Archive for Boston Red Sox
For the first time since the first series of the year, the Yankees and Red Sox will meet for three games in the Bronx this weekend. The two teams are separated by one game in the loss column atop the AL East — four teams are within two losses of first place, which is nuts — so this is a rather important series. Not crucial since it’s only late-May, but still important. Winning these intra-division games is the key to finishing in first place after 162 games.
What Have They Done Lately?
Boston blew out the Phillies yesterday and split four games with the Fightin’s this week. They’ve won five of their last seven and 11 of their last 16 games following an ugly 2-9 stretch. At 33-22 with a +50 run differential, the Red Sox have the best record in the AL East, second best record in the AL, and fifth best record in MLB.
New manager/old pitching coach John Farrell has one of the highest scoring offenses in baseball at his disposal, as the Sawx average 5.0 runs per game (third in MLB) with a team 107 wRC+ (fifth). They are, however, without both OF Shane Victorino (90 wRC+) and 3B Will Middlebrooks (63 wRC+), who are on the DL with hamstring and back problems, respectively. Neither will be back this weekend.
As usual, the Red Sox attack starts with 2B Dustin Pedroia (131 wRC+) and DH David Ortiz (168 wRC+). Pedroia has actually been playing with a torn ligament in his thumb all season, yet he continues to hit anyway. Leadoff man OF Jacoby Ellsbury (90 wRC+) has picked it up of late — he stole a franchise-record five bases on Thursday — while 1B Mike Napoli (118 wRC+) and the surprising OF Daniel Nava (131 wRC+) have provided more than solid support. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (110 wRC+) has been strong as well.
SS Stephen Drew (86 wRC+) has alternated between really hot and really cold all year, though OF Jonny Gomes (81 wRC+) and IF Pedro Ciriaco (88 wRC+) have been mostly cold. IF Jose Iglesias (164 wRC+ in limited time) has been playing third in place of Middlebrooks. OF/1B Mike Carp (134 wRC+) has been a weapon off the bench, backup C David Ross (90 wRC+) and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (26 wRC+) much less so. The Red Sox are a middle of the pack team when it comes to hitting homers (57), but they rank among baseball’s best at drawing walks (10.3%) and stealing bases (41). It’s a better offense than the Yankees have, that’s for damn sure.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jon Lester
The Red Sox were nice enough to juggle their rotation this week, squeezing in a Franklin Morales spot start so the 29-year-old Lester got to start against the Yankees instead of the Phillies. The left-baller owns a 3.34 ERA (3.25 FIP) in eleven starts this year, which is right where he was during his heyday from 2009-2010 even though his strikeout rate (7.43 K/9 and 20.1 K%) hasn’t rebounded all the way. Lester is limiting walks (2.35 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%) and homers (0.62 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB) though, plus he’s getting ground balls (50.0%). Three upper-80s/low-90s fastballs — two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter — set up mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs, so Lester is a true five-pitch guy. But you knew that already. He beat the Yankees on Opening Day and they’ve seen him plenty over the years, both good and bad. No surprises here.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Felix Doubront
Doubront, 25, was temporarily bounced from the rotation a few weeks ago. He’s kinda stunk, pitching to a 5.29 ERA (3.87 FIP) despite strong strikeout (9.67 K/9 and 23.6 K%) and ground ball (51.4%) rates. Doubront does walk too many (4.74 BB/9 and 11.6 BB%) and he will serve up some long balls (0.91 HR/9 and 13.2% HR/FB). A big-breaking low-to-mid-70s curveball is his moneymaker, but he’ll also throw mid-80s changeups to go with low-90s two- and four-seamers. The Yankees saw Doubront four times last year and he frustratingly shut them right down each team. Hopefully that changes.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. TBA
The Red Sox have not yet officially announced their Sunday starter, but it is expected to be RHP Clay Buchholz. The 28-year-old is dealing with what amounts to shoulder soreness — they’re calling it AC joint soreness, but same thing, basically — but he’s thrown some bullpen sessions after having his last start skipped. He’s been excellent this year (1.73 ERA and 2.52 FIP) with dynamite peripherals: 9.04 K/9 (26.0 K%), 3.34 BB/9 (9.6 BB%), 0.25 HR/9 (3.7 % HR/9), and 48.0% grounders. Buchholz uses low-90s four-seamers and upper-80s cutters to set up his knockout low-80s changeup, which might be the best right-handed changeup in the world. He’ll also throw some upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees have seen lots of him in recent years, both the good and bad versions.
