Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Boring is the Head that Wears the Crown

Aside from the easy signings of their veteran free agents (Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling), this has been a quiet winter for the boys from Yawkey Way. Actually that's not true, they did manage to scrape together $600,000 and resign backup catcher Doug Mirabelli.

Not to get all Dennis Miller on you, but can I go off on a rant for a second: I understand the reasons behind Red Sox signing Dougie Parmesan: it's a fairly cheap salary and he provides insurance in case the real backup catcher they sign can't seem to handle Tim Wakefield's knuckle ball. I get this. But you mean to tell me that there is no one out there that is better than Mirabelli? Really?

Two years ago, he was coming off an atrocious season and last year he was all but washed up with a .202/.278/.360 and five homers and 16 RBIs. Just about anyone would be able to reach those numbers and most catchers should be able to pass these numbers. Wait. I forgot. There's only one person on the planet that can catch Tim Wakefield's knuckler and that's Mirabelli. Doug Mirabelli didn't come to Boston knowing how to catch a knuckle ball, through hard work and practice he became proficient at it. The same can happen for either a young catcher in the organization or one from outside Boston.

In the long run, a team's backup catcher is small potatoes; but it can hurt the Sox one way: more playing time for Varitek. I'm not saying that Varitek stinks, he doesn't, but he's going to turn 36 this season (same as Mirabelli) and catcher magically lose their effectiveness after age 35. Having a young or at least capable backstop behind Varitek could allow him to catch a few more games in the upcoming season and keep him fresh for October.

Put it this way, you're Terry Francona, you'd love to give Varitek a night off but the only option you have is Doug Mirabelli and his Mendoza-line average. Do you risk losing more offense or do you roll the dice and hope that Varitek doesn't get hurt and doesn't wear down. I think you choose the latter and cross your fingers. That's a crappy way to manage.

Rant over.

Since there isn't a lot of Red Sox moves to analyze, lets take a peek at some moves that recently happened around the majors and some potential moves (mostly happening with the Orioles).

The St. Louis Cardinals trade 3B Scott Rolen to the Toronto Blue Jays for 3B Troy Glaus. This is one of those straight up, you take my headache and I'll take you headache that sometimes work out well for both teams. This is the second city that Rolen has shot his way out of—though to be honest any enemy of Tony LaRusa is a friend of mine—and he's starting to get a reputation. He also has a bum shoulder and $36 million left on his contract. He should hit ok in the Blue Jays lineup where he'll be expected to be just a contributor and not a main cog and should shore up their infield defense.

Glaus is a little younger, has less cash and years in his contract and has a lot more power. His problem is that he may be on the drugs. The performance enhancing drugs. That's not good for business, though the Cards fans took to Mark McGwire rather famously. You know who won't take to Glaus? Cardinals pitching. In the words of “Major League” manager Lou Brown, Glaus is going to be doing that Dorn “Ole bullshit”. Only Tony LaRusa won't make him do pushups—maybe he'll make him do a shot for every ball that goes by him. He still has the power though and that should be a lot more helpful behind Albert Pujols than anything Rolen was going to contribute.

And if you're a fan of the disabled list, both of these guys will probably make an appearance at one point or another this season.

What does this mean for the Red Sox? It gets a notorious Sox killer (Glaus) out of the division and into the heartland of America. And it gets a guy who has seen his power sapped over the last few years into a Toronto uniform. While Rolen may steal a hit or two from the Sox during the season, I'm not sure if that adds up to winning a game with a bomb in the eighth or ninth which is what Glaus is wont to do occasionally. My take: win for the Sox.

The Oakland Athletics trade OF Mark Kotsay to the Atlanta Braves for Ps Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond. According to Rotoworld.com, Devine is a potential closer who has a lot of giddyap on his fastball while Richmond could project to be a fifth starter some day. Both prospects were ranked in the top 20 of Atlanta's system. Before John Schurholtz left the Braves, there was barely a chance that he'd get snookered out of two worthwhile prospects, but Frank Wren is running the ship now and he doesn't have the same benefit of the doubt. Especially when Oakland GM Billy Beane is on the other end of the trade table.

With Devine in tow, this probably means that closer Huston Street's days in the home of Digital Underground (that's Oaktown to those who don't know) could be numbered. And if they're going to get rid of Street and they've already said good bye to Kotsay, Dan Harren and Nick Swisher; Joe Blanton, Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby probably won't be sticking around too long either. So, it's rebuilding time by the Bay with an eye towards their new park which opens in a few years.

As far as Mark Kotsay? He was hurt last year and when he did play (56 games) he was terrible (.214/.279/.296). You have to think that the Braves feel that he has made a full recovery will go back to the years when he was batting between .275 and .315 and slugging at a .459 clip, while playing a decent center field.

