a Bitch, Because We Love Ya

Line Drive to Right Field...(credit: Boston Globe)

Line Drive to Right Field…(credit: Boston Globe)

And here we are again, you and I. Against all odds, we lived to fight another day. Which comes today.

I won’t lie and tell you I believed down seven with seven outs to play. But I will tell you that I didn’t leave, that I didn’t quit, and that I didn’t give up. Like Gammons’ fan who slapped his hand bleeding, I pounded, screamed and prayed. To what, to whom doesn’t really matter now – the fact is that we’re still alive, and we’ve got a game to play.

The “statistical numbers,” frankly, don’t give us much chance of winning another; one reason there are no numbers here. But if tonight’s odds are long, what do you imagine they were at the precise moment that game turned and we pulled off the greatest single game postseason upset since 1929? Or in that split second before Roberts pushed off for second? You see? The numbers are just that…numbers. Informative, educational, but emphatically not determinative. As Exhibit A, I present you with Wednesday night. What have you got?

Yes, I still think Beckett is hurt. And yes, Shields is an excellent pitcher. Blah blah blah blah.

But we’re here, and we’ve got a little fight in us yet. That was what threatened to break my heart on Wednesday; losing was one thing, being embarrassed – at home – quite another. But suddenly, improbably, we woke up, picked ourselves up off the canvas, and hit us to Saturday.

Speaking for many of us, me anyway, Simmons reached back and found the old fastball, with:

More importantly, the champs decided they were going down swinging. Win or lose this weekend, that’s all we wanted. Show some pride. Show some heart. Show us last season meant something. And they did.

And they did, indeed.

I cannot promise that they’ll win tonight, and how fun would it really be if I could? I can promise that, after Game 5, they made me proud. Proud to be a fan, proud to care, proud to schedule my life around them, and proud to call this my team. All over again.

They also made me believe. Talk to you in the morning.

We're In

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }

No explanation necessary. As soon as we’re mathematically eliminated from the Division, I’ll start working on the matchups for a full blown playoff preview.

For now, I’m just going to savor another postseason.

Enjoy.

Hankenstein is Back, and Dumber than Before

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }



Yanked my Johnson, originally uploaded by greggoconnell.

I’ll leave the Blue Jays wild card chat for later; for now I’ll merely point you to Hankenstein’s latest verbal salvo. One that warms my heart, and is likely to horrify any serious Yankee fan.

What’s his plan for the offseason?

“Suffice to say, there’s not going to be any more, on my part, of trying to keep everybody happy. If I want somebody, I’m going to go after him,” Steinbrenner told The Record by phone this afternoon.

Treee-mendous. Nothing would make me happier than a repeat of the 80’s era Steinbrennian approach of signing a bunch of aged, high priced free agents. In that respect, Mussina’s resurgence may be the best thing that could have happened to us.

What’s his philosophy with respect to the value of prospects?

“I want more.”

Very sophisticated. Very nuanced. Volume will be key, as he’ll trade them at each and every opportunity for “established stars.”

His reactions to the Yankees season?

“Even besides injuries, certain players didn’t perform. Certain things didn’t get done. It was somewhat the result of things that had been done over the last five years, and now I plan on fixing them…I’m very disappointed in this team.”

Wonderful. Couple the above with the his intended “more opinions the better” approach, and I for one am looking forward to Hankenstein’s tenure.

I hope, for our sake, he’s able to keep his smarter brother Hal at bay.

Stay Klassy, Ozzie

Ozzie Guillen, by SD Dirk

I almost forgot: it’s been a while since I heard anything as classless as Ozzie Guillen’s comments following Michael Bowden’s start and win against the White Sox on Saturday. Responding to the 21 year old’s 5 inning, 7 hit, 2 run, 3K/1BB outing, Guillen said:

He got us on a bad day. He’s OK. He didn’t really impress me. He beat a team right now that is not swinging the bat well. The first inning he threw all fastballs. We’re a fastball-hitting team and we couldn’t get him. When you deserve credit, I’ll give you credit. He didn’t impress me. He was good enough to beat the White Sox tonight.

The point here is not to argue that Bowden is the second coming of Koufax: he is not. His likely ceiling, by most accounts, is as a #3 starter, and Keith Law in particular was unimpressed:

He was 88-91, below average command, flashed a plus curveball that has a chance to be an out pitch. Barely used his change, which Red Sox people have told me is his best pitch. Ugly delivery. Never saw the 94 mph I’d heard he was dealing this year, and the pro scout behind me told me he’d seen Bowden twice before (in 2008) and never had him above 88-92.

Nor would I argue that Bowden threw a gem. He was good, but not excellent.

But the fact is that in his first start at the major league level, at the age of 21, he beat a lineup that is contending for a playoff spot. Managed by the same person disparaging the performance.

Asked about Guillen’s comments, Tito had little to say, which is unsurprising given the differences between the two men.

Guillen has long regarded his outspokenness as a virtue, a point of pride. And perhaps at times it is. But what profit here? What possible good does it do Guillen, his players, or the Chicago White Sox organization he represents? Why attempt to diminish the effort of a kid that just beat your club? At best, it reeks of poor sportsmanship. More likely, Guillen and the White Sox just made some unnecessary enemies.