If Buchholz can’t go on Sunday, the 36-year-old RHP Ryan Dempster will start in his place. He won’t be on short rest or anything, it’ll be his regular turn thanks to the Morales spot start yesterday. Dempster hasn’t been all that good this year, pitching to a 4.45 ERA (4.40 FIP).
The Red Sox have a very good bullpen, especially in the late innings. RHP Joel Hanrahan blew out his elbow and is lost for the season, but injury-prone RHP Andrew Bailey (2.41 FIP) has been nails as closer. RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.15 FIP) and RHP Koji Uehara (3.35 FIP) have been very good in setup roles, ditto LHP Andrew Miller (2.89 FIP). LHP Craig Breslow (2.91 FIP) has been good in limited time since coming off the DL. RHP Clayton Mortensen (4.83 FIP) is the long man and in a few days Morales (6.06 FIP in one game) will be available following the spot start.
Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in decent shape, but I’m guessing Ivan Nova still needs another day or two following Wednesday’s 61-pitch outing. Mariano Rivera and David Robertson has both had the last two days off, and given the importance of the series, I’m guessing both will be available all three games this weekend if necessary. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage. Over The Monster is the place to go for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
According to multiple reports, the Red Sox will sign shortstop Stephen Drew to a one-year contract worth $9.5M. The Yankees had some interest in Drew as a heavily-used utility infielder who would backup Derek Jeter and pre-hip injury Alex Rodriguez, but that was always a long shot. Drew was, by far, the best shortstop on the free agent market and there was little reason for him to accept a reduced role. The Yankees plugged their third base hole with Kevin Youkilis and are still seeking a utility infielder who can be an upgrade over Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez.
Self-promotion: Read my Drew post over at FanGraphs.
Via Gordon Edes: David Ortiz and the Red Sox are closing to finalizing a two-year pact that will ensure the slugger will continue tormenting the Yankees through 2014. The two sides hope to announce the deal later this week, and it’s expected to be worth something in the $20-25M range.
I don’t believe the Yankees actually would have signed Ortiz, but he would have been a very intriguing DH option had he hit the open market this winter. The 36-year-old fits the patient, left-handed slugger mold perfectly, plus he knows all about the AL East, being in a big market, dealing with a crazy media environment, playing in big games, yadda yadda yadda. Like I said, I don’t think the Yankees would have signed Ortiz, but I’m not going to pretend I hadn’t thought about it.
1:01pm: Nick Cafardo clarifies that the Yankees did have to grant Pena permission to go to the interview today since it’s an off-day during the ALCS. He could have waited until after the season and gone on his own, but the Red Sox appear to be in a bit of a rush.
11:00am: Via Rob Bradford: The Red Sox will interview Tony Pena for their managerial vacancy today. It’s a travel day for the ALCS and the Yankees are not holding a workout at Comerica Park, so he’ll head up to Beantown during the off-day.
Pena, 55, has been with the Yankees since 2005, first as the first base coach (2005-2008) and then as the bench coach (2009-present). The team also considered him for their manager’s job after parting ways with Joe Torre in 2007. Pena managed the Royals from 2002-2005, winning the 2003 Manager of the Year award along the way. I don’t know much about his managerial style (or his bench coach prowess, for that matter), but I do know that he has a reputation of being a player’s coach and that’s probably something the Red Sox are looking for after the Bobby Valentine fiasco.
Important late-season series between the Yankees and Red Sox are nothing new, but this one has nothing to do with the standings between the two clubs. New York is tied atop the AL East and locked in a tight race with the Orioles while Boston is buried in last place, 20-something games out of first.
