Posts Tagged ‘Boston Red Sox’

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The Yankees made a big free agency splash this week, and it wasn’t to bring back star 2B Robinson Cano. The Yankees reportedly signed CF Jacoby Ellsbury to a 7 year, $153 million deal. While on the surface it seems like the Yankees win this move, by gaining a star CF while stealing the Red Sox’s most valuable free agent, Looking closely tells us another story.

While Ellsbury has been good in his time in Boston, he hasn’t been the superstar the Yankees are expecting him to be, or better yet, paying him to be. Ellsbury is coming off a year in which he hit .298, had an OBP or .355 and slugged .426 while hitting 9 home runs and driving in 53 RBI, and stealing 52 bases. All while playing very solid defense in a park that’s difficult for many players to field in, in Fenway Park. Seems like a player you’d want, right?

Well, yeah, but not in the capacity the Yankees want. In the past 4 seasons, Jacoby Ellsbury has missed 264 games. Nearly 2 out of 4 seasons, lost. Ellsbury has reached the point where he has been red flagged as injury prone in the baseball community. Ellsbury just turned 30 in September. Meaning Ellsbury’s body has become injury prone in his 20, the time when he’s supposed to hit peak performance. Now he’s 30 coming off another season in which he was hurt. Granted, he only missed 28 games, a relatively healthy year for him.

But the Yankees are giving 7 YEARS? To a guy who’s now turning 30? At the back-end of the prime of his career? If Ellsbury’s body has suffered this much damage in his 20s, how much more can his body withstand? Not 7 years, or at least 7 fully healthy productive years that the Yankees are paying for. Plus, they gave him $153 million dollars. Presumably, instead of the neighborhood of $200 million for Cano over 10 years.

The Yankees reportedly would only offer Cano 7 years at $180 million. While I wouldn’t give Cano 10 years at $200 million+ he wanted, I’d rather pay the extra 3 years and $80 million or so to take Cano from Seattle. Cano’s 31 and 10 year deals to guys on the downside of their career never work,  but getting 7 really good years out of Cano, who never misses a game, plays at a premium position, providing stellar defense and hitting, and wins the head to head matchup at 2B every single game you play, is worth way more than the $27M difference in pay the Yankees would give Ellsbury over Cano.

All the while, the Yankees had Brett Gardner slated to play CF. He is coming off a year in which he hit .273, had an OBP of .344 and slugged .416, while hitting 8 home runs and driving in 52 RBI while stealing 24 bases. Sound familiar? Well those numbers are pretty comparable to Ellsbury, and they come from a guy who’s played over 145 games 3 out of the past 4 seasons. Now, the Yankees have a crowded middling outfield with immovable expensive pieces such as Vernon Wells and Ichiro, who now don’t even have pronounced roles on the team.

I know it’s all early speculation, and we can’t predict Ellsbury getting hurt again and not living up to his deal, but after taking a hard look at the deal, I can’t be happy as a Yankees fan at the end of the day.

GRADE: C

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MLB free agency is officially underway. While the free agent pool is short on big name stars, it is filled with quality depth that can help any team take themselves to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of the notable free agents available, and who are their most likely suitors.

Robinson Cano, 2B – far and away the best free agent on the market this year. He hits for average, hits for power, gets on base, plays great defense, all while playing at a premium position. Any given game, the team with Cano has a sizable matchup advantage, and that is invaluable. Sounds enticing. All that production comes with a price, and it’s well documented at this point that that price is sky high. Cano and his agent Jay-Z have reportedly been asking for a 10 year, $310 Million deal. Cano is already 31, so a 10 year deal is unlikely, even for the sometimes-recklessly-spending Yankees. Not to mention no player has ever been paid an average of over $30 Million a year. The Yankees have been firm in saying they won’t pay for Cano’s demands, and while both sides aren’t budging, the Yankees are in the drivers seat. They’ve been negotiating with numerous other free agents including Shin Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka assuming he posts from the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, and of course recent signee Brian McCann. No one will pay Cano $310 Million. But the Yankees best offer will be more than anyone else.

