Reports are the Sox brass are currently in Texas with Scott Boras hammering out the final details of the contract for Mark Teixeira. The announcement that Tex is a member of the Sox could come any moment.
Now what? The Sox have seen this coming for awhile, and likely already have a trading partner for Mike Lowell. Expect him to be dealt almost immediately, as much in fairness to Lowell as anything else. The sooner Lowell knows where he is going, the better for him.
Then it is on to signing another starter. Of course, the Sox could slide Masterson, Bucholz or Bowden into that open rotation spot. But expect them to bring in a veteran to fill that spot to begin the year, with the three young arms being worked in gradually throughout the season, and maybe even locking down a rotation spot or two (Wake’s?) come September.
With so many young arms on the horizon, they likely won’t look for a long term deal, so no Lowe or deal for Peavy. We’re probably looking at a Paul Byrd type for a one-year deal, maybe they can score a Brad Penny for two-years. I still maintain Ben Sheets might be best served grabbing a one-year deal and cashing in next offseason, but he might just be satisfied with a sub-par annual salary but three- to four-year deal now.
Unless you’re still a shameless Manny apologist — of which there are still some out there — you have to get some joy out of the latest development in the Manny Ramirez saga.
According to New York Newsday, Ramirez is unhappy at the lack of interest in his services this offseason. While guys like CC Sabathia, Mark Texeira, AJ Burnett and even Derek Lowe have received all the attention and have each received several offers, Manny has so far been just an afterthought waiting for Teixeira to get signed so he can get the leftovers.
And it has hurt his feelings.
According to the report, Manny has even told friends that he might retire if a suitable job can’t be found. It’s great to see Manny is still being Manny.
Now, we all know Manny won’t retire. And whoever doesn’t sign Teixeira will certainly make Manny a good offer. But, hopefully, not the $20 million a year he would have received with the Sox. The Dodgers pulled their original 2-year, $45 million offer off the table, and they don’t appear in any hurry to put it back out there. If there’s any justice in the world, they’ll tell Manny there has been a market correction since then, and they’ll offer him a lower price. With any luck, Manny will end up with a contract no more than three years at “just” $18 million a year.
Of course, if they Yankees don’t sign Teixeira, they’ll screw everything up and give Manny gobs of money again. He’ll get the paycheck he wants, thumb his nose at Boston, and then we can enjoy watching his diminished skills perform in pinstripes next to those of Johnny Damon.
- The Yankees have reportedly overreacted and got their man. Word is they have an agreement with LB Sabathia for 7 years, $160 million. The Yankees got played. Nobody was going to approach their original $140 million. And all the talk about Sabathia prefering the West Coast and the National League was just posturing; a way to negotiate his pricetag up since nobody was going to outbid the Yankees. Make no mistake: He was going to go with the biggest paycheck. But when he didn’t react to the Yankees $140 mill offer, and started floating reports that he wanted to be a Dodger and maybe something was wrong with the Yankee offer, Cashman and Co. overreacted and upped the price. So now they got their man — a good pitcher who is overweight at a young age and already has a lot of miles on his arm. I like this recipe.
- The Yankees might want to use some restraint with how they approach the rest of the offseason. They paid a huge price to go get Sabathia. Given that, it would seem absurd that they could also sign Burnett, Lowe and Manny Ramirez (and maybe even be players for Texeira). However, they do have more money than God, and right now they do seem to be governed more by emotional panic than cool reasoning. They have a healthy financial advantage over the rest of the league. But if they do spend an abscene amount of money to scoop a lot of these free agents (especially while other teams are being squeezed by the economy), it could lead to a clamoring for a luxurary tax with more teeth, or even a salary cap. The Yanks should be careful not to pull a Plaxico Burress and shoot themselves in the leg.
- With the Yanks apparently about to sign Derek Lowe, it looks likely that AJ Burnett could be heading to Atlanta. Should that happen, the Yanks rotation looks like it could be Sabathia, Wang (not an ace, but a good Number Two), and Lowe. They’ll likely have Pettitte back to serve as the Number Four, and then a number of question marks in their young arms. But at least those young arms have the time to work their way into the rotation instead of carry it, like Cashman expected them to do last season. I’d still give the edge in starting rotation to the Red Sox and Devil Rays (last year’s young studs plus David Price), but the Yankees would certainly be back in the mix.
