Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Cody Ross and the State of the Red Sox

Photo via dailycaller.com

Marco Scutaro is gone. Cody Ross is in. The former NLCS MVP has reportedly agreed to sign a one-year $3MM deal with the Red Sox. Nothing official has come from the Red Sox, but Ross seems pretty confident that he will be a member of the Red Sox in 2012. Before getting into the implications of this signing, let’s first simply react.

If someone told me three months ago that Ross would be a member of the 2012 Red Sox team, I would have been very, very excited (still am). Ross is 31 years old and can play all three outfield positions. He hits from the right side and has a smooth .282/.349/.563 career line against left handed pitching. Ideally, he will serve as a platoon player in right field. Ryan Sweeney is an excellent defensive outfielder, but like many of the Red Sox hitters, is left handed. Ross will serve as a nice compliment to Sweeney. With Carl Crawford likely to miss at least a handful of games in the early part of the season, Ross will see a great deal of playing time, presumably in left field. He just really comes off as a team-first guy who is primed to be a fan favorite.

The signing of Ross comes after the Red Sox unloaded close to $8MM (luxury tax purposes) in the Scutaro trade to the Rockies. Immediately after that trade was completed, it seemed obvious that the Red Sox would ink Roy Oswalt to a one-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $8MM. That has not happened yet. Instead, the Red Sox have allocated at least $3MM towards outfield depth (Ross’ deal may also includes some nice production-based incentives). The argument naturally turns to what have the Red Sox sacrificed to gain a platoon outfielder and where do they go from here.

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Robbing Peter to pay Paul

It is not like the Red Sox to dump salary in the form of a useful player, especially when that player is slotted to start arguably the most important position on the diamond. Nevertheless, the Sox moved Scutaro in order to gain fiscal flexibility. As of right now, the Red Sox have essentially traded Scutaro for Ross and a starter that will likely begin the year in Pawtucket in the form of Clayton Mortensen. It would be difficult to make an argument that Ross is more valuable than Scutaro. Probably because he isn’t.

Before the trade became official, the Red Sox had two glaring holes. The first being in the bottom of the rotation. Relying on Daniel Bard and a combination of Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves, and Felix Doubront to fill out the latter half of a pitching staff is risky business. The second question mark was in the outfield. Even before Carl Crawford‘s impromptu wrist surgery, the Sox needed to acquire a right handed hitting bat who could play the outfield. Trading Scutaro freed up money, while simultaneously opening yet another vacancy that needed to be addressed. Nick Punto and Mike Aviles are fine players, but I’m not on board with watching those two platoon at shortstop over the course of a 162 game season. After the Scutaro deal and before the Ross agreement, the Red Sox had successfully created a brand new need. Aside from a reliable bottom of the rotation starter and a player to add outfield depth, Boston now needed a steady shortstop. The Ross agreement is all but official, eliminating the need for an outfielder. Essentially, the Red Sox have now traded reliability at the shortstop position for depth in the outfield, as well as some financial flexibility.

Nevertheless, it is important to realize that the Red Sox, before the Scutaro trade and the Ross signing, possessed two noticeable areas that needed to be addressed (outfield depth, quasi-reliable starter). Since those two aforementioned moves have been made, the team still needs to improve in two specific areas (shortstop, quasi-reliable starter). If that’s not treading water, I don’t know what is.

Conventional thinking, however, would lead one to believe that the Sox are not done this offseason. After all, Oswalt is still extremely available to the Red Sox. Or is he?

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If you were Roy Oswalt, would you come to Boston?

I wouldn’t. Oswalt is 34 years old. He is openly seeking a one-year deal worth $8MM. The Mississippi native wants to show teams that his back is healthy, and he is worth a multi-year deal. The AL East is likely the absolute last place a pitcher like Oswalt would want to go. Yes, there is something to be said for playing in a big market and garnering attention that way. It worked for Adrain Beltre, but that does not mean it will work for Oswalt.

