Champions on Display MLB

Monday, November 25, 2013

McCann deal should remind Sox to keep clear of Kemp

I would have had this up earlier, but I was too busy laughing about the 5-year, $85M deal the Yankees gave Brian McCann. This would be the same Brian McCann who has an average WAR of 1.9 over the last three years. To compare, Saltalamacchia's average WAR over the last three years is 1.8. Would you pay Salty $17M a year? Me neither.

But this deal is instructive for Boston. Because it points out the danger in paying for past performance. From 2006-2010, McCann was one of the better catchers in baseball. Averaged a 3.5 WAR, had an OPS of .856 and was decent on defense.

From 2011-13, McCann has the aforementioned average of 1.9 WAR, an OPS of .770 and is still just decent on defense. The Yankees are paying for 2006-10 McCann, a player that no longer exists.

And that brings us to Boston and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp. With Jacoby Ellsbury still likely to go, the Sox have to fill in a gap in the outfield. I think the best plan is to bring Jackie Bradley, Jr. into center field. He has a better glove than Ellsbury but a weaker bat. Slot him in at the 9-spot in the batting order and see if he can make the position his own.

But Ben Cherington is going to do his due diligence and that means looking at potential people to bring in. And Kemp is one of those guys. He is owed $126M over the next six years. And with a surfeit of outfielders (and a bloated payroll), the Dodgers would likely be willing to move him.

The problem here is two-fold. First is that the Sox would have to likely give up at least one top talent in their farm system. Which would be ridiculous. So let's take that out of the equation and pretend this is a straight free-agent signing with the existing money as the deal. So the second problem is this: Is Matt Kemp really worth six years and $126M at this point in his career?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Fleecing In The Bronx

P.T. Barnum once said "There's a sucker born every minute."

On Saturday, Brian McCann found his sucker in the Bronx.

The New York Yankees signed McCann, the former Atlanta Braves catcher who will be 30 by Opening Day, to a five-year, $85 million contract with a vesting option that would push the deal to $100 million, a full no-trade clause, and the keys to the corporate jet.

This is a bad contract for the Yankees and during Year 3 of the deal they will come to realize exactly why.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Enough Already, A-Rod!

I am no fan of Alex Rodriguez. I never have been and I never will be. He's arrogant, self-centered, oblivious and phony.

That said, I've tried to be fair with him. Afterall, most things and people are rarely all good or all bad. Truth is rarely black or white. So when A-Rod deserved praise, I didn't hesitate.

A-Rod, however, was way out of line on Wednesday when he stormed out of an arbitration hearing after arbitrator Frederic Horowitz ruled that commissioner Bud Selig did not have to testify. Rodriguez described the process as disgusting. He behaved like a spoiled, petulant brat and did nothing to help his cause. And I find it highly unlikely that releasing the hearing's evidence, as A-Rod's attorneys said on Thursday they would do, will help help the third baseman's cause.

Simply put, it's time for Rodriguez to put an end to this circus. Enough already.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Getting ready for the Rule V Draft

If there is one thing that has always baffled me in baseball (besides the complete inability of the Tampa Bay area to properly support their baseball team), it's the Rule V draft. So I did something radical this year - I actually took the time to read up on it.

To go over it quickly, the Rule V draft is in place to keep teams from hoarding young talent that may be able to play elsewhere in the majors. So each November every team assembles a 40-man roster. This roster serves two purposes. Anyone on the roster can be called up to the major-league squad at any time during the season. It also allows the team to protect as many Rule V-eligible players as there are slots on the 40-man roster.

So what makes a player eligible in the Rule V draft, which will be held in December? It's actually pretty simple:
  • The player is not currently on their team's 40-man roster
  • They were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or
  • they were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.
If Team A takes a Rule V player from Team B, A pays B $50,000. Team A must also keep the player on their 25-man roster for the full season. If they do not, they must offer to sell back the player to Team B for $25,000. There are similar processes in place for players going from AA to AAA and from A to AA.