- With Sabathia out of the picture, things are going to start getting very interesting. I expect there’ll be a lot of movement on Texeira in the coming days, with him likely joining the Red Sox by next week at this time. There’s a lot of questions, though. With K-Rod gone, can the Angels really afford to lose Texeira, and could they possibly be willing to go so far as to outspend the Red Sox? (I can’t see it.) If the Angels do lose Texeira, they have to go after Manny Ramirez. I would expect Manny to wait on Texeira, but there is already talk of the Dodgers and Yankees possibly working on him. If the Angels lose out on both Tex and Manny, what alternatives do they have? They suddenly become very vulnerable in the AL West. And with Sabathia off the board, how likely is it and how soon might it happen that the Sox look to snag an arm, Brad Penny perhaps?
- With his catching options dwindling all around him, do you think Jason Varitek might regret rejecting arbitration?
- If the Sox do snag Texeira, don’t be surprised if they keep Lowell around for awhile, and perhaps even to start the season. Once they sign Tex, there will likely be an opinion by most teams that the Sox will be over a barrel and desperate to get rid of Lowell, so other teams will try to lowball the Sox with their offers. But Theo and Co. are ever mindful of the value of players. And if fair value isn’t offered in the offseason, they’ll likely keep Lowell around through Spring Training, and will likely even be willing to keep him around throughout April. Nobody’s better at working guys into a lineup than Terry Francona. And there’s no better team player than Mike Lowell. A willingness to keep him around through April will show teams they need to come up with a real offer. There’s also the potential that another team’s third baseman will be injured in the spring or April and suddenly have a desperate need for Mike Lowell. And then the Sox can cash in.
While we wait for the Winter Meetings and the big push to sign Mark Texeira, here are a few thoughts:
- According to the Boston Globe, there are whispers that the Red Sox might be in the mix to sign shortstop Rafael Furcal. But this is a move I’d be hesitant to make. Furcal is in the mold of an AJ Burnett or JD Drew — a oft-injured player who has never quite lived up to his physical talent. He has all the tools to be an elite shortstop, but his body is either too fragile, or he has a shortage of guts. Whatever the reason, Furcal will likely command too much money and too many years to take on that kind of injury risk. Maybe if it was a one-year deal, two max, anticipating that when Furcal goes down you’ll have Jed Lowrie to fill in and take his time to develop into a big-leaguer. But I expect Furcal will command at least three years, probably four, not to mention an annual contract north of $12 million and require the Sox to give up a draft pick (and they’ll already be giving up one should they sign Texeira). Furcal isn’t worth it.
- I still say don’t be surprised if the Red Sox sneak in to make a major push for Jake Peavy. The Padres seem to be having a problem finding the right fit for him, and as of now it looks like deals with the Braves and Cubs have fallen through. The Sox want to acquire a starting pitcher this offseason. And they have the young pitching to deal for one of the game’s proven elite arms. Peavy is an infinitely better pitcher than Derek Lowe or AJ Burnett (I’d even take him over Sabathia), and acquiring him via trade means the Sox won’t lose a draft pick (although they’ll have to give up some good, young arms; but that’s what you do with unproven talent). And while the Sox currently aren’t on the list of teams Peavy would accept a trade to . . . well, money talks.
One week before Thanksgiving, and the hot stove is ready to cook. You can expect a flurry of offers, rumors and speculation up until Turkey Day; then a flurry of signings the week after.
WHAT I LIKE SO FAR
The Coco deal: Scoring Ramon Ramirez – a 27-year-old strikeout reliever with a sub-3.00 ERA in the American League last year – is about as much as you could expect to get for Crisp. Thankfully, Coco performed great the last two months of the season to up his trade value. If you’re not a big fan of this deal, you should be. Don’t look at the last two months of the season and think it is a sign of things to come for Coco. He played in Boston three years, and we’ve seen the player he is: A guy who is an excellent outfielder but most of the time is excruciatingly frustrating at the plate with the exception of brief flukes (August & September). Crisp will be an excellent addition to a team like the Royals, and he could very likely find himself contributing on a team that surprises people next year. Meanwhile, you can never stockpile enough relief pitching, and hopefully Ramirez can be a solid contributor out of the pen in ’09.
