Reports are the Padres are seeking both Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez. The inclusion of both Ellsbury and Buchholz in a deal is sure to make many Sox fans cringe, but it’s a deal worth doing.
Often in baseball it does seem a team can get something for nothing, especially when one rich team can acquire a star player from a poor team for little more than cash. It is only money, after all. However, in the real world, to get something of real value, you have to give up something of real value. And that’s the situation the Sox are in chasing Adrian Gonzalez.
The past three season, Sox fans have enjoyed watching Ellsbury — from his amazing speed on the basepaths to his fearless, wall-crashing defense. He’s an excellent ballplayer, and may someday be a great leadoff hitter. But Ellsbury will never give a team as much as Adrian Gonzalez does. And, although it hurts to give him and Buchholz up, it’s worth it.
If the deal does happen, the question is what will Boston’s outfield look like? In all likelihood, newly-acquired Mike Cameron would move into centerfield. That would open up leftfield for a free-agent addition like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, although at this time both look unlikely. Perhaps more likely would be the Sox sticking with Jeremy Hermidia in leftfield, possibly platooning him with another addition.
Hermidia is a very interesting player. He came up to the majors in Florida about four seasons ago with a ton of hype. Unfortunately, he has never lived up to that hype. The thing is, he’s still only 25. He’s still two years away from the magic age of 27 — the well-documented age at which many major league ballplayers breakout. Hermidia is much too young and talented to be written off — even though many people already have. Maybe he’ll never be that superstar. But it’s still just as likely that we may someday look back and say Theo got the steal of this offseason.
A report in yesterday’s Boston Globe said the Red Sox are currently shopping Mike Lowell, and may even be willing to pick up half of his remaining salary. Obviously, this looks like they are laying the groundwork to deal Lowell immediately once they are able to work out a deal with San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez.
But I wonder if the Sox feel so uncomfortable by Lowell’s health issues these last two seasons and by his rapidly vanishing range at third base that they feel they need to replace him at third next year regardless of whether they land Gonzalez or not. I’m certainly leaning that way. It looks like Lowell’s days in Boston are over.
Also, I know I’ve said this before, but with the free-agent frenzy ready to kick into high gear next week I’ll say it again: I have a really bad feeling about this off-season. The most cause for concern is the vision of Jason Bay in pinstripes.
Face it, it makes all the sense in the world for the Yankees to go after Bay. They are at the end of both Damon’s and Matsui’s contracts. Getting Bay would be a huge upgrade for them. Even more, by signing Bay the Yankees would be dealing a CRUSHING blow to their rivals, the Red Sox. I really don’t see how this doesn’t happen.
If this does happen, you can all but kiss next season goodbye. Even with Bay, the Sox needed to upgrade their offense. Should they sign Gonzalez, but lose Bay, they are essentially only breaking even. Not to say that Gonzalez and Bay are equal; they aren’t. Gonzalez is a premier offensive force. But the Sox offense needs both those bats to compete with the Yankees. Signing Matt Holliday to replace him isn’t the answer. The way Boras is talking, he would cost too much. Plus, his Colorado years and his early season slump in Oakland leave a lot of questions as to what kind of hitter he really is.
Should the Sox lose Bay, 2010 is a rebuilding year.
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.
SI baseball writer Tom Verducci recently wrote an article speculating on what teams in 2009 could be like last year’s Rays — from losers to winners. While I usually like Verducci’s work, this one was a clunker. His picks? The Tigers, A’s, Braves and Orioles.
For three of them, he’s not really going out on a limb. Would anybody be really surprised if the Tigers, Athletics or Braves contended this year? Nobody who follows baseball, even moderately. The Tigers underperformed last year, but they are still stocked with talent. The A’s are always contenders, and were last year until Billy Beane kicked the legs out from under his team and dealt Harden and Blanton. And the Braves are always a possibility, especially now that they’ve revamped their pitching staff. No news here, Tom.
And the Orioles!? To give Verducci credit, he does say they have no shot at making the playoffs in the division. They do have some talent, but I don’t think their pitching can even make them moderately good this year. Maybe I’m missing something.
But there are a lot of longshots — true longshots — that do have a very good chance at contending this season.
Rangers – For years the Rangers have struggled behind the Angels and Athletics, and occassionally the Mariners. Given the AL West is more attainable now that the Angels have taken a step back this winter, the Rangers could make a move. They have the thunder in their offense. But, like always, their pitching is a big question. If they stock up on some bargain pitchers — ala Ben Sheets and Pedro Martinez, they could take the division.