If Oswalt could choose the team he pitches for in 2012, I have to believe that it would be in the National League. St. Louis seems like his ideal team. It is relatively close to home and gives the right handed pitcher a better place to succeed than in the offensively stacked AL East. The point is that Oswalt, despite the fact that he’s not seeking anything close to a long-term deal, still reserves some selectivity as to where he ends up in 2012.

According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, Oswalt said ‘no thanks’ to the Tigers earlier this week. Even a call from Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander, didn’t sway Oswalt’s decision. At this point, I’m sure Verlander, along with the rest of Detroit, is more focused on welcoming Prince Fielder than worrying about where Oswalt will end up.

If I’m Cherington, Oswalt is my guy. He was derailed last season by some back issues that limited him to 23 starts. Before that, the righty made at least 30 starts in seven consecutive seasons. Sign me up.

However, Oswalt may not be the best candidate (financially) that fits the needs of Cherington and the Red Sox.

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Why I reluctantly believe that trading for a starter makes sense

I am a guy who always salivates at the idea of signing a one-year deal for virtually any player, especially one like Oswalt who possesses a high upside. There is virtually no risk. If things don’t go well, it is no big dealyou just cut ties. Nevertheless, the Red Sox, like or not, are apparently up against a budget. It revolves around the luxury tax threshold. As a result, Gavin Floyd makes a ton of sense. Let’s first explore why White Sox GM Kenny Williams would want to deal Floyd.

By now, we are all aware of the deal that Fielder inked earlier in the day with the Tigers. Detroit, despite losing Victor Martinez due to injury, is now the obvious favorite in the AL Central. It is certainly possible that the recent addition by the Tigers will motivate Williams to move Floyd. Let’s face it–they’re not winning their division. The White Sox organization has shown that they want to rebuild. Sergio Santos was curiously dealt to the Blue Jays earlier this offseason. John Danks, however, was extended. Mixed signals.

It is tough to gauge exactly where the White Sox are at in terms of their willingness to deal pieces of their pitching staff. It is nearly impossible to pinpoint Williams’ intentions, but nothing has surfaced indicating that Floyd is off the market. Therefore, he is worth discussing.

Floyd is the latter half of a four-year $15.5MM contract. In 2012, he will make $7MM, whether he plays in Chicago or Boston (or anywhere for that matter). The Red Sox are most concerned with the figure that affects the luxury tax, and that number is based on AAV (average annual value). Therefore, Floyd would represent roughly $4MM in luxury tax dollars, despite his 2012 salary. He does have a 2013 option that, if exercised, would vault his AAV to $5MM, roughly. That option is worth $9.5MM.

Attempting to predict Williams’ strategy is almost futile. He is difficult to figure out, but Floyd certainly seems like he is there for the taking. He makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox, as long as they are comfortable giving up a handful of decent prospects. Doubront and Miller are two guys I could see being used as pieces if the Red Sox pursue a trade.

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The Red Sox shortstop situation as it stands today

Jose Iglesias should be the happiest player in the Red Sox organization. The window is open for the highly touted prospect to win the starting shortstop position in Spring Training. He just turned 22 years old and should be drooling over the opportunity.  There is no doubt that Iglesias can field at a Major League level, but he has not offensively performed up to expectations in the minor leagues. I’m anxious and excited to see how Valentine handles Iglesias in Spring Training. I firmly believe that if Iglesias has an overly productive spring, it will be difficult for Cherington/Valentine to place him in Triple-A.

Without the Red Sox adding a veteran infielder that can solidify the shortstop position, Iglesias is simply one solid Spring Training away from being the Opening Day starter for Red Sox.

