What Does the Jake Peavy Trade Mean For the Red Sox

Jake Peavy

As the July 31st trade deadline nears, teams around the MLB have to make the decision to buy or sell. The Red Sox are in a unique position seeing as they are the defending World Series Champions and still have a core of great players. For weeks, there have been internal discussion of wether or not the Red Sox should give up on this season and prepare for 2015. Because of how streaky Boston has been since the All-Star Break (winning 4 in a row, to losing 4 in a row), the decision had to be made soon, and Sox GM Ben Cherington made it clear that he believes the Red Sox are out of the playoff hunt for this year having fallen 10.5 games back in the AL East.

Jake Peavy was the first big-name casualty of trade deadline and for most Red Sox fans it was tough to see him go. Not only was he an integral part of the 2013 World Series run, but he quickly became a fan favorite by repeatedly voicing his love for Boston and being part of this Red Sox team. Peavy was traded to the Giants for their #2 and #11 ranked pitching prospects per MLB.com. The Red Sox reportedly added $3 million dollars to take some burden off of Peavy’s $16 million salary, which could help explain why Boston was able to get such high level prospects for a pitcher who only recorded one win and threw a 4.72 ERA.

A surprising part of the trade is that the Red Sox went after two pitching prospects, when they have arguably some of the best pitching in all of the minor leagues, with prospects such as Henry Owens, Allen Webster, and Matt Barnes on the doorstep of the major leagues. The pitching returns could hint that there might be a bigger plan in the works to turn these prospects around in another trade for an outfielder (Matt Kemp?) or front of the rotation pitcher (Cole Hamels?). This trade also takes a step towards the youth movement in Boston, which has already seen rookies such as Jackie Bradley Jr, Mookie Betts, and Christian Vasquez getting regular playing time. With Jake Peavy leaving the rotation, that could open the door for one of the aforementioned pitching prospects to take a permanent role in the Red Sox rotation or more likely, for Brandon Workman who has already proved to be effective at the major league level.

So, where does Boston go from here? Well, it should not surprise many to see Cherington looking to sell off more veterans. There have been rumors of Kansas City’s interest in Johnny Gomes, several teams in Andrew Miller, and Jon Lester who is very willing to stay with Boston and even says that he would return in free agency if traded; but even John Lackey and Shane Victorino could be up for consideration since they are presumably not part of Boston’s longterm plans. Regardless, of who goes and who stays, the Jake Peavy trade shows that Boston is looking to get younger and make a run at the playoffs in 2015.

Does David Ortiz Deserve a Contract Extension?

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There has been much news lately of David Ortiz wanting an extension to ensure at least another year in Boston. Ortiz, who is in the second year of a 2 year $26 million contract, has been with the Red Sox since 2003 and it is tough to picture him wearing anything besides a Red Sox uniform. A contract dispute with the Red Sox, such as this one, is not new to Ortiz as he went through many difficulties getting a two year extension from very reluctant management that was much more comfortable only giving him one year. Ortiz has been very frustrated, not as much with the Red Sox as much as he has been with the media saying this earlier in February, “I don’t even know why they’re bitching about me talking about contracts, guys putting up my numbers, they’re making $25, $30 million. I’m not asking for that. I’m asking for half of it. And they’re still bitching about it? (Expletive) them. I’m tired of hearing them talk (expletive) about me when I talk about my contract. Hey, every time I talk about my contract, I earn it, (expletive). So don’t be giving me that (expletive). The Red Sox have come out and said that they are interested in giving Ortiz an extension the only question is who has the leverage in the negotiations.

