While it is too early to turn much attention away from this season, ESPN’s Buster Olney posted a review of which players have improved their market positions as potential free agents for the coming off-season (subscription required).
Red Sox OF Jacob Ellsbury landed in second place behind Royals P Ervin Santana on the top ten list.
While Boston C Jarrod Saltalamacchia placed number four on the list – and SS Stephen Drew came in at number nine.
Ellsbury has been healthy this season and played a lot of games (128 so far). So he’s earned a check mark in the games played column after appearing in only 74 last season.
And his batting average (.299) and stolen bases (51) are both strong.
However, his power numbers (7 HRs, 50 RBIs) play out like a top of the lineup – not middle of the lineup – guy. Looks like 2011 (32 HRs, 105 RBIs) was an outlier year.
Ellsbury will be well paid in his coming free agent deal. The question is – will a team (and it only takes one) go to Carl Crawford money (seven years, $20 million/year)?
I don’t see Boston going there.
But if Ellsbury numbers settle in around where Dustin Pedroia signed his contract extension – look for the Red Sox to be in the hunt. Even with Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings.
What About Salty?
This season, Saltalamacchia has established himself as a keeper.
Expect – like Ellsbury – that Salty will have a number of suitors out in the free agent market. Even with Braves catcher Brian McCann most likely also on the market.
But don’t forget, the Red Sox are still a baseball financial superpower who can go head-to-head with most any team – except maybe not the Yankees and Dodgers.
Also, the Red Sox don’t have a top-tier catching prospect close to the majors – so the team would need to incur a replacement cost (either in free agent money or players needed for a trade).
Salty provides the steady presence behind the plate and at bat the Red Sox need in a catcher. Look for the team to be aggressive in trying to keep him. Saltalamacchia has proven he can play in Boston – an attribute that should not be underrated.
Will Drew Stay?
It didn’t look this way early in the year but Drew has had a good season for the Red Sox.
Quality defense and a decent bat – with some timely hits.
The Red Sox way overpaid Drew ($9.5 million for this season) to get him on a one-year deal.
I can see Drew returning to Boston next season.
It would allow the team to break in Xander Bogaerts slowly – and Will Middlebrooks is no sure-thing at third. Also maybe Middlebrooks may shift over to first to replace Mike Napoli.
Again, Boston’s strength here is the team’s ability to pay more than most teams.
Look for the team to repeat last year’s free agent formula in trying to retain Drew – overpay in the dollars to get a short-term deal.
What would you do with the Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia and Drew free agencies?
Some quick thoughts on the Boston Red Sox
Buchholz Better. Read Clay Buchholz was better in his second rehab start with Pawtucket. I am treating these games like Spring Training. The numbers mean nothing. The good sign is Buchholz is reporting no pain or discomfort. Let’s see how he does against big league batters.
Sox Add McDonald. Like the trade acquisition of infielder John McDonald – a strong defender – today by the Red Sox. Boston gave up a marginal prospect, pitcher Nefi Ogando. The Sox have some unproven infielders in Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts – so McDonald provides a defensive replacement if they are lifted for a pinch-hitter. And McDonald provides a ready second base option to back-up Dustin Pedroia.
Where Owens Stands. Prospect lefty starter Henry Owens has had a terrific year. Yet the scouts are mixed on him – with the nay-sayers saying his stuff is not good enough. Put me down as bullish on Owens – with an expected arrival sometime in 2014.
September Call-ups. Starting tomorrow the Red Sox can expand their roster beyond 25 players. Expect some familiar faces to join the team right away – like C Ryan Lavarnway and INF Brock Holt. And then look to see players like OF Jackie Bradley Jr. come back to Boston once the Pawtucket season closes – after the PawSox ride through the playoffs.
With the deadline for acquiring players who can be post-season eligible fast approaching, the Red Sox are most likely in the hunt for a right-handed pitcher for the bullpen.
But the guess here is the Red Sox already have that player on the team roster in starter Ryan Dempster.
With the best record in the American League – Boston has the last shot to claim a player in the AL, meaning competitors Texas, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland and Oakland all have to pass a player before the Red Sox have a shot.
And for a National Leaguer, all NL teams need to take a pass on a waiver claim before the AL teams come up to bat.
That means a good deal is unlikely to make its way to Boston.
More likely the options will be relievers with bad contracts (Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell) or undistinguished performance (Kevin Gregg – reports say Gregg has cleared waivers – or Tom Wilhelmsen).
Or poor starters who could shift to the pen (Joe Blanton or Edinson Volquez – who was just picked up by the Dodgers).
These look like options the Red Sox will pass on.
Should the Sox make the playoffs – they will go with no more than four starters.
Right now, Dempster looks like the odd man out (losing out to Felix Doubront for the last spot in the rotation).
