Epstein’s To Do List for this off-season:
- Deepen Rotation – DONE
- Increase Outfield Defense – DONE
- Improve Bullpen – Incomplete
- Increase Infield Defense – Incomplete? Maybe Not
Okay, so he solved the first issue on the list with John Lackey. The second
issue on the list was rectified with Mike Cameron, effectively replacing Jason
Bay’s defensive prowess, and then some. The third point may not have a
solution. After losing Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, it’s hard to
imagine a bullpen as strong as it was late in 2009. But, Epstein went after low risk
players like Boof Bonser, and by extending the rotation, perhaps one of the
6 starters could find time in the bullpen. As for the final issue on Epstein’s mind, he
solved half the problem with the signing of Marco Scutaro. Now, just as we
were thinking that maybe we had to hope for Mike Lowell‘s health, it appears
that perhaps our infield picture is coming into focus, as reports are stating that the
Sox are close to bringing Adrian Beltre to town on a one year contract worth
about $9-10MM with a possible option for 2011.
I like this deal. It means we don’t have to rely on Lowell, but we keep a strong
defense and strong bat that Lowell used to provide. We keep a strong defense at
third without losing any power. Furthermore, Beltre comes relatively cheap, and with
just a one year contract, could open the door for Adrian Gonzalez when the
Padres become a little more desperate to trade him (say, next off-season, perhaps?)
Now we just need to figure out the bullpen.
The Yankees are reportedly close to trading Melky Cabrera among others for
Javier Vazquez, from the Braves. Who’s the winner in this deal? Quite possibly the
Red Sox. While Vazquez is a healthy pitcher, and makes a decent #4 in the Yankee
rotation, I can’t help but think that Melky was a better asset for them, not only for
right now, but also the long run.
Vazquez is seasonally a 10-15 game winner who gives up a decent amount of runs,
but is someone who tends to always stay healthy, and eats up innings like a
homeless guy invited to Christmas dinner. But who will the Yankees throw into the
outfield this season? They have Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Granderson
is arguably one of the best center fielders in the game, but Swisher is ranked as average and for some crazy reason is the only Yankee that can’t hit it out of the right field vortex, although defensively he can play anywhere in the outfield, or at first base. Who mans
left field? Does this now mean that they’ll go after Damon if he’s willing to take a pay
decrease? Maybe they give Brett Gardner a chance, or they resign Xavier Nady?
Regardless, I can’t help but think Melky was the best option they had in the outfield
for this coming year, and as a spearhead of the team for the future. Not to mention,
he is/was a fan favorite at Yankee Stadium.
So what does this mean for the Red Sox? With the Yankees bolstering their rotation
further, it gives them a chance to turn Chamberlain or Hughes into a set-up man /
future closer. Getting someone like Vazquez gives them some more flexibility with
their rotation. When the Red Sox signed Cameron and Lackey, they increased their
defensive ability and improved their pitching staff to the point that it was potentially
better than the Yankees. Now, they could be considered equal, meaning the
Yankees have the upper hand with a strong offense. With Jason Bay now with
seemingly no market value, does Epstein put an offer of $60MM / 4 Years back on
the table? It’s obvious Bay is waiting for something from the Sox or another team,
because he clearly doesn’t want to play in Citi Field. And if Epstein was to resign
Bay, it gives him the flexibility to deal Ellsbury to the Padres. As much as I’d hate to
see Ellsbury go, if it means the added power of Bay and Gonzalez, I think I’d
get over it rather quickly. Maybe Vazquez going to the Yanks will push Theo to go
get both Bay and Adrian Gonzalez.
The suspense is killing me …
Everyone’s been chatting about the possibility of Adrian Gonzalez playing
clean-up for the Red Sox in 2010 and for years to come. Theo Epstein has made it
clear over the last three years that he’s been a fan of Gonzalez’s skills, and has
highly envied San Diego for being the owners of his contract. However, is a trade for
Gonzalez really worth it? Does Boston really need him in the lineup? Let’s find
First, the statistics:
Career: 654 G, 5740.2 Inn, 5985 Ch, 5419 PO, 533 A, 33 E, 516 DP, .994
Fld%, 2008/2009 Gold Glove
He broke into the majors in 2004 with the Texas Rangers. Traded to San Diego
before 2006, he’s been there ever since. In the last four years he has developed
into one of the best defensive first basemen in the National League, as proven by his
back to back gold gloves.
Signing Adrian Gonzalez would require moving Kevin Youkilis to third base. A Gold
Glove winner in his own right, there’s never been a doubt that Youk can handle the
third base responsibilities. In his career, Kevin has played 474 games at first base
with a .997 Fld% and 217 games at third base with a .966 Fld%, so moving to third is
hardly an issue.
