Thursday, December 17, 2009

It All Starts To Come Together

The Hot Stove season began with a lackluster start. The Sox signing Marco Scutaro to a two/three year deal - when he isn't that much better than the guy who manned short at the end of 2009 - was not exactly inspiring. In fact, it downright bummed me out.

Scutaro is 34 years old and coming off surgery. His admittedly stellar 2009 season is an anomaly in his career. It stands out like a newbie at a Vegas blackjack table who splits his 10s. Scutaro's best batting average prior to last year was 2004 when he hit .273. His best OPS was in 2006 when he reached .747. His current 162 game average is hitting .265 with 13 homers, 50 RBI and a .721 OPS. Those numbers are marginally better than Gonzalez's 162 average (.247/15/69/.689). But even that average is influenced heavily by his anomalous 2009 season. Oh, did I mention he's 34? Let me do it again: he's a 34-year old shortstop! Unless your last name is Jeter* or your first name is Ozzie, I'm not trusting you at short at that age.

And then things got very interesting. The signing of Mike Cameron was a nice compliment to trading for Hermida. And while I would have liked Bay to come back, Cameron does have a better glove and strikes out less. Plus, it saved the Sox somewhere around $8M a year and freed up money for 2011 and beyond.

What I didn't see coming, but was kind of hoping for, was the Sox swooping in for John Lackey.

Make no mistake, this is a huge deal. The Sox have adequately answered the Yankees' move for Sabathia last season. You could solidly argue that the Sox front three of Beckett, Lester and Lackey is superior to the Yankees' Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte. And I'll take Daisuke and Wakes/Tazawa over Joba and a spare part on the back side any day of the week.

And for those who keep saying Lackey can't beat the Yankees, between 2007-2009 Lackey is 2-1 in six starts with a 3.14 ERA against the Yankees. They hit at a .255 clip off of Lackey over those games, which is to say they aren't exactly killing the ball. So Lackey is a little better against New York as of late, better than the stats would lead you to believe.

So Theo came through, deciding to go with pitching and defense as opposed to crafting a slugfest lineup. Which isn't a bad plan; the truth is that since Yankee Stadium is practically a Pitch 'Em Cage right now, trying to outslug the Yankees is not practical or even smart. Good defense is good everywhere; mashing bats can die in certain stadiums and against certain pitchers.

That said, the Sox still need one more piece. And I am praying it is Adrian Gonzalez.

Yes, the Padres don't need to deal him. And yes, he will cost a load. But he would put the Sox over the top and even the playing field with the Yanks without sacrificing defense. The one caveat to trying to deal for Gonzalez is that the Sox should not add Ellsbury as part of any deal. That is subtracting strength from one area to add in another and wouldn't improve the team overall. If I was Theo, I'd make an offer like this: Buchholz, Hermida, Lars Anderson, Ryan Westmoreland and either Ryan Kalish or Josh Reddick. The final four players are Boston's 2nd-5th best prospects. That's just an idea; I would wager there are other players and other variations that could work. Yes, it would be costly. But for a player like Gonzalez, you make that kind of deal.

With Gonzalez at first, the Sox would have a deadly lineup. Your top five would be Ellsbury, Pedroia and then a mix of Gonzalez, V-Mart and Youk. That matches any lineup in the game, including New York's. The single biggest obstacle to this is the simple fact that San Diego doesn't have to deal Gonzalez at this point. But the Sox have the parts to craft a deal if they are willing to move the prospects.

Even if that doesn't happen, Theo has made some solid moves this off-season and put the Sox right back in the hunt. And he did so while weakening the team that knocked Boston out of the post-season in 2009. You have to like a two-fer like that.


* Yes, okay? Even I have to admit Jeter had a great 2009 at the age of 35. Damn it....

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