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6 thoughts on “Cody Ross and the State of the Red Sox

  1. J.Penson on said:

    Oswalt will not sign with the Sox.Boston must address their pitching problem
    and the new shortstop problem.Lucchino should be gagged;he will ruin the
    team.Making a deal with the White Sox for Floyd makes sense but will the new
    GM of the Sox be allowed to make it.JP

  2. JP, thanks for commenting. Gavin Floyd represents the most fiscal sense for the Red Sox (for a luxury tax perspective), however, (unlike Oswalt and Jackson) prospects would be required to make the deal.

    I think the Red Sox know that they need some more stability in the backend of the rotation. Oswalt does not seem eager to join the Red Sox, and I don’t blame him. The AL East is stacked with offense.

    I hope they’re able to add some support to the pitching staff.

  3. At this point, any of those starters mentioned above (i.e. Oswalt, Jackson, Silva, Padilla, Cook, etc.) could, at minimum, produce the same average year that Dice-K and Lackey have produced. As a Red Sock, Lackey has produced an average ERA of 5.25 and an average WHIP of 1.50. Dike-K, as a Sock, has produced an average ERA of 4.25 and an average WHIP of 1.40 – and that includes a year (2008) where his ERA was sub-3 (2.90). If you take that year out, his avaergae ERA is really 4.74.
    The point I would make for the Red Sox case this year is that from May until August you had the best team in baseball, you had every possible thing go wrong and you had a manager that lost the team. The best manager available was brought in to breathe new life into the organization and I guarantee Bobby V will get the most out of every player; Crawford included. I really don’t think the back end of your rotation should be your biggest concern. if none of those mentioned above pan out, then the trade deadline will be an important time to get the right guy(s). However, for my team’s sake (Yankees), I hope I am wrong.

  4. Donny, real good work. Thanks for commenting. I’ve been saying for quite some time now that things have certainly changed in regards to the Red Sox. Years went by where Red Sox fans simply wanted to find a pitcher that could be paired with Pedro. Now fans are angry that there isn’t a good enough fourth/fifth starter.

    You make a very rational argument that I tend to agree with about Lackey/Dice-K, two horribly frustrating pitchers. The only caveat that I would add is that I believe the Red Sox need some more stability in the latter half of the rotation. The plan, of now, is to integrate Daniel Bard into the rotation. Without looking, I’m willing to bet that the threw 70 some-odd innings last year. I don’t see him being able to shoulder a 190-200 inning workload. Therefore, I’d like to see someone like Oswalt or Jackson who could anchor that part of the rotation.

    If you get a chance, I wrote a brief blurb about Bobby V in a more recent blog. Just a quick bullet corcerning the plethora of stops he’s made since taking over as Red Sox manager (PD, FD, and Coast Guard) are among his most recent. So far, so good. I like what (I think) he will bring to the table.

  5. Andrew on said:

    nice article…only question mark is thinking Doubrant and Miller claim any value. I don’t think the White Sox are dumping salary. Floyd is a solid mid-rotation pitcher worth a lot more than both lefties. Every team has multiple Doubrant’s in their system. He’s nothing special at all. Miller is all arm no command. Bad habit around here of overrating sox players. Unless they are willing to move real talent below AA they have no chance of trading for Floyd.

  6. Hi Andrew. Thanks for leaving your thoughts. Overall, I agree with what you’re saying. Gavin Floyd is no Roy Halladay, but he would represent a nice piece to add to the back of the Red Sox rotation. I’m obviously only speculating about Miller and Doubront being used as pieces. Kenny Williams is a tough GM to forecast. Floyd is set to make $7MM this year and has an option for $9.5MM in 2013. Williams may see an opportunity to unload some dollars.

    Is Floyd better than Doubront/Miller? Of course. Often times, however, teams are willing to give more chances than they maybe they should to young, left handed pitchers. Doubront is a guy who took a step back last year, but he is still only 24 years old. His write-up on soxprospects.com is still impressive. I think he could be used as a significant piece. I’ve left the link below, if you care to read. Again, thanks for commenting–it is appreciated.

    http://www.soxprospects.com/players/doubront-felix.htm

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