Talkin Sox with Dan

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

Archive for the tag “Marco Scutaro”

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.

Quick Announcement

I will be serving as a contributor to the Red Sox blog, BoSox Injection. It is a site that is associated with FanSided. Through FanSided, you can get news on any team from the Seattle Seahawks to the St. Louis Cardinals to the Boston Bruins.

BoSox Injection is a heavily updated site that will be home to a couple articles of mine per week. Thus far, I’ve written two pieces for BSI. The first one focused on the importance of settling with David Ortiz before an arbitration hearing. In that post, I take a stance against what the Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote here.

The second and more recent piece is about the pressure that is now on GM Ben Cherington to make a significant move when the trade deadline rolls around this year. It is important for the Red Sox to use the financial flexibility they gained from trading dumping Marco Scutaro to the Rockies.

As always, you can count on TSWD to continue with news and analysis as the Red Sox begin Spring Training and work towards Opening Day.

The Importance of Dustin Pedroia

Photo courtesy of bostonherald.com

The 2012 version of the Boston Red Sox are heading into Spring Training with a myriad of questions. In just 12 short months, the Old Towne Team has gone from being projected as the Greatest Team Ever to being viewed as the Most Flawed Team Ever. Their starting shortstop, Marco Scutaro, will be playing second base in Colorado to open the year. The franchise’s best closer, Jonathan Papelbon, will be toeing the rubber in the ninth for the Phillies in 2012. The rear end of the Red Sox rotation possesses two gaping holes. Despite toting a payroll that will likely eclipse $180MM, the ownership group on Yawkey Way is being labeled as a collection of misers, too preoccupied with football in England to be focusing on baseball in New England. Oh, and there was a cataclysmic collapse last September that cost the Red Sox a playoff berth. More importantly, that wet-the-bed effort in the final month of the season forced the media and fans of Boston to question the level of dedication and effort being put forth by many members of that Red Sox team, specifically, the pitching staff. Trust me, there are plenty of items for Sox enthusiasts to worry about.

Dustin Pedroia, on the other hand, represents the exact opposite. When it comes to Pedroia, there is nothing to worry about. He is a stalwart. A stud. If you’re placing a bet on Pedroia to succeed, starting counting your doubloons now because he is a complete and total lock. The scrappy second baseman also happens to be the most important position player on a team that, despite popular opinion, is loaded with talent. Pedroia is good. That already we know. But how good?

Last season, Pedroia got on-base at a .387 clip. Career high. He drove in 91 runs. Career high. The guy even drew 86 walks. Career high. Because he not a burner, stolen bases is not a stat that writers who cover the Sox immediately turn to when analyzing Pedroia, but the second baseman swiped a smooth 26 bags in 2011. He is an intelligent base runner who is sneaky-quick.  The 26 bases he nabbed? Career high.

He did all of that with a screw inserted into his left foot. It was removed on September 30th of this past year. As if that wasn’t enough, in a mid-May contest against the Orioles, Pedroia injured his right knee making an off-balance throw to first base. For the majority of 2011, the former MVP had to mentally and physically deal with knowing that an inch-long piece of metal was in his left foot and play through what ended up being a badly bruised knee. In a recent offseason interview with weei.com’s Rob Bradford, Pedroia opened up about how he was feeling during the first part of 2011: “There was the point I bruised the knee cap in my right knee and I’m dealing with the foot and my knee and it was wearing on me. I was more frustrated because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.” The injury to Pedroia’s knee ended up being relatively minor, but there was plenty of concern at the time. There was even talk of potentially needing surgery. He missed a pivotal game in the series finale with the Yankees on June 9th to have his knee examined in Boston. At the time, he was sporting a less-than-impressive.247/.361/.338 line. The results of the exam were positive–a simple bruise, no surgery needed, and Pedroia finally had a little peace of mind. He went 3-4 and added a walk the next night in Toronto. As a reminder, the veteran rebounded in superb fashion and finished the year with a show-and-tell worthy .307/.387/.474 line. Pedroia puts up numbers that earns him recognition league-wide, but his value to this Red Sox team transcends the traditional statistical categories.

