Reports are that the top free-agent pitcher on the market — and longtime Sox nemesis — John Lackey took a physical with the Red Sox this morning, which could be a precursor to a deal.
If true, it’s an interesting move, and honestly one that I didn’t see coming. Given the depth of the Sox rotation, I didn’t believe they’d spend money on a big free agent pitcher this offseason, preferring instead to tweak their offense and save money for next offseason, when the team has some big decisions to make.
Signing Lackey will give the Sox an amazing starting rotation, with the front four being Beckett, Lackey, Lester and Matsuzaka — who, if he is anything like how he finished this past season, could next year be that amazing pitcher we’ve all been waiting for.
But this move could also set off an interesting chain of events. One of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard is that bringing in Lackey could give the Sox the flexibility to move Clay Bucholz, thereby possibly making a deal possible with San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez.
Another thing is what will now happen with Roy Halliday. Toronto NEEDS to move him this offseason. With the Sox out of the running, does that mean Halliday is headed to the Bronx, or – if they lose Lackey – will the Angels make an aggressive push to land him? Should be interesting . . .
In the words of Mark McGwuire: “I’m not here to talk about the past.”
Let’s, for a moment, forget that ALDS with the Angels ever happened. Instead, let’s bring hope back to Red Sox Nation and talk about the future . . . unless the Sox fail to bring back Jason Bay. Then forget about hope and save yourselves, cuz this ship is sinking. So, let’s take a look at issues the Sox face this winter.
JASON BAY – The Red Sox absolutely, positively NEED to bring back Jason Bay. Rarely will I say the Sox “need” anybody. But the fact is the team’s weakest link this year was its offense. If the Sox lose their best offensive player (Bay), they likely won’t be able to make the offensive upgrades they need next season. The free agent market for bats this season is especially thin (forget Matt Holliday, the most overrated bat out there). And if the Sox land a good bat in a trade – like Adrian Gonzalez – but lose Bay, they’ll be swapping bats rather than making a significant offensive improvement next year (which would be keeping Bay and getting a Gonzalez). What scares me to death is there is no reason the Yankees won’t let Johnny Damon walk and instead throw a ton of money at Bay – which improves the Yankees offense AND hurts the Red Sox. This scares me.
JONATHON PAPELBON – I’ve been shocked at the number of people clammering to trade Paps since his blown save the other day. Sox Nation needs to get a grip. As I’ve said before, every great closer has blown big games (Rivera, Eck, Hoffman, Gossage). What makes them great is their ability to brush it off and come back. Papelbon has shown he can do it. Why would you mess with that? Did we learn nothing from the Closer By Committee fiasco that started the Theo administration in early 2003? It takes a certain type of mentality (or craziness) to be a closer, and Paps has that. Bard has great stuff, but we don’t know if he has the mental toughness to be a closer. He could instead be the next Billy Koch. That being said, the promise of Bard does give the Sox flexibility should it take dealing a Papelbon to bring a bigtime bat like Adrian Gonzalez in return.
ADRIAN GONZALEZ – In case you haven’t yet noticed, I want the Sox to back the truck up to land San Diego firstbaseman Adrian Gonzalez. He is a young, dynamic bat that could help this offense. And San Diego will be hiring a new GM (Jed Hoyer?) soon who will likely be looking to stock up on young talent. Slot A-Gonz into first, move Youk to third and . . .
MIKE LOWELL – He’s been a great player for the Sox for these past few seasons, but his best years are well-behind him. Injuries make him unreliable and limit his mobility in the field. If the Sox can find a better bat, they need to move on. The only way I see Lowell staying in that situation is if he was a platoon DH with . . .
