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Friday, February 03, 2006

Is there a trade in the offing? 

Many are wondering why the Alex Gonzalez signing hasn't been announced yet. There are rumors that Gonzalez could be involved in a 3-way trade with the Orioles and Dodgers, but I don't put much stock into that.

I e-mailed a few Boston baseball writers to find out what the holdup is and was able to get this response from Tony Massarotti:

"Announcement of the Gonzalez signing has been delayed because the Sox need to create a spot on their 40-man roster. Apparently, they are attempting to work out another deal to do so. We believe this is a minor trade, but there is always the chance it could involve someone like David Wells."

I was aware that they needed to remove a player from the 40-man roster to make room for Gonzalez, but I figured John Flaherty was a clear candidate to get the axe, especially with Josh Bard on board. I guess not. Looking over the 40-man roster, there really aren't that many questionable players listed. Hence, the need to make a trade, instead of removing a player and risk losing him to waivers.

Besides Wells, the other candidates to be traded are Tony Graffanino and Alex Cora. I suppose a trade of Graffanino or Cora would be considered "minor." I'm led to believe that a trade is close, otherwise the Sox would have simply removed a player from the 40-man by now. Could the "we're not gonna trade Wells until spring training" thing just have been Theo and Kevin Towers blowing smoke? I suppose. Maybe Wells is headed to the Dodgers instead.

As for Graffanino, his name has been linked to both the Cubs and the Rangers; however, the Cubs would have to find a taker for Todd Walker before they could acquire Graffanino.

In any event, something has to shake loose soon because I'm sure Alex Gonzalez and his agent don't feel like flailing in the wind like this.

SoSH gets defensive 

There's a great discussion taking place over at the Sons of Sam Horn message board about the reliability of the various defensive metrics. These metrics are primarily play-by-play driven, which leads to a lot of subjectivity regarding whether a ball should have or shouldn't have been caught. What's so fascinating about this is that these statistics are in their absolute infancy, and should evolve as the available data becomes more detailed.

As of now, Mitchell Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating is regarded as the best available defensive metric. However, the UZR statistic was only published for 2000-2003 because Lichtman was then hired by the St. Louis Cardinals, and the statistic because their property. UZR, like many other metrics, is based on a how many balls a player was able to catch within his "zone" and the parameters about the batted ball; its distance, direction, how hard it was hit, the type (ground, fly, etc.).

The faults in UZR and other such metrics are plentiful. For one, it's unclear of how accurately the metric accounts for the different ballpark factors. While the methodology behind each metric hasn't been released in full, it's assumed that the ballpark factors used to rate a player offensively are similar to the factors used to rate a player defensively. Many find this troubling, as the conclusions based off of this method may be extremely flawed.

These metrics also do not take into account the fielders playing around you. A ball that lands in your "zone" may be caught by another player, but you will still be penalized for not catching it. These are just a couple of the issues that need to be fleshed out until the world of defensive statistics can become more definitive.


More Manny rumblings and no more Bob's Stores sign 

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times is reporting today that the Red Sox made another strong push to trade disgruntled slugger Manny Ramirez to the Angels this past week, but talks went nowhere because of Boston's asking price.

Boston was believed to have asked for at least four players — Ervin Santana, Chone Figgins and two or three of the Angels' top four prospects, a list that includes shortstop Brandon Wood and second baseman Howie Kendrick. The Red Sox also wanted the Angels to assume virtually all of the $57 million remaining on Ramirez's contract, which runs through 2008.

DiGiovanna states that "chances for a deal still seem remote despite negotiations between the teams."

Now, if the Sox could get Santana, Figgins, Wood and Kendrick for Manny, it would probably the best steal of the century. Wood hit 43 homers as a 20-year-old in AA this past season. Still, I find it very hard to believe that the Sox would ask for that much in return for Manny, especially when they'd force the Angels to assume his entire remaining salary.

It's more likely that this is just another story leaked to the media so that the Sox can prove to Manny that they made a good faith effort to trade him, but they weren't able to find a deal that made sense for both sides.

***

Sasha Talcott of the Boston Globe is reporting that F.W. Webb Co. has become the official distributor of plumbing, heating, HVAC, pipe-valves-fittings supplies for the Boston Red Sox.

Not that I really care, but it does change the look of the Green Monster a little bit, so I feel it merits a brief mention.

Because Bob's Stores decided not to renew it's sponsorship, F.W. Webb Co. decided to "step up and do the whole thing" by purchsing the ad space on the far right side of the famous Green Monster scoreboard.