What Have They Done Lately?
Lay down for Baltimore, mostly. The Red Sox just got swept in a three-game series in Camden Yards that was so pathetic is appeared as though they were trying to lose. Maybe they were. Boston has lost five straight and nine of their last ten. At 69-90 (-51 run differential), they have the third worst record in the league and have secured the franchises first 90-loss season since 1966.
The 4.6 runs per game average looks solid, but most of the damage was done a long time ago. David Ortiz (166 wRC+) and Will Middlebrooks (121 wRC+) are on the DL while Adrian Gonzalez (114 wRC+) is in Los Angeles and Kelly Shoppach (96 wRC+) is in Flushing. Since the big trade with the Dodgers, a span of 33 team games, the Red Sox have averaged just 3.4 runs per game. That’s unfathomably bad.
Among the players still on the roster, the best is Dustin Pedroia (111 wRC+) and I don’t think it’s particularly close. Cody Ross (114 wRC+) actually has better numbers, but I’m sure we’d all rather see him up in a big spot than Pedroia. At least I would. Pretty easily too. Jacoby Ellsbury (88 wRC+) has had a miserable and injury-plagued year, but he can still be dangerous. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (97 wRC+) hits homers and nothing else, plus both Scott Podsednik (83 wRC+) and Ryan Lavarnway (25 wRC+) get regular at-bats as well.
The rest of the lineup is a collection of retreads, has-beens, and never-wases. Pedro Ciriaco (88 wRC+) has killed the Yankees this season but done little else at the plate. James Loney (66 wRC+) and Mauro Gomez (93 wRC+) split time at first while Jose Iglesias (17 wRC+) and Mike Aviles (73 wRC+) do the same at short. Daniel Nava (103 wRC+) has had a nice-half year, and the rest of the active position player crop includes outfielders Ryan Kalish and Che-Hsuan Lin, infielders Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Danny Valencia, and third catcher Guillermo Quiroz.
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Clay Buchholz
One of the few bright spots in this disaster of a second half for the Red Sox has been Buchholz. The 28-year-old right-hander has pitched to a 4.22 ERA (4.46 FIP) in 187.2 innings overall, but that is broken down into a 5.53 ERA (5.20 FIP) in the first half (86.1 IP) and a 3.11 ERA (3.47 FIP) in the second half (101.1 IP). Buchholz still doesn’t miss as many bats as his stuff says he should (6.09 K/9 and 16.1 K% with no improvement in the second half), but he limits walks (2.97 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) and gets ground balls (48.0%). He uses a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and an upper-80s cutter to set up his low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball. Buchholz has one of the best changeups in baseball, a pitch that anecdotally gives the Yankees fits. They tagged him for six runs in six innings (including five homers) back in April, but that was a different pitcher.
Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Jon Lester
It’s not quite a Ricky Romero disaster season, but this will be the final start of Lester’s worst season as a full-time big leaguer. He’s set new career worsts in ERA (4.94), FIP (4.14), strikeout rate (7.41 K/9 and 19.3 K%), and homerun rate (1.12 HR/9) while maintaining his usually strong walk (3.01 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) and ground ball (48.8%) numbers. Lester is a three-fastball (low-90s four-seamer, low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter) pitcher who backs them up with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen both the good and bad versions of the 28-year-old left-hander this year and throughout recent seasons. There’s no secret here.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
Six years after being declared the world’s best pitcher not in MLB, Matsuzaka will be making his final start for the Red Sox in the final game of the season. The 32-year-old owns a 7.68 ERA (5.53 FIP) this year and a 4.47 ERA (4.34 FIP) during his big league career, hardly what Boston expected when they sunk nine figures into him. Dice-K has racked up the strikeouts this year (8.10 K/9 and 19.4 K%), but he still walks too many (3.95 BB/9 and 9.5 BB%) and doesn’t get enough ground balls (39.9%). His stuff is pretty much back to normal after Tommy John surgery, meaning a low-90s four-seamer, an upper-80s cutter, and an array for offspeed pitches: low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, mid-80s splitter. The Yankees have not seen Matsuzaka this year but have seen him enough in recent years to know that he’ll work himself into trouble.