DAVID ORTIZ – Undoubtedly my favorite baseball player of all-time. So it pains me to say this. I know he came back big in the second-half, and had impressive numbers as a result. Still, how many meaningful times did Papi come through this year against good pitching. Not many. He wasn’t a factor in the playoffs, and didn’t look like there was any hope he could be. Papi will never again be the great hitter he once was, and I’d say it was time for the Sox to move on, EXCEPT . . . tell me where the Sox are going to get another DH to replace him given how weak the free-agent market is. Assuming they keep Bay, the Sox are going to need to find a home for a new bat, and that will be in either Lowell’s or Ortiz’s slot. Given Lowell’s health issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if they dump Lowell, keep Ortiz at DH this year, and then try to replace him after next season.
JASON VARITEK – It’s hard to watch cornerstones of the 2004 championship team like Papi and Tek age and have their skills diminish. At this point, everyone has to accept that Tek is done. Even, probably, Tek. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him retire this offseason (but in some way that keeps that $3 mill option). At this point, I’m not sure the Sox offense can afford to have him as the backup catcher.
Sure, the Red Sox offense looked pathetic last night. Extremely pathetic. But this was a case of the Sox running into a talented pitcher who was as good as he could be. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team.
The reaction to Game 1 results is always overblown, especially in a short series. When the Sox took Game 1 against the Indians in 1998, fans talked of a sweep. Three games later, the Sox were eliminated. Twice this decade the Twins have taken a Game 1 against the Yankees; both times the Yanks easily won the series.
You can’t help but like the Beckett – Weaver matchup tonight. If the Sox take it, they’ve earned a split and gained home field advantage. Then the Angels have to try to win at Fenway — not easy for them. Of course, should the unthinkable happen, then it WILL be time to panic.
Early in the season, when teams and players are very hot or very cold, I often say “Wait and see where they are come Memorial Day.” Now here we are, at the end of May, and we can finally take a look at who are real players this year, and who are pretenders. So here are some of my thoughts on the year so far:
–Goodbye, Toronto. Thanks for playing.
–You have to be happy with where the Sox are considering Papi’s woes and that their starting pitching has yet to click.
–I hate to say it, but Papi looks done. Consider that this slump extends well back into last season. This happens a lot in baseball. You just hoped it wouldn’t happen to such a pivotal great in Sox history.
–I don’t know what’s more surprising: That the Devil Rays are four games under .500, or that the Orioles are only four games under .500. Actually, yeah I do. The more surprising one is the Orioles.
–The Tigers are winning the Central. But what’s up with the Indians? They just can’t put it together. Eric Wedge, meet the unemployment line.
–The Rangers are good, but not that good. They benefit from a weak division. And, yeah, I am saying the Angels are weak.
–Stick a fork in Matt Holliday. He’s done.
–Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would own the title of Team Owner I’d Most Like To Hit With A Shovel . . . if Mark Cuban wasn’t so damn annoying.
–The Cardinals won’t be near the top of their division come September.
–Ha ha ha ha. The Cubs are .500 and more than 4 games out! Ha ha ha ha ha . . .
–The Dodgers own the game’s best record by nearly 6 games . . . and they are probably only about the sixth best team in the game. They should send thank-you notes to all those Four-A teams that make up the rest of their division.
Given baseball’s current economic woes and the lack of suitors for Jason Varitek, the reported offer by the Red Sox certainly seems more than fair. Reports have the Sox offering Tek a two-year deal, with the first year paying him $5 million, and the second season having a club option at $5 mill or a player option at $3 mill.
Let’s face it, most potential landing spots for Tek have already filled their catcher slot. And, with most teams struggling financially, it would be hard to imagine another team ponying up more than $3 million a year in a mult-year deal for Tek at this point. If the Sox wanted to play hardball, they could put a $2 or $3 million deal on the table for Tek and dare him to leave it out there. He has no other alternatives. It might not be the best business decision for the Sox in terms of saving Benjamins, but they are doing right by their team captain. Once again, Sox management is handling this brilliantly.