F.W. Webb Co. is now an ''official sponsor," which gives them the right to use the Red Sox logo in their advertising, and they get to be the only sponsor in their particular category. D'Angelo, for example, makes the only Official Sandwich of the Boston Red Sox, while Papa Gino's makes the Official Pizza of the Boston Red Sox.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gonzalez passes physical, plus other notes 

Sources have informed the Boston Herald that Alex Gonzalez has passed his physical. The signing of the non-guaranteed, one-year, $3 million contract is likely to be announced today.

***
An interesting invite to spring training this year is Enrique Wilson. Wilson is remembered for his role in the Ramírez saga in 2003. On the weekend when Ramírez didn't show up at the ballpark for the finale of a Yankee series, he was spotted at the Ritz shooting the breeze with his good friend Wilson, then a Yankee utilityman.

With an infield that already goes eight-deep, the chances of Wilson actually making the squad are ridiculously slim. He's most likely being brought in to calm Manny's nerves during spring training and get his 2006 season started on the right note.

***

Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe thinks that it's a virtual certainty that Theo will make a trade before Opening Day. He feels that Tony Graffanino will definitely be shipped out, along with David Wells, due to the depth at both of their positions.

Edes also believes that with the surplus of arms and Trot Nixon's free agency after the season, Epstein could conceivably package a pitcher and infielder for outfield prospects or use a pitcher plus Nixon in an even bigger deal.

I do agree that turning any combination of these players into a solid outfielder would be very beneficial for the club. As of now, there are really no internal candidates to take over for Trot in 2007, but the free agent market is littered with capable replacements, including Cliff Floyd, Carlos Lee, Raul Ibanez, David Dellucci, Jay Payton, Juan Pierre, Milton Bradley, Dave Roberts, Shannon Stewart, Jose Guillen, and Frank Catalanotto.

As you can see, there are no "studs," but the Sox should be able to find a respectable replacement for Trot. Jose Guillen would be a nice fit, both offensively and defensively, but unfortunately his attitude is worth avoiding. In any event, the Red Sox should have an above-average right fielder in 2007.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sox Notes 


David Wells’ agent, Gregg Clifton, was on WEEI Monday morning and said that Wells, who wants a trade to San Diego or another west coast team, was not planning on holding out during spring training.

Good, because for a minute there, I was starting to wonder what part of "two-year deal" Wells didn't understand when he signed the two-year deal before last season. Everyone seems to call Wells "old and brittle," but the guy has made 30 or more starts in 9 of the past 10 seasons. He does get sidelined on occasion, but it's never for more than a couple starts.

He won 15 games last season, and is a shoo-in to post double-digit wins in 2006. He's only one the hook for one more season, and I'd really like to keep him if it's at all possible. Hopefully Theo can sit down with him during spring training and convince him that he's got a legitimate chance to win another title this year, and that come November, he can go back to California and do whatever he'd like.

However, Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe is reporting that the "much-discussed trade to San Diego of pitcher David Wells probably won't get done until spring training, but it appears inevitable the teams will strike a deal."

Matt Clement is the pitcher that makes more sense to be traded. There's a rumor out there that he could be involved in a 3-way deal that would net the Red Sox Lastings Milledge and Xavier Nady, but it's nothing more than a rumor right now.

***

In the next few days, the Sox are expected to officially announce some of their minor league signings, and Gabe Kapler is sure to be on the list.

Kapler, who ruptured his Achilles tendon last September in Toronto, expects to be able to help the team by early May. Once healthy, Kapler will immediately join Dustan Mohr, Willie Harris, and possibly others in the mix for the 4th outfielder spot.

***

Here's a look at the rest of the minor league signings that the Sox will likely announce in the coming days:

*Luke Allen, OF, Age 27, played with Dodgers (2002) and Rockies (2003)

*Craig Breslow, LHP, Age 25, Pitched in 14 games for Padres in 2005 (2.20 E.R.A.)

*Mike Bumatay, LHP, Age 26, pitched last year for Colorado Springs

*Ron Calloway, OF, Age 29, Played all of 2003 and part of '04 with Expos

*Trent Durrington, INF, Age 30, played in majors with Brewers

Matt Ginter, RHP, Age 28, Pitched for Chisox, Mets and Tigers

*Willie Harris, INF/OF, Age 27, Played five years in majors with Orioles and White Sox

*Mike Holtz, LHP, Age 33, pitched for Angels, A's and Padres

*Ken Huckaby, C, Age 34, played for D'backs, Blue Jays, Rangers, Orioles

*Luis Jiminez, 1B, Age 23, played last season for Double-A New Britain

Pat Magness, 1B, Age 27, played last season for Class-A Lynchburg

*Tyler Minges, OF, Age 25, played last season for Double-A Springfield

*Rodney Nye, 3B, Age 28, played last season for Triple-A Norfolk

*Josh Pressley, 1B, Age 25, played last season for Double-A Wichita

Cameron Reimers, RHP, Age 25, played last season for Double-A New Hampshire

Jon Searles, RHP, Age 25, played last season for Double-A West Tennessee

*Jimmy Serrano, RHP, Age 29, pitched for Royals in 2004

* -- received invitation to major-league camp in spring training


Alex Gonzalez' contract flexibility 

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald is reporting today that not all of Alex Gonzalez' contract is guaranteed. Should the team decide to cut Gonzalez before Opening Day, they would not be on the hook for his entire $3 million salary.

