Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “J.D. Drew”

Red Sox Quick Hits: Youkilis, Uehara, Drew

Photo via boston.cbslocal.com

Kevin Youkilis inked a one-year pact with the New York Yankees for the upcoming season. Tom Brady’s brother-in-law will earn $12MM in 2013, which is a nice chunk of change for the soon-to-be 34-year old. In fact, it is only one million less than the option the White Sox held after he was traded from Boston last summer. He passed up a chance at a multi-year deal with the Indians and a reunion with his longtime skipper, Terry Francona. It’s a great deal for Youk.

So Youkilis, a three-time All-Star and World Champion, will head to the Bronx, and many a fan in Boston will take the opportunity to boo him or cowardly insult him in the comments section of blogs on the internet. As I wrote here nearly six months ago, Youkilis is the type of player who should be embraced in Boston, cheered when he returns, and revered when his playing days come to an end. I’m not sure what fans really want from a player. I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but I root for guys who care about winning and leave it all on the field. And if Youkilis didn’t do that when he was in a Red Sox uniform, then no one did.

Koji Uehara‘s one-year deal worth a reported $4.25MM became official yesterday. I’ll preface this by saying that I was head-over-heels in love with the Mark Melancon trade last offseason, so take my assessment of Uehara with a grain of salt. But I’m head-over-heels in love with this signing.

The 37-year old right hander will help solidify a bullpen that could evolve into quite an asset for the 2013 Red Sox. If Uehara stays healthy, he will be one of the most reliable arms John Farrell has at his disposal. Although the native of Japan pitched for the Texas Rangers last season, he is very familiar with the rigors that come with pitching in the AL East. Over the course of two and a half seasons as an Oriole, Uehara compiled a more-than-respectable 3.03 ERA.  Additionally, he strikes out nearly eight batters for every one batter he walks. That’s good stuff. GM Ben Cherington has stated that he is looking to add arms who attack the strike zone. Mission accomplished.

Stephen Drew agreed to a one-year contract with the Red Sox worth $9.5MM. Well, there goes my whole ‘start Jose Iglesias at shortstop if he has a good camp’ theory. The brother of Red Sox World Series champion and ALCS hero, J.D. Drew, this Drew is looking to rebound from what was a wretched 2012 campaign. Still recovering from a wince-worthy ankle injury he suffered in the middle of 2011, Drew missed the first half of last season and played a combined 79 games with both the Diamondback and the Athletics. His .223/.309/.348 line didn’t exactly leave Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, with a plethora of can’t-refuse offers this offseason. But Boras, as he so often does — see Adrian Beltre with the Red Sox in 2010 — found a home for his client where he will make a substantial salary and have the opportunity to rebuild his value in anticipation of cashing in this time next offseason.

Drew isn’t a player that gets me especially excited. He is an average to good defender — nothing spectacular with regards to the leather. It is true that he does offer much more upside at the plate than a player like Iglesias, but offense is almost never the real problem for Red Sox teams of recent memory.  Granted, the lineup that took the field in the subsequent games after Nick Punto and friends were traded to the Dodgers was pitiful. Generally speaking, however, the Red Sox tend to hit well enough to win on a consistent basis. Pitching has been the source of most of the headaches throughout the summer. So aside from adding a legitimate ace to the staff, what is a better way to assist in run prevention? Quality defense, especially in the middle of the diamond.

Cherington added David Ross who is excellent behind the plate. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are superb at second base and center field, respectively. Iglesias at shortstop would have not only been extremely fun to watch — it would have helped save a great deal of runs. For now, I have to assume that Iglesias will be back in Pawtucket, continuing to work on developing his bat.

Drew’s deal is only for one-year, so I’m not especially angry over it. Is $9.5MM an overpay? Probably. But, for this team, it’s all about long term flexibility, and Drew is a yet another free agent who should, if healthy, be able to contribute as an above average player at his position in 2013.

Remaking an Identity

Whether it was used in the context of consolation or with connotations of projected failure, one point has remained consistent since the end of the 2011 season: The 2012 version of the Boston Red Sox will look extremely similar on the field to last year’s team.

And that is largely true. Let’s give the diamond a once-over. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be the starting backstop again. A healthy Kevin Youkilis will be stationed at third base. Shortstop has a statistical doppelganger to Marco Scutaro in the form of Mike Aviles. Dustin Pedroia is primed for another super solid season at second base. To Pedroia’s left is the ever-smooth Adrian Gonzalez. In right field, a platoon of the defensively astute Ryan Sweeney and soon-to-be fan favorite Cody Ross will make everyone really hate J.D. Drew. Jacoby Ellsbury will again roam the real estate in center field. Eventually, Carl Crawford will be back in the shadow of the Green Monster.

The starting pitching staff? Love ‘em or hate ‘em–the main pieces are still in place.

However, the bullpen, the special teams of baseball, has undergone a makeover. Every other aspect of the 2012 Red Sox looks extremely similar to the 2011 version. The guys sitting behind the fence in right field, on the other hand, are quite different.

Over the course of the past couple of years, fans had gotten used to the end-of-the-game routine. Eighth inning-straight gas from Daniel Bard-Ninth inning-a steady dose of fastballs and splitters from Jonathan Papelbon-Postgame-“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”. No matter how last season ended, no matter what you think of Papelbon in the wake of his comments about the intelligence of Red Sox fans–things were good. Really good.