Well, if nothing else, closer Andrew Bailey (3.46 FIP) is well-rested following the Red Sox’s latest stretch of awfulness. Right-hander Junichi Tazawa (1.82 FIP) and left-hander Andrew Miller (3.18 FIP) form a pretty dominant setup tandem, though Vicente Padilla (3.98 FIP) and Craig Breslow (2.51 FIP) will see some late-inning time as well. After all the roster turnover and whatnot, the bullpen is the strength of this Boston team.
Working the middle innings are old friends Mark Melancon (4.70 FIP) and Al Aceves (4.21 FIP), ditto funky left-hander Rich Hill (2.84 FIP). Scott Atchison (2.51 FIP) has pitched well, Clayton Mortenson (4.46 FIP) less so. Daniel Bard (6.38 FIP) is a disaster, and the rest of the bullpen is filled out by September call-ups Pedro Beato and former Yankees draft pick Chris Carpenter. Given the enormity of this series, I imagine Joe Girardi‘s typical bullpen management is going out the window and he’ll use whoever he needs to use to win in all three games. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for usage details, then check out Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
The Yankees, clinging to a slim one-game lead in the AL East, saunter into Fenway to begin a series with the reeling Red Sox. As Mike outlined in his series preview, the Red Sox have been pretty awful this season, falling to unimaginable 15 games below .500. While they struggled for much of the season, they have been particularly awful of late. The Sox have lost a ton of talent since the Yankees played them last in late-July, both due to injury and the blockbuster trade (also known as a salary dump) they completed with the Dodgers. While the Yankees are playing for a division title and a playoff spot, the Red Sox seem to have little to play for other than their pride (or what remains of it). On paper, this is a matchup that heavily favors the Yankees, who despite their own problems should field a more talented and motivated roster than that of the Red Sox.
It also has all the makings of a trap series. With a big three-game series with the Rays looming on the horizon, it would be easy for the Yankees to overlook the crappy Red Sox and look ahead for the matchup with their actual competition for the division title. Meanwhile, while Boston seems and demoralized, I imagine getting the opportunity to ruin the Yankees’ season could get at least some of them fired up.
While the Red Sox roster is depleted, there is still enough talent to cause trouble for the Yankees. They are missing David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, but Dustin Pedroia, Cody Ross, and Jacoby Ellsbury could provide enough punch to pile up some runs against some shaky Yankee pitching. Plus, future Hall of Famer Pedro Ciriaco is still there, and will look to improve on his .469/.485/.625 career line against the Bombers. Hopefully the Yankees can figure out a way to retire him.
On the pitching side, there will be some interesting matchups. The Yankees will put perhaps their best pitcher of the season (#HIROK) up against Jon Lester in game one. Even though Lester is hardly the dominant Lester of years past, he is still a strong competitor who put up a good performance against the Yankees the last time he faced them. At best, this is a small advantage for the Yankees. The Phelps-Cook matchup in game two could be a slugfest, as Cook has been mediocre while Phelps has failed to get past the 5th inning in his last two starts. As for game three, Felix Doubront has posed some problems for the Yankees in the past, while Phil Hughes has been pretty solid of late (in part thanks to the new slider). While the Yankees should be favored in all three games, none of these matchups strikes me as a sure thing.
Given the close nature of the Al East race and the atrociousness of the Red Sox, taking anything less than 2 out of 3 games in this series would be a major failure. The Yankees have problems of their own, such as Mark Teixeira‘s recent injury, but they are light years ahead of where Boston is at this point, both in terms of on-field talent and off-field intangibles. While the Red Sox should be jazzed up for the opportunity to stick it to their longtime rivals, the Bombers should be motivated to add insult to Boston’s injury. The Yanks will have the opportunity to get themselves a little breathing room in the division as Baltimore and Tampa will be squaring off while the Yankees are playing the Red Sox. A sweep will put the Yankees in strong position to hold on to their division lead, and go into the playoffs with some positive momentum.