The argument to be made here for the Red Sox is Ortiz is a designated hitter; he can play first base, but that benefits no one since he defense is subpar and there is no need to add risk of an injury to an aging body. That wipes out the national league leaving fourteen potential suitors, outside of the Red Sox. Also, Ortiz would only be willing to play for a winning team and compete for another World Series ring, so the Astros, White Sox and Twins are unlikely destinations. As Ortiz stated, he is not looking for $25, $30 million, he wants half of that, still teams that are cash-strapped can’t afford to go out and spend on high profile free agents, so low-budget teams, such as the Athletics, Rays and even Mariners would not be able to sign Ortiz. This leaves about eight teams to compete against the Red Sox, that is if they are all interested. Once, you start breaking it down team by team, the roster situations would not allow room for some like Ortiz, who is locked down to the DH spot, unless a corresponding move would be made. For example, Texas already have Mitch Moreland as their DH, who is nothing close to the same player as Ortiz, but comes at a much cheaper price and the Rangers offense is good enough to cover that weakness. Detroit is moving Miguel Cabrera to first base and has Victor Martinez as a full time DH so it would be tough for Ortiz to fit there. Six teams would realistically have a need for Ortiz: Angels, Royals, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees. Really only five, because it is impossible to think that the beloved Big Papi could ever play in New York. It would be a betrayal so shocking and disgraceful, worse than Damon and Ellsbury combined, it might generate another 86 year curse. Ultimately, this is a good pitch for the Red Sox and they could let Ortiz see what would be out there on the free agent market, but since he is a DH and creeping up on his 40th birthday, Ortiz has a shorter list of suitors that one would expect for someone ,who is coming off an all star season.

The case for Ortiz is much more simple. He is the face of the Red Sox, he was the face that represented the Red Sox after the marathon bombings, he is irreplaceable. Big Papi is the last remaining member of the ’04 championship season and his experience and leadership cannot be overlooked. Rookies that come up during the season or play with Ortiz during Spring Training often praise him on some influence he has had on them. A quote from SS Jose Iglesias expresses this well,”David’s been in the league for a long time and he knows the guys really well. Every time he says something, you know why he’s saying it. I just listen to him, hear his advice and get better.” These are all good reasons why the Red Sox want to keep him around and this is before even talking about his own field success. Ortiz had to prove many people wrong that wrote him off after his injury-plagued 2012 season, where nothing went right for the Red Sox. He responded by playing in 137 games and hit .309 along with 30 home runs in his age 37 season. Then he really took off in the playoffs hitting .353 with 5 home runs in 16 games, including a game changing grand slam in the bottom of the 8th in the ALCS against Detroit, when the Red Sox were losing 5-1. Ortiz was unstoppable in the World Series, hitting .688 and reaching base 19 times. His whole performance in 2013, leading the Red Sox to their 8th World Series title, is enough to have earned another year in Boston and it is hard to think that the Red Sox don’t get a deal done before the end of the season, although it could come much sooner. Ortiz is deserving of a contract for one year somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-$16 million and he will earn it not only for everything he does on the field, but also because of how much Big Papi means to Boston and its fans.

Spring Training Battles: Bullpen Pt. 2

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If you missed part 1 click here: http://orderonthecourtsports.com/2014/03/03/spring-training-battles-bullpen-pt-1/

Returners:

Andrew Miller: As mentioned above, Miller was out for the season after needing surgery on his foot. He is a big, powerful lefty out of the bullpen and posted an improved 2.64 ERA from his prior two years with Boston in 30.2 innings before he was sidelined. Contract-wise, Miller will receive roughly $2 million this year in his final year before free agency. Chances are he will stick to the roster as he has developed into a reliable 7th inning reliever and the Red Sox are looking to see what he can do coming off of his injury.

Craig Breslow: Another lefty out of the bullpen, Breslow put it all together last putting up a 1.81 ERA and making 61 appearances. He raised his stock even more in the postseason, in which he allowed zero earned runs in his first eight appearances and  become the most reliable late inning reliever. Currently, Breslow is in the last year of a two year contract he signed last winter that will pay him around $3 million anually. He should have a spot secured as an a 7th or 8th inning reliever in the bullpen.

Junichi Tazawa: He put a decent season last year, but left the ball in the strike zone a little too much gave up 70 hits in only 68 innings. The one positive in this is he only granted 12 walks, but still allowed more base runners than most managers would like. He also had a tendency when he  came in with men on base to let up a hit before retiring the next batters. He is now in his first arbitration year and will get paid slightly above $1 million this year. He should survive the roster cuts, but he will face serious competition as a late inning reliever.

Acquisitions:

Edward Mujica: The Red Sox signed Mujica, who for most of the season was the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals to a two year contract worth $9 million, but they are paying him for what he did in the first five months of the season in which he posted a 1.73 ERA and collected 35 saves. He seemed to lose it in the month of September allowing 9 runs in 7 innings and lost his closing job. He only appeared once in the postseason, against the Dodgers in the NCLS and allowed a home run in his one inning. The Red Sox are relying on Mujica going back to mid-season self in which he was one of the best closers. It seems likely that Mujica will pitch out of a set-up role in the eight inning and could take over as closer if Uehara misses time to injury.

