English: Dustin Pedroia bats against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today the Boston Red Sox announced an 8 year $110 million contract that runs from 2014 to 2021. The Red Sox said in a press release today:
The Boston Red Sox today signed All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia to an eight-year contract beginning in 2014 and continuing through the 2021 season. Executive Vice President/General Manager Ben Cherington made the announcement.
Known for his gritty style and dirty uniform, Pedroia, 29, joins Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Albert Pujols as the only players ever to have won a World Series and Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Rawlings Gold Glove awards. He is the Red Sox’ most accomplished second baseman since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr.
This shows commitment from both sides, the Sox taking a leap of faith giving Pedroia a contract that runs through his late 30s, Pedroia not forcing the Sox to break the bank like many other franchise players would. Pedroia is the perfect guy to give this kind of deal to. He’s a grind it out player who will give 100% effort day in and day out. His game isn’t based on power or speed, which deteriorate over time. As long as he is able to stay healthy he should be able to maintain a high level of play throughout the life of the contract. Obviously when he’s 38 he won’t be playing like he is now, but there’s a good chance he’ll still be a top second baseman in the league. This deal benefits both sides, and appears to be a near perfect deal for all parties involved.
The Red Sox bullpen was viewed as their biggest asset going into the 2013 season, and that is statement is farthest from truth on July 19th. The Sox had a deadly 7th, 8th, 9th combination with 3 guys who had closer experience. People lauded over this pen that would only force the Sox starters to go only 6 innings and still feel comfortable giving the ball over. Koji Uehara, Andrew Bailey, and Joel Hanrahan made up this super bullpen, but now only Uehara remains. Early in the season the Sox lost Hanrahan who had nearly every type of elbow surgery possible. Today John Farrell announced that Bailey has “pretty significant” damage to his shoulder and surgery is a possibility. If Bailey opts for the surgery he’ll be sidelined for approximately 12 months. If he decides just to rehab the shoulder, it’s still unlikely he’ll return before the season ends. Either scenario shows that the Sox search for another bullpen arm should be intensified. For now, Jose De La Torre will fill the void left by Bailey, but I doubt he’s the permanent fix.
Two guys, who appear to be long shots at best, have been added to the fold. Today the Sox announced the signings of Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon. Both relievers have been assigned to AAA Pawtucket. Lyon, a former Red Sox, was pitching with the Mets earlier this year. Over 34.1 innings he posted a 4.98 ERA before getting released. Contreras, was with Pirates to begin this season pitching just 7 innings in 5 games with an ERA of 9.00 before getting sent to AAA Indianapolis. In his 19.1 innings in AAA he was dominant with a .0.93 ERA and 11.17 K/9. The Pirates released him and now he’s here hoping for an opportunity. WEEI’s Michael Holley speculated that this could be an attempt to lure top Cuban pitching prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to sign with the Sox. Gonzalez is likely to make a decision this week, and a chance to pitch alongside Jose Contreras would be alluring to a Cuban, but it’s not likely to be a deciding factor. Either way Lyon and Contreras are likely just depth moves to help with the depleted bullpen.
Today the Red Sox called up 23 year old lefty Drake Britton from AAA Pawtucket and optioned Jackie Bradley Jr. This is first time in the majors for Britton and it’s a bit surprising, as he has only had one outing in AAA where he allowed 5 runs in 5.1 innings. Also, he was arrested and charged in March with DUI after crashing his truck going 111 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. It appears he had gotten past that as he went off to have his best year at any level, posting a 3.51 ERA in 97.1 innings with a 1.34 WHIP a 7.4 K/9 in Portland. All of that lead to him to get his first start in AAA and now his first shot in the bigs.
