Tagged: MLB

The Bullpen Saga Continues


Andrew Bailey

Andrew Bailey (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

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.

Red Sox Trade Targets


Matt Garza

Matt Garza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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...

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.

Red Sox Acquire Matt Thornton


Matt Thornton

Matt Thornton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Aceves Forcing His Way Out?


Alfredo Aceves

Alfredo Aceves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Tonight’s game did not go well at all. Nothing went right from hitting, to pitching, and even fielding. The starter, Alfredo Aceves, made matters worse following the game with his comments. Aceves refused to take accountability for his poor performance on the field. He blamed the weather, the umpires, and even his own teammates for the loss, but not himself. This goes against the “good guy” mantra that the Sox have been trying to buy into, and as long as Aceves is around they’ll never fully achieve that.

 

This isn’t the first time Aceves has caused a stir. Last year his relationship with manager Bobby Valentine was well documented and by the end of the year he and Valentine were no longer on speaking terms, and I doubt they’ll ever speak again. This year he created problems in Spring Training when he and John Farrell had a misunderstanding when Aceves was throwing BP for someone. That blew over quickly, but he found himself in more trouble when he went to go represent Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. During a game between Mexico and Canada a Canadian batter was hit intentionally after Canada tried to run up the score. A brawl ensued and Aceves was right in the middle of it throwing punches. He was eventually restrained by Larry Walker and Walker said that he, “Saw the Devil in [Aceves’] eyes”. Clearly, he’s had his fair share of mishaps due to his character and attitude. This has always caused rumours about whether or not the Sox would keep him.

 

Personally, at this point in the year Aceves is way to valuable to get rid of. The Sox would be able to net a semi-decent return for him, but it wouldn’t be worth what he provides for the Sox on the field. Having him as a swingman (someone who can be used as a starter and a reliever) is much better than a couple if hit or miss reliever prospects. The swingman has become a bit of lost art as many teams decide to use the spot in their bullpen for another quality arm rather than shoving a starter in the pen, but it comes in handy when your starters back tightens up 30 minutes before the game and can’t pitch. The swingman saves you from a dreaded bullpen game and saves your bullpen as well. What makes Aceves so valuable is that he’s also a very good reliever, and not just a long man. With the Sox injury history in recent years I’d feel more comfortable with Alfredo Aceves as a spot starter then Clayton Mortensen. Although I don’t particularly like Aceves as a person he’s too valuable to this team to get rid of.

 

 

Bard Gets the Call


Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The bullpen has been heavily taxed the past few days and could use a fresh arm. Enter Daniel Bard. The troubled righty has made his way back to the big league team after knuckleballer Steven Wright was optioned to Pawtucket. This is exciting, because everyone, including myself, has wondered what in the world went wrong with Daniel Bard. First here was the horrific September 2011, then the failed starter experiment, and then the majority of the 2012 season in AAA. He’s spent this year in AA, so it looked like he was never going to return to the Bard of old. Now he’s back though, so maybe there is hope.

 

Personally, I’m excited to see Bard in action. I think he’ll assume the Alex Wilson role, which will presumably be opened when John Lackey is called up on Sunday and Wilson is likely the one to be sent down. So we’ll see Bard in relatively easy situations just to get his feet wet again. Unfortunately for him, he probably won’t stay up here for very long with the impending returns of Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales. There could be hope for him though with Andrew Miller’s issues and Alfredo Aceves’ attitude. I did talk to Providence Journal reporter, Tim Britton, about this and he told me that Bard stay will be short and where he ends up next ( AA or AAA) will be determined by his performance in the majors.

 

Bard Gets the Call


The bullpen has been heavily taxed the past few days and could use a fresh arm. Enter Daniel Bard. The troubled righty has made his way back to the big league team after knuckleballer Steven Wright was optioned to Pawtucket. This is exciting, because everyone, including myself, has wondered what in the world went wrong with Daniel Bard. First here was the horrific September 2011, then the failed starter experiment, and then the majority of the 2012 season in AAA. He’s spent this year in AA, so it looked like he was never going to return to the Bard of old. Now he’s back though, so maybe there is hope.

Personally, I’m excited to see Bard in action. I think he’ll assume the Alex Wilson role, which will presumably be opened when John Lackey is called up on Sunday and Wilson is likely the one to be sent down. So we’ll see Bard in relatively easy situations just to get his feet wet again. Unfortunately for him, he probably won’t stay up here for very long with the impending returns of Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales. There could be hope for him though with Andrew Miller’s issues and Alfredo Aceves’ attitude. I did talk to Providence Journal reporter, Tim Britton, about this and he told me that Bard stay will be short and where he ends up next ( AA or AAA) will be determined by his performance in the majors.

Game 11: Vs. Rays


Buchholz (2-0) v. Cobb (1-0)

 

Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz during an...

Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

After yesterday’s exciting win that I failed to review the Sox had momentum swinging in their favor. Could it carry over into today’s game? Maybe it did, but maybe it didn’t.

 

Clay Buchholz was as good as he’s ever been. He was dominate in every way possible. There really isn’t any other way to sum  up his performance. He had a career high 11 strikeouts and had no hitter going into the eighth. The no hitter was broken up by a broken bat bloop single by Kelly Johnson. He would give up another hit in the inning, a double to Desmond Jennings, but kept the shutout going for all 8 innings he pitched. Andrew Miller would finish off the game with a strong ninth.

On the other side Alex Cobb was very good, but not great. He struggled in the third and didn’t get much help from the defense which lead to a 4 run third for the Sox. Other than that Cobb pitched very well for 6.2 innings giving up 4 runs with only 3 earned. Jamey Wright finished off the game allowing one run in 1.1 innings of work.

In the end the Sox came out on top with a 5-0 win over the Rays for their second straight win. They’ll have the chance to go for their first sweep of the season tomorrow in the early 11:05 Patriot’s Day game. It’s also Jackie Robinson Day so everyone will be wearing number 42 jerseys.

11 games down 151 to go