That's about it. And while you don't see All-Stars usually develop from Rule V selections, it can happen. The most famous player is the legendary Roberto Clemente, who was taken from the Dodgers by the Pirates in 1954. The next biggest names would be Johan Santana (from the Astros to the Twins in 1999) and current Sox outfielder Shane Victorino (from the Dodgers to the Phillies in 2004)*.

So where does Boston stand as the 2013 Rule V draft approaches? According to ESPN Boston, here are the Sox prospects eligible to go into the draft:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'What The Hell Did You Trade Jay Buhner For?'

After watching the Red Sox capture a well-earned World Series championship, I knew it was going to be long, tough winter. While I congratulate Red Sox Nation on winning their third title in 10 years, there isn't much worse than having to listen to the likes of Dave crow about it.

Seriously, I'd rather shovel out from under another 36-inch snowfall like we had in February. It took a couple of days of shoveling and three more days of heating pads to loosen up my back, but that's still better than listening to Red Sox fans.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Okay Sox fans...let's take a step back

Two things usually happen once a team wins a championship.

First, there is celebration. This is to be expected. Especially when a team over-performs the way the Red Sox did to win the World Series in 2013.

Secondly, there is expectation. The looking forward to the new season. Expectation of the successes and new faces that may be seen in Fenway in 2014.

The first one is harmless and enjoyable. The second is perilous and even deadly to a franchise.

One thing needs to be remembered. Needs to be acknowledged. Needs to said over and over again:

Teams normally do not win titles year after year after year. Especially when they over-performed to do it in the first place.

Chris Carlson/AP

The last team to win back-to-back World Series titles? The Yankees did a three-peat from 1998-2000, a run tainted by the steroid scandal. Before that? Toronto in 1992-93. And they haven't been the same since. In the modern era, where a name player commands an excessive amount of money (in free agency) or too much young talent (in trade), pursuing even middle-tier names in a quest to win year after year after year will only put your team in a deep, deep hole. Which is why Anaheim will pay Albert Pujols $23M next year and will still be paying him six years later at the age of 40 while winning nothing. Which is why the Yankees finished in fourth place and have a fading farm system and expensive aging veterans. Which is why the Dodgers are on the hook for $197.8M in 2014 with a team that was lucky to win the NLDS.

The goal of any team, in my opinion, shouldn't be to win the title every year. That isn't rational. It should be to be competitive every year so that you are in position to win a title if players catch fire and/or you get a few breaks along the way. And that means building a team that is flexible in players and in spending. It means building your farm system and not trading away the best youngsters to pursue a "name" player that may not even pay off.

And that brings us to the off-season and Boston.

I wrote already about the possibility of Tim Hudson coming to Boston and the dangers with that idea. There is buzz about the Sox passing on trying to re-sign Salty and instead shelling out $10M per year for Carlos Ruiz. Because who doesn't want to spend $10M a year on a 35-year-old catcher who served a suspension for amphetamine use?

But the latest one that really bugs me is the rumor highlighted by Chad Finn at about Angels OF/1B/3B Mark Trumbo.

As you can probably tell, it drives me nuts when someone on my radio or in my inbox suggests the Sox should pursue Giancarlo Stanton or Trumbo, which is like saying you'll pay the same amount for a classic Corvette or your weird aunt's '82 Chevette.

I mean, I heard one radio host say this week that the Red Sox should offer the Angels Middlebrooks and lefthander Felix Doubront for Trumbo. Said it seriously, too, completely unaware that Middlebrooks straight up for Trumbo would essentially be a wash without including the cost-effective 26-year-old lefthander who strikes out a batter per inning and just played an enormous if unheralded role in helping win the World Series.

Read the whole thing. Finn points out that Trumbo's numbers are not that much better than Will Middlebrooks, and that he is three years older and costs a hell of a lot more. Which are very important things to keep in mind.

But it is the last part of that blockqoute that really irks me. The idea that Doubront should be added in.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Five Best First Basemen In Red Sox History

There shouldn't be too many surprises here, except for the fact that George Scott didn't make the list (his salad years were with the Brewers, not Boston). The years listed are the years they played the position, not their total time in Boston.