According to Fan Graphs, in 2011, Pedroia accounted for 8 wins above what a replacement player would have offered. A replacement player is identified as someone at the AAA/AAAA level. Nick Punto would serve as a good example of a replacement for Pedroia. Let’s offer some context on the matter of WAR. Pedroia finished fourth among all Major League position players in WAR. Robinson Cano, Pedroia’s rival counterpart who is widely regarded as a superior player, had a 5.6 WAR in 2011, more than two wins above replacement behind the Sox second baseman. The overarching point here is that Pedroia is extremely valuable to his team. His impact on the diamond, relative to the rest of the players in Major League Baseball, has an immensely positive impact on the win column for the Red Sox. He is an integral cog in the Red Sox machine. This coming year will offer a new set of challenges that will undoubtedly test Pedroia’s ability to adapt defensively and provide offensive versatility.

It has been well-documented that the Red Sox will enter Spring Training without an everyday shortstop. Mike Aviles can provide some pop at the plate, but his defense isn’t exactly award-winning. Punto can flash the leather a bit, but he is 34 years old. In the past two seasons, the longtime Twin and former Cardinal has played in a total of 151 games. GM Ben Cherington acquired Punto to serve strictly in a utility role. The dark horse candidate at shortstop is Jose Iglesias. Unless he puts together an eye-widening Spring Training, he will likely find himself in Triple-A to begin the year. In 2012, Pedroia will be anchoring a middle infield that will see multiple faces at shortstop. It is safe to say that Cherington would not have traded Scutaro to the Rockies if the Red Sox did not have the luxury of having a Gold Glove caliber veteran at second base. There is no doubt that Pedroia’s defensive prowess around the second base bag will have to be on display more than ever in 2012. The Red Sox are likely to also lean on his offensive flexibility.

In an ideal world, DP is a guy who slots seamlessly into the two-hole. Hitting behind Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia offers power, speed, and the ability to get on base. Not to mention, Number 15 is a right handed hitter who transitions nicely into Adrian Gonzalez, a left handed hitter who is molded for the three-hole. Like Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia is never cheated out of an at bat. Ever. If you’re a starting pitcher, good luck dealing with Ellsbury and Pedroia to begin a game. Pedroia was birthed to hit second in a powerhouse lineup. However, Carl Crawford is another guy who is best served hitting towards the top of the heap. The Red Sox have a lot of those guys. It doesn’t take Connie Mack to figure out that Crawford cannot be hitting in the latter half of the lineup. He just isn’t that guy. Bobby Valentine, I hope, will come to that realization when Crawford returns from his wrist surgery. I don’t care if it lefty-lefty at the top of the order–Crawford needs to be hitting second for his own psyche. Thankfully, Pedroia is an extremely flexible offensive weapon. Who is more likely to succeed if he is bounced around the lineup (between second and fifth): Pedroia or Crawford? DP. Easy choice. Valentine has said on multiple occasions that he does not necessarily believe in a “set lineup”. That’s fine by me. Nevertheless, as the manager, it is vital to provide stability for Crawford, while taking advantage of Pedroia’s ability to get on base and drive in runs. The guy is a total masher who can hit anywhere from the two-hole to the five-hole. He is the definition of being offensively versatile.

Pedroia will play the majority of 2012 at the age of 28. He is entering the prime of his career. He is extremely healthy entering Spring Training. No mental or physical preoccupations exist now that the screw has been extracted from his foot. Pedroia is ready to roll.

There are no questions to be asked. Just as we expected.

Summarizing the Town Hall Meeting

Photo courtesy of grantland.com

As previously blogged, I attended a town hall style meeting tonight at Worcester Technical High School hosted by NESN. GM Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine answered a myriad of questions from the crowd. I took my sister who is an avid Red Sox fan. It was a fun event. It was free. And I didn’t embarrass myself too badly, but you can be the judge of that when the program airs tomorrow night at 10 PM on NESN. Let’s hit on a couple quick notes.