A mid-September series between the Yankees and Red Sox are supposed to be much more meaningful than this. Well, let me rephrase that. These games are obviously meaningful for the Yankees, but in terms of where they finish with respect to the Sox? Meaningless. Instead of the usual mid-September battle for AL East supremacy, we’ve got a midweek series between a first place team and a last place team.
What Have They Done Lately?
Boston is legit terrible right now. They just got swept by the Blue Jays at home and have won one (one!) of their last dozen games. That’s hard to believe. Since the big trade, the Sox are 3-12. Since August 1st, they are 10-27. Since Opening Day, they’re 63-78 with a -19 run differential. Boston is so bad that Brendan O’Toole of Over the Monster wrote about the last time they were this bad.
The Red Sox have averaged 4.7 runs per games with an almost perfectly league average team 99 wRC+ this year, but this isn’t the same team they fielded most of the season. David Ortiz (166 wRC+) is likely out for the season — he’ll miss at least this series — with an Achilles problem and he was their best hitter by no small margin. Adrian Gonzalez (114 wRC+) is now with the Dodgers and so is Carl Crawford (111 wRC+), who had a nice little run between DL stints. Will Middlebrooks (121 wRC+) is out with a wrist injury as well. That’s a lot of early-season offseason they don’t have anymore.
Among those still with the team, Cody Ross (125 wRC+) has been the best hitter all season. That said, I think we all agree that Dustin Pedroia (113 wRC+) is the guy we don’t want to see at the plate in a big spot. Jacoby Ellsbury (82 wRC+) hasn’t been able to build off last year’s MVP runner-up campaign due in part to a shoulder injury. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (94 wRC+) has power and little else, and he’s probably their third best hitter right now. James Loney (70 wRC+) has replaced Adrian at first base, and Scott Podsednik (94 wRC+) is playing everyday as well. Mike Aviles (74 wRC+) has seen his playing time cut a bit lately, and I think you’ll be happy to hear that Pedro Ciriaco (100 wRC+) is hitting .128/.146/.128 in the team’s last 13 games (48 plate appearances). Maybe the Yankees can actually get him out this week.
The lot of September call-ups is highlighted by Ryan Lavarnway (29 wRC+) and Daniel Nava (110 wRC+). Ryan Kalish is the spare outfielder, Guillermo Quiroz the third catcher, and Mauro Gomez and Ivan DeJesus Jr. the extra infielders. This certainly isn’t the kind of offense we’re used to see out of the Red Sox, who have averaged just 3.5 runs per game with a .253/.298/.366 batting line since the big trade with the Dodgers.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Jon Lester
It’s a case of too little, too late for the Red Sox and Lester, who has pitched to a 3.70 ERA (3.49 FIP) in his last seven starts (48.2 IP). Overall, he owns a 4.99 ERA (4.09 FIP) with a career-low strikeout rate (7.46 K/9 and 19.4 K%) and a career-high homer rate (1.13 HR/9). His walk rate (2.83 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) is among the best marks of his career, so at least he has that going for him. Lester is a three-fastball guy, sitting around 92 with the four-seamer and sinker, but a notch below that with the cutter. His curveball sits in the mid-70s, the changeup in the mid-80s. The Yankees have had both good and bad games against Lester both this year and in recent years. There’s no mystery here.
Wednesday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Aaron Cook
Cook’s defiance of defense independent pitching metrics came to a screeching halt right around the All-Star break, as he’s allowed 39 runs in his last nine starts (47 IP). His season performance sits at 5.17 ERA (5.01 FIP) in 14 starts, including stellar walk (1.76 BB/9 and 4.6 BB%) and ground ball (60.2%) rates. He doesn’t strike anyone out though, I’m talking a 1.88 K/9 and 4.9 K%. That’s the lowest strikeout rate in the last 50 years among pitchers who made at least 14 starts in a given season. That’s kinda ridiculous. Cook uses his upper-80s sinker about 80% of the time, with the rest being upper-80s sliders and mid-80s curveballs. The Yankees hung six runs on the for Rockie in four innings earlier this year.