Mariners – Yes, the Mariners were terrible — Holy Terrible — last season. And given they’ve dealt players like JJ Putz, they look like they have no intention of contending this season. But they could end up with maybe the best 1-2 punch in baseball with Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard in their rotation. If those two pitch how they are supposed to, that alone can make anyone a contender, especially in the wide-open AL West. On top of that, they still have Ichiro at the top of the lineup generating runs.
Pirates – A longtime loser who I’ve picked to surprise for years. Eventually, I’ll be right. And it could certainly be this season. More often than not, the reason a team like the Rays come out of nowhere to be a contender is their pitching comes together. Besides last year’s Rays, check out the 2002 Angels, the 2003 Marlins, the 2005 White Sox, 2006 Tigers and 2007 Rockies. The pitching staff on all these teams suddenly gelled and put together a winner. The Pirates’ front four of Ian Snell, Tom Gorzellany, Paul Maholm and Zack Duke are all young and all have boatloads of talent. Snell and Gorzellany took steps back last season, but could be ready to have big bounce-back years. And with the NL Central rather mediocre, they could pad their record and grab the Wild Card with a finish behind the Cubs. And they have been a team linked to Pedro.
Rockies – Again, its about pitching. And this team has some. Quite frankly, I was shocked they dealt Matt Holliday. This is a good team. They had a bad season last year, with a few guys having off years and injuries. They were a lot like the 2006 Indians. But people forget that after a disasterous first half, they were clawing back into the race by late-August last year. This division is wide open. Tulowitski will be back for a full year. And Ubaldo Jimenez is ready to become one of the best arms in the game. Him along with the talented Jeff Francis (and a resurgent Josh Fogg) could carry this team to a division title. (If they kept Holliday, they’d have it in a walk,.)
Giants – Again, a team with pitching that plays in a weak division. With Linecum, Cain and now Randy Johnson, they have the pitching. If they sign one of the big bats still out there, they can contend.
Marlins – Maybe they can’t be considered losers. They had a good year last year, despite injuries. Still, is anyone really giving them a chance to compete with the Phillies and Mets? Not many, but I am. They have some excellent hitters with guys like Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez. But, like the Pirates, their pitching goes four talented young arms deep. If those arms stay healthy, they will have a deeper, better rotation than either the Phillies or Mets.
Just recently, a friend and I were talking about what to do about Manny Ramirez. He’s entering the first of his two club option years; he’s getting old; and his production is on the decline. On the surface, for $20 million a year, he isn’t worth it. But, how can you replace him in that lineup? One of the only ways, I said, was to get Matt Holliday.
So, it was kind of exciting to read today that the Sox are considering letting Manny walk and going after Holliday. The problem, though, is my friend disagreed with me, saying Holliday’s stats away from Colorado don’t hold up. And we don’t want another ex-Rockie bust. (Remember Dante Bichette?) Given how good Holliday has been in recent years, I didn’t believe it. So I decided to take a look at his numbers.
Now, first let’s just state the obvious: There is no replacing Manny Ramirez. Manny is one of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history. And he and Papi make up the best 3-4 combo since Gehrig and Ruth. (For those gasping, the stats back it up. But that’s for another blog.) The problem is, at this point even keeping Manny for the next two years isn’t replacing Manny. His production is on the decline, and what you’ll get out of him the next two seasons – while it might be good – won’t be Manny-Ramirez-good. And, for $20 million a season, it is worth looking around, especially with a guy like Matt Holliday possibly available.
However, as it turns out — to my shock and dismay — my friend was right and I was wrr . . . wro . . . .I was misinformed. Last season, Holliday hit .376 at home, but just .301 away. He stroked 25 homers at Coors, but just 11 elsewhere. And his slugging dropped from .722 at home to just .485 away.
None of this bodes well for him joining the Red Sox. First, he’ll be replacing an elite Hall-of-Famer. That’s never a good start. Second, how will fans (and the organization) stomach it if he is putting up numbers like .299-23-108 year after year?
And yet, I think the Sox should grab him.
Since 2003, we’ve been rather spoiled, enjoying a couple of bad dudes in the middle of our lineup who could regularly put up .310-35-120 (or better) year after year. Those guys are hard to come by, and finding two guys like that is even harder. But even without those kind of guys, a team (especially a team run like the Red Sox) can still find ways win.
Chances are we’ll never find an adequate replacement for Manny Ramirez. But even without the crazy power numbers, Holliday can still hit. And just take a look at Mike Lowell if you want to see how a good right-handed hitter can use the wall in Fenway. (And Holliday is a much better hitter than Lowell.) Holliday won’t consistently put up Manny Ramirez numbers. Nobody will. But Matt Holliday will still give us a very productive and potent bat for years to come.