Monday, November 22, 2010

The Red Sox Need An Impact Guy

I remember Bandi saying something about the Yankees after the 2008 season that really rang true. He said they needed to shake things up not by adding new complimentary players around the existing core, but by bringing in new core players. The Yankees ended up doing just that, bringing in C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, and the positive results were as immediately noticeable as they could possibly be. Right from Spring Training the Yankees had a new look, and that new look was a big reason why they got different results in October than they had been getting for the better part of a decade.

I think you can say something very similar about the Red Sox right now. They are a good team, just like the 2005-2008 Yankees were good teams. But since the 2007 World Series and 2008 ALCS, you haven't seen much change. They've had some young players emerge (Lester, Pedroia, Buchholz) and have mixed and matched some really good pieces (Bay, Martinez, Beltre), but they haven't really added a core guy, an impact guy, someone who makes Yankees' fans scared. After all, that's one of the beauties of this rivalry. You have a built-in gauge as to how good a signing/trade is or isn't. Of course this doesn't go for complimentary pieces, because they aren't meant to scare you. But for big signings and trades, you can get a quick sense of how solid they are by how much they scare the opposing fan base.

The Red Sox need to make a move like this to mix up their core. Since that 07/08 run, they've been stagnant, and are trying to talk themselves into guys like Dustin Pedroia as franchise players. No offense to him, because he's a nice little player and seems like a very good leader, but if a second baseman with a career OPS+ of 113 is the only guy you can point to besides Youkilis as a consistent part of the offensive core for the last 3-4 years you're in trouble as far as being a World Series competitor. Same goes for everyone behind Lester. Buchholz has a chance to be very good but he's had one full season. Lackey and Beckett do not fall in the category of "scary" signings. Not at all.

I've heard quite a few Red Sox fans big in on bringing back Martinez or Beltre or both. I can certainly see why, they are very good players. But again they don't qualify for what we are looking for here, it's more of the same, very good but not scary players. It's great that Martinez can put up .335/.389/.562 in Fenway and have that carry his .271/.315/.426 on the road. But the Red Sox are always going to be able to find players who are good but can be elite at home by exploiting the hitters park that is Fenway. That's not what they should be looking for here. They need a guy that can put up huge numbers anywhere regardless of park. Interestingly, Beltre had no Fenway split, which is unusual for a righty pull power hitter. This would certainly be an attractive reason to resign him. Still, he has other red flags that keep him from being the type of player the Sox really need. It's not that these guys aren't extremely useful pieces. Again they are. It's that the Red Sox might be better served by putting their resources into a lesser group of elite players as opposed to a greater group of useful pieces like they have right now.

In this particular free agent market, I think the only guy we are definitely talking about as this kind of player is Cliff Lee. I wouldn't be surprised if the Red Sox are in on him behind the scenes much the way the Yankees were with Teixeira. And they should be, especially considering that they had no problem scoring runs last year despite the injuries and it was their pitching that was a bigger problem. Lee and Lester up top would probably be the best 1-2 in the game. After that, maybe Crawford, and that's it. Then you're talking about the trade market for guys like Adrian Gonzalez.

Lee and Gonzalez are the kind of players the Red Sox need right now. If it doesn't happen this winter, you can't force it. Then you just end up in worse shape than you started in. But this should be what they are targeting. The core by committee is enough to have them in the mix but it isn't scaring anybody. They need a no doubt type player that is going to shake things up and either bat 3/4 with Youkilis or front the rotation 1-2 with Lester, just as the Yankees did in 2008 when they ended up getting both.

7 comments:

Ross Kaplan said...

Let me be the first to congratulate Dan Vassallo in pulling off a bloody sock game-esque victory in the Philidelphia Marathon. Not only that, he's back to posting on the blog within 48 hours. Kind of puts Featherstain to shame doesn't it?

the gm at work said...

Pat,

I actually agree with you on this point. I think we both touched upon it earlier, but while it's nice to have a team of role players, like a light version of the 1998 Yankees, it helps to have a dominator in there somewhere.

I think the Red Sox will get one of those guys, and this might be why they're pinching pennies in the short run. Because they'll have to wait until 2011-2012 to do it. I'm talking about Gonzalez.