5. Pete Runnels (1961-62): Runnels played five years in all with the Sox (1958-62) but spent the first three years at second base. When he moved to first, he continued his high level of play. In 1961 he batted .317 with an .810 OPS. In 1962 he made the All-Star team and was top 20 in the MVP voting. He batted .326 (leading the AL) with an .864 OPS and scored 80 runs while knocking in 60. After that season, Runnels was traded to the Houston Colt .45s*, spent a season-plus there and was released in early 1964. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 63 and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004.

4. Kevin Youkilis (2006-2010): Of all the Sox players I have watched, Youk is the only one I saw at every level of his development in the Boston organization (Lowell, Portland, The Bucket, Boston). And while you always knew he'd make the majors, I had no idea he would have been as good as he was, for as long as he was.

From 2006-10, Youk committed just 13 errors at first base. He held the all-time MLB record for most consecutive games at first without an error until Casey Kotchman broke it in 2010**. He won the Gold Glove for 1B in 2007 and went to the All-Star game twice at the position. His bat caught up to his glove in 2008 with a breakout year; 29 homers, 115 RBI, a .312 batting average and a .959 OPS, making him a contender for AL MVP*** and was in the top 10 for MVP voting in 2009. Over his seven years as the primary first baseman for Boston his average WAR (wins above replacement) was 4.25. For a three year period (2008-10) it was 6.1. At his peak he was one of the all-time best.

3. Mo Vaughan (1991-98): If you came of age in the 90s and were a Sox fan, the one constant on the team was Mo Vaughan. Between his debut in 1991 and his last year in Boston in 1998, the entire roster changed over except for Vaughan. The reason for that was simple; the guy could play.

Vaughan won the AL MVP award in 1995 and was Top 25 in voting six consecutive years (1993-98). Vaughan was a three time All-Star (1995-96, 98) and won the Silver Slugger award for 1B in 1995. From 1993-98 Vaughan never hit below .300, hit 26+ homers each year, averaged 110.5 RBI per season and always had an OPS of .915 or higher. He didn't have the best glove at first but was solid. Most importantly, he was beloved by Sox fans and still is to this day. Partially because of his running feud with Dan Shaughnessy but mostly because of the time he took to interact with fans and perform charity work on a level rarely seen in professional sports.

We all know it didn't go well for Mo after left Boston, but today he is continuing to do good work for the community. He owns OMNI New York LLC, a company that buys and rehabs housing in and around NYC, then turns it into low-cost housing. As great a player as Mo was, he is an even better man****.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tim Hudson in Boston? It makes no sense.

So there is a persistent rumor that the Red Sox are interested in Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson to bolster the pitching rotation.

On it's face, it sounds intriguing. After all, Hudson has won over 200 games in his 15-year career. He has never had a losing season as a pitcher (the closest he ever got was going 13-12 in 2006). He has averaged 188 innings per season. His career ERA+ is 124 and he has averaged 3.7 WAR per season. Those are impressive numbers.

But go back to those last three words in the second sentence: "15-year career".

Tim Hudson is 37 years old. And the pitcher he is now isn't the same pitcher he used to be.

Here are three stat lines from last year:

Pitcher A: 8-7 | 3.97 ERA | 21 GS | 131.1 IP | ERA+ 97 | 1.188 WHIP | 95 K | 36 W | 1.0 WAR

Pitcher B: 11-6 | 4.32 ERA | 27 GS | 162.1 IP | ERA+ 94 | 1.429 WHIP | 139 K | 71 W | 0.9 WAR

Pitcher C: 8-9 | 4.57 ERA | 29 GS | 171.1 IP | ERA+ 89 | 1.453 WHIP | 157 K | 79 W | -0.2 WAR

A is Tim Hudson. B is Felix Doubront. C is Ryan Dempster. I included those two pitchers for a reason. That simply being that if Hudson were to come to Boston, he'd replace one of these two guys. Because the Lester/Lackey/Buchholz triumvirate is going nowhere and Peavy was good enough to keep under contract for another year.