Burke Badenhop: Outside of Jonathan Herrera, Badenhop has probably been the most overlooked acquisition this offseason. The Red Sox swapped minor league pitcher Luis Ortega for Badenhop with the Brewers early in the winter to add to their bullpen depth. This transaction didn’t gain too much attention because the Red Sox traded someone most hadn’t heard of and received a reliever from the Brewers, that even fewer people had heard of. Ultimately, it is not clear what role Badenhop could play in the Red Sox bullpen, but he was a very reliable middle reliever pitching 62.1 innings in 63 appearances to the tune of a 3.47 ERA. He will earn roughly $2 million avoiding arbitration in his final year before free agency. Whether or not he makes the roster, will largely depend on his performance in Spring Training unlike the previous relievers mentioned who are likely to have a spot saved for them.

Chris Capuano: After the announcement was made that Ryan Dempster would not pitch in 2014, the Red Sox went out and signed Chris Capuano for a one year $2.5 million that can reach as high as $5 million with incentives. This signing is part of a childhood dream for Capuano, who grew up in West Springfield rooting for the Red Sox. He made 20 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and had an ERA of 4.26. He figures to fill a swingman role in the bullpen, going multiple innings if needed and getting occasional starts in case a regular starter is injured or has to skip a start. Capuano will see a lot of innings this year whether filling in for a starter or coming out of the bullpen.

Rookies:

Brandon Workman: The Red Sox have two rookies in camp that have a legitimate shot to push out one of the previously named relievers for a spot in the bullpen. One of those rookies is right hander Brandon Workman. He was overlooked last year as a pitching prospect due to the abundance of other young arms that include Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes. Workman is still projected to be a starter in his future, but he is more than willing to pitch out of the bullpen if it would earn him a roster spot. He had a few stints at the professional level last year and despite struggling heavily in September with a 7.00 ERA, he was put on the postseason roster where he shined. In 8.2 playoff innings, he did not allow a single earned run receiving some well deserved popularity from the fans. Workman showed that he had the capability to pitch at the major league level, the only question is will it be enough to earn him a roster spot out of Spring Training. Chances are that the Red Sox leave him at AAA Pawtucket to start the year, but he will be the first man up if an injury occurs.

Drake Britton: The lefty quickly turned his season around, after getting arrested for a DUI in Spring Training of 2013. Britton made 17 starts between AA and AAA posting a 3.77 ERA, which was good enough to get the call to the major league team in July. He didn’t allow a run in his first 9 innings and finished the year with a 3.86 ERA. Although he is a starter by trade, the Red Sox seem to profile Britton as a reliever given how successful he was in this role last year. Britton is considered to be a longshot to make the roster this year, especially because of the new presence of Chris Capuano who is in the same role as Britton ideally would fill. This makes it very likely that Britton will start the year in Pawtucket and could potentially make a return to the major league roster at some point in 2014.

In recap, six relievers seem to have a role already geared towards him. Koji Uehara– closer, Edward Mujica– set up man, Craig Breslow– set up man, Junichi Tazawa– middle reliever, Andrew Miller– middle reliever, Chris Capuano– long reliever/spot starter

There will be fierce competition for that last bullpen spot between Burke Badenhop, Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton, it’s up to each to prove in Spring Training that they have what it takes to get that last roster spot, but who will it go to?

Spring Training Battles: Bullpen Pt. 1

Bullpen Picstitch

Can you name each of the Red Sox relievers show in the picture above? Answers at the bottom.