If he is cut before March 15, they are only responsible for one-sixth, or $500,000, and if they cut him between March 16 and Opening Day, they are responsible for roughly one-quarter, or $750,000. If he is on the Opening Day roster, his $3 million becomes guaranteed.

This buys the Red Sox some times in case Gonzalez does not improve rapidly enough following his September 30 arthroscopic surgery to remove two bone chips from his right throwing elbow. By July of last season, his elbow became sore, and began bothering him in August when the bone pieces moved, causing his arm to lock up while throwing. Gonzalez had a similar operation following the 2004 campaign and was able to recover before the season began.

Due to this, his physical examination is more than just a formality. The possibility that he fails his physical does exist.

The structure of the contract also allows for more competition this spring. While Dustin Pedroia is a longshot to jump to the top of the depth chart, it's reasonable to assume that Alex Cora could definitely open some eyes (and we already know the front office loves how "smart" he is).

The Baseball Think Factory has run a 2006 projection using their ZiPS projection system, which adjusts for the ballpark, and these are the results:

2006 ZiPS Projection - Alex Gonzalez
---------------------------------------------------------
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA OBP SLG
---------------------------------------------------------
510 71 140 41 2 15 88 34 104 3 .275 .326 .451

If Sea Bass posts those numbers, he'd actually be an asset on offense, and worth far more than the $3 million he'd be receiving. The .451 SLG would far outperform Edgar Renteria's putrid .385 last season.

Crisp, Loretta, and Lowell, should also see an improvement in their numbers due to the move from pitcher's parks to a hitter's park.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Alex Gonzalez, Sox agree to 1-year deal 

Michael Silverman and Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald are reporting that the Red Sox have signed Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal worth $3 million and the defensive whiz is expected in town Tuesday, barring weather delays.

Gonzalez is expected to take the required physical Tuesday or Wednesday, by which time the Red Sox are expected to announce the deal officially.

Thank God it's not the 3-year deal that Gonzalez had been rumored to be seeking. The length and value of this contract is reasonable, and while I still feel Cora would have been better with the bat, the front office is obviously focusing on defense at SS, and feel that Gonzalez is the clear favorite. With Gonzalez's superb defensive skills, he will surely serve as a security blanket and allow the pitching staff to relax.

Whither Tony Graffanino? With Gonzalez in the fold, and Alex Cora capable of playing SS and 2B, it doesn't seem reasonable to use another roster spot on Graffanino. My guess is that he is traded during spring training, possibly with David Wells.

With Gonzalez only due to make $3 million, it's possible that if Dustin Pedroia impresses in Pawtucket, he could take over the reins by mid-season. Also, with Julio Lugo the only competent SS available as a free agent following the season, it'll be interesting to see if the Sox groom Pedroia to be the starter in 2007.

Barring a Graffanino, or a Wells/Clement trade, it appears the off-season has finally come to a close, and I can't help but be happy with what the front office has been able to accomplish. Yes, they've traded some highly-regarded prospects, but in return, they're received Josh Beckett and Coco Crisp -- two players poised to take their games to the next level.

With the restocked Toronto Blue Jays, and the extraordinary offense of the Yankees, 2006 is sure to be a dogfight from start to finish. Only 18 more days until pitchers and catchers report.

Coco Crisp interview 

Ben Platt of MLB.com was able to catch up with Coco Crisp and get his thoughts on coming to Boston and playing for the Sox.

The kid definitely has a good head on his shoulders and seems absolutely psyched to be on his way to Fenway.

Check out the video and see Coco in his new Sox hat here.

Let Coco play his own game 

It's inevitable. Coco Crisp will have to bear the unfair burden of being Johnny Damon's "replacement." With the drawn out Damon negotiations, and the Crisp trade that suffered the same fate, it's only natural to compare Coco to Johnny, especially with Coco sliding into the exact same role Johnny held -- center fielder and leadoff hitter.

However, fans would be wise to let Coco go out there and do his own thing. Yes, Johnny was a terrific player here. He got on base. He hustled. He was fun to root for. There's no disputing any of that. But realize this -- Coco Crisp is an accomplished player too, with his own strengths. He may not be Johnny Damon, but he doesn't have to be. If things go as planned, Johnny Damon will be an afterthought by June, but until then, just let Coco play his own game.

