Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Red Sox May Add Two Frontline Starters This Offseason

The Red Sox entered the offseason with just three pitchers likely slated for the rotation next year: Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

All three, however, come with questions. Who knows what the Sox will get out of the oft-injured Buchholz and the enigmatic Porcello?

For his part, Rodriguez can’t be counted on for 200 innings next year either. The 22-year-old threw a career-high 169 combined innings between Triple-A Pawtucket and Boston last season.

After their spotty performances in 2015, neither Joe Kelly or Wade Miley are guaranteed rotation spots, even though both are under contract.

Given the horrendous performance of the Boston rotation (which ranked 13th in the American League in ERA) last season, management needs to add at least a bona fide ace, and perhaps more, this winter.

The Sox could ultimately add two starters this offseason through free agency or trade.

David Price’s name keeps coming up in relation to the Sox, and multiple reports say the Sox will ultimately be the highest bidder for the lefty’s services.

But another name to consider is Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, who recently asked his team, the Hiroshima Carp, to make him available to MLB clubs.

If Maeda is posted, it will require a fee of up to $20 million payable to the Carp just to negotiate with him (the fee is returned to teams that don’t sign him).

Following a rule change, the posting fee is a lot less cumbersome than it used to be.

The Red Sox famously paid $51,111,111.11 to the Siebu Lions in 2006 for the opportunity to offer Daisuke Matsuzaka a six-year, $52 million contract.

More recently, the Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee for Yu Darvish prior to the 2012 season. Then they gave the righty $60 million over six years.

The Yankees benefitted from the new $20 million maximum posting fee, and then signed Masahiro Tanaka for $155 million over seven years before the 2014 season.

Maeda will probably land a contract closer to Darvish’s.

Though he has never pitched in the majors, Maeda is projected as a No. 2 starter. One thing is certain; he is widely regarded as the best Japanese hurler since Darvish and Tanaka.

The lack of major league experience will surely make the 27-year-old Maeda less sought after than Price (age 30) or Zack Greinke (age 32) this offseason. Yet, he will still be prized.

Aside from the fact that he is younger than both, Maeda will also come a lot cheaper, despite the $20 million posting fee.

Though he won’t blow anyone away with a fastball that tops out at 93 mph, Meada throws two versions of the curveball, one of which drops down into the upper 60s, as well as a slider and a changeup that also register in the mid-60s.

A velocity range from the mid-60s to the low 90s should allow Maeda to fool more than enough big league hitters to be successful.

Maeda’s strength is his extraordinary control, having posted an excellent 1.9 BB/9 walk rate over his career.

MLB Trade Rumor’s Tim Dierkes ranked Maeda 14th on his list of the top fifty free agents, predicting that the Japanese star would command a total commitment (including the fee) of five years and $80 million.

The Red Sox can afford that, in addition to an ace, such as Price or Grienke.

Considering that Detroit just signed free agent Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year, $110 pact, Dierkes' projection for Maeda could be a steal.

Hiroshima’s general manager Kiyoaki Suzuki said that Maeda’s “request might be granted,” indicating that he’d likely “decide on a course of action around the end of next week.”

Maeda is under club control through 2017, and could be posted again next offseason.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Red Sox Will Really Miss David Ortiz When He's Gone

The Red Sox will really miss David Ortiz at this time next year.

How much?

Well, Ortiz posted a .913 OPS last season, leading the club at age 39. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez, the guy the Red Sox (and many others) expected to fill Papi's shoes once he retired, posted a .717 OPS.

Ortiz also led the Sox by wide margins in home runs, RBI, total bases, on-base percentage and extra-base hits.

Ramirez was second on the team with 19 home runs in 2015. That's a massive falloff.

In fact, it took the combination of Ramirez and Mookie Betts -- who finished third on the team with 18 home runs -- to equal Ortiz's 37 blasts. Think about that for a minute.

Ortiz's absence will leave a huge void in 2017.

The fact that Ortiz did all of this at the age of 39 is all the more astounding. He joined Barry Bonds as the only 39-year-olds to top 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season.

Offensive firepower is hard to come by in today's game. The Sox mostly lack it throughout their minor league system, and that may haunt them in the post-Ortiz era.

Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista will both be free agents after next season. The Red Sox may make a strong push for one of them in order to fill the gaping hole left in the wake of Ortiz's departure.

One way or another, the Sox will need to somehow make up for the lost power and production.

Then there's the matter of veteran leadership and presence. Players all around baseball admire and respect Ortiz for all he's done in the game, and for his cheerful personality.

Yes, the Red Sox will really miss David Ortiz when he's gone.

Me too.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Did the Red Sox Overpay for Craig Kimbrel?

Some are already asking if the Red Sox overpaid for closer Craig Kimbrel.

In a word, no.

Kimbrel is just 27 and in his prime. He has been an All Star four times in his four full seasons. In that time, he has been absolutely dominant, posting a 1.70 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP.

How good is Kimbrel?

Since 2011, he leads Major Leaguers in saves (224), ranks second in ERA (1.70), strikeouts (523), strikeouts-per-nine innings (14.37), and save percentage (90.7); is third in WHIP (0.91) and opponents' batting average (.160); and is fourth in hits allowed per nine innings (5.05).

While it's particularly difficult to part with the highly-talented Manny Margot, as a center fielder he was blocked by Mookie Betts for the next few years, at least.

Margot is 21 and highly athletic. He is a similar player, and possesses many of the same skill sets, as Betts. But he may never be as good at the major league level, where Betts has already proven himself.

The center fielder was promoted to Portland last season and only played 64 games at the Double-A level. He is projected to reach the majors by late next season, but given his limited exposure at the Double-A level, and that he has never played at Triple-A, that may be optimistic.

The Red Sox top three position prospects are/were Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Margot. They still have two of the three.

Obtaining a closer of Kimbrel's caliber was going to have significant player acquisition costs, no matter what.

Margot was ranked third among Red Sox prospects by and shortstop Javier Guerra was rated sixth.

But Guerra was blocked at short by rising star Xander Bogaerts.

A reasonable critique of the Red Sox in this deal is that they could have used those assets to instead obtain a frontline starter.

The Sox desperately need to fill that void as well, but perhaps Dave Dombrowski and company felt they could more likely fill that need through free agency (David Price?) than find an elite closer.

Boston has control of Kimbrel for the next three season at a price that they can afford. They will pay him $11 million next season, $13 million in 2017, and they hold a club option worth $13 million in 2018.

Again, he is just 27-yaears-old.

As I've said many times, prospects are nice, but they are a gamble. You roll the dice with them every time.

Think about the faith the Sox once had in prospects such as Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson, Anthony Ranaudo, Drake Britton, Ryan Kalsih, Garin Cecchini and on and on.

The Sox also had great plans for Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes, who they sent to San Diego in 2010 (along with Anthony Rizzo) for Adrian Gonzalez.

Where are they now?

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, Kelly is still languishing in the Padres farm system as a converted reliever, while Fuentes is now toiling in the Royals' farm system.

In short, neither player panned out as projected. The Red Sox never missed them.

It's likely that Betts and Bogaerts are better than Margot and Guerra will ever be, and that's all that really matters.

If you're the Boston Red Sox, you take the elite major league closer over the minor league prospects any time. This is a team that is expected to compete for a championship every year. They have lots of young talent still in their system, and should remain competitive for years to come as a result.

In short, the Red Sox are much more likely to be thankful for this trade over the next few years (at least) than to regret it.