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.
While we’re waiting for something big to come out of the Winter Meetings, let’s talk about CC Sabathia. One of our readers, Julia — who runs a great Red Sox blog of her own called Julia’s Rants — raised the idea of the Red Sox landing Sabathia . . . an idea that gained merit as a number of reports later mentioned the Sox would indeed meet with Sabathia. But, to me, there is no chance of the Sox landing Sabathia. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t want him.
Mark my words: Sabathia will be a Yankee next season.
The Yankees have already made it clear that signing Sabathia is their top priority, and they have the resources and are willing to outspend everyone — even the Red Sox — to get him. According to popular opinion, the only reasons Sabathia might not go with the most money is he prefers to play in the National League and preferably on the West Coast. The Sox are neither of those, and, if they can’t pony-up more cash than the Yankees, that means there are zero reasons for Sabathia to come to Boston. All of this means the only reason the Sox are talking to Sabathia is to mess with the Yankees and maybe drive up CC’s pricetag.
All of this is just as well. The idea of investing that much money in a pitcher is frightening, especially considering the frequency of pitchers getting injured. Then tack in CC’s extra LBs, plus the considerable number of innings he’s thrown the last two seasons, and whoever signs him to that long-term contract for beaucoup bucks could be looking at a train wreck.
Meanwhile, if the Sox could sneak into the Jake Peavy sweepstakes, they could be getting themselves a pitcher every bit as good (I think even better) as Sabathia, without the wear-and-tear of so many innings and that extra tonage, for less money.
BTW, don’t buy the line that Sabathia might turn down the Yankee’s money to stay in the National League or go to the West Coast. It ain’t happening. This was the Yankees first offer, and they will be willing to go higher. But since nobody else can will offer that kind of money (except maybe the Sox), there is no way for the Yanks to find themselves in a bidding war to drive up the price. However, if CC plays the National League/West Coast card, then that bidding war CAN happen — between the Yankees’ pocketbook and CC’s “sympathies.” Don’t buy it; he’s just driving up his paycheck. He will be a Yankee.
Welcome to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, CC. May your big butt be a big bust.
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.
- The Red Sox have reportedly become involved in the LB Sabathia sweepstakes. But let’s face it: this is a very thinly-veiled attempt to drive the price up for the Yanks. During the Johan Santana saga last winter, that would have involved a trade with the Twins instead of a free agent signing, which gave the Sox an advantage over the Yanks — they could present a better package to the Twinkies. In the Sabathia chase, being a free agent means this is strictly about money, and, given how much the Yanks want him, its a chase the Sox can’t win. Not that they’d want to. Let someone else pay the steep price and long-term years of a risky contract for LB.
- Good news out of southern California. A reporter for an Orange County newspaper was speculating that the Texeira would be signing with the Red Sox in the next few weeks. His reasoning was if he was going to re-sign with the Angels, he probably would have done so by now.
- After my last post, people raised some good points about the importance of keeping Mike Lowell and having AJ Burnett as a fourth starter. However, I’m sticking by my guns. Even if he’s a fourth starter, there’s no point in paying Burnett big money if he only pitches half a season. And, unfortunately, he has a long history of that. Plus, roughly 5 years and $80 million is a steep price to pay for a Number 4 pitcher, especially one without a track record of durability and success. That money would be better spent elsewhere . . . even for trying to get a guy like Jake Peavy, someone who could be a Top 2 pitcher on your staff. Burnett just has much too much risk at such a high pricetag. Regarding Mike Lowell, he is certainly a favorite of all Red Sox fans and has done nothing but excel in his time with the Red Sox. However, the great thing about the current Sox regime is they tend to make decisions based on logic rather than emotion. And, if you want to consistently win championships, that means making emotionally tough decisions. Nobody wants to see Mike Lowell go. But it will make for a better team. Lowell’s best days are behind him, and injuries are certainly going to become more common while his production will certainly decline. His value is at an all-time high right now. Getting Texeira keeps the Sox as good (and maybe even better) defensively, while giving them a more productive lineup. And while Lowell has been a clubhouse leader, word the Sox like Texeira’s personal makeup. On top of that, Lowell should be able to fetch a good return in the trade market. It’ll be sad to see him go, but championship champagne certainly eases the sadness.
- This has nothing to do with baseball, but it is damn funny — Santa’s elves dubbed over by dialogue from the movie Full Metal Jacket. WARNING: The video features “adult” language, so don’t watch it someplace where you could get fired or scar a child’s psyche:
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.
Let’s face it: The Sox were banged up, and the Devil Rays were the better team. They’re probably going to win the World Series. Just freakin’ wonderful. I’m not in a good place right now. Let’s stop talking about it.
Anyway . . . . . on a positive note, once we get past this bothersome World Series, we get to embark on one of the most exciting times of the year — the Hot Stove Season. It’s the kind of thing blogging was invented for. So, let’s just get beyond this thing we’re not talking about and move forward. Let’s see what Boston’s current weaknesses are and what we can hope to expect from this Hot Stove Season.