Bard has traded the grittiness of being a bullpen guy for the routinized schedule of a fourth starter. Papelbon will close down games for the Phillies in the National League, and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” will cease to play at the culmination of the ninth frame.

Instead, Mark Melancon, a former Yankee who was once deemed a potential successor to Mariano Rivera, will slot into Bard’s old role. Andrew Bailey, a two-time All-Star who was acquired from the Athletics, will be the new closer of the Red Sox. Bailey, a Jersey kid, will not have the Dropkick Murphy’s belting out lyrics for his entrance song.

Things are starkly different.

Alfredo Aceves has been downright dirty in game action this spring. Officially, he is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. In reality, he will be in the bullpen serving as a guy who can flat get guys out. Michael Bowden is out of options and seems to have developed a nice relationship with manager Bobby Valentine as well as pitching coach Bob McClure. Oh, and he’s pitched pretty damn well. I’d expect him to earn a spot in the bullpen to begin the year. Vicente Padilla is a guy who is similar to Aceves. A bit hot headed? Sure. Tenacious? Oh yes. Versatile? You betchya. Let’s not forget about our old friends Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront, and Matt Albers.

The bullpen will undoubtedly appear much different than it was last year. Bard and Papelbon have had their spots replaced by Melancon and Bailey. However, the construction of a bullpen remains the same. For a general manager, like Ben Cherington, building a bullpen is a lot like playing the lottery. Sure you can pick the numbers you play, but the majority of your success depends on luck. Just as with all major league bullpens, there will be moving parts. What the Sox begin with, will not be what they end with.

In the end, it will be up to the kid from Jersey who grew up rooting for the Phillies to make fans forget about the guy who is now pitching in Philadelphia. It will be up to the guy who was once looked at as the heir apparent to the Rivera Regime in the Bronx to validate the decision that moved Bard to the rotation. It will be up to the rest of the guys to contribute when asked, throw strikes, and record outs.

After all, that is what being in the bullpen is all about.

Tuesday’s Notes

109 years ago today, Tom Yawkey was born. 30 years and four days later, he bought the Red Sox.

As for today’s news on all things Red Sox…

  • It only took four months, but the Red Sox finally received their compensation from the Cubs for letting former GM Theo Epstein out of the final year of his contract. It’s not Starlin Castro. I’m 100 percent sure it is not Matt Garza, and when I last checked, John Lackey was still under contract with the Red Sox. Chris Carpenter is a 26 year old right handed relief pitcher who throws hard but lacks Greg Maddux-like control to say the least. A former third round pick, Carpenter had a cup of coffee with the big club last season on the south side of Chicago. However, he pitched primarily in Double-A and Triple-A. Sounds good to me. Glad it’s done. Let’s all move on with life…unless the Cubs want Lackey. No? Alright, just checkin’.
  • Carl Crawford believes that he will like playing under new manager Bobby Valentine. The Globe’s Peter Abraham thinks that Valentine will do Crawford a ton of good. At this point, I’ll hang my hat on anything when it comes to this guy. Unless he rebounds this season, Crawford will take over as the new J.D. Drew, a player who is haunted by a massive contract that overshadows his performance on the field.  The guy desperately wants to succeed. He works hard and tries even harder. Count me as someone who will be rooting hard for CC when he gets back from his wrist injury.
  • Crawford, a soft spoken guy, didn’t really like John Henry’s comments concerning his position against inking the speedy free agent last winter. Whatever. It doesn’t really seem like it’s going to be an issue. I’m sure my boss regrets hiring me, so no sweat.
  • I hope we can all collectively move on from the clubhouse issues that allegedly plagued the 2011 Red Sox. Jon Lester owned up to whatever mistakes were made. Josh Beckett was about as contrite as you’re going to see him. I’m beyond tired of hearing people who call into the sports talk radio shows in our neck of the woods and say they want an apology because the Red Sox wasted the fans’ money. Get real and stop wasting my time. Let’s just play baseball.
  • Dice-K and Valentine played catch together today. I had a toaster strudel for breakfast. Thrilling on both counts.
  • As expected, Valentine has already begun to stress fundamentals. In past years, pitchers went through drills in Spring Training by simulating the throws to the respective bases rather than using baseballs. This was designed to preserve the arms of pitchers participating in the drills. This spring? Not so much. Hands were not empty during today’s workouts. Pitcher participating used real baseballs. Valentine’s reasoning was simple: “If we’re going to practice something, I’d like to have it as close to game-real as possible. Otherwise, why bother?” I dig it.

Friday’s Notes

Photo via gaiaonline.com

  • It sounds like J.D. Drew is going to retire from baseball. But even if he chooses to play another year, it certainly won’t be with the Red Sox. Thanks to this guy, we know that Drew’s number won’t be immediately retired.
  • According to the Globe’s Peter Abraham, Kevin Youkilis knew early on that the Red Sox clubhouse wasn’t quite right: “It was very different,’’ said Youkilis. “It was noticeable early, but when you win, winning heals all the wounds. But we definitely didn’t have the right attitude in a lot of ways.” Youkilis hosted a charity event for Youk’s Kids yesterday. Keep in mind that the majority of the same team will be back in 2012. It will be up guys like Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia to be sure that the Red Sox assume the right attitude. They need to have each others’ backs. I’m sure Bobby Valentine will drive that point home throughout Spring Training and into the season.
  • Via Twitter, Nick Cafardo is reporting that as of last night the Red Sox and Edwin Jackson were not close on a deal.

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