Possible Losses

The only way Blake Swihart is going anywhere is in exchange for someone very very good (RLRS Photo).

The only way Blake Swihart is going anywhere is in exchange for someone very very good (RLRS Photo).

Thursday was the deadline for teams to add players to the 40 man roster to avoid losing them in the Rule 5 draft next month.  The Sox made no surprising moves adding Blake Swihart, Sean Coyle, Eduardo Rodriguez and Travis Shaw to the 40 man.  While the Rule 5 draft rarely creates much in terms of gain or loss the Sox have a few players who may find themselves selected.

Chris Hernandez – LHP – Hernandez’ prospect status has taken lumps as he has struggled at AAA Pawtucket.  Hernandez turns 26 in December and dramatically improved against LHB in 2014.  I cannot say with any first hand knowledge if this was just sample size or something intentional but I would not be shocked to see him drafted with a team hoping he can be a LOOGY.

Noe Ramirez – RHP – Sox Prospects #32 – While I think it was the right call not to put him on the 40 man I am a bit concerned as I have always like Ramirez.  The change up specialist has crept up the ranks and entering his age 25 season could be a useful relief piece for someone.

 

Henry Ramos might get some attention on December 11 (RLRS Photo).

Henry Ramos might get some attention on December 11 (RLRS Photo).

Henry Ramos – SHB OF – Ramos is still a bit young turning 23 just after Opening Day next year but he has a useful enough utility outfielder profile.  A stress fracture limited him to just under 200 PA in 2014 but he hit .326 in that time and while the homers were not there he still has shown a bit of pop and Sox Prospects says he has a very good arm.

Pitchers and outfielders are often the targets in the Rule 5 draft as they can be most easily stashed on the roster.  The Rule 5 draft will take place on December 11th at the Owners’ Meetings.

Maybe This Really IS Our Outfield for 2015

Yoenis CespedesRusney CastilloMookie BettsWhen the off-season began the Red Sox were at the forefront of some of the big outfield names.  Giancarlo Stanton and to a lesser extent Jason Heyward had swirled on the rumor mill for awhile with Sox fans thinking that maybe one of these fellows would be patrolling Fenway’s green expanse.

That has suddenly changed.  With Stanton inking his long term deal (over/under 2.5 years he stays in Miami) and Heyward being dealt for Shelby Miller the opportunities for the Sox to upgrade in the outfield seem minimized.

The biggest thing that has struck me is that Mookie Betts will be in the Sox’ Opening Day lineup.  He certainly looked like a player that would reasonably be dealt for Stanton but that is obviously not happening now.  Presumably Betts would be a player the Phillies would target in a Cole Hamels deal but Hardball Talk says the Sox have “shot down” a couple of deals already.  That makes me think Betts is not going to Philadelphia.

Shane Victorino looms as the odd man out right now.  With one year left on his deal and a lack of reliability in terms of health I suspect the Sox would be more interested Cespedes-Castillo-Betts getting the call.  Just for grins let us make a quick assessment of what this might mean;

Cespedes (3.1 WAR), Betts (2.9 WAR), Castillo (2.0 WAR) – Total 8.0 WAR

That is Steamer projections for Cespedes and Betts and a guesstimate on Castillo. How would this compare with other starting outfields?  With so much still to happen I want to look at the 2014 actuals rather than guessing at trades that will happen;

Toronto (Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus) – 9.5 WAR
New York (Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner) – 6.3 WAR
Baltimore (Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz) – 11.8 WAR
Tampa Bay (Matt Joyce, Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings) – 5.3 WAR
Boston (Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley, Shane Victorino) – 2.5 WAR

There is a long way to go in the Hot Stove season.  I suspect what we see is what we will get with respect to the Red Sox outfield.  It neither looks especially impressive nor especially troubling.  What it does look like is a pretty solid upgrade over what the Sox got out there last year.

Projections of course are not worth the paper they are not printed on.  As I noted the Castillo projection is even less valuable than that but I think it is a reasonable starting point (FWIW Victorino is at 2.1 for his projected WAR).

You do not need to be John McGraw to have recognized that the Sox outfield looked a lot better in September than it did the rest of the year.  Even with a relatively quiet off-season at those spots it should be represent a position of improvement relative to 2014.

A Modest Trade Proposal

Allen Craig

Allen Craig may be a key to the Red Sox offseason. (RLRS photo)

The Red Sox have gotten themselves in a bit of a tough spot if they want to compete for the 2015 season. According to the recent calculations by our Ironic Idiom of a baseball writer, they had about $50M to $55M to spend this offseason. $9M of that has already gone to Koji Uehara. So with $41M to $46M left, they’re going to be a bit stretched to fill their #1/#2 starter roles, plus add a legitimate 3rd baseman. So I came up with a trade idea that might work for them.

