Before I bite on Rob Neyer’s writing style, I must first say that even though I’m a Yankees fan, I couldn’t agree more with Jayson Stark’s assessment of the New York and Boston off-seasons:
But the Red Sox’s additions were products of a whole different philosophy, not just a whole different checking account. The four free agents they imported — John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and Rocco Baldelli — cost this team 4 million fewer guaranteed dollars ($12.5 million total) than the Yankees will pay Burnett alone this year.
Nevertheless, the upside of those men gives the Red Sox four potential impact players without the price tags, or long-term inflexibility, that come with handing out contracts that run through 2016.
And that, for this team, was the whole idea.
Took the words right out of my mouth. All winter I shared mixed thoughts on the Yankees spending spree, first running wild with news of each new big signing before realizing how poorly each contract could turn out, as I briefly mention in my first post.
Smoltz’ rehab has gone well and he was reported to have already been hitting 90 mph on the gun as early as January. Pending an injury or an ineffective Penny or Tim Wakefield, he will be joining a rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka by the middle of June. You know his heart will be in it to prove people wrong and guess who else is in the AL East? That’s right the Yankees, same team that knocked the Braves out of his last two World Series.
Just two seasons ago, Penny was 16-4 with a 3.08 ERA over 208 innings. What happened last year? That can’t really be explained. His good stats seemed to be cut in half while his bad stats doubled and he dropped to 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA over just 94 2/3 innings. Injuries didn’t seem to be the problem, though he spent some time on the DL. He was sent home in September for being unproductive and a hindrance in the clubhouse. A change of scenery could be all he needs.
Now Shifting to their bullpen, a very good bullpen should it hold together. The thoughts of what it will look like are just plain frightening. Justin Masterson, Hedeki Okajima, and Manny Delcarmen make up the middle innings. Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer in the game and he will be set up by a guy who would make a pretty good closer himself in Saito should he come back healthy. His brief three year career numbers: 81 saves, 11.63 K/9, 1.95 ERA, and a .91 WHIP. He has one appearance this spring and showed no discomfort while going one inning, allowing a hit and striking out two.
Sure there are questions, lots of them. Smoltz is 42 and Saito is 39, both coming off torn labrums in their elbows, a daunting task at any age. If the deals don’t work out though, so what, they have the depth to make it without them. Don’t forget about Clay Buchholz, though he struggled last year, and prospect Michael Bowden.
As for Baldelli, he fits in perfectly. Since he lacks the stamina to play every day, slotting him in a fourth outfielder role works just fine for both sides. Plus if someone gets hurt, they now have an All-Star talent sitting on their bench to take over.
Do Smoltz and Penny equal Sabathia and Burnett? Depends how you look at it. Over the long haul? Not a chance. Which explains why that Yankees tag team hauled in $243.5 million, while Penny and Smoltz were guaranteed about one-23rd of that ($10.5 million).
But when it comes to pitching, the word that defines the Red Sox is “flexibility.” For 50 starts or so this year, if all goes right, Penny and Smoltz could give them just as much impact. Their one-year deals also give this team maneuverability to attack its needs again next winter.
But remember this: The Yankees needed to add those players, because it was clear to the world that the Red Sox and Rays were both better and more talented. We didn’t mention the Rays until now, because this was a piece comparing the Red Sox and Yankees. But nobody should forget them once the season starts.
Regardless, though, no team had a more underrated offseason than the Red Sox. And we’ll find out over the next seven months exactly how good a winter they had.
“I just like the way they added depth and filled their needs,” said one scout, “without spending $423 million.”
I apologize for the long quote but it couldn’t have been worded any better. I think the Red Sox have now cemented themselves as favorites in the AL East, especially with the A-Rod saga. If the the moves work, then they make the play-offs and contend for the World Series. If they don’t work, they could afford to make these moves anyway and didn’t break the bank in the process. Either way the team is fine on the field and financially. It’s just the beautiful part about being wise with your money.
Alex Rodriguez has elected to have a basic hip operation that will only cost him 6-9 weeks, as opposed to the more complex surgery that could have cost him up to four months which he has put off until the offseason.