Thursday: RHP Phil Hughes vs.LHP Felix Doubront
A pitcher’s first full season as a starter in the AL East tends to be up-and-down, and Doubront certainly started well before collapsing late. He’s allowed at least four runs in each of his last five starts, and only twice completed five full innings of work during that time. Forty-five baserunners in his last 21.1 innings have his season ERA at 5.21 (4.59 FIP) despite an excellent strikeout rate (9.09 K/9 and 22.7 K%). The walk (3.88 BB/9 and 9.7 BB%), ground ball (42.7%), and homer (1.47 HR/9) percentages aren’t anything to write home about. The 24-year-old southpaw uses both two- and four-seamers in the low-90s to set up his mid-70s curveball and mid-80s changeup. Doubront has made one good (one run in six innings) and one not-so-good (four runs in 6.1 innings) start against the Yankees this season. There’s talk that Boston may shut him down given his workload, in which case Daisuke Matsuzaka would likely make this start instead. Nothing is final though.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox had Monday off, so everyone’s bullpen is fresh. It took a little longer than expected, but Andrew Bailey (4.41 FIP) has assumed closer duties after former Yankee Al Aceves (4.25 FIP) handled the ninth inning most of the season. Aceves is basically a mop-up man at this point, and there’s some speculation that he could move into the rotation and take Doubront’s spot during these final weeks. Given some shenanigans with manager Bobby Valentine, it’s possible Ace’s days in Boston are numbered.
Setup duties have fallen mostly on the shoulders of Vicente Padilla (3.77 FIP), who I’m sure is crushed that Mark Teixeira will miss the series. Andrew Miller (3.10 FIP) and deadline pickup Craig Breslow (3.37 FIP) are the two primary left-handers. Former Yankee Mark Melancon (5.24 FIP) joins Junichi Tazawa (2.20 FIP) and the broken Daniel Bard (6.19 FIP) as the right-handed middle relievers. Clayton Mortensen, Rich Hill, and former Yankee draft pick Chris Carpenter round out the rest of the bullpen. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on the Yankees’ relievers and the aforementioned Over the Monster for the latest and greatest on the Sox.
A few days ago, the Red Sox and Dodgers completed a potentially franchise-altering trade. Boston sent underachieving malcontents Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez (who is actually still pretty good) plus Nick Punto to suddenly-loaded LA. In return they received several solid prospects, the thoroughly mediocre James Loney, and most importantly, massive salary relief. It was shocking to see a wealthy big market team unload all this talent for pennies on the dollar, truly a fire sale that only Tobias Funke could properly dramatize.
The deal will have a major impact on the Red Sox and Dodgers for years to come, and the reverberations could be felt throughout the league. The Red Sox significantly increased their flexibility by shedding some $260 million in future contract obligations, allowing them to be big players on the free agent market in 2012 and in upcoming seasons. While the 2012′s free agent class is not considered a stacked group, they could have room in the budget to sign several impact free agents. These could include such notables as Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, both incredibly talented players (albeit with risks attached). If the Red Sox choose to spend big this offseason, it could be reminiscent of the Yankees’ spending spree in the 2008-2009 offseason, in which they signed Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett.
As we remember, these signings contributed heavily to the Yankees’ 2009 World Series title, so a similar splurge by the Red Sox could have them back in contention in a hurry. However, failing several big acquisitions, it is difficult to see the Red Sox being serious playoff contenders in 2013 and possibly 2014. While they have some talent remaining on the team and some intriguing players down on the farm (Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes, and Jackie Bradley Jr. especially), it is hard to see that roster being a serious threat to win the AL East. Consequently, they will need to decide whether they are doing a full rebuild, or a Yankees-esque reload. If they go big on the current free agent class, they risk burdening themselves with the types of big expensive contracts that got them into this mess in the first place. However, a rebuild will likely doom them to non-competitiveness for several years, and this may have significant financial ramifications.