So the question is why now? With All-Star break approaching why do the Sox need to add an extra arm in the pen for today’s game. Some believe it’s insurance for Brandon Workman in case he implodes like Allen Webster has in many of his starts. Rather than blow through the bullpen the Sox’s have an option, like Steven Wright was in the win against the Mariners the other day, where he can go multiple innings to help save the pen. That seems to be the most likely scenario, but often times things are not as they seem and he could be here for other reasons. One is that Farrell likes the option of 3 lefties in the pen. At one point Farrell had the option of one of Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, and Franklin Morales, but Miller’s season is done and Morales is also out with injury. The acquisition of Matt Thornton adds another lefty and so does Britton. This is unlikely, but it does give Farrell a lot of options, which Managers love to have. A third option is that the Sox got bad news on Clay Buchholz and they want another a starter and prefer to have Workman in the bullpen. All are feasible options, but the first option is the most likely and he’ll likely be back in Pawtucket by the time the Sox return from the break.
The Boston Red Sox have surprised almost all of baseball this season by becoming contenders after having the second worst record in franchise history. In the offseason they changed the culture of the team, ousting manager Bobby Valentine and negative influences like Josh Beckett, and have added players who have been known as “good guys” around the league, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The change has been day and night for the Sox, instead of the constant soap opera that was the Red Sox clubhouse coupled with losing game after game, they have quietly worked their way to the best record in the American League.
Now this hasn’t come without some difficulties on the way, though. The bullpen hasn’t had much success, with the only two consistent relievers being Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Andrew Miller was working his way to joining the Japanese duo, but his season has ended due to foot surgery. The Sox’s starting rotation has also been inconsistent. Although it hasn’t been to the level of the bullpen, the rotation has had issues. After hot starts from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, they have both fallen off. Buchholz has struggled with injuries, while Lester hasn’t been able to pitch anywhere near the level he was at, at the beginning of the season. The last major problem the Sox have had is the left side of the infield. So far this year Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew, Brandon Snyder, Jonathon Diaz, and Brock Holt have played either shortstop or third base this season, and aside from Jose Iglesias, none have been all that great. Currently the two men who were projected to be the starters for the year, Middlebrooks and Drew find themselves in the minors and on the DL respectively. Overall, those three areas are where they should consider upgrading at the trade deadline. Here are some names who may find themselves on the Red Sox come August:
NOTE: Since writing this the Red Sox acquired Matt Thornton and cash considerations from the White Sox for Brandon Jacobs.
Matt Thornton (CWS): The 36 year old, 10 year veteran reliever’s name has been mentioned in trade talks the past few years, and the Red Sox name always pops up. The Sox’s interest has likely picked in the lefty after losing Andrew Miller for the season leaving Craig Breslow as the only left handed reliever in the Sox’s pen. Thornton hasn’t been as dominant as he was in previous seasons, he’s still been better than a lot of the Red Sox’s relievers this year. He’s posted a 4.00 ERA, but has a career ERA of 3.54. He’s also only allowed 4 home runs, which has been the root of many of the Sox relievers problems. He’s been one of the top lefties in the game the past several years and shouldn’t cost too much based on his age and expiring contract ($6 million option for next season). He’d be a worthwhile investment for the Sox if they can get him for their price.
Bobby Parnell (NYM): The Mets’ closer has had ups and downs throughout his career, but the past couple of seasons he’s seemingly figured it all out and has become a force in the back end of the Mets’ bullpen. The hard throwing righty has posted 2.48 ERA in 48 innings pitched allowing no home runs and allowing just 9 walks. The Sox have reportedly had talks with the Mets about Parnell already, but their price was too much. More recently it appears like he’s been pulled off the market. It’ to be expected when a team has control over a player for multiple years and hope to contend with the player before they hit free agency. Parnell is first eligible for free agency in 2016, but the Mets are in dire indeed of assets to build around and Parnell can give them that. His value has never been higher, so it wouldn’t be shocking to find him in a Red Sox jersey by the end of the month.
Matt Garza (CHC): Matt Garza is a name known to many Sox’s fans. He spent 3 years pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He was part of the Rays team that knocked out the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS before losing in the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Needless to say he’s pitched in big games before, although not recently, because of the deplorable state of the Cubs. Luckily for the Sox though, that same reason is why he’s available. Although they are reportedly working on a contract extension, due to the great interest they are more than likely to move him. He’s gotten off to a good start this year after being injured to begin the year. In 10 starts he’s had a 3.22 ERA while averaging 8.1 K/9. The down side to it all is dealing with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, former heads of the Red Sox front office. They know nearly every prospect in the Sox’s system and know who to pursue and who to avoid. If the Sox can find a way to get him for a reasonable price, but if the price is too high, then there’s no sense in going after a marginal upgrade.
