It looks like Mike Lowell is headed to the Texas Rangers. Multiple reports have him headed to the Rangers for minor league catcher Max Ramirez, while it appears the Sox might be getting close to signing free-agent third-baseman Adrian Beltre.
While I’ve advocated getting rid of Lowell this offseason, that doesn’t mean I’m not a fan. Lowell has been a great contributor to this team since 2006. Considering this guy was a throw-in in the Beckett deal, and looked so bad his first spring training some Boston baseball media geniuses thought he’d be cut, what he has done for the Sox must be applauded. He might be slower than geology, but he’s given us a solid bat, excellent defense before his injury, and a top-notch clubhouse presence. He will be remembered fondly by Sox Nation.
Meanwhile, I am cringing at the thought of signing Adrian Beltre. Outside of his highly-suspicious 2004 season — a contract year, mind you — this one-time uber-prospect’s career has been a colossal disappointment. He might not command the sizeable contract he got in 2005, but the Sox will still be overpaying for what he brings to Boston. And considering the Sox just signed a shortstop (Scutaro) who has also had a questionable career, I have real concerns with this team going forward.
But perhaps my biggest concern with signing Beltre is it leaves no room to make a deal for that power-hitting bat the Sox so desperately need. Understand, adding Beltre’s .260 average and 23 homers is no answer to this team’s offensive problems. Should the Sox resign Bay, or bring in Matt Holliday, in left, then have Beltre at third and Scutaro at short, they will only have a marginally better offense then they had last year — not good enough to bring home a championship.
Now, the catcher situation might be interesting. The minor leaguer the Sox are getting from the Rangers, Max Ramirez, might be ready for primetime (although his defense reportedly needs work). Are the Sox bringing him in as insurance in case Tek gets injured this year? Or insurance that they don’t resign Victor Martinez? Or insurance in case Tek just can’t perform anymore? The Sox might be thinking they’ll give Tek a chance through May, and if he can’t perform, expect a press conference where they regret to announce they have to cut him, and thank him for his service.
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.
Maybe you’re feeling really good right now. Heck, the Sox beat Chicago last night. They still lead the wild card. They just picked up Billy Wagner. You think there’s a lot to feel good about. If this is you, and you don’t want to be brought down by a tsunami of negativity, you should click away right about now.
I have a lot of anger and frustration built up by the way the Sox have played these last few weeks. And it’s high time I let it out. Consider yourself warned.
-In Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS, I said if J.D. Drew did something big, I’d never bad-mouth him again. Of course, he hit that grand slam. And since then I’ve tried. I’ve REALLY tried. But how much can one Red Sox fan take?!?! The highest paid player on the team is our $15 million a year NUMBER EIGHT HITTER!!!! A gutless, pathetic underachiever his entire career, Drew is proving right all the people who said he’d be a terrible signing for the Sox . . . and that includes his old teammates and managers with the Cardinals and Dodgers who said he was gutless. If his recent .235 average and slot as the Number 8 hitter isn’t enough to enrage you, how about the fact he asked out of a game against the Texas Rangers — the same Rangers in a dogfight with the Sox for the wildcard — in the ninth inning of a game in which CLAY BUCHHOLZ WAS USED AS A FRIGGIN’ PINCH RUNNER!!!! And we have TWO MORE YEARS on his horrible contract!!! AARRRGGHHH!!!
–Jonathon Papelbon is a whiny, high-maintenance diva. Recently asked about the possibility of Billy Wagner coming to Boston, Paps said he is the closer and doesn’t see any reason for another closer. That the bullpen is fine and doesn’t need fixing. Maybe it has to do with speculation the Sox would bring back Wagner as a set up man to Daniel Bard next year, and deal Paps in this offseason. Don’t like that, Paps? Well, you’re the one who has been saying you are going to free agency to cash in with the highest bidder, even if it is the Yankees. So suite yourself. And, in case you haven’t noticed lately, you’ve been doing a great Calvin Shiraldi impression. I hope we do deal you.
-In June, were you among the chorus of fans saying how we just couldn’t possibly deal Brad Penny. How you feel about that now? His recent appearances have even made us long for the days of John Smoltz. And how about Smoltzie’s debut with the Cards. What a nice little kick in the stones for Sox fans.
-So much for the theory that Josh Beckett just needed to be caught by Jason Varitek. If this is a sign of things to come, we’re screwed.