Moving him to third would also resolve the worries of Mike Lowell potentially getting
injured again as the season drags on. In the event of a Lowell injury and no
Gonzalez deal, Youkilis would have to move to third and Martinez or Kotchman would
have to fill the duties at first, provided Epstein doesn’t promote a young gun like Lars
Anderson from within. While a situation like that could solve a temporary problem, a
hole becomes apparent in your defense, somewhere in the infield corners.
At the Plate:
Average Season (over the last 4 years): 160 G, 596 AB, 94 R, 170 H, 36 2B,
2 3B, 33 HR, 100 RBI, 78 BB, 126 K, .286 AVG, .369 OBP
Quickly looking at those stats, the first thing you notice is that he plays almost every
game each year. Being that durable is a huge asset on any team, especially when
you’re relying on his offensive numbers. Not only is he a 100 RBI man, but he scores
just as much as he produces. He also as an average of over 30 HR’s every year
since he’s joined the Padres.He hits for a decent average, and is perennially a force
at the plate. Keeping in mind that all this happens in a park that is widely considered
as the most pitcher-friendly park in the game, and you can only begin to imagine the
kind of numbers he could put up in a place like Fenway (even with it being less of a
hitter-friendly park thanks to the new grandstand).
The only real concern is whether or not he could hit every day against the powerful
pitchers in the American such as Halladay, Sabathia, Burnett, Hernandez, Lackey,
etc (not that I’m degrading the phenomenal pitchers in the National League,
specifically Lincecum and Webb who he faces numerous times every season).
Fortunately, he hasn’t seemed to slow down during inter-league play, and he hit
relatively well in the few games he played in the American League whilst with Texas,
so you assume it isn’t an issue.
Given a chance, one would assume that Adrian would only improve his offensive
numbers in the American League, provided he can handle the quality pitching of the
Yankees and Rays.
In the Clubhouse:
Awards: 2008/2009 Gold Glove, 2008/2009 All-Star Selection
To make a long story short, Adrian is a player that can become the face of an entire
team. This is exactly what he has done in San Diego, and this is exactly what he is
capable of doing in a star-studded clubhouse at Fenway Park. In a team full of
All-Stars capable of hitting .300 and 20+ HR, he’s a man who would be the team’s
clean-up hitter. He’s a viable spark to the offense, he can defend better than most,
and he’s a great general personality, as reported by his teammates. What more
could you want?
What’s It Going to Cost?
Okay, so it’s clear why Epstein is so smitten. But is he worth the cost that it’s going
to take to get him in a Sox uniform?
Jed Hoyer was once Epstein’s assistant in Boston, so there’s no doubt he
knows the prospects Epstein has at his disposal, and also what he is or is not willing
to give up. Anything related to this potential trade has been kept relatively silent, but
names such as Buchholz, Kelly, Papelbon, and others have been mentioned by
varying sources – some relatively credible, some … not so much. The reality here is
that Hoyer is happy with Gonzalez’s performance in San Diego and does not want to
deal him. As such, it will take a decent amount of good prospects to entice Hoyer to
consider the idea seriously. The Padres are looking for young talent as
opposed to aging veterans, so off-loading someone like Drew or Lowell is out of the
question, even if San Diego has a little extra money to spend this year.
If Epstein wants to get this deal done, expect it to be at the cost along the lines of
Clay Buchholz, Lars Anderson, and quite possibly even someone like Casey Kelly as
While Gonzalez is a young stud who can propel the Red Sox into a team that will be
the offensive force like they were back in 2004 for many years to come. That kind of
offense combined with the speed that the new resurgence of young players has
provided us with, and it could mean championships abound. Or it could mean giving
up two of the most highly toted pitching prospects in recent memory for a hitter on a
team with a potential absence of pitching (Provided Beckett leaves, and Wakefield
Is it worth it? If the deal can get done while giving up only one of the two pitchers,
then I say give it a chance. Otherwise, find a different answer. Anderson had a
rough year in the minors, but all scouts say he’ll be an offensive player in the future
at first base. But will the defense be there? Can Jed Lowrie make a
transition to third? Or is his health too much of an issue? Do we sign someone like
Hank Blalock to play first for 2010? Do we risk Lowell’s health? Now that
Figgins is off the market, there are less options for us in this off season, and some
things are a bigger concern at the moment, such as resigning Bay and finding quality
arms for the rotation and bullpen.
Only time will tell.