The Red Sox enter Spring Training returning with an even stronger bullpen than last year, which now carries more depth. The 2013 season got off to a rocky start with Joel Hanrahan being named closer. He only ended up pitching 7.1 innings allowing eight runs and blowing two saves before the announcement was made that he would be out for the season due torn muscle in his right arm. Then, manager John Farrell tabbed Andrew Bailey as the replacement closer. Although Bailey was an improvement to Hanrahan, he still struggled and blew five saves in his short stint as closer, before he too would be declared out for the season, caused by labrum and capsule damage to his shoulder. This injury came on the heels of a season-ending injury to  another key reliever, Andrew Miller, who required foot surgery that would not allow him to pitch again in 2013. This  crippled a Red Sox bullpen that had quickly lost its abundant depth. That’s when the more-overlooked at the time, Koji Uehara stepped in as closer and was lights out. Uehara recorded one of the best seasons as a closer baseball has seen, allowing only nine runs in 74.1 innings. He also put up one of the best runs a closer from August 21st to September 13th, in which he pitched 12 innings without allowing a runner to reach base, the closer’s equivalent of a perfect game and then some.  Uehara, who was originally signed for $4.5 million in the offseason, was projected to be extra depth in the bullpen coming out of Spring Training. What’s more is the medical staff was worried about overuse, pitching as a 38 year old, nevertheless, he helped guide the Red Sox to the playoffs and was named ALCS MVP, appearing in five games against Detroit, saving four and winning a fifth. When General Manager Ben Cherington signed him to a contract last year, he cleverly included an option that would trigger if Uehara pitched in 35 games. So, Red Sox fans can rest assured that when the final cuts for the 25 man roster come at the end of Spring Training, Koji will be safe. As for the eight others competing for what is presumably six other bullpen spots, they don’t necessarily have this same guarantee. Here’s the breakdown, these eight others include:

Returners: Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara

Acquisitions: Edward Mujica, Chris Capuano, Burke Badenhop

Rookies: Brandon Workman, Drake Britton

In the next post, each reliever will be summarized with a projection on their chances of making the 25 man roster and where they could land in the bullpen.

Answer Key (from left to right):

Top: Breslow, Tazawa, Mujica, Uehara

Bottom: Britton, Workman, Capuano, Badenhop, Miller

Spring Training Battles: Centerfield

For the Red Sox, Spring Training this year is full of excitement and competition. There are several positions in which two or more players have a legitimate shot for a spot on the selective 25-man roster. One such position battle that will be very closely followed is for the starting center fielder, between Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. As a reminder, whoever wins this battle, the other is not necessarily guaranteed to get the backup spot. The Red Sox have six players who can play in the outfield: Nava, Gomes, Carp, Victorino and the aforementioned Sizemore and Bradley Jr. Victorino and Nava are both capable of playing center if needed, but defensive metrics indicate that it would not be in the best interests of the Red Sox if they were to play there. So, it comes down to who will start and who will more than likely back up.

Starting off with Jackie Bradley Jr.,  in case you forgot, he has been on the major league team before. After lighting up Spring Training in 2013, hitting a torrid .419 in 28 games, he made the jump from AA Portland to Boston’s major league roster. However, he did not last long only playing in 37 games hitting .189 and he was sent back down. In Pawtucket, he showed some consistency and finished the year hitting .275. Over the offseason, it became clear that starting center fielder was Bradley’s job to lose after Jacoby Ellsbury signed a 7 year $153 million contract with the Yankees. Behind Bradley Jr., there is no clear centerfield prospect and so to provide a backup plan, if he began to struggle at the major league level in 2014, the Red Sox brought it Grady Sizemore.

Grady Sizemore hasn’t played since 2011, but when it was announced that he was hoping to return this year he attracted the interest of several teams. And why not? Before injuries started taking a toll on his performance in 2009, from 2005-2008, he was an all-star caliber player, posting 20-20 seasons and in 2008 broke 30-30 barrier. Along with that, he added two gold gloves in 2007 and 2008. Reportedly, Sizemore was on the cusp of signing with the Cincinnati Reds, before meeting with Red Sox medical staff who laid out a plan to ease him back into baseball. This was enough to convince Sizemore to take his talents to Boston. Now, while it is easy to get excited for the arrival of Grady Sizemore, expectations must be tempered, because keep in mind he still hasn’t played a professional baseball game in more than two years, so its not fair to compare the 2014 Grady to the 2008 Grady, who hit 33 home runs and stole 38 bases. At the same time, all reports from Spring Training have indicated that he is progressing well and he is scheduled to play his first game tomorrow, so there is reason to be excited for his return.

