Posts Tagged ‘Edgar Renteria’

Making sense of the Beltre deal.  Which is not at all as easy as it sounds.

Let’s review, shall we?

Stage One: Theo Epstein looks to trade Mike Lowell to the Rangers for catching prospect Max Ramirez.  This makes sense.  Mike Lowell had a tough year last year, and it’s only going to get tougher.  It’s true that he showed flashes brilliance in the field, but that was in Anaheim, where the weather is nice and warm.  Not so in Boston.  In Boston, it’s either freezing cold or scorching hot.  Lowell would’ve flourished in Texas, with its mild climate and considerably less pressure-cooker-like atmosphere, and the Rangers’ catching prospect would’ve been put to good use in our system, where he would’ve been groomed to give Tek some days off.

Stage Two: The deal is called on account of Mike Lowell’s right thumb.  To emphasize, it was the thumb, not the hip.  Let me repeat: thumb, problem; hip, not so much.  This makes sense.  From Lowell’s performance toward the end of last season, it was clear that his hip was no longer a big issue.  (That is to say, it’s still an issue but not a focus.) Given the right atmosphere, environment, and amount of days off, all signs pointed to a fairly productive year, both at the plate and in the field.  This, however, was with the understanding that Lowell’s thumb was sprained, not injured.  After he failed the physical, what Texas basically had on their hands was a choice between keeping tMax Ramirez or trading him for a third baseman who, in addition to a well-established health concern, would need surgery.  And that wasn’t a gamble Texas was willing to make.  From their perspective, they didn’t want to chance having to start someone at the hot corner who was slated to make multiple trips to the DL, not to mention the fact that the hip affects Lowell’s defense more than his offense.  The thumb would affect Lowell’s defense as well as his offense.  Simply put, no thumb, no swing, no runs, no deal.

Stage Three: Mike Lowell’s surgery is a success.  Red Sox players, staff, fans, and writers welcome Mike Lowell back into the fold.  Red Sox Nation is urged to table our wishes for infielders named Adrian.  Lou Merloni writes a column urging us to separate Mike Lowell from the Edgar Renterias of the baseball world.  As in, when did Mike Lowell reach that point where he was dragging us down to the point where exploring other options became a necessity at all costs? (I mean that literally.  Moving Lowell would necessitate us eating a big chunk of his salary.) I mean, teams routinely field much worse than Mike Lowell.  Presumably, with additional days off in the form of Youk-Lowell shifting to Kotchman-Youk, Lowell would be able to minimize the effects of his hip on his range and maximize his plate appearances.  Recovery from his surgery is fairly brief, and only one or two weeks of Spring Training would be missed.  So not the end of the world.

Stage Four: In complete defiance of Scott Boras’s obsession with long-term contracts, Theo Epstein signs Adrian Beltre to a one-year deal.  Let’s walk through it. The deal is worth nine million dollars with a player option worth six million that will increase to ten million if he makes 640 plate appearances.  The deal was contingent on a physical, which Beltre passed, despite last season’s left shoulder issues.  The deal was a product of interest that’s been expressed since November.  And the deal is very consistent with Theo’s commitment to a major defensive upgrade.  He is expected to bat in the bottom third of the lineup.  (Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Drew, Cameron, Beltre, Scutaro.  Bang.)

Stage Five: Theo Epstein trades Casey Kotchman to the Mariners for utility man Bill Hall, a prospect to be named later, and cash.  Kotchman is happy to reunite with good friend Chone Figgins.  Lou Merloni writes a column in which he changes his mind, citing the flexibility and ability that a one-year deal with Beltre gives us.

Before we get to the confusing part, let’s take a moment to celebrate what we’re getting.  Beltre put up barely decent numbers at Safeco and Dodger Stadium, so coming to a park that’s friendly to right-handed power hitters promises a nice statistical boost.  Home numbers: .253 average, .311 on-base percentage, .416 slugging percentage.  Road numbers: .287, .338, .488, respectively.  Now, check out the similarity between that latter series and Lowell’s career stats: .280, .343, .468, respectively.  And just to leave no stone unturned, in 162 games Lowell hits on average forty doubles, twenty-three home runs, and ninety-eight RBIs.  Compare that to Beltre’s average thirty-nine doubles, twenty-six homers and ninety-nine RBIs in 162 road games.  Coincidence? I think not.  Also, the deal, coupled with the Kotchman transaction, will have minimal impact on our finances.  And it kept Boras off our backs because, after said statistical boost, Beltre’s marketing value will increase substantially.  The brevity of the contract keeps the Major League option open for our top prospects.  So our defense goes through the roof, our pitching is way too solid for words, our offense will in all likelihood defy expectations, our top prospects stay in our organization, and we maintain flexibility, both financially and baseball-wise.