There are some interesting starting pitchers who are about to become free agents after 2015. One good one is Jordan Zimmerman, who Steamer projects at between 2.5 and 3.0 fWAR. There have also been rumors that the Nats are willing to trade him. The Red Sox should package one of their excess outfielders, preferably Allen Craig, with one of their excess back-of-the-rotation starters–they can sell the Nats on their potential as front-of-the-rotation starters. Now, the Red Sox are trying to make room on their payroll, so they should get the Nationals to pay Zimmerman’s salary, leaving the Red Sox to pay him the league minimum. Then, because they want to replace the pitching talent they’re losing, they should get a high-A arm who’s got some upside potential. Someone like John Simms fits the bill.

That would leave the Red Sox with $47M to $52M after shedding Craig’s salary. With that cash, they would be able to afford a #1 starter,  good 3B, and even possibly a reliever or two.

What do you guys think? Would the Nationals do this? Or maybe the Reds would do it with Johnny Cueto? Or am I crazy to even think any team would do this kind of deal?

The Value Of Marrero

In a couple of spring trainings I have always noticed Marrero actively working with the coaching staff (RLRS Photo).

In a couple of spring trainings I have always noticed Marrero actively working with the coaching staff (RLRS Photo).

One of the interesting stories in the early off-season is the apparent growth of Deven Marrero into a viable trade candidate.  Marrero is an interesting character with some (like me) really excited about his glove and feeling he will hit enough to justify it while others (MCoA I’m lookin’ at you) feeling the bat just will not be there.

A couple of things have happened to create this circumstance.  The first is that the World Series featured a defense-first Kansas City team and a San Francisco club anchored at shortstop by gloveman Brandon Crawford.  MLB teams, like other businesses, tend to the monkey-see-monkey-do process and this makes the defense-first shortstop a bit more appealing.

The other thing that has happened is that Marrero has hit very well in the Arizona Fall League (.328/.443/.414).  This is on the heels of a struggle after a mid-season promotion to Pawtucket but is consistent with his track record.  Marrero has struggled early in his tenure at different levels then improved so seeing some improvement in what is effectively a second go at a higher level is not surprising.

Garin Cecchini may play  different position but he is fighting with Marrero just the same (RLRS Photo).

Garin Cecchini may play different position but he is fighting with Marrero just the same (RLRS Photo).

Marrero’s place with the Sox is odd.  Xander Bogaerts is the incumbent at shortstop of course but may be ticketed for third base.  Garin Cecchini is an option at third base but the Sox seem wary of him though I think his performance after his call up was a game changer.  Will Middlebrooks remains the incumbent at third but seems to have fallen out of favor and Pablo Sandoval rumors are freakin’ everywhere.

Marrero is a guy that works really well as a utility player.  Unlike say Cecchini who is limited defensively Marrero is a guy who could fashion a Nick Punto/John McDonald style career so I think I would be a bit cautious in just throwing him away.  I think he has a better chance that Cecchini of having a career but a much lesser chance of being an every day player.

It seems that Marrero has reached a stage where the Sox and other teams genuinely see him as an option.  He may not have star potential but more options is better than less.

Ursinology

If the Sox sign the Panda job one will be a less blurry photo (RLRS Photo).

If the Sox sign the Panda job one will be a less blurry photo (RLRS Photo).

The big talking point over the weekend seemed to be the elevation of Pablo Sandoval on the Red Sox off-season wish list.  Sandoval is a strange bird in that he is the youngest high profile free agent on the market entering his age 28 season yet may come with the biggest concerns about durability due to his less than athletic physique.

In very simple terms I think Sandoval is a great fit for the Sox.  Adding a left-handed bat who can fill the hole on the left side of the infield in place of Will Middlebrooks is pretty enticing.  Despite that I think the Sox are targeting the wrong player both specifically and generally.

The Sox head into the 2015 season with a strange offense.  At first glance the Sox need to upgrade finishing just 11th in runs in 2014.  However the Sox were a very capable 6th after the trade deadline as additions of Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts and even Rusney Castillo made a difference in the run production.

Sandoval is also a player who does not seem to make sense in this market.  He is a 2.5-3 win player at a position with both high profile (Hanley Ramirez) and lower profile (Chase Headley) options that exist.  The Sox also feature prospect options with Garin Cecchini and Deven Marrero (moving Xander Bogaerts to third) giving the Sox some choices.

Nasty Nate opined the other day that “a successful season is the important thing, not winning the offseason.”  Signing Sandoval feels to me like a move that would be focused on winning the off-season.

It is funny.  I suspect if the Sox sign Sandoval he will be one of my favorite players.  That does not make him the right player.  I think he is neither good enough nor the right fit for this team.

Red Sox Announced 2015 Spring Slate

Whether by day or by night JetBlue Park is a great place to see a game (RLRS Photo).

Whether by day or by night JetBlue Park is a great place to see a game (RLRS Photo).

The Red Sox announced their 2015 Spring Training schedule on Thursday.  Regular readers know that I attend spring training each year and I cannot stress the enjoyment I get from the experience enough.