  • Worcester Tech’s campus is beautiful, and the auditorium was an ideal venue to play host to an event like tonight’s. I’m used to a plethora of aluminum chairs in a gym with a basketball hoop in the background. This was the opposite. Very professional. NESN has four microphones set up. Two were on each side of the stage–about seven feet away from Valentine and Cherington. The other two were situated towards the rear, just before the beginning of the second level of seating. The NESN employees did an excellent job ensuring that question-askers were in the right spot, at the right microphone at the right time. Tom Caron did a superb job hosting. He seamlessly transitioned between questions from the audience to general inquiries you would expect from a standard interview. I thought it was really well done.
  • I’m going to guess that 25-30 questions were asked. Half of the inquiries were made by Sox fans who were no older than 12. Pretty brave of the young fellas. When I was that age, I was just trying to avoid getting beat up, forget posing questions in front of hundreds of people to members of Red Sox brass.
  • It was a good question, but, contrary to popular belief, Valentine is not related to Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.
  • But he may have invented the wrap.
  • I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said I didn’t end up shaking my head at a few ton of the questions that were posed to both Valentine and Cherington. One member of the audience has to be related to Marco Scutaro. Right now, do I believe that it was a shrewd move by Cherington to ship Scutaro to the Rockies? No, not yet. But this guy was really, really unhappy with the first-year GM.
  • I had told myself and a few buddies that if I did get the chance to ask a question, I would. The opportunity did present itself, and I took advantage of it. I immediately regretted my decision. Naturally, I was placed at one of the stage-side microphones (to the left of Cherington and Valentine). I was hoping to be escorted to one of the mikes towards the back of the auditorium in order to decrease the amount of sweat that seeped from my palms. When it was my turn, I asked the question that I believe is the most relevant question of the offseason: (quoted roughly) “The Marco Scutaro trade freed up close to $8MM in luxury tax dollars. $3MM has been allocated to Cody Ross, and $5-6MM is left. If you, as the GM of the Red Sox, are unable to obtain a quality starting pitcher before the season or at the trade deadline, will the Scutaro trade be viewed as a failure?”

–Cherington’s response is what you would expect–loaded with jargon about how the financial flexibility can’t just be attributed to Ross’ signing because there are players on the roster (Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc.) who will receive more money in 2012 than than they did the previous year. Essentially, the Red Sox look at payroll through a macro, not a micro, lens. In other words, the fiscal flexibility gained through the Scutaro trade could be used now to pluck a guy like Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt off of the market or utilized later for any number of roster moves that may or may not have a direct effect on the 2012 season (signing a draft pick, for example).

Remove the cameras and the audience–Cherington would agree that the success of the Scutaro trade is contingent upon the Red Sox ability to acquire a quality starting pitcher between now and the beginning of August. If that was not the case, the Red Sox would not still be involved in talks with Oswalt and Jackson.

Town Hall Meeting Tonight

Manager Bobby Valentine and GM Ben Cherington will be on hand at Worcester Technical High School tonight to answer questions and discuss the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Tom Caron is hosting the event for NESN which will air the question and answer session tomorrow night.

I’ve never been to an event like this, so I’m not sure what to expect. If I get the opportunity to ask a question, I certainly will. I hope to inquire about how the Marco Scutaro trade will be evaluated if the Red Sox are unable to acquire a quality starting pitcher before the season begins or at the trade deadline. If for some reason someone beats me to the punch, I have a more philosophical question regarding how Cherington approaches free agency and trades as opposed to other GM’s, notably Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies.

I’ll try to refrain from any Jay Buhner rants.

Oswalt May be Heading to St. Louis

Image via homeruncards.com

According to Mark Polishuk of mlbtraderumors.com, free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt will likely be toeing the rubber for the Cardinals next season. Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio was the first to tweet the news last night. In his tweet, Duquette included that the Red Sox and Astros were still involved. Although nothing is official, I find it extremely hard to believe that Oswalt will be heading north to Boston or back his original team, the Astros. Just as TSWD wrote earlier this week, Oswalt, despite being in the latter half of his career and coming off of a year where he suffered from back issues, does reserve a fair amount of selectivity concerning the team he pitches for in 2012. St. Louis just makes the most sense.

