Monday, December 14, 2009

Post-Punt Defense

If the Patriots had a defense like this, they would have punted on 4th and 2 like the Red Sox are still punting in 2010. Because this defense is so well-fortified that they actually could have stopped a 70-yard Peyton Manning drive.

I like the John Lackey acquisition a lot. I think it's a good move. Not great, but they brought in the best pitcher on the free agent market at a very reasonable price. You get a guy who's a year younger than Halladay, doesn't require a posting fee of prospects, and didn't demand $20+ million until he's 37-38 years old. It's a good move.

You may have noticed the fact that I still consider 2010 a punt season for the Red Sox, and you may respond with something like "BUT WE SIGHNED LACKEY HE WILL MAKE US BETER NEXT YEAR!!1" While it is true that Lackey will improve the Red Sox in 2010, he also improves the team in the post-JD Drew/Mike Cameron years--the years that are looking more and more like "now" years for the Red Sox as the gap is infamously "bridged" between now and then. He'll be around for five years. After the Drew/Cameron/Scutaro years, the Red Sox will still have Lackey, Buchholz, Lester, Matsuzaka, and Bard on their pitching staff, and Youkilis, Pedroia, and I believe 46 in their lineup. Not a bad place to start. We're not talking about albatross contracts here. And this contract is off the books when Lackey is 36. So this move is as much about the future as it is about 2010.

-Tony Massarotti wrote a good article the other day about "feeding the monster," taking the term from Seth Mnookin, how the team might make a big move that could ultimately be detrimental to the team just to save face for a fan base that does not accept the team punting for the year. If the Lackey signing adequately feeds the monster for the impatient "WE HALF TO WIN EVERY YEAR!!1" fans who generate revenue while proving to be a good long-term deal, it's great news. Plus, if by the off chance the Red Sox do make the 2010 playoffs, they are well-equipped for a short series.

-The Sox currently have three 1-A starters. They have no true aces, but what a great top of the rotation. There's been a lot said today in the media about how Lackey and Beckett are similar--but really the way to look at it is that Lackey is a straighter line while Beckett is a much more jagged line with violent ups and downs. The average of both may be the same, but unlike Beckett, you can really get a sense of what Lackey will be bringing to the table every year.

-This move does not make Clay Buchholz expendible. Not to mention that there's no reason for Florida or San Diego to trade their franchise players. This move, instead, is insurance just in case Beckett leaves after 2010 or in case Matsuzaka sucks. Buchholz and Lackey can and should coexist in this rotation. The move does say a lot about the team's faith in Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa, however.

-The only concern I have about this move is how Lackey will get along with Francona. I'm sure he'll be happy when Francona leaves him in to surrender seven if he's struggling. However, his insistence on keeping the ball (most notably during the '09 playoffs) may be a big problem when Tito yanks him in the sixth, then puts in Okajima/Delcarmen/RamRam/RamRam to walk the bases loaded and give up a double. Just saying.

But all in all, I'm happy with this move. If only they made more moves like this and fewer moves like Mike Cameron.


PF said...

bit to repeat my comment from the first lackey post, but i agree, good move. i'll echo what the gunn said in saying that this is a good move, but not a season changing move. that's pretty much exactly how i feel. i probably view this move similarly to how red sox fans viewed the burnett signing. you know it could burn you at times but overall it isn't overwhelming. it isn't a #1 player move, like sabathia and teixeira last year for the yankees.

that said, lackey is a very solid piece if he can stay healthy. you are spot on, gm, in saying that lackey is more consistent than beckett (or burnett) even though they are similar pitchers. i sort of alluded to that in my comment in the first lackey post. the overall numbers will be similar for a lot of these 1A guys. but the way lackey gets there (as opposed to beckett or burnett) is comforting. you're not going to get the two month stink fests. you're not going to get the 2 month tears either, but that's okay. assuming the red sox can score some runs, the difference between being on a tear and just being very good shouldn't be all that different in terms of wins and losses. i just looked it up, and beckett had an ERA over 6 from mid-august on, in the middle of a playoff race, when you needed it most. burnett turned similar tricks for the yankees at times this year. while the overall production is going to be good, you can't rely on these guys every single time out. you can rely on lackey. there's an important difference there.

lester is pretty close to being a #1 starter. he isn't, but he's pretty close. a touch more consistency and big game takeover ability and he's there. i'm sure the sox won't throw them this way, but lester, lackey, beckett is how this team lines up in terms of talent. and that's about what each player is, lester a 1, lackey a 2, beckett a 3. although lester plays to the middle-low end of a real #1 on a serious team, lackey and beckett play to the higher ends of #2's and #3's respectively. the sox rotation is in good shape.