Southwest Florida is a beautiful area.  If you like baseball there are plenty of teams to see in the area particularly the Twins who also train in Fort Myers.  Sanibel and Marco Islands are also an easy drive and if you are looking for a great family vacation that allows you to tell your significant other “hey, let’s take the kids to a ballgame” well you cannot go wrong here.

The Yankees come to the Fort on Friday March 13th and I would encourage you to avoid this game.  Yankee spring games bring out the nitwits on both sides of the rooting aisle and going to a spring game should be a relaxing experience.  I do not think I have seen a Yankee spring game since Alex Rodriguez‘ first spring game with the Bronx Bombers back in 2004.

It is wonderful to see the stars of today but a wander around the minor league fields lets you get a first glance at stars of tomorrow.  I first laid eyes on Hanley Ramirez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Will Middlebrooks strolling around sparsely attended minor league field.

And if you need a restaurant recommendation, let me know!

Who Ya’ Got?

Option A? (RLRS Photo).

Option A? (RLRS Photo).

I do not think I am unleashing anything controversial here when I say a big component of the 2014/2015 off-season for the Red Sox will be acquiring a top notch starting pitcher.  If we stick with the free agent market that leaves the Sox with three choices; Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and Big Game James Shields.

I think it is worth some consideration as to who the Sox should be targeting.  All three will cost the Sox their second round draft pick but all three pitchers are good enough to be worthy.

Age - Shields – 33 years, 4 months, Lester – 31 years, 3 months, Scherzer – 30 years, 8 months

Edge here to Scherzer by a small amount.  When you are getting ready to spend this kind of money you take what you can get.

Or maybe he is Option A? (RLRS Photo).

Or maybe he is Option A? (RLRS Photo).

Workload - Shields – 1910 innings, Lester – 1596 innings, Scherzer – 1239 innings

Once again Scherzer comes out ahead and not by a small amount this time.  This can be a bit misleading but in this case Scherzer is a pretty durable pitcher.  Like both Lester and Shields he has been a reliable 30+ starts a year for the last half dozen seasons.

Who Is Better? - Shields – 3.70 FIP (2015 Steamer Projection), Lester – 3.55 FIP, Scherzer – 3.41 FIP

FIP is just one measure that I am throwing up there but there is a lot more that goes into this question.  Scherzer is the superior pitcher when it comes to K rate while Shields has the best control of the three.  Lester made a dramatic leap forward in 2014 and if we accept that as a legitimate improvement rather than a career year performance that bodes well for him.

Contract - Shields – 4/5 years, 70-90 million, Lester – 5/6 years, 140-160 million, Scherzer – 5/6 years, 140-160 million

Obviously I am just guessing here but I think this is a big part of the issue.  The numbers may be off but I think I am right in my expectation that the deals for Lester and Scherzer are likely to be materially larger than the deal Shields lands.

Coco's gone so maybe he's Option A? (Boston.com photo).

Coco’s gone so maybe he’s Option A? (Boston.com photo).

So Who Ya’ Got? - The funny part of this is that I would feel comfortable answering any of the three.  Let’s separate the three;

Shields – I think the shorter contract makes “Big Game” James the smaller risk.  Assuming you can land him on a four year deal the likelihood of a truly crippling deal is fairly minimal.  Unless he flops right out of the gate the Sox are likely to only get one or two bad years out of him.  While he is not the sexy pick there is a lot of value in a guy who can reliably get you 30+ starts and 200+ innings of above average pitching.

Scherzer – I think if the Sox want the best of the lot that Scherzer is the guy.  Not only does he have the performance track record but looking at each guy in some detail here I really like the lack of wear and tear on Scherzer.  Those 600+ fewer innings than Lester seem really meaningful to me.

Lester – You know something? With all of what I have said above Lester is the guy I want.  Re-signing Lester would be a fan-driven move.  I was never a big Lester fan but I guess absence truly does make the heart grow fonder (the 0.43 World Series ERA don’t hurt either) and it would be fun to see him back.

Youth Sports Is Supposed To Be Fun

If you frequent this space you know that few things bring me the amount of joy that coaching youth baseball does.  That is why I was heartbroken to see this Tweet from C.J. Nitkowski last night;

Let’s ignore the fact that playoffs for six year olds seems pretty stupid and just ask what kind of person says this to a six year old or really any kid?

One of the lessons I always try and teach the kids I coach is that we are participating in a team sport.  We win as a team and we lose as a team.  Just because a kid made an error in the last inning does not mean he lost us the game because someone else probably made an error earlier in the game.  When a kid gets a walk off hit yeah we celebrate that kid but also remind the team of contributions by other players.

I responded to Nitkowski saying that he should take his kid out for ice cream and remind him how proud he is of the youngster.  I cannot possibly reconcile someone saying something so cruel to a child with the emotional and time commitment required to coach youth sports.

One of the things that has always stuck with me from my college days was a sign in the education department; “children will not remember what you said, but they will remember how it made them feel.”  That is a lesson this coach clearly needs to be reminded of.