Prediction: Yankees

 

Nelson Cruz, OF – Before being suspended 50 games for his connection with the Biogenesis clinic in Florida, Nelson Cruz was having a quietly strong year. He hit 27 HR and slugged .506 in just 109 games, while making his 2ns All-Star Game. He’s 33 so he still has plenty left in the tank for what he gives you; a power bat with serviceable defense. He’s reportedly asking for a 4 year $75 Million deal. Seems pricey but for a contender looking to upgrade their offense, he’s a perfect fit. With Marlon Byrd’s magical season over, and being 36 and a free agent, the Pirates have a big hole to fill.

Prediction: Pirates

 

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF – Ellsbury is 30 years old coming off a fantastic rebound year, following a 2012 season cut short by injury, with the world champion Boston Red Sox in which he bat leadoff, hitting just under .300 and stole a league leading 52 bases. The Mariners have the 7th lowest payroll in baseball and beyond their 2 frontline starting pitchers; Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, no player makes over $2.7 Million. The Mariners have an impressive amount of young pitching coming up including Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen. Add Ellsbury into the mix offensively and defensively; the Mariners could be formidable contenders in another years’ time.

Prediction: Mariners

 

Shin Soo-Choo, OF – Choo had a fantastic all around offensive year in 2013 for the Cincinnati Reds. From the leadoff spot, he hit .285, hit 21 HR, stole 20 bases, and was 2nd in the NL in on-base percentage to teammate Joey Votto, with a .423 on-base percentage. Some of that can be attributed to being hit by a major league leading 26 pitches, but Choo is still a high-end leadoff man. He’s posted an OBP of .373 or higher 5 out of the last 6 years, including 4 times over .390, twice topping .400. But Choo is 31, and his Achilles heel has always been his defense. Agent Scott Boras is pushing for his client to get over $100 Million. I’m not sure if he’ll top it, but he’ll get close. The Mets lost Matt Harvey for this upcoming year as he’s recovering from Tommy-John surgery. They won’t be competitive in 2013. But next year, they’ll have Harvey, Wheeler, and Syndergaard in the rotation. Add Choo, and a couple more pieces next year during free agency into that roster, and they’ll have a legitimate chance to compete for the first time since 2006.

Prediction: Mets

Curtis Granderson, OF – Grandy had phenomenal 2011 and 2012 seasons, topping 40 HR each year. A hand injury sustained in spring training this year derailed is 2013 season and limited him to just 61 games. Now, at 32, he’s a free agent, and teams are concerned not only about his health but his game as well. He hasn’t hit over .262 in the past 5 seasons, and teams worry that Grandy’s power numbers were over-inflated by tiny Yankee Stadium, and don’t think he can sustain those numbers outside of such a hitter-friendly park. Since trading Justin Upton to Atlanta last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been missing a power bat to compliment MVP-candidate Paul Goldschmidt. While Chase Field isn’t Yankee Stadium, it is one of the most hitter friendly stadiums in all of baseball, and could help vault Granderson’s numbers back to where they were in 2011 and 2012, and help the Diamondbacks make a push past the Dodgers to the top of the NL West.

Prediction: Diamondbacks

 

Mike Napoli, 1B – Napoli quietly had a fantastic 2013 season with the Red Sox hitting 23 HR, driving in 92 runs, and getting numerous big-time hits during the postseason. Many expect Napoli to return to Boston next year, and I agree. He signed a 3 year $39 Million deal before last season that was nullified when his physical revealed injuries in both hips. Napoli was more valuable at catcher in previous years, but due to his medial history, his days of catching are over, and at 32, that is probably the wise choice to preserve his bat long term. The deal then became a 1 year $5 Million deal. He far and away outplayed that contract, and is back to full strength. We already saw the Red Sox are willing to commit to him long term, relatively speaking for a 32 year old player, with their original offer last year. He isn’t going anywhere.

