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.
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?
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.
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 deal–you 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.
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.