A Mississippi native, Oswalt will be close to home if when the righty signs on with the 2011 World Champion Cardinals. Have the Cards lost their best player, a guy who will be talked about in the same breath as Stan Musial? Sure. Are they still an extremely good team that plays in a lackluster division? You bet. By joining the Cardinals, Oswalt will join a staff that includes Chris Carpenter (a TSWD favorite–guy’s a total gamer) and Jaime Garcia. Oh, and Adam Wainwright. Remember him? Yeah, he’s the guy that finished second in Cy Young Award voting in 2010 before undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Oswalt will serve as a quality veteran presence in an already-quality pitching staff.

When analyzing Oswalt’s not-yet-official decision to join the Cardinals, it’s vital to take a look at the teams that were interested in his services. I’m not going to discuss the Astros’ involvement because I have no idea where their motivation is coming from–maybe sentimentality. Who knows? Two teams needed Oswalt (for argument’s sake, Oswalt’s name is interchangeable with ‘a relatively-quality starting pitcher’). The Red Sox and Tigers have question marks in their rotation. Oswalt would have filled a vacancy for both teams. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the one-year offer that Oswalt declined from the Tigers was worth close to $10MM. The offer from GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox was likely closer to half of that figure. Clearly, money is not the motivation for Oswalt.

Location is the driving force.

St. Louis or Texas? The World Champs or Mike Maddux? Each destination is appealing to the 34 year old. Both teams possess deep staffs that really do not need Oswalt. In fact, each team would likely have to make some sort of move to accommodate Oswalt. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com offers a few creative explanations that would provoke them to pursue signing Oswalt. Texas would have likely had to move a guy like Alexi Ogando to the bullpen to create space for the right handed starter.

So where does this leave the Red Sox?

Edwin Jackson is still on the market. Sox fans need to come to the realization that the Red Sox are not going to overextend themselves for a starter. Jackson reportedly has more than one multi-year deal on the table. It is natural to believe that Scott Boras and his client would jump on three-year offer from a team like the Orioles. However, next year’s free agent class could prove to be more lucrative for Jackson. So, wouldn’t it make sense for Jackson to accept a one-year contract with the Red Sox? Not so fast.

Sure, Boras and Adrian Beltre were able to successfully parlay a productive 2010 campaign with the Red Sox into a long-term big money contract with the Rangers. He was a hitter playing in the AL East, however. Jackson could be conceivably pitching into the wind against an offensively potent division if he were to sign on with the Sox. Again, we run into the same problem we faced when we put ourselves in Oswalt’s position: Why, as a pitcher, come to AL East when the objective is to boost one’s value in an impending free agent market?

The Red Sox acquired some financial flexibility after the Marco Scutaro trade. That cannot be taken away. Time will tell whether the Sox choose to exercise that money now or at the trade deadline. No matter what, however, the success of the Scutaro deal is dependent upon Cherington’s ability to add a starting pitcher sometime between now and the beginning of August.

Checking in on a Thursday Evening

Just some notes concerning the Red Sox and some activity around baseball.