Signing Hudson to replace Doubront makes absolutely no sense. While Hudson does have a better ERA and WHIP, they are roughly the same pitcher at this point in their respective careers. Except Doubront is trending up and Hudson is moving down. Doubront is also under Boston's control until 2018. And that matters. A lot.

What also matters is money. Doubront isn't arbitration-eligible until 2015. He made a little over $500K last year. Tim Hudson is a free-agent who made $9M last year. He'd likely command a similar number in 2014. That money could be used by the Sox to extend other players or bring in a mid-tier free agent to solidify another position.

Replacing Doubront (25 years old) with Hudson (37) would be a huge mistake. It would be signing a player because of his name, a Carl Crawford kind of signing. His performance last year and the money he would want relative to Doubront should make that obvious.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Five Best Designated Hitters in Red Sox History

In honor of David Ortiz's Silver Slugger award and the all-around awesomeness of the 2013 season, let's take a look at the five best DHs ever for the Sox.

5. Reggie Jefferson (1997-99): Reggie wasn't a great DH, but he was solid. He hit over .300 in 1997-98 and averaged a .827 OPS over the three-year span. He also hit 26 homers and drove in 115 runs during that time.

4. Cecil Cooper (1974-76): It still chafes me that we traded away Cooper right before he became a perennial All-Star for the Brewers. You don't think his bat would've come in handy in 1978? In his three years as DH, he improved each year in home runs and RBIs. His three-year OPS is lower than Jefferson's (.794) but Cooper played a lot more games. All told, Cooper had 37 homers and 165 RBIs over that period. Then he was traded to the Brewers.

3. Mike Easler (1984-85) and Don Baylor (1986-87): I honestly couldn't pick one over the other. Their numbers are very similar. Easler had a combined 43 homers and 165 RBIs in his two-year stint; Baylor had 47 homers and 151 RBIs. Don Baylor averaged a .771 OPS over his two-year period; Easler's was .814. But Baylor's numbers were steady across the two years while Easler had a great year in 1984 but dropped off severely in 1985. If you absolutely had to pick one for the spot, you may have to go with Easler. But they're close enough I thought both deserved a mention.

2. Carl Yastrzemski (1979-83): If you go position by position, Yaz could be named in Top 5 at three of them; first base, left field and DH. The DH was where Yaz finished his career and it's the one I associate most with him (I saw my first Sox game in '78 at the age of six). Even though he continue to play first and left to some extent during the first couple of years, he finished it as a pure DH.

During those five years Yaz went to the All-Star game three times. He totaled a combined 69 home runs and 318 RBIs. That means he averaged almost 14 homers and 64 RBIs a year, all between the ages of 39 and 43. Without any drugs, mind you. His average OPS over that span was .766, not the greatest...but he was in his forties! There are kids in their 20s playing now that couldn't do what Yaz did at 41. And there's the whole Hall of Fame recognition that adds to the luster.

1. David Ortiz (2003-Whenever He Wants): But Big Papi is still the best DH this team has ever had. This past year, at age 37, he totaled 30 homers, 103 RBI and an OPS of .959. During his 11-year (and counting) stint, Papi has amassed (to date) 373 homers and 1191 RBI. His average OPS is .962 and his average OPS+ is 148. He's won four Silver Slugger awards in a row (2004-07) and six overall. He is a nine-time All-Star. He was in the top 5 for MVP voting five straight years (2003-07) and just won the World Series MVP award. Just a dominant force at the plate when he bats. A home-run threat no matter the situation. Without a doubt one of the most "clutch"* hitters the Sox have ever had.


* And yes, I know there is a seemingly-eternal argument about whether "clutch" even exists and, if it does, would Ortiz even qualify. But as far as timely, big hits that change the course of the post-season go, you cannot deny that Ortiz has hit more than a couple.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is Jacoby Ellsbury worth a $140M Contract?

I ask that question somewhat facetiously because, in my opinion, no one is worth that kind of money. But GMs being who they are, that kind of money routinely gets paid out. Regardless of whether it makes any kind of sense.