Prediction: Red Sox

Joe Nathan, RP – Nathan had a great 2013 season, finishing with the 5th-most saves in the majors with 43, and had an outstanding 1.39 ERA and .90 WHIP. Nathan may be 39, but he’s still performing at an elite level. Earlier this month, Nathan declined his 1 year $9.5 Million option with the Rangers. He should be able to pull in more annually on a 2 year deal. The Tigers don’t have many holes on that team, but closer is one of them. They haven’t had a reliable closer since Jose Valverde, and even that’s a stretch. The Rangers sent the Tigers $30 Million in the Ian Kinsler-Prince Fielder trade. So while a big chunk of that can be put towards locking up Max Scherzer long term, the cash can help them land Nathan and help shore up one a bullpen that had the 7th worst ERA in the majors last year. This seems like a match made in heaven.

Prediction: Tigers

Carlos Beltran, OF – Beltran may be 36 but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down in recent years. He hit .296 this year, hitting 24 HR, and driving in 84 runs. The Yankees have reportedly been negotiating with Beltran in recent days, and reportedly made him an offer. With Curtis Granderson expected to leave the Yankees this offseason, the Yankees will have a gaping hole in the outfield. In that stadium, the switch-hitting Beltran can probably return to 30-homer status.

Prediction: Yankees

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C – Salty hit a respectable .273 with 14 HR ad 65 RBI this year, while playing above average defense. With Napoli no longer catching and no other legitimate catcher on the free agent market, the Red Sox bringing Saltalamacchia back makes the most sense.

Prediction: Red Sox

 

Matt Garza, SP – Garza is widely viewed as arguably the best pitcher available in the free agent market. Between the Cubs and the Rangers this year, Garza went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA and a WHIP of 1.24. But a major concern for Garza is his health, as he’s only pitched 259 innings in the past 2 years combined. And already 30, teams will have to wonder about his long-term durability and value. The Dodgers were considered a viable option, but the recent signing of Dan Haren probably takes them out of the mix. The Blue Jays on the other hand, lost Josh Johnson this offseason, and saw prized acquisition R.A. Dickey struggle mightily this year. Bringing in Garza to add stability to that rotation would make a lot of sense for Toronto.

Prediction: Blue Jays

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On October 30th 2013 the Boston Red Sox defeated the St Louis Cardinals in six games to win their first World Series at home in 95 years. At the same time, the Alex Rodriguez arbitration meetings have begun. The two events represent the good and bad sides of baseball respectively. However, there have been people lately (cough cough Mike Francessa cough cough) claiming that Rodriguez and World Series MVP and Boston Hero David Ortiz are one in the same. These comparisons are asinine in a multitude of ways.

Before showing the differences between the two, lets see the similarities. Rodriguez and Ortiz both showed up in the formerly confidential 2003 steroid report.

Now that were done were the single comparison between the two, lets look at the differences.  Firstly, there approaches to the accusations were different. Ortiz vehemently denied any steroid use. Rodriguez, while initially denying it, did admit to taking steroids. In our society it would seem like A-Rod would get bonus points for this, while Ortiz would be shunned. This would have been the case if it were not for something called Biogensis. After connection was established between A-Rod and the PED clinic, his credibility, likability, and credibility were all destroyed. Meanwhile, Ortiz it was never proven to have taking steroids and has never had any accusations against him since.

The differences don’t stop there. Ortiz has been a local hero in Boston. Nicknamed “Big Papi” Ortiz has shown up constantly and consistently in the playoffs. From hitting two walkoff homeruns in games 4 & 5, to being crowned MVP of the 2013 World Series, Ortiz has shown his value early and often.

Rodriguez on the other hand hasn’t. In fact, he has done quite the opposite.  A-Rod opted out of his already monstrous contract very early into the deal, in order to make even more money. This polarized many fans. In addition, his on field play hasn’t helped. In the playoffs, Rodriguez has hit only .263 in 11 playoff series. These are not the numbers of a $250 million player.

In conclusion, Rodriguez is stuck in a catch 22 that is symbolic of the entire steroid era. He could have saved his name had he been clean, but would he have been any good if he were clean. To be fair, Ortiz has had a bit of a bias towards him due to his postseason heroics, but is that valid? If a player proves to be clutch and never tests positive again, should he be forgiven? The unfortunate thing is that’s what this era has become. We question everyone and don’t like to believe anyone. There has been a dark cloud created by steroids and it doesn’t seem to be lifting anytime soon.

