Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “Adam LaRoche”

LaRoche Signs, Napoli still in Limbo

Photo courtesy of survivinggrady.com

Adam LaRoche is the latest free agent to fall victim of the affliction known as the qualifying offer. Players like LaRoche and Rafael Soriano have seen their free agent stock dip this offseason as teams shy away from relenquishing a first or second round pick, something they would have to give up if they chose to sign a player who received a qualifying offer from their former club. It kept the slick fielding first baseman from getting the three-year offer that he coveted.

LaRoche inked a two-year deal worth $24MM on Tuesday with the Nationals. The 33-year old first baseman enjoyed a career year in 2012 but found it impossible to squeeze a three-year deal out of a team, mostly due to the fact that a club, like the Red Sox, would have been giving up a valuable draft pick–in the neighborhood of 44 overall for the Sox. LaRoche’s return to the Nats is interesting in and of itself, but the ripple effect of the signing may be even more intriguing because it tells us a few things about where the Red Sox stand in relation to Mike Napoli and their increasingly glaring hole at first base.

—- I never thought Adam LaRoche was a real option for the Red Sox once the Nationals made him a qualifying offer. It was obvious that GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox were targeting players like Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster who were willing to sign relatively short term deals and did not force the team to give up a second round pick–and the money that comes with it. The report that came out a couple of weeks ago concerning the Red Sox speaking with LaRoche may have been true. But let’s be real. It was largely posturing on the part of the Sox. LaRoche was relevant enough of an option to keep him in the discussion this offseason, but he was not going to be playing first base for the Red Sox on April 1 in the Bronx. No way.

—- Argument A: LaRoche signing with the Nationals takes leverage away from the Red Sox. They do not have a viable backup plan any longer. Casey Kotchman, Mauro Gomez? Have fun.

       Argument B: LaRoche’s agreement with the Nats is further evidence to the idea that the Red Sox are confident that Napoli situation is going to be resolved, and he will be the Opening Day first baseman.

I will take the latter of the two opinions. The Red Sox and Napoli need each other. This gets done soon.

—- Mike Morse is expendable, but I don’t believe the Red Sox are a true fit. The reality of the situation is that this isn’t going to happen because Napoli will end up in Boston. But, for fun, let’s play along. Morse is a right handed power hitter who is not a defensively gifted first baseman. Same with Napoli. Morse will be 31-years old when he plays the 2013 season. Same with Napoli. The Red Sox would likely have to give up a left handed relief option as well as a decent minor league chip to nab Morse from Nats. I think it would take someone like Franklin Morales as opposed to Craig Breslow to pry the Nats’ power hitter away from the Nation’s capital. Morse is set to make $6.75MM in 2013, and Napoli, no matter how his contract is amended given his hip condition, will make substantially more. This offseason, Cherington has shown a willingness to overpay for free agents–in the short term–as long he is able to preserve and add to the pool of minor talent that awaits in the farm system. Ultimately, I simply don’t see the Red Sox extending themselves to acquire Morse. Look for the Rays, Yankees, and Mariners to pursue the big righty in a trade.

Where the Hell is Mike Napoli?

Photo via nashuatelegraph.com

On December 3, the Red Sox agreed to a three-year deal with free agent Mike Napoli. That’s right.

The third.

Seventeen days later, Napoli has yet to sit in front of the fake brick Red Sox/Dunkin’ Donuts overlay, donning the home white while GM Ben Cherington and Company introduce him to the media. No one is saying much of anything. Mum is most definetely the word.

“There’s really nothing to comment on. As with any free agent, until it’s done, it’s not done. We continue to work on different ways to improve the team. I’ll comment on it as soon as I can, but I can’t right now. We’ve had some more dialogue. I wouldn’t classify it as one way or the other,” Cherington said at Ryan Dempster‘s introductory presser on Tuesday.

Well, that was very Belichickian of Cherington. But really, what do we expect? It’s a sensitive situation that affects both the Red Sox as a team in 2013 as well as Napoli’s value as a free agent. It benefits no one to discuss the snag.  Nevertheless, it certainly doesn’t stop us from dissecting what is approaching a post-agreement disaster.