  • Bobby Valentine continued his crusade around New England today where I’m confident he will end up meeting every single one of the six states’ constituents. He made several stops, meeting with police officers, fire fighters, and members of the Coast Guard. The Globe’s Peter Abraham went along for the ride. I’m usually relatively pessimistic when it comes to these things, but for some reason, I don’t believe that Valentine’s efforts are at all contrived. Now, I don’t actually believe that these appearances necessarily are a precursor to any sort of success in the dugout, but I still dig it. Say what you want about the guy, but he one tireless individual.
  • In case you want to size-up Valentine in-person, NESN and the Red Sox will host a “town hall style” meeting at Worcester Technical High School this coming Wednesday. GM Ben Cherington will be there with Valentine to field questions from the public. TSWD will be there. I’m all for events that are down the road, free, and provide a unique opportunity to potentially embarrass myself.
  • Andrew Bailey and the Red Sox avoided arbitration yesterday, agreeing to a one year deal worth $3.9MM. He will likely be the Opening Day closer when the Sox play in Detroit on April 5. Jonathan Papelbon will make slightly over $11MM in 2012. Say what you want about the Red Sox and their lack of spending this offseason, but that’s just solid work by a first-year GM.
  • Cody Ross is officially a member of the Red Sox. Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to make room for the right handed hitting outfielder, according to Boston Globe.
  • Just as TSWD blogged yesterday, Roy Oswalt does not want the Red Sox the way the Red Sox want Roy Oswalt. Don’t blame him. There are other teams that are closer to home and face less difficult competition on a night in and night out basis. Sure,Boston is a good place to go if you want to compete for a championship, but so is Texas or St. Louis.
  • Via Twitter, Nick Cafardo is reporting that the Red Sox are one of several teams that Edwin Jackson is willing to accept a one-year deal to pitch for. I won’t be heartbroken if the Sox don’t end up withJackson, but I will be disappointed. In order for the Marco Scutaro trade to be viewed as a wise decision, signing a quality starting pitcher is important essential.
  • Signing overweight, defensively not-so-great first baseman to nine-year deals is never wise.
  • But neither are sever-year deals for players who don’t get on-base as often as you think and rely on their legs.
  • Is there any chance the Red Sox could leave the American League entirely and just play in the NL Central? Please?

Cody Ross Boston Bound?

You know the stove isn’t very hot when you’re hitting the refresh button to see if Cody Ross has chosen which team he will sign with. I wonder if he’s going to have his own Decision special on ESPN like Lebron James.

The former NLCS MVP is a fine right handed outfielder who hits left handed pitching rather well. The Red Sox shed some payroll after moving Marco Scutaro to the Rockies. For luxury tax purposes, Scutaro freed up close to $8MM. Alex Speier of weei.com does an excellent job explaining this here. So the Sox have some flexibility to add a piece or two. It seems like they’re going to pull the trigger on Ross who represents some much-needed outfield depth in the form of a right haded bat.

It will be interesting to see how a deal for Ross would affect their ability to pursue Roy Oswalt or Gavin Floyd.

Catching up with the Red Sox on a Patriots Sunday

Photo courtesy of pennlive.com

It’s been a quietly busy offseason for GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox. Boston won the Hot Stove League last year with the additions of Carl Crawford through free agency and Adrian Gonzalez via trade. Unfortunately for the 2011 Red Sox, the real hardware isn’t handed out until late October. This winter lacks the glitz and glamor of yesteryear, but Cherington is working under starkly different conditions than former GM Theo Epstein. Cherington is in his first year as General Manager, whereas Epstein had firmly cemented his position as one of the game’s best executives. More importantly, Cherington is working under a relatively tight budget. If Epstein was given $100 by John Henry in 2011, Cherington’s allowance is $10 this year. So far, I have nothing but quality reviews for the first year GM. He has orchestrated two trades that brought the Red Sox quality, low cost arms in Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon. Both players will work to fill vacancies in the bullpen left by Jonathan Papelbon and, presumably, Daniel Bard. Cherington’s latest move is the trade of starting shortstop Marco Scutaro to the Rockies for a pitcher who will likely be in Pawtucket to begin the year. You don’t need to be Peter Gammons to know that this move was purely a salary dump. There has to be another card up Cherington’s sleeve. It would be like Danny Ainge trading for Ray Allen in 2007 and not getting Kevin Garnett. I’m not expecting baseball’s version of the Big Ticket coming to the Red Sox, but I’ll take Roy Oswalt.

I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday as the Patriots shoot for another Super Bowl bid. Meaningful football being played in New England late in January serves as a hell of a distraction during the Red Sox offseason.

Cherington Moving Fast

According to a tweet from FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, the Red Sox are not wasting any time in the wake of dealing Marco Scutaro to the Rockies. GM Ben Cherington has already intensified his pursuit of free agent starting pitcher Roy Oswalt. It makes sense that the Sox will go hard after Oswalt, but I think it’s important to remember that the right handed starter is not the elite pitcher he once was. However, if Cherington is able to pluck the 34 year old off the market, he will anchor the bottom half of the rotation and has a ton of upside.

Continue to check back as TSWD monitors the situation.

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