Yovani Gallardo (MIL): The Brewers ace is widely considered to be the second best starter on the market, behind Garza. He’s been one of the Brewers top pitcher since 2009, but this year his numbers are at an all time low. If he continues to this trend he’ll have his highest ERA of his career by a wide margin and his lowest K/9 rate. His walks are down, but is batting average against is at an all time which negates that. All in in all it’s been a tough year for Gallardo, but his track record shows that he’s capable of being much better. Maybe a move to a winning atmosphere where he’s not looked as the ace could help him perform better, or he may just be starting is decline, although at 27 that is very unlikely. Also, moving to the American League, especially the east, could make matters even worse. The Sox should, and likely will, avoid Gallardo, unless they discover Clay Buchholz will miss a significant amount of time.
Francisco Rodriguez (MIL): K-Rod has had a bumpy road since setting the single season save record for the Angels. After that season he bolted for the glitz and glamor (and the money) of New York, where he stumbled on and off the field. He’s now in Milwaukee, and this year he’s seemingly regained his form. He’s appeared in just 22 games this season after starting the year in the minors. He’s posted a 1.25 ERA in 21.2 innings and striking out batters at a great rate, 10.38 per innings. He’s also allowed just .195 batting average against with a WHIP of just 1.06. Overall, he’s a risky pick up, but he could be worth it for the Sox.
Michael Young (PHI): Young fits in exactly with what the Sox have been doing. He’s one the most respected guys in the league who always puts the team first, but can he help them win games? After being the face of the Rangers for the better part of the past 13 years, he was shipped to Philadelphia and has responded well. He’s hitting .288/.344/.411 in 83 games with 6 home runs and 24 RBIs. Although the power is down a little he’s still performed better than all of the Red Sox’s other third basemen and shortstops. The Phillies gave up very little to get him and likely wouldn’t ask for much more in return. He’d be a great fit in the clubhouse and the lineup.
Photograph taken by Googie Man 23:45, 10 April 2007 . . Googie man . . 2500×1667 (3,201,337 bytes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Chase Utley (PHI): This seems like an odd target with Utley being a long time second baseman, and has only played first and second base, but he told the Phillies he could play third if need be. If the Sox believe he can make a successful transition to third he might be a risk worth taking. Utley has batted .276/.340/.504 this year with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in just 61 games. The 5 time All Star has been arguably the Phillies most consistent hitter this year. It’d take a quality prospect or two to get the face of the Phillies franchise, but he may just be worth it.
Jonathon Papelbon (PHI): Last, but not least, every body’s favorite trade target the former Red Sox’s closer Jonathon Papelbon. One of the most dominant closers Boston has ever seen. He bolted for Philly following the collapse of 2011, but his new team didn’t perform up to expectations finishing with a 81-81 record. This year they appear to be out of the hunt once again, so the rumors start to swirl. Phillies GM has been adamant that he won’t move Papelbon, but that could be just for leverage. His contract runs through 2015, so if Amaro believes they can contend next year and/or the year after, he has a reason to hold on to him. The thing is, Papelbon is aging and so is the rest of the roster, so unloading big contacts might be the first step. The Sox are interested if the Phillies want to negotiate, but the price might be extremely high. If the Sox feel this is the year than they should go all in, but the reason they never paid him like the Phillies did was to avoid the back end of the deal, the same part they’d be picking up. Logically it doesn’t make sense, but the bullpen is in such disarray that the Sox might just go for it.
Obviously these aren’t the only options for the Red Sox, and they can numerous directions. All in all, I think the Sox will be aggressive at the deadline and try to improve the club as much as possible.
Last night the Red Sox made their first move of the trade deadline season. They acquired left handed reliever Matt Thornton and $750,000 from the Chicago White Sox for minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs. Thornton was acquired to plug the hole in the bullpen left by the injury to Andrew Miller. Knuckleballer Steven Wright was optioned to Pawtucket and Andrew Miller was transferred to the 60 day DL to make room for Thornton on the 25 and 40 man rosters.