Assuming Boston doesn’t go for the full reload in 2013, the Yankees should be the AL East frontrunners, with the Rays as the main competition. This is especially the case if Baltimore comes back to earth after a 2012 season that seems somewhat fluky. Toronto will likely not have the same number of injuries again, but I don’t think that team has enough impact talent to be a competitor yet.
The defanging of the Red Sox definitely helps the Yankees in the short term, but how about the long term? A lot of that depends on how the Red Sox end up deploying their newly-acquired flexibility. The Yankees likely won’t be huge spenders on the free agent market over the next two years if they are serious about adhering to the austerity budget. If Boston hasn’t loaded up on big free agents after 2012 or 2013, they could be serious competitors for some big name players that could hit the market in 2014 , most notably Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. The trade could also put Boston in the position to build a sustainable powerhouse if they are more fortunate with their free agent signing and hit it big on with a few of their prospects. One question, however, could be whether Boston’s willingness to dump players recently signed to long-term contracts shows a lack of loyalty, and could make it difficult for them to attract free agents. I think money talks ultimately, but that could be a tie-breaker.
While they are not in the same league as the Yankees, the sudden willingness of the Dodgers to spend big to acquire impact players should draw the attention of Yankee fans. We are largely used to a unipolar landscape where the Yankees are the dominant franchise financially, capable of outbidding all comers to acquire their choice free agents. There have been some exceptions to this paradigm of late, most notably the Yankees’ failure to sign Cliff Lee, but it largely has held true. Seeing the new-money Dodgers throw that kind of cash around begs the question of how much they are willing to spend to make their team a World Series contender. Could they even outspend the Evil Empire? After this big trade, they are pretty close, and if they are willing to spend even more money, they could be a force to be reckoned with on the free agent market.
Ultimately, the Yankees will be fine, but there is no doubt that this deal is a potential game-changer. The Yankees may not be able to count on being able to sign all the best free agents to fill their holes, as fewer top guys have been hitting the market, and more teams have the financial resources to compete for the ones that do. The Red Sox suddenly have huge flexibility to bring in new impact players, while the Dodgers showed a willingness to spend at Yankee-esque levels to become relevant. In the short term, the Yankees should maintain their hold on the AL East, but they certainly can’t get too comfortable at their perch.
Blame Robert Andino. Had the Orioles’ utility infielder not laced that single off Jonathan Papelbon last September, the Red Sox would have remained alive in the postseason hunt and none of this probably happens. Instead, the ball found grass and the dominoes started to fall when Terry Francona and Theo Epstein walked away from the organization last winter. Papelbon moved on as a free agent, new manager Bobby Valentine was brought in (by ownership?), and the losing resumed.
The Red Sox are mired in fourth place in the AL East, closer to having the worst record in the circuit than they are a Wild Card spot. Prior to last night’s game, Boston was 74-88 in their last 162 contests despite a payroll north of $170M. GM Ben Cherington (Epstein’s replacement) took a drastic step to improve his team yesterday, completed a trade that can be legitimately described as franchise-altering. Heading to the Dodgers are Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, and $12M. Coming back are James Loney, prospects Allen Webster, Rubby DeLaRosa, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus, and roughly $260M of cleared future payroll.
You can make a really strong case that this is one of the biggest trades in baseball history, certainly one of the biggest during my lifetime. Prior to this move, only one player with more than $100M remaining on his contract had ever been traded — Alex Rodriguez when he came to the Yankees in 2004. Both Gonzalez (~$109M) and Crawford (~$107M) are still owed nine figures after this year. A trade of this magnitude has a ripple effect throughout baseball, including an indirect impact on the Yankees. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts on the trade…
- I think the deal is just flat-out brilliant on Cherington’s part. Yes, he did surrender one truly great player in Gonzalez, but in the process he rid himself of two of the most out-of-favor players in team history. Clearing a quarter-billion dollars in payroll and getting real live prospects in return is the stuff GM dreams are made of.
