Red Sox

Nation STATion: Theo-cracy

308367.jpg

Nation STATion: Theo-cracy

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

As hard as I find it to believe that the Sox did not make postseason, I remain in a deeper state of shock and disappointment that Terry Francona was thrown under the bus by management. The one thing I can tell you without question is that the more you think you know what is going on with a ballclub, the less you actually know.

So lets discuss what we do know: from Day 1, this team had too many left-handed hitters and too few starting pitchers. The roster had little depth, minimal chemistry, few leaders. All that means, Nation, is that we have to turn our lonely eyes to GM Theo Epstein. This is not Los Angeles, where manager Mike Scioscia is the unofficial assistant GM (say goodbye to Tony Reagins) or Baltimore, where manager Buck Showalter has more and more front office control. In Boston, it became the opposite as apparently Terry ceded more influence to Theo, Lucchino, and John Henry.

When you look at the Sox homegrown players like Pedey, Jacoby, Youk, Buchholz, and Papelbon, you can see that Theo has a real gift when it comes to drafting and player development. But (Julio Lugo) signing free agents (Edgar Renteria) has not been his forte.

Theo seems to have a very specific formula for determining the free agents that he is interested in signing. Call it what you want, Moneyball or anything else, the veterans that Theo goes after have certain statistics (OPS) and a certain personality, usually quiet and unemotional (not unlike Theo himself), and rarely a leader (Dice-K, J.D. Drew, and Carl Crawford, come to mind).

Take a look at these nine notable free agent signing periods since the Red Sox' last postseason success, the 2007 World Championship (the Sox have won one postseason series since):

1. February 2008 - Signed Bartolo Colon as a free agent. Now in the Yankee rotation.
2. December 2008 - Signed Brad Penny as a free agent. Found success with St. Louis and Detroit.
3. January 2009 - Signed Mark Kotsay (now in the postseason with Milwaukee) and John Smoltz (retired) as free agents.
4. August 2009 - Signed Paul Byrd (retired) as a free agent.
5. December 2009 - Signed Darnell McDonald (November has hit .258 as a fourth outfielder), Marco Scutaro (has hit .284 for the Sox), Mike Cameron (released) and John Lackey (5.36 ERA in two seasons with Boston) as free agents.
6. January March 2010 - Signed Adrian Beltre (now in the postseason with Texas), Scott Atchison (4.08 ERA in mop-up role for Boston), Alan Embree (retired), Scott Schoeneweis (retired) as free agents.
7. December 2010 - Signed Carl Crawford (.255, 18 steals), Matt Albers (4.73 ERA), Rich Hill (injured), Randy Williams (only seven Boston appearances, 6.48 ERA), Andrew Miller (5.54 ERA 1.815 WHIP), Lenny DiNardo (now in the Oakland organization), Dan Wheeler (4.38 ERA), Bobby Jenks (6.32 ERA injured and ill) as free agents.
8. February 2011 - Signed Hideki Okajima (January quickly designated for assignment), Dennys Reyes (quickly released) and Alfredo Aceves (thank you for a great season; 2.61 ERA in 55 games) as free agents.
9. May 19, 2011 - Signed Kevin Millwood (pitched for the Rockies) as a free agent.

When you look at the group above, the only signing that can perceived as a Grade A success was the one-year rental of Adrian Beltre. I like Marco Scutaro, but he was signed with the intent that he would serve as a place-filler until Jed Lowrie or Jose Iglesias could grow into the job. I hope that Marco returns, as it doesnt look as if Lowrie will ever be healthy or ready and Iglesias, who is a defensive whiz, only hit .235 for Pawtucket this season and could use more seasoning. In addition, Iglesias wont be 22 until January and it may not be the wisest thing to bring him into the turmoil of 2012.

Boston has a 6M option on Scutaro. If the Red Sox don't exercise Scutaro's option, Marco can opt to remain in Boston for 3M or become a free agent and take a 1.5M buyout. Among shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances, Scutaro, who hit .299, had the majors fourth highest OBP at .358, exceeded only by Yunel Escobar (.369), Troy Tulowitzki (.372), and Jose Reyes (.384). Among that group of shortstops, only Reyes is a free agent and who knows what Theo has in mind as he re-evaluates the team's free agent policy.

