Archive for the ‘Josh Beckett’ Category
Beckett, Lackey Highly Rated. Sports Illustrated recently released the results of an MLB player poll – taken in the preseason – on the most overrated pitchers in baseball. Josh Beckett landed number three and John Lackey placed number four (based on 2011 performance most people couldn’t have had a very high opinion of Lackey – and he’s still overrated?). So far this season, one would think Beckett may be turning perceptions around. Also of note: C.J. Wilson was number one and Jonathan Papelbon was five.
Stay Away from Saunders. Ken Rosenthal reports the Diamondbacks may look to shop lefty Joe Saunders in an effort to clear a spot for top prospect Trevor Bauer. Boston should pass on Saunders. It would be better to focus its top trading chips on a potentially premier starter like the Cubs’ Matt Garza – someone who can make a difference in a tough AL East race. And the Red Sox will be looking for pitching. There’s a good piece by Alex Speier retracing Boston’s decisions on Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson – noting how the team passed on both because the prices were too high. Don’t expect the asking prices to come down as we approach the trading deadline.
Barnes Goes Seven. Big game yesterday for Red Sox top pitching prospect Matt Barnes, pitching a complete game shutout (seven innings because it was part of a doubleheader). Barnes dropped his ERA to 0.93. If he keeps this up, look for Barnes to be promoted again this season – moving up to AA Portland.
Blue Jays Targeting Quentin. Jon Heyman writes that Toronto would be a good home for OF Carlos Quentin if San Diego decides to move the free agent to be. The Red Sox should explore acquiring Quentin. I know the Sox outfield is (theoretically) getting more crowded with Cody Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford coming off the DL. But how can Boston count on Crawford for anything? Get Quentin as a righty power bat rental and park him in leftfield. Platoon Ross with Ryan Sweeney in right. And hope Ellsbury returns to form in center. As for Crawford – anything he delivers this season should be seen as a bonus, don’t plan on any production. His injury and performance track records don’t indicate he can contribute. One more thought: Look for the Yankees to get in on Quentin if Brett Gardner continues to have elbow woes.
What do you think – should the Red Sox look to add another bat? Should they count on Crawford to return and contribute?
It’s not complicated. The Red Sox are second in the AL (fourth in MLB) in runs scored with 138.
And the bullpen has turned things around – as noted in a Tweet by Jeremy Lundblad: first 14 games: 8.44 ERA; last 12 games: 1.31 ERA.
The Red Sox woes revolve around the top three starters: Jon Lester (one win), Josh Beckett (two wins and complaining about shoulder woes) and Clay Buchholz (three wins but with an eight-plus ERA – great proof point the Red Sox are scoring plenty of runs to win).
As written in this blog previously, the season revolves around the top three starters.
They deliver as expected – and as they are paid – and the Red Sox have a playoff team.
They don’t deliver – nothing else matters.
Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller and anyone else in the Red Sox farm system doesn’t matter.
Playoff teams need dependable, front-line pitching.
Time to step up, guys.
The Red Sox need to explore the trade market to address their bullpen woes – now.
Pulling Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard out of the pen without adequate replacements has been a disaster.
Given how early it is in the season, it will be very difficult – and costly – to fix but Boston doesn’t have a choice.
Three Closer Targets
Suggest the Red Sox turn to the teams that are don’t have a chance to contend in 2012 and open up the farm system to grab a closer.
Joel Hanrahan. The best option but also the least likely to be moved. While Pittsburgh has no chance to win, they are trying to show their fans success is on the horizon. Moving Hanrahan would smack as another rebuilding sell-off – he is not a free agent until after the 2013 season. That’s why the Sox would need to pay big. Something like Felix Doubront, Ryan Lavarnway and one or two more solid to top prospects (like an Anthony Ranaudo).
Huston Street. San Diego is another team going nowhere. Street is a free agent to be. And the Padres have Andrew Cashner as a closer in waiting. So Street is likely to hit the market sometime this season. The Red Sox might as well pursue this now – rather than waiting until the trading deadline. The trade package for Street would be similar – but probably a little less rich – to what it would take to land Hanrahan.
Grant Balfour. Another free agent after this season – and it’s hard to picture him returning to Oakland. Has had a strong start to the season. The Andrew Bailey deal shows Oakland has respect for Boston’s farm system (Miles Head – part of the Bailey deal – is off to a terrific start in the hitter friendly California League).
More Bullpen Moves
Getting a closer now hopefully stops the bleeding – and buys some time for Bard in the rotation.
But if Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales and Vicente Padilla can’t hold the fort in the seventh and eighth innings – Boston needs to look to moving Bard back to the bullpen for the season (not just this week).
