Let's Talk Red Sox

The Latest News and Views From a Lifelong Sox Fan

Friday, August 13, 2010

What should the Sox do with Papelbon?

Jonathan Papelbon blew his sixth save of the season yesterday against the Toronto Blue Jays. He left far too many pitches up in the strike zone, and he pitched so awfully overall that he could not finish the inning and had to be replaced by Daniel Bard with with out and the bases loaded. While it was Bard who allowed the winning run to score via a sacrifice fly, make no mistake about it: Jonathan Papelbon cost the Red Sox the game, the sweep, momentum heading into a series against a tough Texas Rangers team, and a game in the playoff hunt.

Each rough outing from Papelbon, and there have been many, brings new calls to replace him as closer with Daniel Bard. But is that really the best move for the Red Sox at this point? The problem is not that Bard is not ready, but what to do with Papelbon once he is no longer the closer. Papelbon is at his best when the pressure is greatest, i.e. the ninth inning. His best is clearly not good enough at the moment, but less than his best in the seventh or eighth inning would be even worse. The Red Sox would essentially be exchanging Bard and Papelbon at his best for Bard and Papelbon at less than his best.

Then there is the problem of Papelbon's reaction to such a move. Papelbon is not a player who is shy about speaking his mind to reports and has rightly been criticized for some of his comments in the past. He would not take well to being replaced and could cause problems for the Red Sox both in public and in the clubhouse. The Red Sox are already facing a tough stretch run as they try to earn a playoff spot, and the last thing they need is a distraction of that nature.

So what should the Red Sox do? The answer right now is nothing. They can't make him a setup man, and they can't trade him either. Not only would it be unwise to trade a key piece of their bullpen in the middle of a playoff chase, but he would never clear waivers, which he would need to do before the Red Sox could trade him this late in the season. After the season, however, is a different story. Papelbon has one year of arbitration eligibility left before he becomes a free agent. When he hits the free agent market, the Red Sox will likely let him leave as they will not want to pay top dollar, which is what Papelbon will be seeking, for an increasingly shaky closer. Therefore, Sox GM Theo Epstein would be wise to at least explore trading him in the offseason, but for right now the Red Sox can only cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Injuries, Injuries

You might think broken bones were contagious. The Red Sox currently have 9 players on the DL, 5 of whom have broken bones. While Boston waits for its injured stars to heal, fans find themselves tuning into NESN and seeing the likes of Eric Patterson, Daniel Nava, Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald and Kevin Cash all starting on a fairly regular basis. On paper that bodes ill for the Red Sox' playoff hopes in 2010, but a glance at the standings finds them with the fourth-best record in the majors and still very much in the hunt for both the division title and the wild card. Perhaps even more incredibly, these bruised and battered Red Sox lead the league in runs scored with 453, 14 more than the supposedly superior Yankee offense. Perhaps the 2010 Sox will be alright after all.

Or perhaps they won't. Bear in mind that many of their injuries are fairly recent, meaning the impact of the loss of the regulars may not have hit home yet. That's not a knock on any of the backups. I'm only stating the obvious: the backups are not as good as the starters. They may be playing well at the moment (Patterson had 2 HRs last night), but over the course of the six-ish weeks until the stars return, they will be exposed. None of them are fit be everyday players, in large part because they do not have the ability to make adjustments at the plate as opposing pitchers adjust to them. Just ask Nick Green. What does that mean for this year's Red Sox? It means that the Red Sox have to hope that opposing teams take a while to adjust, or the Sox' offense will suffer. In that event, without a corresponding step-up from the pitching staff, the Red Sox may find themselves significantly behind several very good teams in playoff hunt when the regulars return from the DL. (That means not blowing 5-1 leads against division rivals, Mr. Matsuzaka.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Red Sox 6, Orioles 5

Starting tonight, the Red Sox will play 15 of their next 19 games on the road, 13 of them (7 away, 4 home) against playoff contenders, a stretch that will go a long way towards determining their fate in 2009. Tonight, they started that stretch off on the right foot, beating Baltimore 6-5 despite another poor performance from John Smoltz. Smoltz gave up 5 runs in 6 innings of work, bringing his ERA to 7.12. Despite that, he got the win to improve to 2-4. Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Jacoby Ellsbury homered for the Sox who picked up a game on the Yankees who lost 10-5 to the White Sox.

Next Game: Saturday, 7:05 @ Baltimore

Sox Acquire Victor Martinez, Casey Kotchman

The Red Sox made a major move on trade deadline day by acquiring Cleveland Indians C/1B/DH Victor Martinez for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Price. Martinez is one of the league's best hitting catchers, so he should play nearly every day, giving the Red Sox the big offensive boost they craved. Expect Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek to get their playing time, with Youkilis playing third when Lowell sits. David Ortiz could also see his playing time cut a bit, especially against lefties (Martinez is a switch hitter). Masterson is a quality pitcher, but considering the Indians long desired Clay Buchholz, this was a steal, as Boston was able to keep both Buchholz and Daniel Bard. Hagadone and Price are both in the low minors. Of the two, Hagadone has the most promise, although the lefty is still recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Once the Sox landed Martinez, it seemed that they no longer needed Adam LaRoche. So, it was no surprise when they dealt him to the Atlanta Braves. What was a surprise is that they received Braves 1B Casey Kotchman in return, creating an even bigger logjam for the Red Sox. The 26 year old Kotchman is hitting .282 with 6 HR so far this season. He lacks LaRoche's power, but he is very good defensively. He started for Atlanta, but he'll be a left-handed pinch hitter and defensive replacement for Boston. This trade has many Red Sox fans baffled, but it makes more sense once you think about it. Boston could afford to sacrifice LaRoche's power once they had Victor Martinez. Also, Kotchman has a very affordable contract that runs through 2011, while LaRoche will be a free agent at the end of this season.