But it wasnt just free agents that led to Red Sox 2011 mess. Here is a chronology of the Sox transactions since the completion of the 2010 season:

November 2010
Mike Lowell granted Free Agency the Sox never replaced this veteran.
Victor Martinez granted Free Agency Not signing Martinez was Bostons biggest mistake of the offseason. V-Mart not only is a switch-hitter who provides a terrific bat as a DH, first baseman, and catcher, but is renowned for being a great clubhouse presence.
Jason Varitek granted Free Agency.
Adrian Beltre granted Free Agency Beltre wanted to return to the Sox, but was ultimately blocked when Theo fulfilled his long-felt desire to acquire Adrian Gonzalez and Youk was moved to third. Beltre ultimately signed a five-year deal with Texas and is now in the postseason.
Bill Hall granted Free Agency.
Felipe Lopez granted Free Agency.
Chad Paronto granted Free Agency.
Ramon Ramirez granted Free Agency.
Dusty Brown granted Free Agency.
Carlos Delgado granted Free Agency.
Gil Velazquez granted Free Agency.
Rich Hill granted Free Agency.
Tommy Hottovy granted Free Agency.

Traded Pedro Perez (minors) to the Detroit Tigers. Received infielder Brent Dlugach. Did not play.
Traded Dustin Richardson to the Florida Marlins. Received Andrew Miller. See below.

Selected Taylor Buchholz off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. See below.

December 2010
Hideki Okajima granted Free Agency.
Taylor Buchholz granted Free Agency.
Andrew Miller granted Free Agency.

Signed Utilityman Drew Sutton as a free agent. Hit .315 in 31 Sox games playing six different positions. No homers and seven RBI in 60 plate appearances.
Signed pitcher Brandon Duckworth as a free agent. Went 8-6 in 22 games (21 starts) for Pawtucket. Had a 3.97 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP.
Signed pitcher Jason Bergmann as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed catcher Jason Varitek as a free agent. In 68 games, Tek hit .221 with 11 homers and 36 RBI. He hit lefties at a .200 pace. He hit .176 after the All-Star break.
Signed outfielder Carl Crawford as a free agent. Crawford suffered through the worst season of his major league career hitting .255 with 11 homers and 18 steals.
Signed Matt Albers as a free agent. After all was said and done it was a typical season for Albers, who came in with a 5.11 career ERA and ended with a 5.04 after going 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA this season. He had a 1.438 WHIP.
Signed Rich Hill as a free agent. Hills season ended June 1. Hes now thrown 12 innings over the last two seasons.
Signed Randy Williams as a free agent. Williams threw 8.1 innings and gave up six runs.
Signed Andrew Miller as a free agent. Miller was 6-3 but had a 5.54 ERA and a 1.815 WHIP. He now has a career WHIP of 5.79.
Signed Lenny DiNardo as a free agent. Did not pitch for Boston.
Signed Dan Wheeler as a free agent. Wheeler was 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA but had a very respectable 1.115 WHIP.
Signed Bobby Jenks as a free agent. For the fourth straight season Jenks ERA rose, this year to 6.32. He had a horrible 2.234 WHIP and was repeatedly on the DL.

Traded Eric Patterson and top prospects Casey Kelly (minors), Reymond Fuentes (minors) and Anthony Rizzo to the San Diego Padres. Received Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzo hit .338 with 27 homers and 119 RBI. His 27 homers were his lowest total since 2004 and he only hit 10 homers at Fenway. He hit .183 against the Yankees and .131 against the Rays. He apparently does not like Sunday night baseball.

January 2011
Signed Utilityman Hector Luna as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed pitcher Tony Pena as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed pitcher Hideki Okajima as a free agent. Went 1-0 in seven Sox games with a 4.32 ERA and 1.440 WHIP before he was designated for assignment.
Signed and released pitcher Matt Fox as a free agent. Pitched in 28 games (21 starts) for Pawtucket going 10-4 with a 3.96 ERA.

Selected Max Ramirez off waivers from the Texas Rangers.
Max Ramirez selected by the Chicago Cubs off waivers.

February 2011
Signed catcher Paul Hoover as a free agent. Did not play.
Signed pitcher Tommy Hottovy as a free agent. Appeared in eight games for Boston with a 6.75 ERA in four innings pitched.
Signed Dennys Reyes as a free agent. Appeared in four games for Boston with a 16.20 ERA in 1.2 innings pitched before he was released.
Signed Alfredo Aceves as a free agent. The MVP of the pitching staff. Finished 10-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP. Appeared in 55 games, including four starts, and pitched 114 innings.