The Sox may have starting pitching depth to work with – Aaron Cook in the next week or so (a Doubront replacement if needed) and later Daisuke Matsuzaka in a month or so (potentially freeing up Bard for the pen).
Get the bullpen squared away – and then all’s the Sox need to fix is getting the Big Three of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitching like an effective Big Three. I know – no minor task.
Some thoughts on the opening series:
- Manager Bobby Valentine showed he will tinker – sitting Kevin Youkilis and leading off with Nick Punto in the Sunday lineup – to try to find a “spark.” That’s a good sign – because the pitching staff needs tinkering.
- As horrible as the bullpen was in Detroit, the performances of Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz worry me more. Gordon Edes writes a scout told him that Saturday’s game was the worst he had ever seen Beckett pitch. Buchholz was terrible today – four innings, seven runs. The Red Sox cannot make the playoffs without the Big Three in the rotation – Jon Lester was a lonely starter bright spot – delivering.
- Daniel Bard’s season-opening start now has an even higher profile. Mixed or poor results will increase pressure to move Bard to the closer spot. Even if Bard has a quality start, the push to move him to the bullpen could be intense. And note: Aaron Cook threw a seven inning complete game for Pawtucket in his season debut – so a potential replacement is there.
- Vicente Padilla was stellar today. Given the length of his outing, he can’t assume the closer role tomorrow – but look for him to be on the short list when Boston reshuffles the deck.
On to Toronto.
Let’s start a review of the Red Sox starting staff with the top three starters.
So far so good for Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.
Coming into the spring, Buchholz was the big question – looking to rebound from his back woes of last season. Buchholz is looking good. But let’s keep watching as he extends himself deeper into games.
And remember, it was the end of season – not early on – where Lester and Beckett failed. In particular, Beckett, with his poor in-season conditioning, wore down in the stretch. I don’t think new manager Bobby Valentine will let Beckett balloon out of shape during the season. Boston needs more than 13 wins out of Beckett (his 2011 total) to be a playoff team.
Back-end of Rotation
You got to like what Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves have done in Spring Training to this point.
Bard is feeling good as a starter – albeit having only stretched out to three innings. And Aceves is a marvel on the mound.
The other contenders have not done anything to distinguish themselves.
- Aaron Cook had a good outing today – but it was his first of the spring.
- Felix Doubront and Vicente Padilla have been up and down.
- Andrew Miller is battling a tender elbow.
Look for the #5 starter decision to be connected to the bullpen.
Aceves may be just too valuable in front of Bailey and Melancon to move out of the bullpen.
Doubront and Miller are both out of options – and if they don’t make the big league club, the Red Sox will most likely lose them.
If one of them consistently puts together some quality outings in the last weeks of Spring Training, look for Doubront or Miller to start the season in the rotation – but with a short leash, having Aceves, Cook and loser in the Doubront/Miller battle ready to step in if needed.
Lastly, don’t discount Boston looking elsewhere for a starter.
The Red Sox are exploring the starter marketplace. Jim Bowden tweets they made an offer to the Nationals for John Lannan.
Figure Boston needs eight or more starters to get through the season. The Sox have depth – the question is whether it will turn out to be quality depth.
With today’s first full-squad Red Sox workout, here are five things to watch this Spring Training.
Clay Buchholz. He says all systems are go this spring. The fortunes of the Red Sox this season turn with the starting rotation. Beyond getting in shape, Spring Training is a meaningless activity for Jon Lester and Josh Beckett (remember Beckett’s line last spring: 1-4, 5.33 ERA). What Lester and Beckett do in September means more than what they do in March and April. Buchholz is a different matter – having had to shut it down last June. How does Buchholz’ back bounce-back once the games start? And is he pitching free and easy like the Buchholz of old?
Daniel Bard. He is working to establish himself as the #4 pitcher in the rotation – right behind Buchholz. His stint as a starter in the minors was a disaster – but Bard has matured as a pitcher. And he yearns for starter money – which is much more than set-up man or even (young) closer pay. Will Bard demonstrate he is a starter with three quality pitches who can work his way through a line-up two or three times a game? If Bard flops in the spring – how do Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon handle the chain of events generated by Bard moving back to the bullpen?
Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Yes, Salty. He was okay last year – and with a year under his belt and Jason Varitek gone (Thank you, Tek – for tons of thrills!), does Saltalamacchia assume more of a leadership role in the catcher position? How will he work with Beckett – now that Beckett’s personal catcher Varitek is gone? How does Salty handle Ryan Lavarnway’s presence – competition that pushes both players to be better or does he become someone constantly looking over his shoulder? I say: Salty steps up this year.