But in light of Lowell’s remainder with us, the fourth and fifth stages of this saga aren’t easy to explain.  After Lowell-to-Texas failed, everyone more or less accepted the fact that Lowell would be the face of Fenway’s third base in 2010.  That thought process was fueled by the fact that we’ve had our foot in Beltre’s door since November; we wanted to trade Lowell to make room for Beltre, so as soon as Lowell wasn’t going anywhere, it seemed pretty obvious that neither was Beltre.  Then we suddenly signed Beltre and made room for him by shipping Kotchman across the country.  What’s unclear to me is the effect this will have on Lowell’s role.  Will playing time be split fifty-fifty, sixty-forty, or eighty-twenty? It’s a Crisp-y situation; once it became apparent that Ellsbury was about to start in center field, Coco Crisp was allowed to walk, and rightly so.  Coco Crisp is a starter, not a benchwarmer.  Same with Lowell, but also with Beltre.  What do you do when you have two starters, one of whom was explicitly acquired to replace the other before the other left the picture, a state of affairs that received extra emphasis when Kotchman was shipped off? With all eyes on Beltre, what is Lowell’s fate in 2010?

That’s actually a fairly easy question to answer.  We’ll either move him or we won’t.  If we don’t, he’d contribute in the field when he’s called upon and wouldn’t when he isn’t.  And he’d see a good amount of time at the plate as a pinch-hitter.  The upside of this is that it builds in much-needed rest time for Lowell and gives us a considerable upgrade in defense and age in Beltre.  And one thing that we can’t altogether rule out if we keep Lowell is the possibility that Beltre may turn out to be a chip for Adrian Gonzalez come the trading deadline.  It would be swapping one corner infielder for another, but Youk’s versatility would allow us to do that.  Besides, when you’re talking about someone like Adrian Gonzalez, you trade first and maneuver later.

Our last piece of big news is our outfield situation.  Ellsbury has officially been moved to left in order to make more room for Cameron in center.  This is way better than having Ellsbury in center than Cameron in left, even though having Ellsbury in left is a complete waste of his talents.  Whatever; when Cameron leaves Boston, Ellsbury goes back to center.  Meanwhile, it’s a wise choice.  Cameron’s only start in left was in 2000, and he hasn’t been in either corner since that nasty collision he had with Carlos Beltran back in ’05.  Meanwhile, Ellsbury is young, skilled, adaptable, and flexible.  He’s so good that he could handle any of the three outfield positions.  In fact, the relative ease of playing left as opposed to center decreases his risk of injury, and the decrease in covered territory could translate to an increased application of his abilities to the basepaths.  Basically, it comes down to the fact that Ellsbury would be infinitely better in left than Cameron but would be less better, though still better, than Cameron in center, while Cameron’s performance in left would presumably be abysmal to his performance in center.

Loose ends for the week: Josh Beckett will be gold this year because he’s up for contract, Papi will be feeling the offensive pressure (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it means a really good workout regimen), and Randy Johnson finally retired.  Also, congratulations to three New Haven County, Connecticut communities that successfully pressured Cablevision into adding NESN to its basic lineup in those markets.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Rangers, beat the Sens, got smoked by the Blackhawks, and lost to the Rangers again.  The Patriots continue to power through the loss of Wes Welker as the postseason starts tomorrow with a confrontation with the Ravens.

Fire Brand of the American League

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Finally, it starts to get interesting.

Pitching is Theo’s top priority at the Winter Meetings.  It looks like we’re shifting our focus from Roy Halladay to John Lackey.  That’s very good news.  I don’t want to give up both Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly for a pitcher who is, in all likelihood, past his prime.  Yes, it’s possible he could be another Randy Johnson, who won four straight Cy Youngs after turning thirty-five, or Curt Schilling, who was a Cy Young runner-up three times after turning thirty-three.  But it’s also possible that he just won’t deliver or that he’ll become a medical liability or, worse yet, the dreaded combination of both.  (See Randy Johnson in pinstripes.  Talk about disasters.) And if you compare the two, Roy Halladay doesn’t even enjoy a complete edge in the numbers.  In his career, he started and won more games, struck out more batters, and had a lower ERA, OPP AVG, and WHIP.  But Lackey’s gone the distance more often (which translates to durability, one of Lackey’s strongest assets) and has allowed fewer earned runs, home runs, bases on balls, and hit batters.  And we land Lackey this offseason, it would be through a signing, not a trade, so we wouldn’t have to mortgage our future.  Besides, we theoretically have some money left over from our decision to not pick up Alex Gonzalez’s option.