Papi’s Wrist — There’s no offseason solution to this. All we can do is hope and pray that Papi’s wrist is better by next season and he becomes the hitting terror he once was. But the cold hard truth here is wrist injuries are scary things for hitters. There was once a future-Hall-of-Famer named Nomar Garciaparra who won a batting title with the highest average for a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio. Then Nomar was hit by a pitch and messed up his wrist. Goodbye Hall of Fame title; Hello title of Mr. Mia Hamm.
Jacoby Ellsbury — This is another one of those wait-and-see situations. Luckily, Ellsbury’s offensive struggles this year stemmed from his youth instead of any injury. We know he can play. And we know young players do struggle at times. Eventually, Ellsbury will be fine.
Jason Varitek — Whether the Sox resign him or he leaves in free agency, the team needs to find his replacement now (actually, I believe I said last year at this time the time was last offseason). Even if he stays, his best days are far behind him. And his performance is only going to get worse in the coming years. He is a great catcher, but the he-calls-a-great-game thing only works if he’s hitting +.240 . . . not .220.
Mike Lowell — I will likely catch some serious hate here. I love Mike Lowell as much as anybody. And, sure, everybody gets injured and he’ll probably come back at 100 percent next season and have a great year. But all the more reason to trade him. Lowell has had a great run in Boston, but he’s not a guy you can bank on year in and year out; over his whole career he has had his up’s and down’s. Fact is, he’s not getting any younger, and you can expect more common injuries and declining production the next few seasons. The good thing is Lowell has trade value. He has put up great numbers the past few years, he has two years remaining on his contract, and his salary is manageable. And Theo has long coveted the idea of a power-hitting first-baseman. Which leads us to . . .
Sign Mark Texeira — Texeira is a young, switch-hitting, power-hitting first baseman who could be a huge addition to a questionable Sox offense. Of course, in this situation you deal away Lowell. Sure it hurts, but imagine a lineup with Pedroia, Ortiz, Texeira, Youk, Bay and Drew as your 2-7 hitters. October 2009, here we come. The only question is how insane the Yankees will go this year. They have money coming off the books too, and a Wall-Streetesque situation of the rich getting richer with huge dollars coming in next season from their new ballpark, they could put up insane money to sign every free agent they want. Let’s hope they exercise some sanity.
Trade for Saltalamacchia — The Rangers have too many good, young catchers and need to deal. The Red Sox have the need for a catcher and the goods to offer. Salty has been one of the most highly-touted prospects in recent years. And although he has struggled somewhat at the big-league level, he is still extremely young, and those struggles might just have brought his value down enough to secure a deal. By the same token, thankfully Coco Crisp’s performance in the second-half and October may have upped his value where teams may be interested in grabbing him and a prospect.
Trade for Peavy — Yeah, I know. We have a boatload of starting pitching. We have Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka . . . and then a lot of questions. Schilling won’t be back. Wakefield is too much of a wildcard to depend on at this point. And you can never . . . NEVER . . . depend on unproven youngsters to fill out your rotation (ask the Yanks how Hughes, Kennedy and Joba carried them this year). This offseason, let the Yankees throw boatloads of cash at C.C., D-Lowe and Burnett. I’ll take dealing some of our young arms to the Padres for Peavy. If you hate dealing prospects, remember you never know how they’ll turn out. Wasn’t Casey Fossum going to be the next Tom Glavine?
We might only be one-day deep into the playoffs, but it’s never too early to start looking at the Hot Stove Season. And the stove was stoked today when San Diego GM Kevin Towers said he’d entertain trade offers for Jake Peavy this offseason. Expect the Red Sox to kick the tires on this one, offering up a package of one of their top pitching prospects — Bucholz, Masterson and Bowden — and a couple of lower level prospects. The Padres will likely counter, saying they want two of those top pitching prospects in return. And depending on the make-up of the package, the Sox should go for it.
You can never have enough pitching. And the most reliable way to go about building a rotation is through trades and free agency — not development. As evidence, take a look at the Yankee Dynasty of the late 1990s. They had a lineup of talented, but unspectacular players like Paul O’Neil, Scott Brosius and Co. But they want out and got a rotation of some of the day’s best pitchers — Clemens, David Cone, etc.
You never know for sure how prospects will turn out, and pitching prospects are even more unpredictable than position players. Bucholz, Masterson and Bowden might end up being studs . . . or they could turn into duds. (Remember Paxton Crawford? How about Juan Pena?) And they have several other highly-touted pitching prospects in the pipeline. With their young position players and a lot of money coming off the books, the Sox can afford Peavy. And just imagine for a moment a rotation next year with Beckett, Peavy, Lester and Matsuzaka. Happy thoughts.