Thursday, February 26, 2015

Red Sox = Yankees? Not Exactly.

With the soon-to-be official mega-dollar signing of Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada, by my estimation the Sox have spent upwards of eleventy billion dollars this off-season.

Well, maybe not that much. But in committing over $60M to Moncada, $95M to Pablo Sandoval and $88M to Hanley Ramirez, that over $240M in commitments to just three players in this off-season. Throw in the pitching acquisitions and other players, and Boston has spent over $300M in total player-committed dollars this off-season.

And so yesterday, someone asked Boston CEO Larry "Can we forget about Bobby Valentine" Lucchino an obvious question: Are the Red Sox the same as the New York Yankees?

"It's a question of pattern and consistency over time -- that's one way to distinguish. But we're not going to not avail ourselves of what we think is a very good baseball opportunity because someone is going to compare us to the Yankees," Lucchino said.


The piece quotes Lucchino a few more times but the upshot is basically this: The Red Sox will spend money when they think they need to. And they do in a smarter fashion than the Yankees.

That's an important qualifier. Spending 20 bucks, say, on vegetables and healthy food for your family is smarter spending than buying them 20 bucks of Funyons. Same money, different quality.

Boston spent big money on Sandoval and Ramirez. But those are also manageable contracts. Ramirez is for four years and a possible fifth. Sandoval is for five years and a club option on a sixth.

Compare that to the two free-agent signings the Yankees made before 2014. They spent $85M on a 30-year-old catcher in Brian McCann, who went on to have one of the worst statistical years of his career. And then there was Jacoby Ellsbury. Seven years, $153M, and the reward was a decidedly average 2014 campaign. Fun fact: Brett Gardner, who cost about 1/4 of Ellsbury and was already a Yankee, had a better 2014. Hell, you could argue that Francisco Cervelli wasn't that far off of McCann.

And that is the big difference here. The Yankees brought in two big-dollar free-agent signings for positions where they already had a player either giving them most of what they got (Cervelli and McCann) or possibly more (Gardner and Ellsbury).

The Red Sox, on the other hand, actually addressed real needs. Third base was a black hole last year for Boston, both in the field and at the plate. So they went and got a hard-hitting, league-average glove third baseman in Sandoval. Yes, a league-average fielder is an upgrade.

They also needed more pop in the lineup. The best-hitting outfielder who played at least 100 games for Boston was Daniel Nava, whose OPS barely cleared .700 in 2014. In Hanley Ramirez they get a bat that was over 100 points better in OPS last year. Boston saw two needs, real needs, and went to fix them.

And as I wrote the other day, Yoan Moncada represents a quality player that a team like Boston would never get a shot at had he been in a draft. And since they were going to be penalized for bonus slots anyway, they spent the money to capture a player that may be an "once in a lifetime" kind of player. The Yankees decided to set a ceiling on Moncada and once it was passed, they walked. That may be saving money, but you can argue that wasn't "smart" fiscal prudence.

Boston may be a big-spending franchise, as is New York, but they are not the same animal at all. For now, Boston has demonstrated a smarter application of their financial muscle. New York seems to now be swinging too far in the other direction. Rather than overspending on free agents giving them an average return, they are gun-shy to the point of giving up on Moncada because he went for $4.5M more than they wanted to spend.

That would be $500K less than they gave Stephen Drew to come back for 2015.

Lucchino may be horrible at choosing head coaches. But he's right about this. Boston is not like the Yankees at all.

They're better.

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