Texeira Rumors: Although I still don’t count the Yankees out completely from the Mark Texeira race, I’m glad to read that most people seem to think them acquiring Nick Swisher signals they aren’t in it. But I’ll believe that once Texeira is in a Red Sox uniform. I’m happy that the Sox are considered the front-runners alongside the Angels in this race, and sound like they are positioning themselves for an aggressive run at the hitter with the most upside in this free agent class. Acquiring Texeira would give them one mighty lineup next season.
Catcher Rumors: Regardless of whether they bring back Jason Varitek, the Sox need to get themselves their catcher of the future. And it sounds like even if they do bring back Tek, the Sox are determined to get one of the young catchers from the Rangers, possibly even offensively-gifted Jason Saltalamacchia. This bodes well.
Lugo To Tigers: There’s a rumor that the Tigers might be interested in acquiring Julio Lugo and sending the Sox either Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis. I’d trade Lugo for a bag of balls, as I don’t think he has any trade value, so I’d love to see them get a pitcher. My one concern here is Dontrelle Willis’ contract, which I haven’t looked up. If I remember right, the Tigers signed him to a rich, long-term contract. If that’s the case, I might be scared. Maybe they take on each others’ bad contracts. And while Willis has been undependable and was downright terrible last year, his age and stuff means he still has a lot of potential upside. But at what price?
Yankees Are Still Rich But Stupid: The Yankees are poised to offer an oil tanker full of money and long-term years to C.C. (or LB) Sabathia this winter. Sabathia is a great pitcher, and he **dominated in Milwaukee this season (**=facing National League hitters). But he can be beat (see 2007 ALCS), and he can’t singlehandedly take a team to October. Plus, that kind of long-term contract for a pitcher — especially one with the girth of Sabathia — is a huge risk (Where Are They Now: Bartolo Colon). Tack on the fact that they also plan to payout big cash to get A.J. Burnett — a guy whose entire career has been marked by underachieving, injury-plagued seasons — and Derek Lowe — who last time he was seen in the American League was a headcase sporting an ERA north of 5.00 — and the Yankees could be putting themselves in a bad position for years to come. Sure, they are rich beyond belief, but even the Yankees aren’t immune from suffering the effects of numerous bad contracts. And, let’s face it, this is the same management team that thought they could win last year with three unproven rookies in Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain, and who brought in broken-down pitchers in Kevin Brown, Jared Wright and Randy Johnson.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
Sox In On Burnett: As I already stated, I am not a big fan of A.J. Burnett. But I know Sox owner John Henry is. So it is with a lot of concern that I’ve read the Sox are genuinely interested in Burnett. Hopefully they are just upping the price for the Yankees. If that’s the case, you can refile this in the above section. But if it isn’t, consider me even more worried about this than I was about the Sox chasing JD Drew. And you saw how that worked out . . . . . Oh, wait. Never mind.
Jake Peavy: There’s a few things I don’t like here. First, as I stated when rumors first surfaced that the Padres were dangling Peavy, I said the Sox should try to make this deal. Peavy has proven himself to be one of the game’s elite pitchers. His stuff, his track record, and his age make him a prime target to be among the game’s best for the next several years. And he doesn’t have the, ahem, “baggage” that Sabathia has. The Sox should be willing to move one of their top pitching prospects, as prospects are unproven and often don’t work out. And you always — ALWAYS — deal a prospect for an elite proven player. So I am concerned that the Sox are not involved in the Peavy bidding. Peavy can veto the trade, and right now doesn’t list the Sox as a candidate of his, but that could always be made to change, especially by the Red Sox. The other thing I really, really don’t like about this is I am now hearing the Yankees may be getting in on Peavy. Sabathia, Burnett and Lowe don’t scare me; the Yankees getting Peavy does.