Gary & Avi go through the top free agents on the market and predict their new homes.

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One of the weirdest calls to end a baseball game occurred last night. After getting the lead runner at home, Red Sox C Jarrod Saltalamachia threw the ball to third in an attempt to get Allen Craig (who was running from second to third) out. The ball went into left field, but LF Daniel Nava threw the ball back in and Saltalamacchia got the tag on Craig. Here is where things get weird. Craig, who was clearly out, was called safe at home. After initial confusion, Craig was called safe due to interference. What had happened was, when Craig was running home, he tripped over Sox 3B Will Middelbrooks legs. The rule in the MLB is, in short, if a player is interfered with on the base path, whether intentional or not, the runner is awarded a free base. Thus, Craig is allowed to come home and score, effectively ending the game. This call warranted a lot of controversy, but it was ultimately the right call.

Moving forward, the Red Sox cannot dwell on this loss. They need to win tonight or this series could very well be over. Here are two keys for the Red Sox if they want to win this game.

Key #1- Wake the bats up. The Red Sox continue to have a damn near non-existent offseason. Ignoring game one, Boston is hitting under .200 in the past two series. To make matters worse, Mike Napoli is on the bench due to no DH and Shane Victorino is a late scratch due to back tightness. In addition to these, David Ross will be starting at catcher for defensive purposes. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and the rest of the crew will need to seriously pick up their game if they hope to pull this one out.

Key #2- Avoid stupid plays. Despite however you feel about the interference call, Saltalamacchia should not have made that throw. Craig was likely going to be safe anyways, and there was no reason to throw the ball to third. This isn’t the first time the Sox were haunted by a bad throw. In game 2, Craig Breslow threw the ball over to third in another failed attempt to get a runner who would likely have been safe. The ball sailed into left field, letting the winning run score, and the rest was history. Boston needs to know when to just hold the ball or risk ending the series in St. Louis.

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The scene Thursday night in downtown Boston could have been taken straight from a bad sci-fi movie. The roles were reversed this time as it was the Red Sox suffering from an atrocious defense. The Cardinals capitalized off a bad throw by Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow, which led to the game deciding run to come across home plate. The Cardinals took game 2 by a final score of 4-2. It was a pitcher’s duel through six as both starters Michael Wacha and John Lackey were sending batters down with regularity. Wacha’s performance was slightly disappointing considering how well the rookie phenom has been pitching in the postseason, but he still only allowed two runs (a David Ortiz two run homer) on three hits, while walking four, and striking out five. Lackey was strong as well through six, but due to the seventh inning miscues, ended up being charged with three runs, on five hits.

Game three moves the series from the Green Monster to the Gateway Arch. At this point it is anybody’s series. As a bit of preview for game 3 here are the keys to the game for both teams.

Red Sox

Key #1- Wake the bats up! The Red Sox are hitting an abysmal .188 this series. To make matters worse, they will be without Catalyst Mike Napoli tonight, due to having no DH. Opposing pitcher Joe Kelly is not someone who is unhittable. In his last outing against the Dodgers, Kelly went five innings, allowing four runs, and taking a loss. He is someone who the Red Sox could, and need to hit around if they have hopes of taking game 3.

Key #2- Defense. The same rule that was stated to the Cardinals after game 1 has to be applied here. These teams are so evenly matched, that the series could very well come down to defense. The Red Sox exhibited stupid decision making in the aforementioned seventh inning, where the Cardinals put three runs on the board. If the Sox want to gain some momentum back, they need to make a statement with their bats and gloves tonight.

Cardinals

Key #1- Neutralize Big Papi. The sole member of the Red Sox who is hitting consistently right now is David Ortiz. He is 4-6 with 2 HR and 5 RBI this series. For the Cardinals to take game 3, they need to cool him off. Oritz hit .309 this season, with 30 HR and 103 RBI. It doesn’t help that Kelly is a right hander, which Ortiz feasts off of. Without Napoli protecting him, it will be easier for the Cardinals to pitch around him, but they need to avoid the mistake pitch that the Detroit Tigers and Michael Wacha know too well of.