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Superagent Scott Boras has now botched A-Rod’s uber-contract in 2007, mishandled Manny Ramirez, cost Jason Varitek millions of dollars, and alienated the second-biggest financial institution in baseball (the Red Sox) with how he handled the Teixeira negotiations. Might we see Boras start to lose some of his shine?
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I am still wondering what is happening in Anaheim. Before their defense imploded in October, they were arguably the best team in baseball last year. Sure, they lost K-Rod. But their biggest problem in recent years has been an offense that couldn’t support and protect Vlad Guerrero. Now they lose Teixeira, and although bats like Abreu, Manny and Adam Dunn are still out there, they don’t seem to be moving at all. It baffles me. They have millions of dollars they were preparing to give Teixeira in a mult-year deal; with Vlad in decline, their window of opportunity as an elite team is closing; never before have there been so many impact free agents desperate for a deal this late in the offseason. If this was our team, Sox fans would be yanking their hair out. If the Angels don’t make a move, the AL West could be wide open next season.
It’s been fascinating this offseason to watch teams finally calling Scott Boras’s bluff. For years his negotiating practice has been to create phantom offers, telling teams that he had deals on the table for years and dollars beyond all reason, and sending actual teams into panic mode to sign their coveted players. Remember back in 2005, when he said he had in hand an offer for more years and roughly $20 million more for Johnny Damon then what he ultimately signed with the Yankees for? And how come Tek has yet to sign with that team that supposedly offered him three years at an annual pay raise?
Now teams are calling him on it. It’s great to see the Angels and Red Sox saying “Show us your cards.” And how nice was it to see Boras scambling this week, trying to keep the Angels as players as well as the Sox, saying his player was still interested in them, desperately hoping to salvage some kind of bidding war? But now the bidding that many thought could fly well past $200 million is dropping faster than the stock market.
Teams are now going to start being wary of Boras’s negotiating style. And in the end, it might ultimately start to cost his players some money. If teams are hesitant to bid on players, that could keep the prices down. Whereas the Sox might have been willing to approach $190 million for Tex, maybe now they knock ten to fifteen million off that price and dare Boras and Tex to get a better offer (and possibly with a doomed franchise). And maybe – just maybe – players might start being better off with other agents.
Of course, there’s always some desperate team looking to do something stupid to make a splash. The fledgling Washington franchise might just not see the wisdom in restraint and do something crazy. The Nationals are kind of like North Korea with nuclear weapons — a desperate, jittery, insecure, more-than-half-crazy entity that might try to make itself important to the baseball world by dropping a salary bomb on Tex. Then again, we’ve seen this scenario play out again and again. And if Tex signs with the Nats — preventing them from signing other significant players — he deserves his years of misery . . . and so do the Nationals.
Anyone looking for proof that you can do something to curse your team look no further than this blog last night.
At 10:27 p.m., I posted an entry on how the Red Sox had a done deal with Mark Teixeira, and talked about how to move forward. Not 20 minutes later, John Henry sent out an e-mail stating the Sox were out of the Teixeira sweepstakes.
We still don’t know what happened yet. Maybe the Angels’ desperation got the better of them and they went to 10 years. They certainly were looking at a dark place if they missed out on Tex, and needed him more than the Sox. Maybe the foolish Nationals made a desperate insane offer. It wouldn’t be the first time a franchise that couldn’t afford a superstar bid out of their league (Texas/ARod). If that’s the case, expect them to look to deal him within three years . . . and expect Tex’s complaining about the franchise not winning to begin in two.
Still, all hope is not lost . . . yet. This is Scott Boras and the Red Sox . . . two entities who have said deals were dead in the past, only to have them be revived later on. So, until a deal is announced and a physical has taken place, this thing isn’t over. But it doesn’t look good.
If the Sox don’t get Tex, you have to start to wonder about next year. They have a good team in place, and, if everyone is healthy, they should be fine. But, given the age of Lowell and Tek, and given the fragility of JD Drew, and the uncertainty of Papi’s wrist, there will still be a lot to worry about heading into the season.