- When the Sox got rid of Manny and brought in some guy named Jason Bay, I heard a lot of “Why did they do this? Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him.” from several fans who are older (fifties, sixties), aren’t fantasy baseball playas (like me), and/or don’t pay attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates (my second-favorite team). I told them “Trust me. You’re going to love this guy.” Today, they are loving that guy.
- Considering how strong Lackey was last night, that was a game the Sox could have easily lost. It is obviously, then, a huge win. But today, as not only Sox fans but the national media have began reading the Angels their last rights and pronouncing this series over, I caution everyone to not get ahead of themselves. Game One is important, but it is only one game. I remember the Sox winning Game One against the Indians in the 1998 ALDS, leading everyone to say the Indians looked like a team ready to be swept; the Sox didn’t win another game. Also, an important stat I saw last night was that in the American League ALDS, teams that win the first game are 12-14. Yikes.
- My buddy came through with tickets to Game 4 at Fenway . . . if there is a Game 4. Which puts me in the awkward position of kind of hoping the Sox drop one of these next two games. Not real comfortable with that.
- Last night, while my wife was on the couch watching the Dodgers-Cubs game and I was in the kitchen (there is SO much wrong with that statement), she suddenly yelled “OH MY GOD!!!” I ran into the living room, expecting to see her TiVoing back to a collision or an incredible catch. Instead, she was watching Manny fly up the first base line to get an infield hit. “That’s NOT our Manny,” she said.
- It’s just one game, but it might be time to reconsider the Dodgers’ chances. I pride myself on being a BASEBALL fan; someone who not only follows his hometeam, but the whole sport. However, I have to admit I wrote off the terrible NL West Division this year. I mean, look at their records! But these Dodgers might be for real. For pitching, as inconsistent and downright goofy as he is, we all know Derek Lowe is a certified bad-*** in October. Then, they have some sick talent in young arms like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. In the bullpen, they have not one but two stud closers in Saito and Broxton. And they have a 355-game winner (Greg Maddux) coming out to do middle relief. They have a deep lineup a good young bats around Manny. And, whereas having no strong bats to come off the bench or hit as DH has been an Achilles Heel for NL teams in the World Series for years, this team has studs like Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra ready to fill in. And did you see that Manny homer? This team is for real.
- It was pretty beautiful to see Wrigley Field get so glum.
- In Anaheim, it’s amazing to see so many of the opponent’s fans at a playoff game. And what is with Angels’ fans not being able to clap with their hands? It looks like the franchise that brought you thundersticks now has some kind of noisy strap for their “fans”. Let’s hope for baseball’s sake that tomorrow’s game is the last of the year in Anaheim of Los Angeles south of Portland on the same coast as Seattle.
- What a maddening loss for the Brewers. One inning, two terrible defensive plays, and – even with Cole Hamels looking Pedroesque – they lose a game they could have won. Now, do you think CC Sabathia can pitch on no-days rest?
Remember how it felt when the Red Sox clinched the Wild Card in 2003? The excitement of playing October baseball for the first time since ’99; the feeling that we finallly — FINALLY — had a team that had a real shot at winning it all? Remember Lowe, Kapler and company running around outside the stadium after the celebration, even going in to pour drinks for fans at a neighboring bar; how the players celebrated harder than the fans (hard to do in Boston)? Remember how Kevin Millar had to be scratched from the lineup the next day because of his hangover?
My how times have changed.
After Boston’s success in recent years, the joy of a Wild Card birth is gone. Anything less on the heels of last year’s championship would have been seen as underachieving. This season seemed like a long, meandering march toward the inevitable: October baseball. But this year, clinching the Wild Card is tinged with disappointment. There’s a feeling the Sox should have won the division; they certainly had their chances. Maybe it would be easier to take if the Yankees had won the division; we’re used to them being a powerful rival. But the Devil Rays? Anyone who has followed baseball knows Tampa is an excellent team this year. So why is that so hard to except? Don’t know . . . but it is.
Nobody is dancing in the streets of Boston today. The Wild Card birth is just another day at the office. The real contest starts next week.