Tank,

Within 48 hours? I finished yesterday's Jeter post by 1:00 Sunday afternoon! Seriously, though, thanks for the shoutout.

Anonymous said...

PF

The Yankees aren't going to offer Jeter arbitration? What's going on here?

Also, the condescending tone about Dustin Pedroia did not go unnoticed (nor did you intend for it to do so). His career OPS+ is a modest 113. Derek Jeter's is 119. And we've heard ad nauseam about his value to the Yankees.

That said, you're right. Pedroia is not 'the guy.' And the Sox don't have THAT guy. And really, he's not available this winter. Which is why I think they need to not go big on Crawford or Werth (if anybody, they should get Crawford, at least his skills are a bit more rare) because neither of them are franchise players. They'll have to bide their time until bigger names are available.

DV

I'm sure you read it, but Tony Massarotti wrote a great article last week about how awful/inconsistent the Sox have been during free agency, especially concerning the signing of their own free agents. If you haven't seen it, check it out.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

gunn -

we have no idea, but there are a few theories. first, this could be a showing of good faith by the yankees. the two reasons you offer arbitration are to protect yourself against the player leaving with draft pick compensation or because you hope you are able to lock a player into a one year deal. this could be the yankees saying they don't see either of those things as possibilities. second, on the other side of the spectrum, this could be the yankees not wanting to give jeter a free pass on his down year. the arbitration process is such that, if he accepted, he'd still probably get a raise to 22+ million. he plays, has a bounceback season, and then gets a greater multi-year deal next offseason than he would have this winter. may seem unlikely now, but camp jeter may see 1/22-23 as a major upgrade over what he might get this winter. then they can spin it that he wants to show how much he can still play. my guess is that it's a combination of the two for the yankees. they don't see arbitration as playing into this, and in the event that it did they wanted no part of it.

regarding pedroia, i didn't mean to be condescending, only realistic. as you said, he's not that kind of player. you used derek jeter as a point of comparison, and i think that only further proves exactly what i'm getting at. prior to his age 36 season, jeter's career ops+ was 121. pedroia is still well in his prime and is at 113. the difference between 121 and 113 is not insignificant, especially considering that incremental offensive units (in this case ops+ points) are magnified amongst middle infielders at these slightly lower levels. slugger A having a 147 ops+ and slugger B having a 139 ops+ is a production increase, but there's going to be variation from year to year. it's not the same increase in value from 121 to 113 at premium positions. and even with jeter being this much better than pedroia in mind, i would be the first to tell you that jeter, outside of two seasons ('99/'06 - he ops'd over .900 both seasons) in his entire career consistently productive seasons, could really be a guy in your top two as far as guys you can build your lineup around. that means pedroia definitely isn't that guy, and that's all i'm really getting at here.

i agree with both of you that, outside of lee, that guy probably isn't out there this winter through free agency (there is always the trade). crawford's skills are so unique that he's a more intriguing case, but he's not that guy either. there is nothing wrong with being patient and waiting for the right player. it's much better than trying to convince yourself that a player who isn't that guy can be for your team.

Patrick said...

dv -

how did the marathon go?

Anonymous said...

PF

For the first time, I'm beginning to think that there is some chance that Derek Jeter might not return. By that I mean that it's 99% likely he's a Yankee next year. Before today I was convinced that there was literally NO WAY that he would go anywhere else.

All your points about the non-offer for arbitration are well taken. It seems though that not offering it could be construed negatively by Jeter (not saying it should be or that it will be) and may piss him off. That, and the fact that without an arbitration offer there is no safety net for Jeter to return, are the only reasons I give any credence at all to the notion that he might not return to New York.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

On Jeter, brilliant on both ends. I'd really like it to be over soon, though.

On the Red Sox, especially after they let Victor walk to Detroit, their future plans are becoming clearer. They're punting 11 and signing a big free agent next winter. They don't want an old/injured Vmart clogging up a spot at first base when they bring in an "impact guy."

PF,

It was aight. Shaved three and a half minutes off of my time. Unfortunately I need to run another two and a half faster to be worth a crap. Considering that my year has been about as good as Mike Cameron's (for the same reasons), I'm really happy with how it went.

For any other information on it, I'm sure you could find it on ESPN.com or virtually any other AP-reliant press outlet, which is probably the most comical part of the whole thing.