Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, January 05, 2006

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION DOESN'T ADD UP

Enough already. The Red Sox latest offer of Manny Ramirez and Matt Clement for Miguel Tejada is absurdly lopsided, and the Orioles' demand for their MVP shortstop is even more absurd. Ramirez for Tejada - straight up - is a fair deal. Ramirez and Clement - both All Stars last season - is too generous, and yet it was still declined by the O's. Ridiculous. Apparently, Baltimore not only wants Ramirez and Clement, but also top prospect Andy Marte, who the Sox received from the Braves in exchange for Edgar Renteria. Even more ridiculous. Essentially the Sox got the Braves to take Renteria by agreeing to pay him $4 million a year for the next three seasons.

So if the Sox were foolish enough to cave to the Orioles outrageous demands, they would in essence be getting Tejada in exchange for Renteria, Ramirez, and Clement. And all the while they'll still be paying Renteria to play for the Braves. Incredibly, the Orioles seemed poised to ask the Sox to do the same for Ramirez and/or Clement. For the Red Sox, that is not what you'd call upgrading. I'd call it the height of lunacy.

One problem with trades is that while they can accomplish the task of filling certain holes, new ones can be created. Minus Ramirez, the Sox would be in need of two starting outfielders with just six weeks to go until spring training.

No one truly knows how good Marte will be, but the Braves organization was very impressed with him. With Chipper Jones manning the hot corner in Atlanta for the forseeable future, there was no room for Marte at third. So the Braves parted with a talented and highly touted 22-year old who one Braves exec called "perhaps the greatest player we've ever traded."

The Sox brass seem equally impressed with Marte. In fact, Sox Senior Advisor Bill Lajoie called Marte the kind of player you build a team around. These types of accolades indicate that the kid is worth keeping. Mike Lowell is under contract for two more years, and upon his departure Marte becomes the third basemen of the future.

The Sox have spent this off season restructuring their team to be centered around pitching and defense. With that in mind, what's wrong with Alex Cora at short? The obvious answer is that he can't hit, but not everyone in the lineup can be expected to bat .280 or better. Someone's got to bat 9th. Yes, Cora has a career .244 average, and in Boston we're accustomed to a shortstop that can hit .300 every year. But Cora plays outstanding defense. In 373 games at short, Cora owns a career .980 fielding percentage. For comparison sake, lets look at some other shortstops: Rafael Furcal - who just signed a 3-year, $39 million contract with the Dodgers - has a .964 career FP, Orlando Cabrera a .968 career FP, and Derek Jeter a .975 career FP.

The Sox really seem to like Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo, who would bat leadoff. But the Rays want Marte in return (doesn't everybody?), and Lugo becomes a free agent at the end of 2006. Lugo is a lifetime .276 hitter with a .340 OBP, though last year he had career highs of .295 and .362, respectively. And his career .965 FP at short is lower than Cora's.

There has also been talk of the Sox going after free agent Alex Gonzalez. That would be better since it wouldn't require parting with Marte or any other prospects. But Gonzalez is a lifetime .245 hitter - about the same as Cora - and he possesses a lifetime .968 FP. Though he's viewed as defensive star, is he really any better than Cora? What's more, in his best year Gonzalez hit just .256, and he once hit an embarrassing .200. How much of an upgrade is that?

Cora and Lugo are both 30, and Gonzalez turns 29 next month. The Red Sox aren't looking at any of them as long term solutions, but they already have Cora under contract which is a huge plus over any other candidate. Dustin Pedroia provides flexibility beyond this year because he can play both short and second. Options are nice. Should the Sox find a long term replacement for Mark Loretta at second next off-season, Pedroia could move back to his natural position at short in 2007. The 34-year-old Loretta is entering the final year of his current contract. And by the way, while the Sox are searching for a leadoff hitter, Loretta has a higher career OBP (.365) than either Johnny Damon (.353) or Julio Lugo (.340).

Finally, one of the best reasons not to make a deal for a shortstop is that the Sox will likely need to engage in a trade to obtain a center fielder. Since there are no good free agents left on the market, it will necessitate a trade. Though signing Johnny Damon would have been quite expensive, not signing him could have its own expense if the Sox have to part with a talented prospect in order to replace him. David Wells, Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo and Kelly Shopach could be used in any combination as part of a trade package for a new center fielder, and that would be better than having to part with any of the terrific youngsters that are part of the Red Sox not so distant future.

The Sox should hold off on trading for a shortstop. Right now their most pressing need is for a solid center fielder. For some reason the Sox seem to be taken with the underwhelming Jeremy Reed, but if the Twins are out of the playoff hunt at the All Star break, Torri Hunter could be available. The question is what to do until then, and right now it seems that the Sox have no immediate answers and few good options.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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