Who’s at Short? This is Mike Aviles’ job to lose this spring. Aviles can probably hit a buck-fifty and get the starting nod – if he shows he can consistently field the position. The competition: Nick Punto is an excellent add off the bench – capable defensively at 2B, SS and 3B but doesn’t deliver much offensively. Rookie Jose Iglesias is a master with the glove but has not displayed any prowess at the plate. He needs more at-bats – in the minors. Can Aviles win the job – and not by default but with manager Bobby Valentine feeling good about it?
And What About Right-Field? I am pretty bullish about the Ryan Sweeney – Cody Ross combination. I am not expecting Jose Bautista – but this combo should be good. Over the last few years, every time I saw Sweeney, his defense (especially his arm) shouted out: Made for Fenway. Not expecting a lot of power from him – but an okay hitter. Ross is playing with a chip on his shoulder – he bombed last season after World Series glory the year before. Will the Red Sox leave Ft. Myers feeling they have RF covered?
Who’s on your “watch list” for the Red Sox in Spring Training? And what are you watching for them to do in 2012?
Josh Beckett is the most pivotal player to Red Sox success in 2012.
Beckett is supposed to be the pitching staff leader – on and off the field.
A role he failed in last season.
And remember 2011 was going to be a bounce-back year for Beckett after he failed miserably in 2010 by delivering only six wins.
With a couple of World Series rings, Beckett shows all the signs of a player who just doesn’t have the “fire in his belly” any longer.
Boston’s starting staff has a bunch of question marks.
- Can Clay Buchholz comeback from a back injury?
- Will Daniel Bard make the transition to starter?
- And will someone nail down the fifth starter role and hold it consistently through the season? Or will the Red Sox have a revolving door?
The Red Sox don’t need Beckett adding to the question list.
Boston needs Beckett – along with Jon Lester – to answer the bell strongly in April and carry the rotation all the way through the end of the season.
AL East competitors New York and Tampa Bay have excellent starting staffs. Boston needs to match them to compete for a playoff spot.
Here’s the stat that tells the Kevin Youkilis story:
- In the last three seasons, Youkilis has played in 358 games, compared to J.D Drew who played in 357.
Youkilis will be 33 years old this season – can he bounce back from two mediocre seasons?
Or is Youkilis in an irreversible decline?
The Red Sox need the Youkilis of 2009 – when he delivered .305 AVG., .413 OBP, 27 HR, 94 RBIs.
His offensive performance is pivotal – providing a righty, power bat every day in the middle of heavily left-handed lineup.
Getting Andrew Bailey was a good, low-cost pick-up by GM Ben Cherington.
But Bailey is a question mark – in the pivotal closer role.
He has never been a closer in a pennant race – never mind under the AL East spotlight.
And Bailey has had trouble staying healthy the last two seasons.
For instance, Oakland only got 41.2 innings from Bailey last year while Boston got 64.1 innings from Jonathan Papelbon.
Sure, the Red Sox have Mark Melancon who can slide into the closer role if Bailey gets hurt. But that move shortens Boston’s bullpen.
The baseball season is a grind.
Delivering throughout the 162 game season is this year’s challenge for Beckett, Youkilis and Bailey. And we won’t know if they are up to it until October 3 when the regular season ends.
And the Red Sox fortunes may rise or fall based on these pivotal players.
It has become fashionable for pundits to pick on the Red Sox for their lack of action in free agency this off-season.
For instance, Jon Heyman threw out the theory that ownership’s attention to Liverpool is the reason Boston hasn’t spent big this off-season.
Red Sox brass quickly shot down Heyman’s perspective, saying the Red Sox and Liverpool are run as separate enterprises.
And Larry Lucchino publicly spoke out, noting Boston will have the second highest payroll in baseball.
Jeff Passan wrote in the previous five off-seasons, Boston spent $514,475,500 on free agents, compared to only $7.35 million this off-season.
I agree with Tim Britton who noted calling the Red Sox cheap is unfair.
A more apt description – learning the lessons from the past.
Over the last few years, Boston has spent big on free agents with not much to show for it.
Daisuke Matuszaka ($52 million over six years), John Lackey ($82.5 million over five years) and Carl Crawford ($142 million over seven years) have not paid off – at least so far.
Let’s add in 12-game winner (and September disaster) Josh Beckett ($68 million over four years).
The issue is not the amount of money the Red Sox are spending. It’s who they have spent it on.
Also factor in, the Red Sox farm system has not produced an impact player since Clay Buchholz arrived in 2007.
Lack of farm system results has driven free agent spending – which is not a long-term winning proposition.
Especially when AL East competitors Tampa Bay and Toronto have top farm systems (ESPN subscription required), closely followed by New York.
The Red Sox farm system strength is in the lower minors.
This coming season should provide an indication whether young players – like Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart – will move into the elite prospect category.
If they do that may bring some balance to putting a team together – with player development leading the way and free agency filling in the holes.
