Thursday, December 24, 2009

Barely Winter, No Discontent

The Red Sox have created flexibility this winter and a fair degree of media silliness. Let's examine some flexibility and silliness.

  • Dan Shaughnessy accused management of parsimonious behavior suggesting that the Sox were trying to rebuild on the cheap. "Nothing easier than spending somebody else's money, eh?" Silliness.
  • The Sox acquire outfielder Mike Cameron. Exit stage left, Jason Bay. As mentioned before, the "Winner's Curse" means overpaying, just because other people are bidding for merchandise. We all recognize that in an industry where the AVERAGE salary (not just AVERAGE player) gets around three million dollars, there's a lot of overpaying. Cameron has always been a terrific defender, has some pop, and strikes out a lot. It's what you're doing when you don't strike out that counts. Flexibility. Here's the top 20 career list in strikeouts...some pretty good players on the list.
  • Casey Kelly is highly regarded throughout baseball for potential. Is he 'likely' to be contributing to the Sox in August or September? Some organizational people privately project that. Reminds me of the 'curse of unlimited potential' applied to Ken Brett, back in the day. Cool the jets, people. Silliness.
  • The John Lackey Watch has begun. The number one for Lackey on the comparison list for John Lackey is Josh Beckett. Lackey is to Beckett what Luis Tiant is to Catfish Hunter. Look it up. Flexibility.
  • Jeremy Hermida comes to the Red Sox. Platoon or puzzle piece in some future deal for Adrian Gonzalez. Flexibility.
  • The Mike Lowell saga, is he coming, is he going, a medical love story. Everybody likes Mike Lowell*. Well, *that is, a healthy Mike Lowell. All the talk is about his thumb, and we seem to have forgotten that the poor guy (healthwise) can't run and has constricted range. Silliness.
  • "I'm okay with Casey Kotchman at first base." Come on, Terry, that's the organizational guy speaking, but Red Sox Nation doesn't share your enthusiasm, absent Kotchman getting some Brady Anderson kickapoo joy juice. Silliness.
Red Sox plans have plenty of reasons for optimism, including a new shortstop, the additional of John Lackey, maturing players possibly in Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury, and a full season of Victor Martinez.

Concerns? Well, we have to see whether Daisuke Matsuzaka looks more like Godzilla or the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and whether Jonathan (one-pitch) Papelbon will throw something besides the fastball this season. Papelbon's 38 saves belied a dramatic fall in his strikeout-to-walk ratio and rise in the WHIP ratio. Clean inning just wasn't something we heard too much.

Sure, you say, if Papelbon is all you have to worry about, then the Sox are golden. Frankly, it's never that simple.

Seasons greetings to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Baseball Meetings

As terrific as Roy Halladay is, does he merit something approaching 20 million dollars annually, and the loss of several top prospects, e.g. Buchholz and Kelly? If I'm ownership, I can't go in that direction.

Yes the Sox need a right-handed bat, and there are a few directions there, including Adrian Beltre. Whether Mike Lowell can handle the full load next year can't be known to Sox fans, and Beltre has considerable pop in his bat.

The Sox are rumored to want to lock up V-Mart heading into his contract year. Jason Bay? The news all seems negative, from money to location, and J-Bay looks like he's earned a Godfather contract, although the 5-6 week stretch of distress against breaking stuff away mid-season gives me concerns.

Among the possible pitchers, the best 'bargain' could be Justin Duchscherer, a former Sox farmhand, who has had health issues. Sure, you have the tantalizing Rich Harden, he of the DL, and Ben Sheets, ditto.

Reportedly, Brad Penny has found a new pitching home in St. Louis. Penny just never seemed comfortable in the AL, with great stuff and not so great results with selective hitters in the AL.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Market-Based Thinking; Caveat Emptor, Theo.

Whatever we might think about the Red Sox, they aren't cheap. But in the baseball landscape, you have two currencies, players and greenbacks.

The Sox have a variety of intriguing bargaining chips (relatively low-salaried players under extended obligation) including Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Ryan Westmoreland, Casey Kelly, Ryan Kalish, and more. If we use the commodity business as a model, then the Sox have a certain 'book value', budgeted salary plus the "proven reserves" model used in mining.

Of course, the proven reserves aren't so proven, but if they are assigned a 'value', trading them for high-salaried players depletes your future in both salary obligation AND in projected value. In other words, mortgaging your farm system to acquire 'expensive' stars makes you pay twice. For the Yankees, the bottomless money pit, spending 29 percent of free agent dollars in the past couple of seasons (per an ESPN article), that's simply business as usual.

For the Red Sox, they need to work smarter not more expensively, and trading the combination of a Buchholz, Kelly, and change for a Roy Halladay isn't as efficient as spending on free agents and developing players.

Clearly, the Red Sox management didn't exactly fall of the turnip truck. You never know what disinformation campaign exists to drive up the price (Boras style) in the Winner's Curse. Everyone can point to the Beckett-Lowell trade as bringing the Sox one title, a gamble worth taking.

But we've gone through the six year productivity of some of the best pitchers in history during the Santana discussions a couple of years ago. Historically, over that timeframe, some of the best pitchers in history (from Clemens to Pedro) have averaged about 15 wins. In the past two seasons, Johan Santana has won 29 games for the Mets, and one of the players rumored to be on the block for him, Jon Lester has won 31 a fraction of the cost. Caveat emptor.