The immediate impact of the move is that it improves the bullpen. Over the past several years Thornton has been a force in the White Sox’s pen, being able to shut down whoever he faced, righty or lefty. In eight seasons with the White Sox he’s posted a 3.28 ERA and a 1.196 WHIP. However, this year righties have figure him out batting .314 off him with a .414 OBP, but he’s been as good as ever against lefties. They’re only batting .170 off of him with an OBP of .232. The only oddity in his numbers is that 3 of the home runs he’s given up have been to left handed batters, which has played a part in the fact that they are slugging .385 off him. Regardless, despite his declining stuff he can still get lefties out. He should end up being a valuable part of the pen and will hopefully add some consistency to this otherwise volatile pen. Also the cash is likely to help the Sox pay Thornton’s $1,000,000 buyout for next year, because the Sox are unlikely to pick up the $6,00,000 option for 2014.
With every trade you have to give something to get something. That something happened to be Brandon Jacobs, a minor league outfielder who was promoted to Portland just a few days prior to the trade. Jacobs, according to Sox Prospects, was once the 8th ranked prospect is the Red Sox system, but he had struggled the past year and a half in Salem and fallen to 36th and was also rated the most disappointing Red Sox prospect by Baseball America. He showed good power, hitting 13 home runs last year and 11 so far this year, but struggled batting for average . He was hitting just .244 when he was called up to Portland. He was tremendous upside because he’s a 5 tool player, but putting all together has been an issue. The reason he was so expendable, was because he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season and was unlikely to be added to the 40 man roster to protect him from other teams. All in all he’s a great prospect, but he was an expendable piece.
All in all, it appears to be a great trade for the Sox. They filled their biggest need, and only lost a guy who they were likely to lose next off-season anyways. Thornton is said to be a high character guy and should fit right in with the club. This could be the biggest move the Sox make this month.
Middlebrooks at the plate (Photo credit: timaoutloud)
Will Middlebrooks (Photo credit: timaoutloud)
Ever since his huge game in Toronto Will Middlebrooks has gone a huge slide. His batting average has slipped under the mendoza line and has hit just 2 homers since hitting 3 in that game. He’s also committed 4 errors since then and 3 in the past 2 games. So the question is what’s wrong with Will?
The big thing that I believe is affecting him the most is how the pitchers approach him. I may be mistaken, but I believe that all 3 of home runs in his 3 homer game were all fastballs. What Middlebrooks liked to do was jump on the first pitch, which was generally a fastball, and try to take advantage of a pitcher who was trying to get ahead of a young hitter. Now that teams have seen what he can do with the fastball, they now have started to throw offspeed pitches to get him out in front of the pitch and either swing and miss or just get himself out, and it’s worked. I can’t even count how many times Middlebrooks has grounded out weakly on a first pitch curveball or changeup. As a result he’s tried to be more patient, but then he ends up falling behind in the count and will chase nearly any pitch that starts in the strike zone. So how can this be fixed? I’d say a lot of work with hitting coach Greg Colbrunn and manger John Farrell. He needs to learn to be more selective and know when to be aggressive and when to be more patient. That may sound simple, but when you’re watching a small white ball fly by at 80-100 MPH I would imagine that it’d be very tough figure that out. Just getting more at bats will also help with this too, so despite the fact he’s been an offensive liability, it may be beneficial in the long run to keep sending him out there.
Another thing, although unlikely, is that he’s hiding an injury. This wouldn’t be the first time a Red Sox player had hid an injury to stay on the field and suffered for it. In 2009 Daisuke Matuszaka hid a groin injury and pitched poorly due to the discomfort in his groin area. Now I doubt Middlebrooks would try to hid something from the Sox, but he is the kind of guy who wants to be out there everyday, so I wouldn’t be stunned if that were the case and it would also give us an explanation for his performance.