By all accounts, Crisp is a strong enough person to bear the burden of coming to Boston and replacing a fan favorite. Still, who wants to be labeled as a "replacement"? Whether we like it or not, it carries the stigma of being inferior to the predecessor. And by no means is Crisp inferior to Damon. In many ways, he's superior.

The fact that Crisp is six (six!) years younger than Damon cannot be overlooked. Nor can the fact that Crisp is considerably more likely to improve than Damon. Oh yeah, Coco's cheaper -- a lot cheaper. He's projected to make $20 million over the next four seasons, while Damon is due to make $26 over the next two seasons. You tell me what the better investment is.

The Sox no doubt had Crisp penciled in as the next center fielder at Fenway. If Jed Hoyer is to believed, the Sox had been tracking Crisp for the past year and a half. The fact that the Damon negotions were "bumbled" was no accident either. The second the Sox acquired Andy Marte for Edgar Renteria, you can bet their intentions were to flip him for Crisp.

We should be applauding the acquisition of Crisp, not ridiculing the departure of Damon. In 64 days, Coco will be at the plate in Texas, awaiting his first pitch as a member of the Boston Red Sox. It will be the start of something special, not only for him, but for the Red Sox.

Crisp, with Beckett, Papelbon, Youkilis, Delcarmen, Hansen, Lester, and others are the beginning of a new breed of baseball in Boston. Not since Nomar have we had the opportunity to watch a player develop into something special. We finally have that chance again and we should be grateful.

So you Damon disciples, throw away your fake beards, and pour yourselves a nice big bowl of those Coco Krispies 'cause there's a new center fielder in town.

And for the record -- Crisp isn't Damon's replacement, he's his supplanter.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Site Redesign 

I've been fooling around with a little redesign on the blog today, and haven't had much time to punch out a new post. As you can see, the banner sucks. I'm still trying to figure out how to incorporate my original banner into the new template. Anyways, I'm heading back to school tomorrow, but should be able to update by the evening. Take care.

Coco weighs in 

Crisp weighs in on playing in Boston, his approach to the game, and what makes him unique:

  • "I'm excited. I can't wait to get out there and play. Boston definitely [was] one of my favorite ball teams growing up as a kid. To be able to play for them is like a dream come true."
  • "I love the game. I play hard, I’m not afraid to run into walls or to get hurt. I think that’s the type of player they love in Boston and I think that’s why they loved Johnny Damon. I’m not afraid to get hurt, I give 100 percent."
  • "I'm a fun guy. I just like to have fun, pull pranks. That type of a guy."
  • "I love the whole atmosphere out there, it’s very intense -- I just sit back and relax."
  • "As far as going into [Damon's] shadow, I don't believe it's like that. I [just have to] play my own game . . . I just sit back and relax. There's nothing really to it. Go out there and play your game and have fun, and the rest takes care of itself."

Theo Epstein's thoughts on Coco:

  • "He has an energy and a swagger that will translate very well at Fenway. He should be a guy who thrives on the big stage."
  • "We've been tracking Coco Crisp for a year and a half now."
  • "It’s safe to say we were not going to give up Marte, probably not in any deal with a player who we’d have under our control for only one to two years. To get a player like Coco, with four years, softens the blow of giving up six years of Andy Marte."
  • "It's not every day you get a chance to acquire a guy for his age 26, 27, 28, 29 seasons, at least, [and] who we think will be above-average offensively and defensively at a premium position."
  • "He's already a very accomplished player. [And now] he's moving into his [athletic] prime. He [also] helps us get a little bit younger, a little bit more athletic."
  • "A couple of his strengths really complement our weaknesses as a club, [such as] his [above-average] defense up the middle and his outstanding baserunning. Also he's a guy who has a chance to hit leadoff. He had a .370 on-base [percentage] last year away from Jacobs Field and he's got a chance to use Fenway to his advantage."

Jed Hoyer's thoughts on Coco:

  • "We actually identified him [as a potential acquisition] quite a ways back. [Both] our scouting reports and our quantitative analysis had this guy trending straight up."
  • "Coco was the top guy on the list. That's why we really went after him so hard."
  • "Almost every person we talked to [during their investigation of Crisp's off-field makeup] really thought he would thrive in our environment."
  • "He was just an unbelievable player in September. Coco was fantastic in the games that mattered most down the stretch. I think that's something we looked at a lot."
  • "We’re not in the habit of giving up prospects for short-term gain. We traded a couple of really good 21-year-olds but got some established big leaguers who are 25, 26."
  • "Obviously, we gave up a lot to get him. But we think it was well worth it."

Quotes courtesy of the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal.

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