despite that good shape, i'm not sure whether or not the sox will make a trade. depth is a good thing. what's more, the type of impact player the sox would want to acquire by trading clay buchholz cannot be had for clay buchholz. adrian gonzalez is making $10.25 million the next two seasons. that is value beyond value. a package led by clay buchholz is not going to get it done if the padres are thinking clearly. ditto hanley ramirez. check out the packages flying around for roy halladay and cliff lee today. it's going to take a lot more than clay buchholz. i'm not saying he couldn't be an important piece, but it isn't like signing lackey allows teams to just start lining up for buchholz and that gets a deal done.

related, if the red sox aren't going to make such a trade, i'm just not sure what they are doing here. letting bay walk and replacing him with mike cameron is a noticeable downgrade in terms of production. and don't tell me about defense in left field with 81 games at fenway park. manny ramirez was out there for a long time and there weren't any problems. ditto jason bay, who is a poor defender. now, adding lackey makes up for that difference, but by how much? it isn't a major upgrade in terms of overall team production. to your point gm, i'm not sure that this lackey signing is necessarily going to be as much about the future as it is about now. 31 is not old, but he's no spring chicken, and has a reasonable amount of use. i think you make moves like this because you want to win right now, and i think that's exactly what the red sox want to do.

Anonymous said...


That last paragraph is exactly what I'm talking about, but before I get there, let me address trading Clay Buchholz.

I'm not saying he's someone you trade for a big name straight up. But he can certainly be the headline piece. This past summer teams were asking for him and Bard and some other second tier names. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I'm saying it could happen.

Most importantly, if trading Buchholz isn't on Boston's radar then I have no idea what they're doing. They will have upgraded their pitching/defense and lost their best offensive player and replaced him with a platoon. If that's the way they approach this season then I just don't understand what's going on.

--the Gunn

PF said...

gunn -

no doubt buchholz can headline a deal. it all depends on who you get back. taking that into account, anyone could headline a deal for an equal or lesser player. buchholz + bard could certainly net you a big return because there is a lot of value there. i'm not surprised teams were asking for those two last summer, and i remember hearing that. but the names i'm hearing out of boston right now are hanley ramirez and adrian gonzalez. it's not just how good those guys are (2 of the top 10ish offensive players in the game), but it's also what their current deals are. adrian gonzalez has two years and just over $5 mil per left on his deal. hanley ramirez is signed for 5 years at an average annual value of just under $13 mil. if these guys were in contract years and their team wanted to unload them before they got nothing more than draft picks for them, then maybe we are talking about buchholz + bard. but two and five years respectively at very reasonable costs even by small market standards? you can't trade a guy that hit 40 home runs last year and is making $5 million for those two. ditto the best offensive shortstop in the game who has 5 years left on a deal that pays him less annually than almost everyone of his caliber. no matter how much upside, buccholz is 25 years old and has a 4.91 era in 34 career starts or one full season over three years. bard is a high upside potential closer, but he is a reliever and again we're talking about gonzalez and ramirez. the yankees gave up a similar package to buchholz + bard to get granderson (a little less, but similar) and arizona gave up an equal package to get edwin jackson (a little less when you consider they got kennedy back). gonzalez and ramirez are a lot better than curtis granderson and edwin jackson. of course every deal is different, but in terms of the market price that has been set for prospects, lackey signing doesn't mean buchholz becomes the headline of a package for ramirez or gonzalez. maybe he and two or three other equal parts (high end prospects). that's all i'm saying. a jason bay type bat? absolutely. a top 10ish bat? probably not going to happen when you consider how cost effective those bats are for small market clubs with multiple years left.

PF said...

there's also the issue that buchholz has some service time, meaning he is going to be arbitration and free agent eligible earlier than teams might like.

all that said, buchholz is a very nice piece. you take him and 2-3 other players of similar value, and now you have something cooking. maybe 3-4 out of buchholz, kelly, bard, anderson, and ellsbury for a premier bat like the two names we're discussing. or 2 of them to replace a 1A bat like bay's, just hopefully for them at first base so that youkilis can shift to third. do i think the red sox should do this? yes. do i hope they don't? also yes. if they get a big bat to play first base they are going to be set up to do some damage.

the gm at work said...

Well, let's go with what we already know:

-The Marlins have no reason to trade Ramirez.
-The Padres have no reason to trade Gonzalez.
-The Red Sox suck at rebuilding, instead focusing their attention at the shiny thing on the free agent market.

So I guess to address the asinine Ramirez/Gonzalez rumors, it would not be uncharacteristic of the team to go after these players. The only reasons I'm for the Lackey move are the fact that they sacrifice nothing in terms of the future except for financial flexibility. They are not trading any prospects. And the fact that I think 2-3 years down the road, Lackey can still help significantly.

So as much as this looks like it might be a shiny things move, it's not like the Josh Beckett/Hanley Ramirez trade, when the team says F rebuilding, we're going to win now by acquiring the good player immediately and blowing up two key parts of the farm system.