Doubtless, Guillen would chalk this up to him being honest, or perhaps telling it like it is. But he might do well to discover that there’s a third option between telling the truth and telling lies: keeping your mouth shut.

Why I Have Issues With Nick Cafardo

NESN trade deadline special

When one of the other patrons of Byrnes’ Irish Pub caught me swearing at Nick Cafardo midway through his performance on NESN’s afternoon trading deadline special, an explanation was asked for. Those of you who’ve been around here for more than, oh, a few days will know that I don’t think much of Nick Cafardo’s work at the Globe.

Making Gordon Edes’ migration to a more national platform at Yahoo all the more problematic.

But anyway, for the new people, here’s the scoop: it’s not that I have any personal distaste for the man. I don’t know him from Adam, and he’s never kicked a dog of mine. That I know of. I simply don’t think he’s terribly good at his job. He’s not Murray Chass, nor – thank Jebus – Dan Shaughnessy, but I think he’s well beyond the “slowing-down portion of his career” as Scott’s Shots calls it.

In the past, I’ve criticized him for:

  • Pondering the replacement of Manny Ramirez with Matt Holliday…without mentioning the latter’s troubling home/road splits.
  • Trivializing the implications of roster movements.
  • Ignoring the reality – or at least declining to provide some context and counter-analysis (start by explaining the cases of Prior, M, or Wood, K, why don’t you?) – that innings caps for young pitchers are a beneficial development.
  • Arguing that Shelley Duncan (DFA’d twice already this season) should play over Jason Giambi because of his “energy.”
  • And, of course, assigning CC Sabathia – the eventual winner – a truly inexplicable fourth place vote for the Cy.

And that’s just the last twelve months. Fire Joe Morgan has taken him apart in the past for a rather egregious error or two.

The errors, actually, I can live with. Those happen. I make them, you make them, and even Kevin Youkilis makes them. It’s more that he just doesn’t seem to understand today’s game, what with its newfangled “innings caps” and “statistics.”

Witness these two bits of pre-trading deadline speculation regarding Buchholz.

First, Nick Cafardo:

The Sox are still in on Colorado’s Brian Fuentes, Kansas City’s Ron Mahay, and Oakland’s Huston Street, and were interested in Marte…The Sox will likely not give up Clay Buchholz for Fuentes, but the Rockies may take less.

Next, Sean McAdam:

The Sox are one of many teams intrigued with Colorado lefty Brian Fuentes, but the Rockies have asked for Clay Buchholz in return — far too steep a price for a two-month rental. Fuentes can become a free agent at the end of the season.

To quote Mugatu, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. I know, McAdam knows, and hopefully you know that you don’t cough up elite pitching prospects for the two month rental of a middle reliever. However desperately your bullpen needs one.

But not Cafardo. They “likely” won’t give up Buchholz? “Likely?” To judge from their behavior thus far, it’s reasonable to conclude that there was a less than zero chance that our front office would move Buchholz in a deal for Fuentes. Considerably less than zero, in fact. Or maybe you think the player that was untouchable in the Santana deal would be moved for a reliever?

As nearly as I can determine, Cafardo’s player evaluations consist of “what have you done for me lately?” Sure, you threw a no-hitter last year, Bucky, and your minor league 10.91 K/9 rate is borderline inhuman…but Masterson’s reeled off five or six quality starts. So thanks, but we need someone in the pen for two months.

How else to explain his belief that Masterson had climbed above Buchholz on the depth chart, in spite of minor – and major league, actually – numbers that indicate that the latter will be a star and the former, in all probability, a reliever.

So anyway, let this post serve as both a written record of my issues with Cafardo and my fervent hope that he not get the job of competing with the new ‘EEI web outlet. The Boston Globe has been my home page on every browser I’ve had since the original Netscape Navigator, but if it’s going to compete going forward it needs more help than Cafardo can provide.

If the Globe folks are looking for someone to fill a web spot, they’d do better to get someone who’s new media savvy, comfortable with the statistics that drive much of modern baseball’s decision making, and knows how to relate to their target audience.

Someone like their very own Chad Finn. Or one of the guys at Fire Brand. Anyone but Cafardo. Please. I want to keep reading the Globe.

1-0

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }



The Fallback Plan, originally uploaded by sogrady.

Yes, I got gang probed this morning just like you did. Worse, I’m betting.

First, I overslept for an inning and a half. My bad. But when I finally did wake up, DirecTV was giving me the now infamous bouncing logo rather than the game I expected. Some of you would probably just revert to the internet at that point, but you obviously aren’t occupying room 463 at the Palace where the wifi is non-existent and the HSDPA is crappy and inconsistent. I might as well be on the frigging moon here.

Which left my iPhone and good old wap.mlb.com. Seriously.

But you know what? I don’t care. Like Hutch, I’ll take anything. Anything with a W, that is.

The Sox played a real game for the first time since October, and won that game. Won ugly, maybe, but won. Meaning that they officially lead their division in games that matter. My personal misfortunes are nothing compared to that single, beautiful fact.

For all the good people out there that got up early with me and feel like telling DirecTV what they can do with their apology, I’m with you. I really am.

Yet I’m headed to bed now, because my team needs me – needs us – tomorrow morning earliest. So I’ll be there, and hope you will too.