Supposedly, we’re also seriously pursuing Rich Harden.  I like that less.  He’s got a 3.39 career ERA with 783 strikeouts and a record of fifty and twenty-nine, but he’s never thrown two hundred innings in a season and has only made more than twenty-six starts once.  Durability? Not so much.  But he’d be a good bargain option, arguably a better one than Smoltz or Penny, because he’s pitched in the American League.

Speaking of pitching, the Braves cleaned out two of our peripheral relievers.  Wagner signed a one-year deal worth seven million dollars to close for them.  I would’ve liked to see him come back to Boston, but he did give us fair warning that he wanted to close, and we don’t exactly have a vacancy in that position.  One day later, the Braves signed Saito also, to a one year deal worth just over three million plus incentives.  I’m not too torn up about it.

Say hello to the latest shortstop to don a Boston uniform: Marco Scutaro.  If I sound cynical, it’s because I am.  He’s wearing Number 16; the last Boston shortstop to wear Number 16 was Edgar Renteria, so here’s hoping this time around will work out a little bit better.  Let’s not kid ourselves: he’s a veteran.  He’s a career .265 hitter with fifty home runs, 294 RBIs, and 297 walks to his credit.  But he’s thirty-four years old.  There’s a reason why the deal was only for two years.  It’s worth eleven million dollars plus a dual option.  Things that made this possible: the draft pick we’re getting from the Braves that will offset the one we have to give to the Jays, another undisclosed team pushing hard for Scutaro that forced the issue, and Scurato has reached that point in his career when he really wants a ring.  (Ironically, Alex Gonzalez signed a one-year deal with the Jays earlier, worth close to three million plus an option.) Either way, we now have a shortstop who is not Dustin Pedroia.

That needs to be cleared up once and for all.  Dustin Pedroia said he would be willing to play shortstop if the team needed him to.  But the team wasn’t about to let that happen.  Trust me.  You don’t move a Gold Glove second baseman to short because you don’t want to spend some money.  You don’t do that for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t solve anything.  Fine; you move your second baseman to short.  Now you need a second baseman.  Sure, the market for second basemen is more fluid than that for shortstops, but not when you’re talking about second basemen as good as Dustin Pedroia.  Also, the caliber of Pedroia’s defense at short would be comparable to, if not worse than, any career shortstop on the market, with the obvious exception of Julio Lugo.  Thirdly, shortstop is no defensive walk in the park.  It’s the most difficult infield position.  And that means it carries a higher probability of injury, especially for someone who’s not used to it.  So we would have lost valuable playing time from him, both in the field and at the plate, had he made the switch.  Would he have been capable of doing so? Absolutely.  If anyone could, Dustin Pedroia could.  If there’s one ballplayer who embodies the don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-‘cause-I’ll-show-you-I-can attitude, it’s him.  Not to mention the fact that in 2003 he was the NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year at short.  And he’s actually in a better position to play shortstop at the Major League level now than he was when he first came up, due to his offseason workouts and in-season conditioning that have made him lighter and faster.  But even though he’d use his baseball acumen to compensate, his range would leave much to be desired.  And sometimes, in pressure situations in that part of the field, the range of the shortstop is what it comes down to.  It would have put considerable pressure on Mike Lowell to improve his range as compensation, that’s for sure.  So while I’m not doubting Pedroia’s ability to make the switch, I don’t think it would be a good for him or the team in the long run.  The team wasn’t actually serious about that possibility anyway.  Ultimately, Theo never would have allowed it.  Thankfully, it’s a moot point now either way.

But that would explain our earlier interest in Placido Polanco.  After the Tigers declined to offer him arbitration, we made a call or two.  But like I said, we don’t need a second baseman, and even if we did, he was all but off-limits.  The Phillies have since closed the deal.  So much for Chone Figgins, who ended up signing a four-year deal with Seattle.

Last but not least, we extended arbitration to Bay earlier this week.  (We declined offers to Baldelli and Byrd.) That means that, even if he signs with someone else, we get compensatory draft picks.  So the saga continues.

Congratulations to Joe Castiglione, Dave O’Brien, and Jerry Remy for landing on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, honoring the baseball’s best announcers.  They definitely deserve it.