What this means for the Red Sox

In the end? Probably nothing. Napoli will likely still sign with the Sox for either two years or three years with a well-defined injury clause similar to John Lackey‘s. Will Carroll of SI.com recently reported that Cherington and the Red Sox are in fact looking to have Napoli and his agent agree to reduce the pact to a two-year agreement. I’m sure that there is some validity to that. We know one thing for sure: If Napoli is a member of the Red Sox in 2013, the Red Sox will be well-protected against any sort of injury.

I’ve heard the theory that this is just another case of Red Sox doctors fouling up a situation involving a player. The next quasi-logical thought is that this process, especially if it ends with an unhappy Napoli, will deter future free agents from looking Boston’s way in the future. I will never buy the argument that free agents are going to go to other teams because the media in Boston is tough, the clubhouse can be a rough place to be, or the medical staff has a bad rep. Just follow the money. In the end, nothing else really matters.

For now, Cherington has to keep his options open. I don’t believe the agreement will end up falling through, but as a GM, one must be ready for any situation he is thrust in to. That means not losing touch with guys like Nick Swisher or Adam LaRoche. Lesser first base options like Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis have signed with Indians and Yankees, respectively. Trade targets, like Kendrys Morales, will not hang around, waiting for Napoli’s three week long doctors appointment to come to an end. It benefits the Red Sox to get this wrapped up as soon as possible.

The same can be said for Napoli.

What this means for him

The bulky right handed hitter set out to do two things this offseason: Establish himself as a free agent catcher, not a first baseman, and come to terms on a four-year deal. He missed on both. The Red Sox, like other teams, evaluated Napoli as a full-time first baseman who possesses the ability to catch here and there when needed. As soon as it was reported that the former Texas Ranger was looking to land a four-year deal, the Sox immediately let their foot off of the gas pedal. They seemingly drew the line in the sand at three-years. Their decision proved fruitful as they netted Napoli for three-years and $39MM, plenty lucrative for a player who is looking to rebound after a below average, injury plagued 2012 campaign. Napoli’s goal of a guaranteed four years could easily be cut in half should the negotiations following his physical lead to his camp and the Red Sox agreeing on a two year guaranteed contract with an option, for example.

There is, of course, a chance that Napoli finds himself on the open market yet again. His value would naturally be much lower than it was before he agreed to the three-year deal with the Red Sox. I cannot see a team offering anything more than a two years, and even that may be a stretch.

Ultimately, the Red Sox need Napoli as much as Napoli needs the Red Sox. I would expect this to be resolved on either Wednesday or Thursday of this upcoming week, just before the beginning of 2013.

—–

Update: According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the snag is concerning an issue with one of Napoli’s hips. Local reports are indicating that the deal could easily fall through. Based on Rosenthal’s report, I believe that is a bit overstated. You can decide for yourself. Here is the link. I still believe this deal gets done.

Catching up with the Red Sox

I remember watching the television and reading the articles that came after the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed free agent Carl Crawford. I was in awe. I went to Spring Training in Fort Myers for the first time that year (it was pre-planned and didn’t have any correlation to with the Sox’ acquisitions). Nearly every expert had the Red Sox penciled in as AL East champs. I remember feeling legitimately proud of my team. But the feeling didn’t last long. Consequently, I learned, first hand, a valuable lesson — just because you win the offseason, that does not mean you’re going to win when it counts.

So when I see fans on Twitter panicking because the Red Sox haven’t made any big splashes, I just take a deep breath and relax. By no means am I saying that the Sox are going to win the championship in 2013, but I can tell you that if they do, it won’t be because of what they have or have not done in the middle of November.

Let’s catch up with the folks on Yawkey Way.

On Mike NapoliWe all know the story by now — kills the Sox, mashes at Fenway. Let’s look at everything independent of those two facts. Napoli is poor/average defensively whether we are discussing him as a first baseman or catcher. But, for the Red Sox, that is okay. I believe their infield will include Jose Iglesias, so there is room to sacrifice some defense for much-needed pop from the right side. Napoli has reportedly met with (or will be meeting with), the Red Sox, Mariners, and Rangers. He is pushing for a fourth year, which I hope the Sox don’t give him. Go heavy on the dollars, less on the years — not just for Napoli but for every free agent. Inking the burly right handed hitter is not a must, but, all things even, I would rather than him than Adam LaRoche. Napoli is just a good fit for this team, at this time.