And if Clay Buchholz makes it back to the big league roster – that would pretty much seal the deal that Dempster heads to the bullpen (probably for Doubront too).
Dempster has bullpen experience – he had 33 saves in 2005 (I know a long time ago).
Adding a veteran presence like Dempster to the bullpen could make things easier for Junichi Tazawa (looks like he is running out of gas) and Brandon Workman (may not be ready for 8th inning duties).
Do you think the Red Sox will try to bolster their bullpen today?
A few musings on the Boston Red Sox and AL East.
- If you ask me today, who wins the AL East, I pick the Rays (starting pitching – Alex Cobb comes back Thursday). Tell me Clay Buchholz makes meaningful starts in September, I go Red Sox.
- Alex Rodriguez is a cheater who deserves a lifetime ban (from what I have read). That said, I hope A-Rod beats the rap – and the Yankees have to pay every dime left on his contract.
- This infographic that lets you compare the salary and the number of hits for the 10 highest-paid hitters for every team is cool – check it out.
- Have to admit – Stephen Drew is growing on me. But ready for the Xander Bogaerts Era at shortstop next season.
- It is clear Toronto did not get the Red Sox memo from last year: money does not buy success.
- Over his last 13 games, Mike Napoli is 6-for-45 (.133) with only one extra-base hit and three RBI. Got to think Boston is scouring the waiver wire for a first baseman.
- Speaking of first, think the Red Sox will zero in on the latest Cuban defector – 1B Jose Abreu. But expect a lot of competition.
What are you thinking?
The 2013 versions of the Red Sox and Blue Jays were both shaped by trades.
Boston, of course, had the “karma cleanse” deal last August with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ridding itself of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett (with Nick Punto thrown in for good measure).
Toronto “won” the last off-season with its big Marlins trade, stacking the team with Jose Reyes, John Buck, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio.
It’s fair to say both deals contributed to where the teams currently stand – Red Sox (1st place in the AL East) and Blue Jays (last place).
- Team-wise, for the Red Sox, the deal did what it was supposed to do – give Boston an opportunity to start fresh. And the team has taken great advantage of that opportunity.
- Talent-wise, the jury is out on how well the Sox did. Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are promising but still unproven – and neither has distinguished himself in the majors. Maybe they develop into quality major leaguers, maybe the Dodgers shipped Boston a couple of guys who aren’t difference makers.
- For the Dodgers, Gonzalez is producing what they hoped he would (and he was the trade linchpin). Crawford is okay this year (remember, Los Angeles doesn’t care about money – and wants to make a splash this year). And Beckett has moved into the witness protection program (and again, they don’t care about money).
- Verdict – Draw between Boston and Los Angeles – which is a “win” for both teams.
Now to the Blue Jays – Marlins Trade
- Put aside the Jeffrey Loria ripping off South Florida for a moment (that’s not a baseball issue – that’s political/economic issue). What the Marlins did with the Blue Jays trade (and got vilified for) is exactly what the Red Sox did – trade bad contracts to a willing buyer for a fresh start.
- The Marlins have won the trade (gladly conceding the off-season to Toronto). They got young talent that positions them for the future. And note: the Blue Jays didn’t even give their best prospects in this deal.
- For Toronto, this year has been a disaster. Johnson is gone after this season. But Reyes and Buehrle remain (unless they can unload their contracts). Bonifacio is most likely non-tendered.
- And don’t forget – the “we are close” feeling created by the Miami trade helped push the Blue Jays to clean out their farm system to get R.A. Dickey, who has not produced and has three more seasons at ages 39, 40 and 41. Ouch. (Full disclosure: in the off-season, I liked the Dickey trade.)
Time to Get Excited About Doubront
Back in Spring Training, Felix Doubront was a question – with the Red Sox upset with his weight and work ethic. Then, he experienced a drop off in velocity, raising questions about whether he was hurt.
But through it all, Doubront has persevered – and delivered a strong, under-the-radar season.
Scott McLaughlin noted, Doubront has allowed three runs or fewer in 15 straight starts dating back to May 16, the longest such stretch by a Red Sox lefty in the live ball era (since 1920).
Says manager John Farrell, “He’s certainly gained a lot of confidence over the last couple of months.”
If, and when, Clay Buchholz returns to the Red Sox rotation this season – it will raise an interesting dilemma for Farrell.
Who’s leaves the rotation – Doubront or veteran – but pitching not as well as Doubront – Ryan Dempster?
There’s a long way to go – and lots can happen – but it would be a good “problem” for the Red Sox to have – too much starting pitching.