At this point, Jackie Bradley Jr. is  in the driver’s seat and it is still his job to lose. Sizemore would have to have an outstanding Spring Training in order to remove Bradley from the starting role and Bradley would have to underperform. Contractually, Bradley will be under the Red Sox’s control for the next six years and will have a salary around $500,000 for this season. On the other hand, Sizemore, being a free agent, received a one year $750,000 contract but that could turn into $6 million based on incentives. Regardless, money is not as much an issue for the Red Sox so they will take whoever deserves the starting spot. Ultimately, I believe they will end up keeping both Bradley Jr. and Sizemore, with JBJ earning the starting spot.

Can the Red Sox Trust the Left Side of their Infield

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The Boston Red Sox are looking to defend their title in 2014 and for a team that just won the World Series, they come into Spring Training with a fair amount of questions. The biggest of which seems to be what should they do with left side of their infield? As of right now, the Red Sox appear to be comfortable going into this season with Will Middlebrooks at third base and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. There is significant risk in this scenario, especially considering that if either of the two struggle, Jonathan Herrera, acquired from Colorado for Franklin Morales earlier in the offseason, is tabbed as the current utility man. He is know more for his glove, since his offensive numbers are subpar and not suited for a starting role.

In the case of Will Middlebrooks, his first two seasons have been night and day. His rookie campaign, in which he essentially ran Kevin Youkilis out of town, gave Red Sox fans something to look forward each game in the disastrous 2012 season. Middlebrooks not only hit well, putting up a .288 average, but also showed significant power delivering 15 home runs in 75 games, before his season was cut short after getting hit by a pitch on the wrist. He returned for the start of the 2013 having sole possession of third base, but struggled out of the gate. Other than a three home run game against Toronto, Middlebrooks’ month of April was very frustrating and he finished the month hitting a weak .194. May and June didn’t go too much better and he ended up getting sent down to AAA Pawtucket until getting the call back up early in August. He showed somewhat of a mixed bag from there to the end of the season, with a very good month of August, but struggling again in September. He didn’t hit great in the playoffs and lost his starting spot to Xander Bogaerts at the end of the ALCS and didn’t see any action until the famous “Obstruction Game 3″ of the World Series. The big question for 2014 is which Will will we see this season. 2012 Will, who was looked capable of holding down the hot corner for the foreseeable future at Fenway? Or 2013 Will, who was up and down the entire year and looked very overwhelmed at the plate.

Xander Bogaerts will get every opportunity to prove that he is the franchise shortstop, until he shows that he isn’t quite ready to handle the job just yet. This isn’t to say that Bogaerts will get traded, rather he may see a short stint at AAA if he can’t keep up with major league pitching. He has already become a fan favorite, which is a combination of the unavoidable hype and his impressive playoff performance helping the Red Sox en route to their 2013 title. Still, it is tough to remember that Bogaerts is in fact a rookie and could struggle just as Jackie Bradley Jr. did last year. Another difficulty with Bogaerts is that he has a big frame at 6’3” 185lb that is only going to grow as he matures. This should be good for his offensive output, especially considered the lowered offensive expectations for shortstops, but at the same time, he may become too big and not have the range that many coaches prefer their shortstops to have. Again, Bogaerts will get the opportunities to start at shortstop and show the coaching staff that he can indeed handle the position, until he proves them wrong, but for now Bogaerts projects to put an end to the revolving door at shortstop.

So, what’s the solution? Well, right now the Red Sox don’t need one, since there is no problem yet. GM Ben Cherington is slowly starting to integrate their minor league prospects into Boston’s major league system and the idea is to give these young studs a chance. A contingency plan that has been discussed internally is bringing back Stephen Drew, who played excellent defensively last year and gives the Red Sox a lefty bat on the left side. The hesitation with signing him is he has Scott Boras as his agent, who always seems to find a lucrative deal for his clients and they have set a price and don’t plan to settle for much less. Along with that, is Drew turned down a qualifying offer from the Red Sox, which means that if he is signed by another team, the Red Sox gain a first round draft pick, which they covet given their philosophy shift from big money free agents to short term deals and using the prospects in their minor league system. Drew would prove to be an excellent backup plan if he is brought back on the Red Sox’s terms, but until Middlebrooks and Bogaerts show that they aren’t quite ready to handle the majors full time, they are projected to be the starting left side on Opening Day. So, should the Red Sox give them a chance or go out a sign another player as backup.