Friday, July 31, 2009

UPDATE: Sox, Padres Discussing Adrian Gonzalez

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo is reporting that the the Red Sox and Padres were discussing a possible trade for Adrian Gonzalez late into the night, talks which will continue tomorrow. Cafardo says that the names Clay Buchholz, Lars Anderson, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Ryan Westmoreland were discussed. Gonzalez would provide the Red Sox with a very big bat in the middle of the lineup, but the Padres are asking for quite a lot. They have said all along that any team looking to land Gonzalez would have to overpay considerably. That probably means 3 or 4 of the names from that list, one of which almost certainly would be Clay Buchholz. Still, trading prospects for a young, talented slugger like Gonzalez makes more sense than trading them for Roy Halladay, considering the pitching depth and lack of offense the Red Sox have in their organization. If the Sox do aquire him, Adam LaRoche would likely be the odd man out because Gonzalez is a first baseman. There would still be a logjam between Gonzalez, Youkilis, Lowell, and Ortiz for three spots (1B, 3B, DH). Look for Gonzalez and Youkilis to get the most playing time from that bunch. LaRoche would likely be traded, probably in a separate deal.
Chance the Sox aquire Gonzalez: 40%

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ortiz, Manny Tested Positive in 2003

Slugger. Clutch Hitter. Yankee killer. Role model. Fan favorite. All-Star. Two-time World Series Champion. And now cheater. The New York Times reported today that Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was on the list of 104 major leaguers who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. Manny Ramirez was named as well, but that comes as much less of a surprise. Ortiz, though, is different. He led us to believe that he was unique. He was not like Bonds, Clemens, Giambi, or A-Rod. He denounced those who took steroids and gave us so many dramatic moments and come-from-behind wins that it seemed almost magical because it was genuine, not tainted. Time after time, when the Red Sox had their backs to the wall and desperately needed a hit, Ortiz gave us hope. Here was someone we could always count on, someone we could believe in. All that is gone now. David Ortiz has irreparably tarnished his legacy as well as the cherished memories of millions of fans, young and old. And for Red Sox fans, that is what hurts the most.

Trade Rumor Updates

Roy Halladay - The frontrunners to land Halladay were the Phillies, but they just dealt for Cliff Lee, so they are now out of the picture. Reports continue to swirl that Boston has offered Clay Buchholz as part of a package of prospects, but trade talks between the Sox and Jays do not seem to have much momentum. The Yankees are still unnervingly quiet and there are whispers that they are in on Halladay. Most insiders seem to agree that Toronto would require both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in any deal, a price New York would not likely be willing to pay. Tom Verducci is now reporting that Toronto may not trade Halladay at all, a scenario which would leave Blue Jays' GM J.P. Riccardi looking rather inept.
Chance Sox will deal for Halladay: 7%

Cliff Lee - Lee was dealt to Philadelphia, ending any pursuit by Boston.
Chance Sox will deal for Lee: 0%

Victor Martinez - By trading Lee, Cleveland has entered another rebuilding period, so hanging onto Martinez would make little sense when they could swap him for pieces that could help them contend in 2010 or 2011. Look for Cleveland to deal him by Friday's deadline. Tom Verducci thinks the Red Sox are the "most aggressive" team pursuing a deal. The Rays are rumored to be involved as well, but as they continue to slide further out of the playoff picture their interest should wane. Cleveland wants a top pitching prospect, which would mean Clay Buchholz, a price the Red Sox almost certainly will not meet. Unless interest in Martinez spikes soon, Cleveland may be forced to lower its asking price, making a deal more likely.
Chance Sox will deal for Martinez - 40%

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sox Lose to A's Again 8-6, Fall 3.5 Back

Blame Brad Penny for this one. He allowed 7 runs in 5+ innings of work and took the loss. The very first pitch he threw was tagged for a homer. He threw 37 pitches in the first inning alone, giving up 5 runs. He almost escaped with 2, as he had Rajai Davis down in the count 1-2 with 2 outs and the bases loaded. Davis then doubled off the wall, clearing the bases. That ended up making all the difference in the world, as Mike Lowell (2 for 3, 5 RBI) hit a 3 run homer in the bottom of the inning which could have put them on ton 3-2. Instead the Sox had to play from behind all night. Down 3 in the bottom of the ninth, Boston plated one run thanks to an RBI single by Mike Lowell, but neither Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, nor J.D. Drew could deliver a big hit as the Sox lost 8-6.