We beat the Lightning and the Leafs.  Not so much the Habs.  We lost, 1-5, to Montreal.  Ugh.  That was just an awful game to watch.  Even with that loss, though, we’re in first place in the Northeast! Finally! One point ahead of the Sabres, but I’ll take it.  But the most significant B’s news this week has nothing to do with wins and losses.  Marc Savard signed a seven-year extension.  Ladies and gentlemen, that could very well be the highlight of the regular season.  It’s going to have a hugely positive impact it’s going to have on our future.  There is arguably no other center in the league who is as multi-faceted and deeply talented as Marc Savard.  Things aren’t as cheerful on the football front.  Talk about awful games to watch.  The Saints defeated us, 38-17.  Yeah.  Awful.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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With a little help from Boston Dirt Dogs for that headline.  Clay Buchholz made his first Major League start of the season last night, and if you ask anyone in that organization, they’ll tell you he was ready to join the rotation the day after Spring Training.  But we found ourselves with a surplus of arms, so we sent him down the minute his ERA touched 1.00.  Such are our high standards in Boston.  Of course, the irony is that now we’re in a position where we could use another bat, not another pitcher.  Depending on Lowell and Lowrie when they return, though, so maybe not.  We’ll see.  Anyway, not the point.

One of the best things about last night’s game was that it was played.  After the home run derby and the All-Star Game and two days off, it felt so good to watch baseball.  I also liked the fact that it was a win.  But for our future, the most important thing about it was that Buchholz looked fantastic.  He looked ready to jump to the rotation tomorrow.  I’m just glad all that time in Triple-A actually paid off.  It has to be difficult to throw a no-hitter then have a horrible season and be sent down, because you’re thinking if you can throw a no-hitter, how hard could pitching in the Majors possibly be? Hard.  Trust me.  But Buchholz shone yesterday.  Five and two-thirds innings, one run on four hits, three walks, three K’s.  Short but really sweet.  He mixed his pitches effectively; he threw about fifty percent four-seams and the rest off-speeds.  He ranged from nintey-six miles per hour to eighty-one.  And you know how nasty his off-speed stuff is.  Especially his changeup.  I could watch this kid throw changeups all day.  The key was that he was consistent with his control, and he just walked all over Toronto.  He was optioned back down after the game, and the only reason he was pitching in the first place was to give Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield, our pitching All-Stars, extra rest before starting the second half.  Hey, sometimes the traveling wears on you.

The offense really didn’t have a problem handling Ricky Romero.  Ricky Romero was handled and re-handled. Pedroia scored twice, and you have to love his defense.  Third inning with a two-run lead and a man on first, there was a bullet hit right at him.  He dropped to his knees, caught it, and threw to Green who threw to Youk for the inning-ending double play.  Youk got the whole thing started with a two-run jack in the first, his seventeenth of the year, into the left-field seats.  Oh, and played first.  You read right.  Youk played first last night, because ladies and gentlemen, Lowell is back, and he is back with a vengeance.  He went two for four and made a throwing error but we’ll forgive him for that.  Nice.  Papi went two for four with a double and drove in two.  The final score was 4-1.

The bullpen pitched very well.  Daniel Bard struck out three of the four batters he faced and earned a hold for his service.  Okajima also earned a hold.  Paps earned a save, and when I say earned I mean earned.  He threw eight pitches, six of them strikes, to finish the ninth.  I like where this is going.

The Red Sox and Jason Bay have decided not to talk about a contract until the season is over after talks during the All-Star break were unsuccessful.  This, I don’t like.  I’m very confident that in the end a deal will be cut, but I don’t like this hanging in the breeze.  He’s a five-tool guy, he loves it here, and he plays very well here.  A deal will be cut.  Bay himself said he feels better after these failed talks than after the failed talks during Spring Training.  Somehow, Theo is making progress.  In Theo we trust.  Shortstop issues notwithstanding.  Which brings me to my next point.  That was the bad news, that we didn’t lock up Bay right away.

The good news is that we’ve finally designated Julio Lugo for assignment! It happened on Friday.  He has $13.6 million left but at this point I think that money’s better spent paying him not to play than paying him to strike out and make errors.  Harsh but true.  It also has to do with roster space.  Aaron Bates was optioned to make room for Lowell.  Buchholz was optioned back down to make room for Jed Lowrie.  And with Lowrie back and Green in full swing, Lugo doesn’t have a spot.  It’s no secret that, if Theo Epstein does have a weakness, it’s at the shortstop position.  He traded Nomar for Orlando Cabrera, which was good.  He let Orlando Cabrera walk in favor of Edgar Renteria, which was fine until his defense started declining, so we traded him.  Then it was Alex Gonzalez, who flashed leather left and right but did nothing at the plate.  So then we signed Lugo, who was supposed to be our leadoff man.  We all know how that went.  We need both at the same time: defense and offense.  And we’ve waited and waited for a shortstop who does both at the same time, and he’s arrived.  His name is Jed Lowrie.  And he comes from in-house.  And he’s back.  And I’m psyched.  And as far as Theo Epstein is concerned, we have the money to pay for this if he can’t trade Lugo, and we forgive him.  He’s made two mistakes: Gagne and Lugo.  After all the good he’s done, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we can let this one go.