No, the real question is "Should the Red Sox give Jacoby Ellsbury a $140M contract?" Because at the end of the day, some team will give Ellsbury a contract similar to what the Red Sox gave Carl Crawford not too long ago. A seven-year, $140M+ anchor disguised as a contract. And you should be able to tell from that last statement where I land on this issue.

There are two players named Jacoby Ellsbury. The first Jacoby Ellsbury is this guy:
  • Year One: 153 Games | .770 OPS | 188 Hits | 94 Runs Scored | 60 RBI | 70 SB | .994 Fielding Percentage | 357 Putouts
  • Year Two: 153 Games | .928 OPS | 212 Hits | 119 Runs Scored | 105 RBI | 39 SB | 1.000 Fielding Percentage | 388 Putouts
  • Year Three: 153 Games | .781 OPS | 172 Hits | 92 Runs Scored | 53 RBI | 52 SB | .992 Fielding Percentage | 347 Putouts
The other Jacoby Ellsbury is this guy:
  • Year One: 18 Games | .485 OPS | 15 Hits | 10 Runs Scored | 5 RBI | 7 SB | 1.000 Fielding Percentage | 44 Putouts
  • Year Two: 74 Games | .682 OPS | 82 Hits | 43 Runs Scored | 26 RBI | 14 SB | .982 Fielding Percentage | 164 Putouts
The first Jacoby Ellsbury is an All-Star caliber center fielder. A gold-glove talent. The guy who would've won the 2011 MVP if Justin Verlander didn't have an insane season.

AP Photo

The second Jacoby Ellsbury is made of glass. He is a fragile player who is out of commission for large parts of a season. You cannot rely on him to even play half a season.

The inherent problem, obviously, is that you cannot sign the first Jacoby Ellsbury on his own. They are a package deal. And that makes the idea of giving him a long-term, big-money deal very problematic.

The Sox just got out from under $270M worth of bad contracts last year. To immediately tie up over 50% of that number in another long-term deal would only make sense if the player in question was a top-level player year-in and year-out. You look at someone like Miguel Cabrera. Going back to 2010, he will earn $126M over six years. But he has also averaged 155 games played per season since 2010 and has arguably been the best position player in the major leagues. You could make a rational argument (in the world of baseball and baseball salaries) to pay a player like that $20M a year.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Boston Goes From Chicken Wings to Title Rings

Basking in the wake of an improbable championship, it is easy to admit the obvious: No Red Sox fan thought they would win another title this year. I sure as heck didn't. Sure, a fan here and there may have taken a flier on a straight bet in Vegas, but no one really believed the Sox would win their eighth championship.

Getty Images

After an epic collapse in 2011 and the disastrous one-year reign of Bobby Valentine, 2013 was viewed by many as a rebuilding year in Boston. By shipping off the over-sized contracts of Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford to L.A. and bringing in "chemistry" guys like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, the expectation was for Boston to regain some level of respectability. Finish the season better than 81-81. Maybe, if everything broke right, they could sneak a wild card spot.

But this? This amazing, epic, incredible run? A season that has echoes of both 1967 and 1986 surrounding it? This was a season for the ages, perhaps even more impossible than the vaunted 1967 season. It shouldn't have happened...and yet it did.

It happened thanks to equal parts of good decision-making and good timing. The Sox laid the groundwork for this season in the debacle that was 2012. Jettisoning Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford to LA was a miracle move by Ben Cherington. No team should have rationally decided to take on $270M worth of contracts. But the new ownership in Dodgertown wanted to make a statement. And they did. That statement also enabled the Sox to clear the decks for 2013.

They took that money and signed up character veterans like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and Jonny Gomes. The emergence of Xander Bogaerts allowed the Sox to use Jose Igelsias as trade bait to take on the salary of Jake Peavy (14.5M in 2014, 15M player option in 2015 if benchmarks are met) in a key mid-season trade.

The Toronto Blue Jays, after two consecutive fourth-place finishes, agreed to let John Farrell return to Boston as their new head coach along with swapping Mike Aviles for David Carpenter. Farrell was known for his touch with the pitching staff in Boston when he worked with Tito. Call it coincidence or direct effect, but Farrell's return meshed with a return to form for Boston pitching.