Here’s a quick tour of comments on some recent Boston Red Sox news and analysis:
Sox need more from Gonzalez. John Tomase reminds us Adrian Gonzalez actually hit more home runs on the road last season than he did in Boston. So much for the claims Gonzalez’ swing was tailor-made for Fenway Park. And Tomase adds team officials were so concerned about Gonzalez’ health late in the season they called San Diego to discuss their history with him. Gonzalez had a very good year (overall) last season – but didn’t deliver down the stretch. More will be expected from him in 2012 – it will be interesting to see if Gonzalez cranks it up in year two in Boston.
It starts with pitching. Good piece by Nick Cafardo on the Red Sox starting pitching. Next season boils down to whether the starters deliver. Boston scores plenty of runs to be a championship caliber team. The Big Three – Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz – did not produce big-time last season. And the four and five spots in the rotation are question marks – with Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves trying to transition from the bullpen. Managing the staff – and getting innings and wins from the rotation – will make or break the season for manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure.
Stocking the ‘pen. The Red Sox should check out David Aardsma – coming back from Tommy John surgery – for an incentives-laden contract. Bullpen arms come and go – and come back again – so it may be worth taking a flier on Aardsma.
Manny, give it up. What’s worse – Manny Ramirez – caught twice using PEDs by MLB – trying to come back or there are actually teams – reports say they include the Orioles and Blue Jays – considering giving him another shot? The teams should ask the Rays to remind them how Manny turned out for Tampa Bay last season.
Job one for new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is shoring up the starting rotation.
A big part of the September collapse was Boston ran out of quality pitchers down the stretch.
Some of that was the result of massive performance failure by “aces” Josh Beckett and Jon Lester – and injury to Clay Buchholz.
For purposes of this post, we will assume the team gets the “big 3” into shape for 2012.
Every season, we see successful teams typically need at least 6 or 7 starters to get them through the season.
Boston can’t count on John Lackey. And shouldn’t count on Daisuke Matsuzaka – anything he delivers in 2012 is an unplanned bonus.
It’s time to thank Tim Wakefield for his service – and move on. He is no longer a quality major league starter.
And while Andrew Miller may be worth inviting to Spring Training – he showed nothing last season.
A Look at Starter Options
Alfredo Aceves. What a find. While Aceves was super-valuable in the bullpen, he deserves a shot at starting in 2012. Don’t forget – Aceves has a 24-3 career record.
Yu Darvish. It’s tough to offer an opinion on a player I have never seen. Darvish is ranked the top Asian pitcher potentially (it is not official – yet) looking to come to America. Mark me down as skeptical on Darvish’s impact. Dice-K was supposed to be a sure thing – and the combination Japan baseball not big league caliber (so a star there doesn’t equal an MLB star) and the cultural aspects – from training to media scrutiny – make it a tough transition. So today – Darvish is not in the plan.
Farm System. There is no sure thing among starters in the Red Sox minors. Closest to the majors are Felix Doubront – who between injury and conditioning issues wasted 2011 – and Kyle Weiland – who was not impressive in his big league trial. And who knows if Junichi Tazawa is now – or will be ever – ready to contribute. Doubront is the best pitcher among the 3 – pencil him as starter #7 either working out of the bullpen or rotation in Pawtucket.
Trades. The Red Sox should play to their financial strength – and pursue starters that are pricing themselves out of the reach of small market teams. And buy low.
Potentially on this list: Anibal Sanchez (Miami), Gio Gonzalez (Oakland), Brandon McCarthy (Oakland) and Joe Saunders (Arizona).
And then you have pitchers moving up in price on teams with the money but that just may not want to pay – Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta) and John Danks (White Sox). You can add Francisco Liriano (Minnesota) – but I would pass on him. I would love to add David Price to the mix – but don’t see Tampa Bay talking with Boston.
And then you got players with bad contracts. Top of that list are Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers (both on Houston). (Side note: How does Ed Wade keep his job?)
Boston should be able to grab at least one player from the above list – without having to give up too much in return (if the team is really looking to avoid the 2012 salary).
My top 3 choices: Sanchez, McCarthy and Rodriguez.
Free Agents. I don’t see Boston going big on C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle. The team has 4 starters locked into long-term deals already – don’t expect them to make that 5.
Roy Oswalt is a possibility – depends on the medical reports. Right now, I would pass. The team has enough medical issues on the staff.
Paul Maholm looks like a good starter for the back-end of a rotation. He was been decent on a poor team. Had some injury issues last season – those would need to check out. Bruce Chen is a comparable alternative for a lefty in the #5 slot in the rotation.
So how do the Red Sox get to 7 starters?
- Sanchez, McCarthy or Rodriguez (less likely Rodriguez if Maholm or Chen signed)
- Maholm or Chen; maybe Oswalt