Next Game: Thursday, 1:35 vs. Oakland

Trades, Anyone?

It's no secret that Theo Epstein would love to add another bat before Friday's 4:00pm trading deadline, but will he be able to find one without overpaying? A month ago it appeared that the Red Sox had too many starting pitchers. Now injury has claimed two of them, leaving the back end of the Red Sox rotation in the hands of a struggling 42 year old and a talented but unproven youngster. It appears unlikely that Boston will be able to deal Brad Penny as many expected. Some are even clamoring for the Sox to add a big name starter. The bullpen has been very good this year (aside from a few rough spells), so good in fact that the Red Sox many be able to deal away a reliever. So what could happen between now and 4:00pm on Friday? Let's look at a few options.

Roy Halladay, SP Toronto Blue Jays - Halladay is on of the best starters in baseball, but the price tag here is enormous and it will be even larger for Boston because Toronto would understandably be reluctant to trade Halladay within the division. Still, Toronto GM J.P. Riccardi has to deal him by Friday or watch his value plummet. As for Boston, they have a lot of starting pitching depth within their division, but the feeling here is that they will be reluctant to deal away their long term depth for a short term (year and a half) upgrade.
Gordon Edes reported earlier that Boston had offered Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Single-A outfield prospect Ryan Westmoreland for Halladay, but that report was proven false. He is now reporting that the offer is Buchholz, the Blue Jays choice of Bowden, Justin Masterson, or Double-A first baseman Lars Anderson, along with lesser prospects. Considering that the earlier similar report was false, Edes was the only one breaking the story, the Red Sox' reluctance to trade Buchholz, and Anderson being one of a precious few power hitters in the Sox system (and is being dealt away for a pitcher), I don't believe this report either.
If the Red Sox get wind that the Yankees are in on Halladay, they may try in increase the price the Yankees must pay by including Buchholz in a deal as a bluff. Don't expect them to pull the trigger though. Theo Epstein is not in the business of selling the farm to play defense against the Yankees.
Chances this will happen: 5%

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B San Diego Padres - Gonzalez is one of the top young sluggers in baseball. He has put up excellent numbers despite playing in the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the league and hitting in a lineup that offers him no support or protection. This guy would absolutely rake at Fenway for the Sox. Still, San Diego is extremly reluctant to part with him for many reasons, so his cost would be a least that of Halladay. Since Boston has depth in pitching but no hitting, it would make more sense to trade top prospects for someone like Gonzalez than it would be to trade for Halladay, but trade talks have not moved very far at all and it appears very unlikely that Gonzalez will be dealt.
Chances this will happen: 2%

Victor Martinez, C/1B Cleveland Indians - Martinez would solve the Red Sox' catching problem for a few years and back up Lowell, Youkilis, and Ortiz in the same way that Adam LaRoche does now, all while providing the middle-of-the-order bat the Red Sox need. The two sides have traded names, but for the moment Cleveland will not part with him unless they receive Clay Buchholz in return, something Boston has been reluctant to do. Cleveland's asking price may drop as the deadline approaches, especially if they are unable to deal Cliff Lee for players that will allow them to contend next year.
Chances this will happen: 20%

Cliff Lee, SP Cleveland Indians - This would be a very similar situation to the Roy Halladay one. The Red Sox, though, like Halladay better, making a deal for Lee less likely.
Chances this will happen: 3%

Boston Bullpen - Boston's bullpen depth might allow Epstein to trade a reliever in a deal of some sort. Trading away quality bullpen arms rarely works out well for contending teams. On the other hand, freeing up a bullpen spot would give the Sox a place to put John Smoltz or Clay Buchholz when Tim Wakefield returns.
Chances this will happen: 25%

OVERVIEW: A big name player is likely not his way to Boston by Friday. Theo Epstein had traded stars, but he usually trades them away (Nomar, Manny). He also has never traded away his top prospects. (The Beckett/Lowell for Hanley Ramirez deal happened during the brief spell when Theo was not the GM.) Don't expect him to start this week. There are no big stars that need trading away this year, so look for Theo to make smaller moves, possibly for a bat. Expect deals on the scale of the Adam LaRoche trade.

Dice-K Blasts Sox' Pitching Program

Daisuke Matsuzaka, speaking to the Japanese media, was recently very critical of the Red Sox' pitching program. He claimed that his success of the past two years was in spite of the program, which he blamed for his struggles this year. Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell both said the public criticism (backstabbing?) by their own player was "disappointing." Farrell claimed the Dice-K's personalized program was developed jointly and conducted openly at all times. He thought Dice-K and the team were on the same page. Many have blamed the World Baseball Classic for Dice-K's struggles, but Farrell seemed to place more emphasis on the fact that Dice-K reported to spring training in horrible shape, meaning his struggles are largely his own fault. Dice-K does look rather chubby, so Farrell's claim is not so hard to believe. Still, Dice-K is frustrated with his performance so far this season, so his comments may have been an attempt to deflect criticism away from himself and onto the Red Sox.