Boosting the Bullpen
Brandon Workman has made return to the big league club – assuming a bullpen role. Workman – who lost his rotation spot due to the Jake Peavy deal, not based on performance – gives the Sox a reliever who can go multiple innings. And in his brief big-league portfolio, the righty pitcher has done a good job against lefties – which gives the team some versatility in how he is used.
Rubby De La Rosa finally made it to Fenway – in a relief role. He provides Boston a power arm – but we will have to see how he adjusts to the bullpen, since he has been a starter in Pawtucket.
Of note: De La Rosa’s numbers in Pawtucket dropped off over the last month.
Franklin Morales – currently on a DL rehab assignment – is getting close to a return. The question will be: do the Red Sox keep four lefty relievers in their pen? Matt Thornton, Craig Breslow and Drake Britton are all performing well – so it will be an interesting call for Boston on who goes when Morales returns.
The easiest course may be to stash one of the veterans on the DL for some “rest” until the roster expands in September.
Rooting for Ross
It was good to see Cody Ross do well in his return to Fenway – going 6 for 13 with 1 HR.
Of course, it was better to see Boston beat Arizona 2 out of 3 games.
That’s the formula for the Red Sox through October – keeping winning series.
Which would you prefer: Alex Rodriguez getting suspended for one year+ or the Yankees having to pay his $28 million/year salary for mediocre performance?
In assessing his role, trade Red Sox deadline pickup Jake Peavy said, “What I can add? I think I can win.”
And Peavy delivered as advertised with a win in his Boston pitching debut.
The takeaways from how Peavy beat the Diamondbacks?
- Dominating lefty batters – who went 0 for 11 with five strikeouts.
- He pounded the bottom of the strike zone – 57 percent of his pitches mid-thigh or lower.
- Peavy kept the ball away from Arizona hitters, placing 64 percent of his pitches on the outer third of the zone or just off the outside corner.
- Used his breaking balls effectively – with curves and sliders producing nine outs and five of Peavy’s seven strikeouts. And he yielded only one hit with a curve or slider.
- Data from ESPN Stats & Information
Next Peavy start is on the road in Kansas City.
Royals’ batters went 4 for 23 (.174 AVG) in Peavy’s only appearance against Kansas City this season.
A Look at the Trade
The Red Sox tapped their organizational depth in obtaining Peavy – dealing 3B/SS Jose Iglesias.
Boston found a great fit for Iglesias – the Tigers, who are waiting for the PED suspension hammer to fall on their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
All’s Detroit needs at short is solid defense – an area Iglesias shines – with their power-packed lineup.
And that pending need freed OF prospect Avisail Garcia to be sent to the White Sox for Peavy from Detroit.
Chicago sees Garcia as a potential five tool player.
From a Boston perspective – they gave up an everyday starter (they needed to provide quality to get a pitcher the caliber of Peavy).
But long-term, the Red Sox have the right side of the infield covered with Xander Bogaerts and maybe, Will Middlebrooks – making Iglesias expendable.
The Red Sox also sent three low-level prospects to Chicago while receiving hard-throwing, but wild pitcher Brayan Villarreal from Detroit – who is a crapshoot on whether he ever brings any big league for Boston.
Peavy Weighs in on Gomes
After his Sox pitching debut, gotta like how Peavy called out teammate Jonny Gomes – saying “Jonny Gomes might be my favorite player in the big leagues in this short time” – citing his enthusiasm and his play.
I will say this about Gomes – he has a knack for being in the middle of good things happening for the team. He’s a player whose value stands far above his stats – good pick-up by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
Speaking of Cherington, in a post-trade deadline grading of MLB GMs, ESPN’s Jim Bowden gave Cherington an “A,” writing he “has quickly become one of the best in the game.” (subscription required)
What do you think of the Peavy trade?
The Red Sox are getting great left-side defense from SS Stephen Drew and 3B Jose Iglesias. But not so much production offensively (Drew’s performance last night aside).
This leads to the question: Should the Red Sox look for an offensive upgrade offensively at SS or 3B?
A trade – getting Phillies 3B Michael Young – is one option.
But Boston has two more options at AAA Pawtucket worth considering: SS Xander Bogaerts and 3B Will Middlebrooks.
We all know about super-prospect Bogaerts.
Middlebrooks is improving.
Even though he is hitting .265 at Pawtucket, his offense is improving. Middlebrooks has five multi-hit games in his last eight starts.
Let’s look at some scenarios:
- Status quo: Keep Drew at SS and Iglesias at 3B – and call up Bogaerts and Middlebrooks when the rosters expand in September. Here the Sox value great defense over added offense.
- Drew at SS, Middlebrooks at 3B – Iglesias to a utility role. Add (what the Red Sox hope is) a much-needed righty power bat in the lineup.