And last but not least, Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson are getting ready to enter the Hall of Fame.  They’re the first left fielders inducted in twenty years.

So there you go.  It was just a great day and a great game.  We’re now on a four-game winning streak.  We’re well-rested.  We start the second half three games up on the Yankees.  We have Penny throwing against Marc Rzepczynski, which should be a pretty good matchup.  I like it.

AP Photo

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I guess we’ll start with the badness first.  We were two-hit in a complete game shutout by Brett Anderson.  Who knew.  Our struggles against Oakland apparently followed us home.  It was just painful to watch.  And John Smoltz did not help in the least.  His record is now 0 and 2.  He pitched six, giving up five runs on ten hits with a walk and three K’s.  Very lack-luster, but he remains optimistic as usual, only last time it was easier to believe because you had to account for first-start nerves and whatnot.  I guess he was battling nerves last night too while making his Fenway debut, but I think it’s safe to say at least at this point that he’s not living up to his name.  Bard and Ramirez were solid, and Saito gave up what appears to be his usual run in the ninth.  When all was said and done, we were looking at a final score of 6-0.

No run spread, because we didn’t score any.  Bay hit and stole second.  Green hit.  Tek and Baldelli walked.  Lugo made a throwing error; surprise, surprise.  In his big-league debut, Aaron Bates struck out twice.  It just wasn’t a great day.  Bay did have an absolutely spectacular leaping catch at the wall in the eighth, and in the ninth Tek caught Mark Ellis stealing.

With the exception of Nomar’s return.  Red Sox Nation stood as one in a massive standing ovation.  A massive standign ovation.  I’m telling you, that was a blast from the past.  It was strange to see him do his batting ritual in an A’s uniform but good to welcome him back.  You started having all these memories of him lighting up pitchers, his work ethic, his solid defense, the security he brought to the shortstop position which contrasted sharply with the shortstops we had basically until Jed Lowrie came along.  We went from Renteria to Gonzalez to Lugo, whom we signed to a long-term contract hoping he’d be the answer.  Of course that never panned out.  But it wasn’t just that.  Nomar was an icon.  He was a unanimous Rookie of the Year and a perennial All-Star.  He was the closest this generation came to seeing a modern legend.  He was really that good.  He played 966 games for us, batting .323 with 1,281 hits, 690 RBIs, and 178 home runs.

Of course hindsight is twenty-twenty and it’s easy to forget the ugliness about his leaving.  And believe me, there was ugliness.  We can have selective memories if we want to, but at the end of the day we have  to recall why he’s no longer wearing Boston letters.  He says he wants to finish his career in Boston.  He says that when he put on that uniform about fifteen years ago, he wanted to start and end his career in it.  And we all know his career took a sour turn since he left.  He’s played for three different teams, just now coming back to the American League.  In 2006, he won the Comeback Player of the Year award with the Dogers, batting .303 with twenty home runs and ninety-three RBIs.  Aside from that, he’s batted .279 with eight home runs and thirty-nine RBIs while averaging only seventy-nine games a year.  he’s thirty-five years old and was just diagnosed with a chronic calf injury.  And lately he spends more and more time on the DL.  So between that and the terms on which he left, it’s unclear whether it would be good for him or the team if he came back.  After all, one of the reasons why he left was because he was no longer good for the team.  It’s a little bit like the Manny Ramirez trade: you remember the good times, but you’re glad he’s gone.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t think about what could’ve been had it been possible for him to stay.  He was no Ted Williams, because nobody will ever be Ted Williams except Ted Williams, but he reminded you of that type of player.  A modern legend.  Almost.  He did go two for four with an RBI, but so did everybody in the A’s lineup last night.  He was out at first after his first at-bat.  He’s a first baseman now, but last night he DHed.  Doesn’t always play in the field these days.  In fact, doesn’t always play, period.

Anyway, moving forward.  Josh Beckett will take on Dana Eveland tonight.  Dana Eveland is one and two with a 7.40 ERA.  Josh Beckett is…Josh Beckett.  Luckily, we were able to keep our one-game lead over the Yanks intact, but we need to increase it.  The final games before the All-Star break is a perfect time to do it.  Gain ground at the Yankees’ expense and solidify our supremacy in the American League.  And maybe take down the Dodgers in our spare time.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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