Dr. Marc Philippon will be the operating surgeon and says that there is an 85-90 percent chance the surgery will hold for the entire season. He also said that he thinks it’s more likely he’ll be back in six weeks rather than nine.
The Yankees, who are currently in the second year of a 10-year deal paying him 275+ million dollars, reportedly have an insurance policy in the event of him going to the disabled list. It is unknown if this is actually true or how much money the Yankees would get back, but it is worth noting.
I think the surgery is the right call. With at least 247 million dollars yet to be paid to him you have to be cautious. Getting screwed here is the worst possible thing that could happen. He absolutely needs to get back to full strength.
Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal wrote that he could be starting to age and that this may be the inevitable breakdown all players must one day face. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that yet but it really makes you wonder how he will come back.
An expensive transaction like trading for Scott Rolen and undertaking his contract would be an utterly irrational move. He could be back by the end of April and the Yankees can live without him for a month. If it was half a season then I agree that it would be time to panic, but Cody Ransom can get the job done for a few weeks. A quick fix like signing Mark Grudzielanek or trading for a Mark Teahan or Bobby Crosby would make sense. Upon A-Rod’s return it wouldn’t hurt to have an experienced utility man and they’d still get a decent amount of playing time as he gets used to playing everyday again.
The decision allows Rodriguez to nurse himself back to health while at the same time leaving New York contenders in the AL East. Alex and the Yankees made the right move for both of their short and long term futures.
With Manny Ramirez and Orlando Cabrera officially signed, I take a look at what’s availible in the Unsigned Players Dept.
Top Remaining Free Agents
1. Ben Sheets
2. Ivan Rodriguez
3. Ray Durham
4. Jim Edmonds
5. Paul Byrd
6. Mark Grudzielanek
7. Joe Beimel
8. Pedro Martinez
9. Will Ohman
10. Kenny Rogers
11. Moises Alou
12. Frank Thomas
13. Emil Brown
14. Chad Cordero
15. Curt Schilling
16. Richie Sexson
17. Rudy Seanez
18. Luis Gonzalez
19. Keith Foulke
20. Sidney Ponson
21. Mark Mulder
22. Julian Tavarez
23. Damion Easily
24. Dave Roberts
25. Ben Brousard
Ben Sheets gets the top spot only because of his dominant 2008 season and I don’t think anyone else on this list deserves it. A torn flexor in his elbow will keep him out of action until at least July. If he signs on with a team before the June draft then the Brewers will receive a compensation pick so don’t expect any offers until then…Ivan Rodriguez will use the World Baseball Classic to showcase all he has left. The Mets, Astros and possibly Marlins have shown interest…There are reports that Moises Alou and Kenny Rogers may have unofficially retired…Paul Byrd will take at least early 2008 off to spend time with his family, but could get back into action by the All-Star break…Look for Mark Grudzielanek to get a look at third base in the Bronx should A-Rod need surgery…Pedro Martinez‘ velocity and stamina are both way down and he’s had trouble finding work for this season. The Cardinals may bring him on and try him in the closer’s role…Former All-Stars Chad Cordero and Curt Schilling are off injuries costing them both the 2008 seasons but are still trying to find work.
Alex Rodriguez has a torn labrum and a cyst on his right hip. It may require surgery and would effectively knock him out of the World Baseball Classic and the Yankees line-up until May or possibly as late as the All-Star break. The ladder would cost New York 88 games without its premier slugger. With things as close as they are in the AL East, they’d take a step back behind the Rays and Red Sox.
Jayson Stark speculated on Sportscenter earlier that they could take a look at Bobby Crosby or Mark Teahan. If the injury worsens over the season then players like Adrian Beltre or Garrett Atkins could get some looks as well, but nothing is close.
You could have a worse back-up than Cody Ransom, but that’s exactly what he is, a backup. He’s a 33-year old utility player with all of 183 at-bats (.251/.348/.432) in the majors since 2001 while also spending time with the Giants and Astros.
A report was just released that he will have his hip drained and that he is going to try to play through it and rejoin the team. He is still out of the WBC. Hopefully for him and the Yankees he can get back right away and continue to prove that he can produce while playing clean to try to clean up his image before it is forever tarnished, though it may be too late.