- Drew at SS, Bogaerts at 3B – Iglesias to a utility role. Looking for “Machado Lightning” to strike at Fenway. The big question mark: can Bogaerts play a big-league third base with virtually no experience at the position. Also, figure this will be a “blow” to Middlebrooks in his comeback (not a concern for winning in 2013).
- Iglesias at SS, Middlebrooks at 3B – Drew to bench role. Iglesias gets a defensive nod over Drew. Why I call it a “bench role” is Drew is strictly a shortstop (at least to date) while Iglesias can play second, short and third (utility role).
- Iglesias at SS, Bogaerts at 3B – Drew to bench role.
- Bogaerts at SS, Iglesias at 3B – Drew to bench role. The thinking here is Iglesias has more experience at 3B than Bogaerts.
- Bogaerts at SS, Middlebrooks at 3B – Drew to bench role. Iglesias back to Pawtucket. This is the offense play with Drew providing a glove safety net. Figure Iglesias to be upset about a return to the minors.
- Bogaerts at SS, Middlebrooks at 3B – Iglesias to utility role. Trade Drew if possible. He is high-priced so that could be tough – unless the Red Sox assume a chunk of his remaining salary.
Keep things as they are for now. That means – no trade deadline deal for a third baseman (like Young) – unless it is a bargain low-cost move.
If Middlebrooks keeps progressing offensively – in August, bring him up (Brandon Snyder goes down) and play him at third to get his power bat in the lineup. At that time, make the assessment who is contributing more at the plate – Drew or Iglesias – and start that player at short. My guess: Drew.
If Middlebrooks has not progressed and Bogaerts has – bring Bogaerts up at third base. And play out the above scenario at short.
How would you handle the left-side of the Red Sox infield?
Taking Stock of Red Sox Prospects
MLB.com updated its list of the Red Sox top 20 prospects.
Of course, SS super-prospect Xander Bogaerts heads the list. And the rest of the top five:
- Jackie Bradley Jr. – OF
- Allen Webster – RHP
- Henry Owens – LHP
- Matt Barnes – RHP
Headlining the players new to the list is first round draft pick LHP Trey Ball, who debuted at #8.
Boston has eight players ranked on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, tied with the Astros for the most of any team. Bogaerts placed #6 on the top 100 list.
The Red Sox are in prime position – prospect-wise – for the trade deadline. But expect them to be more focused on the long term than this season – holding onto their best prospects.
Barnes made this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet – placing at #5.
Over his last eight starts, Barnes has a 2.91 ERA with 50 strikeouts (13.2 per nine innings) and 19 walks (5.0 per nine innings).
I think Barnes is on the “bubble” as a keeper. He has talent but the Red Sox are deep in pitching prospects.
- Righty pitcher Noe Ramirez is thriving since he made the move from starter to reliever.
- Got to like the recent performance by 18 year old Lowell starter Jamie Callahan, who took a perfect game into the sixth inning before allowing his only hit versus Connecticut.
- Owens was MiLB.com’s Carolina League Pitcher of the Week (week ending July 21), after firing the first six innings of Salem’s first-ever no-hitter.
Cliff Lee on the Trade Market
Philadelphia is listening to trade offers for lefty starter Cliff Lee.
Figure the Red Sox to be kicking the tires on this one.
Lee is a difference maker who can alter the race.
His salary ($25 million a year) probably limits his market to the Sox, Dodgers and maybe the Yankees (they have the money but may not have the commitment to this season).
Texas would have been on the list – but guessing the Matt Garza trade probably knocks them off the list.
Reading who is on the trade market – a few teams have starter/reliever combinations that could appeal to the Red Sox. Examples are:
The White Sox with Jake Peavy and Addison Reed. And Kansas City with Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar.
The price-tag would be steep for either combination but a package could make deals more appealing to Boston.
For instance, Reed would bring a young arm with the 32 year old Peavy, which may ease Boston including someone like 3B Will Middlebrooks in a deal.
And Hochevar would add a player who doesn’t hit free agency until 2015 in a package with free agent to be Santana – giving Boston a return that extends beyond this season.
Looking for Relief
Interesting the Red Sox weren’t mentioned as a team checking Brian Wilson on the comeback trail.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he is not being evaluated by Boston. Wilson’s value includes post-season experience and he requires no compensation, as a free agent.
Keep Best Young Arms
The big performance by Chris Archer of the Rays today versus the Yankees today provides a good reminder to Red Sox brass: Keep your top pitching prospects.
Archer went to the Rays (a team that knows pitching) in the Matt Garza trade in January 2011.
Right now would rather have Archer than Garza – without even taking into consideration the salary difference or Archer is a free agent in 2019 and Garza is after this season.
Add in – would rather have Archer than the prospect package the Cubs received for Garza. They all are a roll of the dice.
Which pitchers do you think the Red Sox should make their priorities?