Key #2- Get ahead early. The St. Louis Cardinals have the momentum right now. They are coming off a win, facing a pitcher who gave up 7 runs in his last start, and are playing at home with one of the best fan bases in all of sports. If the Cards can put a couple of runs on the board early, the sea of red may be able to carry them the rest of the way.

Game 3 starts at 8:07 on FOX (check your local listings)

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As we stated during our World Series preview (which can be heard currently on the site), this series could be so close, that the winner may be decided by who plays better defense. Well, if this is the type of the defense the cardinals plan on playing, then this series will be quick and painful for the Cardinals.

The Red Sox took game 1 of the World Series last night by a score of 8-1. The story of the game was the defense (or lack thereof) by the Cardinals. The Cardinals’ woes started in the bottom of the first, when David Ortiz hit into what seemed to be a fairly routine double play ball. The play fell apart when shortstop Pete Kozma dropped the ball that was flipped to him by second baseman Matt Carpenter. All the runners ended up being called safe after a review of the play by the umpires. This would prove costly as the next batter, Mike Napoli, ripped a 90 mph fastball in to the gap in left center field for a bases clearing double. The festival of failure would continue in the second inning when pitcher Adam Wainwright would have a pop up by Stephen Drew drop right in front of him. In addition to this, Kozma booted a Shane Victorino groundball to load the bases. These errors would turn into another two runs for the Red Sox. It could have been even worse, had it not been for Carlos Beltran robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam. However, even this was costly as Beltran had to leave the game with a bruised rib. Wainwright would end up going five innings giving up five runs (three earned) on six hits, while only striking out four. The opposing pitcher in this game, Jon Lester, threw a fantastic game, going 7.2 innings giving up no runs on five hits, while striking out eight. Controversy was met when people noticed a suspicious green substance on Lester’s glove. Nothing seems to have come from these allegations and Red Sox Manager John Farrell addressed the situation as “case closed”.

Tonight will be an attempt at redemption for the Cardinals, as they try to send rookie phenom Michael Wacha to the mound. Wacha, this postseason, is 3-0 with a .043 ERA. In addition to this, Wacha won the NLCS MVP for his two masterful starts against the Dodgers. The Red Sox will send John Lackey (2-0 3.00 ERA) to oppose Wacha. If the Cardinals are to win tonight, they must do three things.

  1. Wacha must be dominant: To this point the rookie sensation has looked like something out of a video game. A 0.43 ERA and 0.57 WHIP are unheard of type numbers in baseball. He has stuck out 22 batters while only walking four in three starts this season. Maybe the most impressive statistic from the bunch is the fact that batters are hitting only .114 against him. In order for Wacha to keep this up in one of the craziest ball parks in America, he will need to get his fastball and change up working quickly. This season, batters swung and missed at Wacha’s change up over 40% of the time. If he can keep those type of numbers up the Cardinals should be in good shape to win this game
  1. Get to John Lackey early: While, he has been pretty good this postseason, Lackey is a very emotional guy, on and off the field. Lackey threw a mini tirade after game 3 of the ALCS against the Tigers, after being taken out by manager John Farrell with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, having only thrown 97 pitches. If you can get into Lackey’s head early, you can get him to make mistakes. As the Red Sox know very well from this postseason, it can only take one mistake pitching to lose a game.
  1. Defense! : The Cardinals need to improve on their abominable defensive effort from game 1. Luckily for them, RF Carlos Beltran will be in the line up tonight. As the Red Sox have shown, you need to be smart in every aspect of the game in order to win a series. They have sacrificed a little offense in the process (specifically keeping Stephen Drew in the line up who was hitting .083) but they have shown that the pay off is worth it. In game 6 of the ALCS, Drew made a crucial play to stop the Tigers from opening the floodgates in the 6th inning. If the Cardinals want to win this series, they may need to take a page out of the Red Sox playbook.

Game 2 will begin tonight at 8:07 P.M. on Fox (check your local lsitings).