- While the Red Sox made a great move for the long-term health of the franchise, the short-term damage is severe. David Ortiz may miss the rest of the season, which means they’ve have very little power in the lineup, particularly from the left side. They’ll have to find two corner outfielders, a first baseman, and maybe a DH after the season (more on that in a bit). That’s not easy to do. On top of that they have to replace Beckett in an already porous rotation.
- On the other end of the deal, pretty bad job by the Dodgers to absorb that much money and give up those kinds of prospects. That said, they just acquired an impact first baseman, a potential impact starter, and a potential impact outfielder for what amounts to one Albert Pujols financially. The future might be ugly, but that team has a phenomenal chance to win now.
- For more about the prospects involved, check out my MLBTR post. I really like DeLaRosa, that kid has a great arm. He’s not the next Pedro Martinez or anything, but his mid-90s fastball/power slider combination is true swing-and-miss stuff. Getting him alone would have been a coup for the Sox, but getting another strong pitching prospect in Webster and a useful role player in Sands is icing on the cake. DeJesus is just roster fodder in my eyes.
- I couldn’t be happier that Gonzalez is out of the AL East. He is having a down year — a 114 wRC+ with Boston after three straight years of 140+ and six straight years of 120+ — but the guy still scared the crap out of me whenever he was at the plate. Gonzalez remains a terrifyingly good hitter and not having to see him 18+ times a year is a win for the Yankees.
- It must be nice to free up all that cash, but that was only half the battle. The Red Sox have been pretty terrible when it comes to signing free agents lately, plus the new Collective Bargaining Agreements mean they can’t just dump all that money into the draft and international free agency. Reinvesting the savings wisely is much, much easier said than done.
- I fully expect Boston to pursue Nick Swisher this offseason. They’re going to be looking for a first baseman as well as corner outfield help, and he provides both in addition to being a switch-hitter and all that. He makes a ton of sense for them. If a happens, hopefully they give him that Jayson Werth contract he wants.
- There’s a pretty good chance that starting with 2010, the Red Sox could miss the playoffs for five consecutive years. This season will already be year number three, and although they have the ability to turn it around quickly, I’m not giving the new GM the benefit of the doubt just yet. This isn’t exactly a soft division. (h/t Jamal G.)
- Here’s the question: are the Red Sox done selling off players? There will absolutely be a market for Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia this winter, though I can’t imagine Pedroia would go. Ellsbury sure, Lester maybe, but not Pedroia. That would be a stunner. At the same time, I can seem them signing all three to contract extensions and move forward with them as the core. Will be interesting to watch.
Lastly, I consider the trade to be an indication that Bobby V. will be back as manager next season. Instead of firing him they got rid of Gonzalez, a great player and one of his most outspoken subordinates. These rebuild things tend to happen step-by-step — first the coaches go, then the manager goes, then finally the team realizes it’s the players who needed the change. The Sox fired their pitching coach last week, then skipped right over the “fire the manager” step and dumped some players. Regardless of what happens with Valentine, yesterday was a monumental day for the Red Sox in terms of their rebuilding effort, and that’s generally bad news for the Yankees.
Saturday: It’s a done deal. The Sox are sending Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, and Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four prospects — RHP Allen Webster, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, IF Ivan DeJesus, and OF/1B Jerry Sands. Boston is paying just $12M of the $270M+ they’re dumping. Pretty crazy. I’ll have some more analysis on how this indirectly impacts the Yankees sometime this weekend.
Friday: Via Gordon Edes, the Dodgers and Red Sox are working on a blockbuster trade that would send Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles. Both Beckett and Gonzalez were claimed off trade waivers by the Dodgers earlier today while Crawford and Punto cleared earlier this month. For what it’s worth, Edes says the two sides are “closing in” on a deal.
First of all: holy crap. Second of all: why couldn’t it be Pedro Ciriaco instead of Punto? Third of all: Boston clearing that much money would be bad for the Yankees, at least in the sense that the Sawx could theoretically spend the savings elsewhere to improve the team. That’s much easier said than done, of course. Either way, this would be some kind of trade, potentially the largest of my lifetime considering the caliber of players and the size of the contracts involved.