Even we don’t know exactly what is wrong with Middlebrooks, we can try to figure out what should be done about his performance. The Sox could always take the irrational overreaction route and send down Middlebrooks and call up someone like Xander Bogaerts, but I would like to think the Sox are smart enough where they wouldn’t to something that far out of the box. A more realistic route is to give more playing time at three of Ciriaco, since he has slightly outperformed Middlebrooks, until Middlebrooks starts to perform in limited playing time until he’s eased back into an everyday role. Despite the fact that that is more realistic than the first option I still don’t see that happening. I think the Sox will just stick it out with Middlebrooks until he figures it out. What do you think the Sox should do about the struggling Middlebrooks?
Tonight’s 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays has created a bit of stir. It seemed like the pen was working as it has been for the past few weeks with Tazawa finishing off the seventh and Uehara pitching the eighth. Then things got interesting when everyone saw Joel Hanrahan warming up to pitch the ninth rather than Andrew Bailey. This caused mass confusion as everyone searched for answers, and at first they found none. Hanrahan would come on to close out the game and after giving up a hit to start off the inning, he got a pop out and a double play to get him out of the inning. Following the game it was revealed that Bailey was suffering from bicep soreness, the same injury that landed John Lackey on the DL the last time the Sox were in Toronto. It appears he injury is minor, but you can never know for sure. Hopefully he can avoid a DL stint, but if he does avoid it who is the closer?
Joel Hanrahan was brought to Boston to be a closer. Unfortunately for him, things haven’t gone so smoothly. He’s given up 7 runs in 6.2 innings posting a 9.45 ERA with 4 strikeouts and 5 walks. He has converted 4 saves in 5 attempts though, so he was come through when needed most of the time. He was also sidelined with a hamstring injury, which he believes was the source of his pitching woes. I hope that’s true because if Hanrahan pitches anywhere near the way he did while “injured” I have no faith in him going forward. He did pass his first real test since coming back, but it was a little shaky, but it’s steps in the right direction. If he wants to ever be able to fully take back his closer role from Bailey, he’ll need to return to his 2011 form. 2011 was his breakout year where he saved a career best 40 games with a 1.83 ERA in 68.2 innings allowing just 14 earned runs all year. He also posted the lowest BB/9 of career, 2.1, and his lowest WHIP, 1.049. The following year he lost a lot of the control that made him the dominant reliever that he was in 2011 with his BB/9 sky rocketing to 5.2. We are starting to see that here so far this year as it seems as if sometimes his command will disappear for a couple pitches and then suddenly return. This volatile pitching isn’t what you want in the ninth with the game on the line because you need to be able to come up with a big pitch at any given time, but he can’t command his pitches he could find himself loading up the bases pretty quickly. Overall though, Hanrahan hasn’t been completely awful. He’s made the pitches when he’s needed to (most of the time) and has carried himself well through this whole mess.
Andrew Bailey was also brought here to close, but after an injury plagued season and less than stellar performances in his few appearances, it appeared as if Andrew Bailey would never get a chance to close in Boston again. Luckily, for him, the man tasked with closing out games hit the DL and allowed him to show Red Sox Nation he’s still a viable closer. Unfortunately Hanrahan has returned and Bailey has found himself injured and his stint as closer may be short lived, but is Bailey the better choice. The former Rookie of the Year compiled 3 solid years for the Oakland A’s striking out 174 batters in 174 innings while posting a 2.07 ERA with 75 saves. What I like about Bailey being the strikeout machine that he is, is that he doesn’t rely on the hitter not to square up his pitch, but he relies on his swing and miss stuff. That’s the best way to stop a team, because if they can’t hit than there’s nothing they can do. Bailey has pitched well this year picking up 5 saves in 6 attempts and in his only blown save he was able to tightrope out of tough spot and ended up picking up the win. All in all, when he’s Bailey could be one of, if not the, best reliever in the game.
Overall looking at both of them I think it’s a no-brainer, Andrew Bailey should be the Red Sox closer. He’s not only been the better pitcher this year, but has shown that he has a much more consistent track record. I have much more trust in Bailey right now than I do in Hanrahan so I believe that’s the direction the Sox’s should go. What’s your opinion?