What does this mean for the Sox? Aside from getting another team to bludgeon, the Sox lost a potential trading partner in Atlanta. The Braves were supposed to be hot and heavy for Coco Crisp. Looks like they don't need him any more. And that means the list of of teams that reportedly wanted Crisp (White Sox, Rangers, Twins and Braves) has now been halved (Swisher was sent to the ChiSox, though Kenny Williams does have the flexibility of putting Swisher in left and Coco in center).

See anyone you like on Baltimore? Make them an offer. If the newspapers and the Internet are to be believed (and when have they steered us wrong?) the Orioles are very close to sending their only good pitcher (Erik Bedard) to the Seattle Mariners for a boatload of prospects including center fielder of the future Adam Jones, right hander Chris Tillman or Jeff Clement, shortstop Carlos Triunfel and reliever George Sherrill. The best Mariners blog USS Mariner is dead set against this deal because they feel that Triunfel and Jones are going to be major stars. And they would absolutely kill themselves if Clement was somehow involved in this deal too (this is supposedly the Mariner's sticking point).

They feel that because Bedard is going to be owed so much money in the future (he's a free agent after the 2009 season) and that the players are so good, the M's will be setting themselves back a few years if they make this trade.

Another Mitchell boy, second baseman Brian Roberts is also rumored to be on the move. He's supposedly going to the North Side of Chicago for Ronny Cedeno, Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall. Marshall and Gallagher are both pitchers, while Cedeno is a shortstop. These guys aren't on the caliber of ball players as the Mariners are giving up, but they are all solid prospects who have the potential to become contributing major leaguers. And that's something that the Orioles don't have too much of.

What does this mean for the Sox? In the short run, both of these trades are great for the Sox as it gets rid of a terrific pitcher and one of the best hitters on a division rival. And since new GM Andy McPhail is going in a complete rebuilding mode (Miguel Tejada was traded to the Astros last month), that adds a couple of more wins to the Sox tally. However, these guys are going to get their seasoning and will eventually turn pretty good. So if you combine a now stocked minor league with the riches of Peter Angelos, they could be a bit of problem in the future.

Minnesota is going to trade Johan Santana to the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or New York Mets. Seriously. They're gonna. I swear. When I heard about this deal way back in December, I was pumped. A legit ace being traded to either the Sox or the Yanks, big drama in the offseason. It has turned out to be the biggest cock tease of the last 20 years. I almost wish that he stays in Minnesota.

One day the Yankees say they're in the Santana derby, the next day they say that they're out. Minnesota is crying because no team is going to give them the prospects that they want for the best left hander of the past five years, still in his prime. And that reason is simple, the guy wants $20 million a year for the next seven years. Even the Yankees aren't that crazy.

Meanwhile, the Sox are sitting back telling Minnesota; “You have our two best offers, pick one or don't we could care less.” Boston is sitting pretty with their rotation and team in general for this season and while they would love to get Johan, they don't need him. Plus, if recent history is any indicator Minnesota is going to end up giving him to Boston anyway just like they did with David Ortiz, Kevin Garnett and Randy Moss.

Remember that while the Yankees need Johan, but they don't desperately need him like ...

The New York Mets do. With the biggest late-season collapse still fresh in the memories of the players and the fans, the Mets have to do something to get that terrible taste out of their collective mouths. Getting Johan Santana would be the perfect after dinner mint. He could slide into another lefthander's place in the rotation (Tom Glavine) and the Mets would be much better for it. Plus, with their new park opening in 2009, the Mets would like a centerpiece pitcher. John Maine ain't that guy.

Right now, the only thing that's holding this transaction up is that the Twins want this to be a five-for-one deal, while the Mets are holding out for a four-for-one trade. The Twins will only agree to a four-for-one swap if the Mets throw in Jose Reyes. That's not going to happen.

Either way, Minnesota is going to get all of the Mets good young players (it really doesn't matter who) and New York is going to have to pray that Santana's elbow is ok. The last time the Mets and Twins made a deal like this, Minnesota sent LHP Frank Viola home to Flushing for a package that included Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West and one more. The first two did pretty well in the Twin Cities, while Viola did ok in New York and Boston (two of his three years as a Sox were highly underrated) before bouncing around to Cincinnati and Toronto. If the Twins could recoup that kind of package, they'd be happy. BTW, the year after they traded Viola, they won the World Series.

What does this mean for the Sox? If the Mets get Santana, it's a win-win-win for the Sox. Win #1, he's not going to the Yankees. Win #2, the Mets getting Santana could tweak new Lil' Boss Hank Steinbrenner and force him into a panic move. Win #3, the Sox keep the money earmarked for Santana and their prospects and hope that a few turn out ok.

Less than one month until pitchers, catchers and Doug Mirabelli report to Fort Myers. Thank God.

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