Traded Robert Coello to the Chicago Cubs. Received Utilityman Tony Thomas (played for Pawtucket).

March 2011
Released Aaron Bates.
Released Lenny DiNardo.

Free agent signing of Jason Bergmann voided.

Traded pitcher Daniel Turpen (minors) to the Colorado Rockies. Received catcher Michael McKenry who was traded to Pittsburgh in June.

May 2011
Signed Kevin Millwood as a free agent.

Traded player to be named or cash to the Colorado Rockies. Received Franklin Morales. Morales was 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP in 36 relief appearances as the lefty from the pen.

June 2011
Traded Michael McKenry to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received player to be named or cash.

July 2011
Signed pitcher Royce Ring as a free agent. Did not appear.
Signed pitcher Charlie Haeger as a free agent. Did not appear.

Traded Mike Cameron and cash to the Florida Marlins. Received player to be named or cash.
Traded Kendal Volz (minors) and Yamaico Navarro to the Kansas City Royals. Received infielder Mike Aviles. Aviles hit .317 in 38 games and played five positions.
As part of a 3-team trade, traded pitcher Juan Rodriguez (minors), pitcher Stephen Fife (minors) and catcher Tim Federowicz to the Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang (minors) to the Seattle Mariners. In addition, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent Trayvon Robinson to the Seattle Mariners. Received pitcher Josh Fields (minors Went 3-0 for Portland) and pitcher Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners. Bedard went 1-2 in just eight starts. He had a 4.03 in only 38 innings.

August 2011
Signed outfielder Brett Carroll as a free agent. Did not appear.
Signed pitcher Trever Miller as a free agent. Pitched two scoreless innings in three appearances.
Signed pinch runner Joey Gathright as a free agent. He scored one run in seven appearances.

Released Kevin Millwood. Millwood signed with Colorado and made nine starts, going 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA.

Traded Jason Rice (minors) to the Oakland Athletics. Received Utilityman Conor Jackson and cash. Jackson went 3-for-19 with one homer.

I find it astounding that this was the extent of help that Theo provided this ball club, particularly in light of the fact that Dice-K was lost for the season on May 16 and that Clay Buchholz was lost for the season on June 16.

I am not denying that hindsight is 20-20, but there were many of us who questioned the John Lackey signing (he still has won over 14 games in a season just once) and also questioned the Carl Crawford signing (it felt as if the Sox were compensating for signing the over-the-hill Mike Cameron and for letting Jason Bay get away. The Sox needed then, as now, a right-hand power bat. Bostons 71 homers by right-hand batters were good for 10th in the AL and it looks even uglier when you subtract the seven hit by the switch-hitting Salty-Tek combo. Dustin Pedroia led the teams righties with seven homers off of lefties. He also led the righties with 14 homers off of righties).

While I didnt question the Adrian Gonzalez deal, it did come with a caveat that this would only be a good deal if the Sox made the postseason because, if the team was not making the postseason, why give up top prospects for a player who, along with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, would be an available free agent this offseason.

The declaration that this was the greatest team ever was predicated upon the arrival of Gonzalez and Crawford. That was fantasy. This is reality:
In 2010, the third-place Red Sox pitching staff had a 4.20 ERA (9th in the AL) and the rotation had 89 Quality Starts (55). No significant additions or subtractions were made to that staff.
In 2011, in this year of the pitcher, the third-place Red Sox pitching staff once again had a 4.20 ERA (9th in the AL) and the rotation had just 71 Quality Starts (44).

And:
In 2011, combined, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez hit .313 with 44 homers and 208 RBI.
In 2011, combined, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford hit .300 with 38 homers and 173 RBI.

Finally:
The 2010 Red Sox were 89-73, finishing third, 7.0 games back.
The 2011 Red Sox were 90-72, finishing third, 7.0 games back.

If the Chicago Cubs want Theo as their General Manager, I say let them have him under the condition that they provide compensation. And that compensation is simple: I dont want players in return; if they want Theo, they take Lackey with him.

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

pat-neshek-mike-minor-112217.jpg

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

MORE RED SOX:

Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel.