Friday, January 09, 2009

Gotta Like Theo's Approach

That's right, the approach I'm talking about in the title of this post is that of a Mr. Theo Epstein, GM of yooouuuuurrrrr... Boston Red Sox. With a little luck in 2009, the Sox could have one of the two or three best teams in Major League Baseball...

Have you stopped laughing yet? I hope so because I'm serious. Want to know why I'm not crazy? Well, here's six reasons for starters:
  1. The Sox already had three of the top 25 pitchers (who are all under the age of 27 btw) in baseball. There names are Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsusaka. This year, Josh Beckett should have a healthy back, Lester will be one more year removed from cancer and Dice K will have two years of facing MLB hitters under his belt. I'm willing to wager money that those three go a combined 52-21 this year.
  2. IF Brad Penny is healthy (this is where the "little luck" part comes in), he could be the best number four starter in the league. Arguably if he's healthy, he could be even better than he was in 2006-7 when he finished 3rd in Cy Young voting in the NL given the fact that he'll have a much better offense and an equally good defense behind him. I'm predicting he goes 15-10 this year (slow April and May will give way to a rock star June - October).
  3. As our number five in the starting rotation, the Sox can choose from the likes of Clay Bucholtz, Tim Wakefield, Jon Smoltz or Justin Masterson. My money says they start with Wake/Smoltz depending on Spring Training and then either move a AAA arm into that spot or give way to Justin Masterson whom they claim will play a key role in the bullpen again (IMHO he's too valuable an arm to waste on the pen just like Joba Chamberlain was for the Yanks).
  4. While it sucks that we didn't get Teixeira, it would have been tough to have to part with Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz or Mike Lowell given the fact that they are three of the most dedicated/hard working/clutch guys in baseball. In 2009 a little more "luck" is needed here given Ortiz and Lowell's injuries last year. My $$ says Ortiz comes back in the best shape of his life and Lowell eases into the season hitting his stride by July.
  5. The Sox have a pretty freaking solid outfield offensively and defensively with Bay, Ellsbury, Drew and now Baldelli (one more request for "luck"). They also have one of the top five offensive/defensive infields s in the AL (assuming Lowell is healthy and that they trade Lugo for a box of baseballs so that Lowrie can play short).
  6. Did I mention the bullpen? The Sox have the most dominant closer in baseball. A former dominant closer/starter in Smoltz, a stud in the making in Masterson (who I still want starting), a new stud in Ramirez and a mostly-good-but-still-young Delcarmen. Oh yeah, let's not forget Oki-Dokie who seemed to come on strong in the second half of 2008. On top of that, you know Theo will pick up another 3-5 "maybes" to compete in spring training.
Okay, so we have one glaring weakness (assuming health works in our favor) at the catcher position. While it was nice to get Josh Bard back, he's not much more than a nice upgrade over Doug "We Loved You Because You Could Catch Wakefield but Won't Be Said to See Your .201 Average Go Elsewhere" Mirabelli. Greg Zaun could be a decent stop gap for another year or so but really, they need to make a trade. here's the good news... with the acquisition of Smoltz, my money says they go after Jerod Saltamacchia of the Rangers with Bucholtz and one or two topp AAA prospects. I also wouldn't completely rule out 'Tek coming back for one more year, especially since Boras doesn't seem to be working his normal, "let me turn chicken shit into chicken salad" magic this year.

Have I got you fired up? At the very least, I've given all my BigP home boys some fodder to tell me why I'm off my rocker. Let 'em rip!

Photo: Courtesy


KFFBOS said...

Agree on almost every point Aaron and certainly health will be the biggest factor in all of this speculation. Lowell and Ortiz specifically. And here is where I disagree on the health of Papi. First off you all know I'm a HUGE fan and he is the only Sox jersey I've owned since I burned my Clemens #21 so many years ago.

I think coming back from a wrist injury is difficult (see Nomar) and add onto that the age and weight of the player and we are going to see a huge uphill battle. Again, I hope I'm wrong, but Theo collecting bats like Kotsay and Baldelli hints to me that they are a bit nervous as well.

I actually think Theo has something big up his super cool sleeve right now: Youk, Lester and some PawSox for Pujols deal will be on the table soon. Cards ownership isn't willing to pay, Pujols is getting to the point where he wants to win soon if not 'now', Youk and Lester's work ethic and salary are matches for Cardinal fans and that team can start rebuilding around a young pitching core, which LaRussa loves.

Finally, I don't believe all the "Sox v. Boras" crap...if the Sox truly believed Texiera was the answer they would have made that deal happen. They knew it wasn't the answer and I think it is because they have arms they can trade at the deadline for the bat they will need.

SO...go to camp, see how Ortiz is doing, if he can't produce you make a call to Busch Stadium. The Sox have the benfit to wait since the team as put together can win the wild card. Pitching is the name of the game...but power hitting in the AL is critical, particularly in that first short series, and the Sox need to be realistic and at least start looking towards the future and that future is at least the 2nd half of the '09 season.

/kff guys watching the MLB Network now that it is on? Millar has been on the past few nights doing analysis, priceless stuff :)

Jim Storer said...

Aaron - When you write a post like that it's tough to argue, but I thought it'd be helpful to look at the prospective batting order to follow up on Kyle's comment:

Bard or other

I've gotta say... I like it, but I'd trade Youk's glove/bat for Pujols in a heartbeat. And losing Lester just became less of an issue given the following (we have enough studs in the bullpen now to dedicate Masterson as a starter).

01/10/09 2:07 PM EST: The Red Sox continue to stay busy this offseason. On Saturday, they officially announced they have signed reliever Takashi Saito to a one-year contract with a club option for 2010.

Saito, 38, joins an already impressive relief corps that includes Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Saito spent the past three years with the Dodgers, saving 81 games with a 1.95 ERA.

Aaron Strout said...

Amen gents. Great additions (and I'm in the Pujols fanclub as well in spite of my respect for Youk.

@Kyle, in thinking about what you're saying, I think you're probably right. While Papi's wrist injury wasn't nearly as severe as Nomar's, Mr. Garciapara was never the same after his injury.

@Jim, I'm pumped at how many studs we have in the bullpen and I think you're right - with the studs they've amassed in the bullpen, Master clearly is a better fit in the starting rotation. I also neglected to mention Michael Bowden who is rumored to be a possibility to slot into the rotation as well.

Tim Walker said...

Good post, Aaron. The Sox won't quite have a '98 Yanks-style lineup with thunder 1 through 9, but the lineup that Jim suggested . . . that's, uh, a very good lineup. Drew potentially batting 7th? Lowell batting 8th? Most teams would kill for that, even if we are missing the Twin Scary Monsters lineup of the Papi-Manny peak.

Some other points:

--I LOVE Ortiz, but I'm not optimistic that we'll ever see anything like his peak again, for all the reasons already mentioned.

--Youkilis versus Pujols isn't even a question, not remotely. Youkilis is a very fine corner infielder and would be an asset to any team. Pujols is Lou Gehrig.

--The Sox are loaded out the yin-yang and back with pitching. The fact that they can take a flier on Penny to see how he works out as a 4th/5th starter . . . ridiculous depth.

--At any moment, Dice-K could randomly bust out with a 22-7 record. I firmly believe this.

--Opponents will underrate this team's defense at their own peril. Could be merely very good, could be outright stifling.

In my humble opinion. ;)

KFFBOS said...

Tim, I completely agree on the Dice-K comment, he seems SO ready to become a dominant #1 (even when pitching in the #2 or #3 slot) if he just learns to stop painting the corner.

Additional thought I had after I read Jim's comment as well. Sox in 2009 are now playing in a legit three team division, the Central has two legit teams and the West has two legit teams...7 teams, 4 spots...I'm thinking RBIs and HRs will count more than OBP.

Side note, did anyone see how Bill James did a statistical analysis of the BCS system and told fellow analytics to never work for that system b/c it is so inherently flawed. Wonderful stuff! Speaking of which I'm going to refresh tonite with some of Mr. James' better books.

Getting more and more excited to take that Southwest flight over to FLA this spring to check out spring training!


adamcohen said...

Big picture: There's something to be said about not paying top dollar, avoiding extended contracts, searching for value out of players who have a sense of urgency and desire to win. Look at how Theo's impact has played out - not just this year, but this decade so far. How many championships have the NYY bought? Goose egg.

I also like the 'take some risk' approach - it doesn't always work (cough cough Gagne cough) but incentive laden deals and talent coming back from off years/injury can have big upside. I like the Smoltz deal, especially with how the incentives break out. Baldelli and Penny could be big upside too.

I love the dramatic signings and Pujols would be unreal, but gotta say I'm cringing a bit when Lester's name is tossed around. dominant lefty pitching is hard to come by and I also see him continuing to improve.

Thanks for starting this post Aaron - probably most fired up I've been in January ahead of a season, other than when A-Rod was signed in NY.

Anonymous said...

Why would the sox have had to part with Ortiz or Youk to get Tex? Youk, as everyone knows, plays third very well, and Ortiz could have stayed on as the DH. Lowell is incredibly overrated--he had one aberrational year--he's old, and he's coming off of a serious injury.
If the Tex deal would have caused us to part with anyone of significance it would have been Lars Anderson--we wouldn't have needed him anymore--and judging by his minor league numbers, I would say that kid has been over-hyped so far as well.
Ortiz is heading downhill fast, the departure of Manny certainly won't help. If the Sox are going to have even a decent year offensively, they're going to have to rely on Youk and Pedroia, neither of whom are bombers.
The short story: quit friggin' smilin'.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, Smoltz isn't going to be able to even think about contributing until June.

We need a big bat. End of story.