On draft picks (and Napoli, kind of)…As baseball fans, we don’t relate to the NFL or NBA drafts. They are highly publicized and televised on networks like ESPN and TNT, respectively. First round talent is expected to produce immediately. Baseball is different. Partially due to the lack of national publicity that the MLB First-Year Player Draft receives and the nature of the game in and of itself (it’s really, really hard), draft picks do not garner the attention they deserve. So my point is simple: They’re important. Really, really important, especially if you’re a team like the Red Sox that is looking to rebuild. It makes Napoli even more intriguing because the Rangers chose not to extend a qualifying offer to the 31-year old. If GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox lose out on Napoli, they will have to look elsewhere, like to LaRoche. Unlike Napoli, the Nationals did offer LaRoche a qualifying offer (one-year deal at roughly $13.3MM). Therefore, the Red Sox would be forced to forfeit their pick.

Let’s put some meat on the bones here.

The Red Sox have the seventh overall pick when the draft rolls around this June. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the top ten picks are protected. Essentially, the Red Sox, no matter who they sign this offseason, cannot lose that pick. As a result, if they do sign someone like LaRoche, Kyle Lohse, Nick Swisher, or Josh Hamilton (and there are others), their second round pick would be shipped to the team that the free agent played with last season. Again, putting context behind this — if the Red Sox sign LaRoche they will relinquish their second round pick to the Nationals. That would be the 38th overall pick. Is a first round pick better than a second round pick? Sure. But in 2009, there was a player taken 13 slots before where the Red Sox will pick in the second round of the 2013 draft . His name is Mike Trout. Draft picks are important.

On Jonny GomesTwo years, $10MM. I’m skeptical. But he did produce admirably for the A’s last season — .262/.377/.491. The OBP is eye-popping. Gomes has a career on-base percentage of .334, which is certainly not poor, but when he is given more than roughly 350 at-bats, he becomes exposed. I’m sort of indifferent on the signing. I didn’t expect it, but I’m not extremely angry over it. If the Red Sox deploy him properly (platoon role against left handed pitchers), he will thrive. It would stupid to ignore the influence he brings in the clubhouse. Gomes is considered one of the better clubhouse guys in the game, which is interesting given his involvement in on the field brawls. He was suspended following the punches that were thrown in the 2008 fight with between the Red Sox and the Rays. From everything I read, Gomes, like the newly acquired David Ross, will help make the Sox clubhouse an enjoyable atmosphere.

On the offseason…Please do not be one of the people who complains during the season about having overpriced, spoiled players and then turns around and criticizes the Sox for not jumping at every big name on the market. Don’t be the guy who calls in 98.5 The Sports Hub, complaining about how the Red Sox are not disciplined and just throw their money away on a two-year deal for their star DH because they need to support their ratings on NESN — and then contend that signing Hamilton is the best avenue to take. I mean, really?

The Winter Meetings start on December 3. Until then, let’s all at least try to relax.

Some Advice for the Offseason

There is no doubt that this offseason is an important one for GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox. Barring some sort of unforeseen massive trade or two, coupled with a flurry of quality free agent signings, the Sox will not be on any expert’s list to win much of anything next season. For now, it’s important for this team to target players who are willing sign short term, short money deals. Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke are excellent players, but they simply do not fit in Boston–not this year.

The Red Sox, however, have plenty of vacancies. They need help at first base, shortstop, in the outfield, and on the mound. Cherington has absolute ton of money to play with as well. So what does this mean?

A few things…

  • They will be linked to almost every free agent or trade candidate. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 33-year old Adam LaRoche who flashed nicely in Washington last season, slugging 33 home runs or if it’s Justin Upton, a nice young player who would require a team to unload major league ready talent as well as a slew of quality prospects.
  • It is wise for every agent to include the Red Sox as a team interesed in their client. In theory, the Sox possess the resources to compete for literally every free agent on the market. From Hamilton to Greinke to Jeff Keppinger, agents wants other teams to believe that the Red Sox are in on their guy. It will simply drive the price up, whether the Sox have legitimate interest or not.
  • Keep this in mind as the offseason unfolds. Don’t get too excited if reports indicate that the Red Sox are pursuing Player X. Boston has both a ton of holes to fill and a ton of dough to spend, and that likely means they’ll be “in” on nearly everyone. It’s beneficial for almost all of the parties involved to have the Red Sox show up on the list of teams ready to throw cash at a free agent.
  • Bottom line: Given where the Red Sox currently stand, if a player is looking for anything more than a three-year deal, they’re likely not extremely interested.

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