-Hey look: The offense finally woke up. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. These team has problems, and we actually might be best served in the long run by not making the playoffs this season. You see, if we do get there and have a decent run, the feeling that the team needs serious changes might be dulled. That would be bad. Let’s face it, Mike Lowell and Big Papi are breaking down right before our eyes. They aren’t going to get better. If Theo is going to rejuvenate this team, he needs to replace them this offseason. And while he’s at it, how much longer til it’s time to admit J.D. Drew was a mistake and find ourselves a new rightfielder?
-I friggin’ hate the Yankees.
-I need a drink.
Oh, Manny. What are you thinking?
The Dodgers just handed Manny Ramirez a big, fat stack of cash to play for them next year — $25 million. And Manny said, “No thanks.”
I know Manny wants a 4-year deal. But it’s time for him and Boras to admit they’ve had a bad offseason, take their lumps and move on. They’ll be better off for it in the long run. Nobody is going to give them a 4-year deal at this point. Nobody. Maybe they can squeeze 2 years at around $25 million out of the Dodgers . . . maybe. Maybe another team like the Giants or Angels sweep in and give him a 3-year deal for around $20 million . . . maybe. But that’s it. The reality is there aren’t a lot of buyers for Manny, and without that demand there, the price won’t be high. It’s basic economics.
Manny would be better served taking the obscene $25 million to play ball next year, hit .300 with 35 homers and 120 RBIs, and look to cash in next offseason, when there might be more buyers. Right now, Manny isn’t in a position of strength (see Jason Varitek). Teams would be smart to sit back and wait him out; they might ultimately be able to land him for under $20 million, although the Dodgers seem a little desperate.
Actually, the real question might not be “Manny what are you thinking?”, it might be “Dodgers, what are you thinking?” They don’t seem to be approaching this very rationally. They seem blinded by Manny’s incredible two months last season. But the fact is he won’t perform like that over an entire season. He can’t; nobody can. So why are they bidding against themselves? And why are they throwing so much money at him? For $25 million, they could probably land both Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn for next season. That would give them a better team than having just Manny. What about signing a Ben Sheets?
The smart teams will look for deals and steals right now. The dumb ones will overpay when they don’t have to, and then watch the playoffs on TV in October.
We’re all glad to see Jason Varitek back in a Red Sox uniform after negotiations turned into a circus. But now that he’s back with the team, things might start getting really interesting.
Aging athletes are a touchy bunch. They’re only human, after all, and who knows how each one reacts when they see the writing on the wall. Varitek wanted a four-year deal, thinking that end would be at least four years away. Now, it might be the season after next.
If you think these contract negotiations tested Tek’s ego, just wait. The Sox need a new catcher. Tek hit .186 the last four months of last season. His overall average has tailed off the last three seasons, and his power numbers have been cut in half. Now, not only is he facing the realization that the end of his productive career might be around the corner, but he’s going to be asked to groom the guy who is going to take his job. It would only be human of Tek to resist this, even to hold it against the new guy.
Tek’s real test is only now beginning.
The Scott Boras/Jason Varitek act is getting downright comical.
According to the Boston Globe’s Tony Mazzarotti, a baseball source (read: Boras) says Varitek is seriously considering sitting out the 2009 season or retiring rather than take the 2-year offer from the Red Sox.
Stop and think about that for a second. Really . . . stop and think about that. First, notice how none of his other options are accepting an offer from another team. So there’s zero incentive for the Sox to up the price. Now, does anyone really think Varitek is going to leave a guaranteed $8 million on the table (likely more) and retire from a sport he still believes he can play? Doesn’t work like that. And does he really think he could sit out of baseball for a full year and then come back when he’s even older and hasn’t seen a fastball in a full season, and have a team give him anything more than a minor league contract?
The stance Boras and Tek are now taking is so out there it is funny. And the Sox are in a win-win situation. If Tek accepts (which he will), they have a catcher for the next two seasons. And if he declines, Tek and Boras will be seen as the villains (or, at least, inept baffoons) in this saga, and the Sox get to make a break from a popular player without taking a PR hit.
BTW, a lot of the discussion about Varitek has been framed around whether he can bounce back from a .220 season, or whether he’ll be a .220 hitter from here on out. Forgotten in all this is the possibility he could deteriorate even further into the Mirabelli zone (~.198 – .205). I don’t think this will happen; I think he’ll hit better than last year. But it is possible, especially given his age and the history of catchers falling apart. Either way, the Sox need to deal for a young catcher before too long. If they don’t like the pricetags for Saltalamacchia or Montero now, don’t be surprised to see them try and make one of those moves in May, when a need arises in-season for the Rangers or D-backs.
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.