By Chris Cue
February 16, 2009
If you have been following the Red Sox plan for 2009 (the one they settled on), then you are aware of the depth this club currently has. To put it plainly and without being too much of a homer, I can honestly say it’s remarkable. A conversation was started recently on a “chat” board regarding that depth and it got me thinking about what we are hoping for.
By the way, “thinking” too much can sometimes not be a good thing. That may be the case here. Before I get into the concerns I have, I want to point out that I’m probably qualified to be the poster child for people that views things as a “glass half full”. What follows (I hope) is an simply an objective look at the health of the Red Sox
Here’s the deal. When the Red Sox decided upon signing Brad Penny & John Smoltz to our Starting Pitching rotation, I wasn’t thrilled with Penny, but in both cases I thought they were good moves. Afterall, we have some depth in the pitching department. Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Buchholz, Masterson and Bowden are all capable of being effective in the starting role. So, Penny & Smoltz looked like low risk, high reward possibilities. Essentially, that means if they can perform, great. If not, then no harm no foul. Much like Bartolo Colon from last season, both of these quality gentleman have the potential to help in enormous ways if they can rebound to the form they have shown in the past. No issues there. Good move by the Sox front office in my opinion. You can never have too much pitching and we look solid for 2009 when it comes to depth in that department.
When looking at the team as a whole, even the most “pollyanna” of fans would have to admit that there are a lot of question marks with this 2009 squad. So much so that it may not give you that “warm fuzzy feeling” as a fan when thinking about the 162 games that lay ahead. Let’s take a look at that list of questionable players we currently have. Let’s see if the odds are with us or not. Let’s see if any of these players are unable to help, what options we have and if they will be good enough. I won’t make any predictions or determinations on this. I’ll leave that up to you, but let’s each look at what we have and what our options might be.
As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge that some of these players are less questionable then others, but if there is any doubt surrounding their health, I thought they should be listed.
Player / Concern / Depth behind them / Replacement result
1). David Ortiz / Wrist injury in 2008 / Rocco Baldelli, Chris Carter, Jeff Bailey and Lars Anderson / It would be extremely optomistic to veiw that any of Papi’s backups could contribute in the same manner he could if healthy. Major concern here.
2). Mike Lowell / Hip surgery to remove cartilidge / Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie / Youkilis showed that he can be as good at 3B as he is at 1B when Lowell went down last year. However, if that move is needed, then someone will need to take Kevin’s place at first. Jed Lowrie should do a respectable job there defensively, although his offensive production may not match that of a healthy Lowell. Major concern here as well.
3). Rocco Baldelli / Diagnosed with a type of Mitocondrial disorder that may limit consistent playing time / Mark Kotsay, Jonathon Van Every and Jeff Bailey / Kotsay would be fine (if healthy) in either LF or RF however, CF for him isn’t an option. Both Van Every and Bailey would be callups and neither currently has the potential to match Baldelli’s bat, but both would be adequate
in the field if needed. (Van Every in any OF spot, Bailey only at the corners)
4). Mark Kotsay / surgery for a displaced disc fragment / Rocco Baldelli (OF), Jonathon Van Every (OF), Jeff Bailey (OF, 1B) and Chris Carter (1B). / Bailey is the only one capable of really filling in for Kotsay. While Baldelli would be a great offensive sub, neither he, Van Every or Carter offer quality protection at 1B should Youkilis need to move to third.
5). JD Drew / Recently admitted to contiued back stiffness / Baldelli, Kotsay, Van Every and Bailey / Baldelli is the only one that has the potential to replace Drew’s bat. As noted, the question is: Can he do it full time? The others, while defensively fine as a sub do not have the ability to be the complete package Drew is when healthy.
(without going into great detail, the following are players that have questions that need to be answered, but may have suitable replacements or their injuries may be deminshed compared to others.)
Player / injury / concern
6). John Smoltz / shoulder surgery / not expected to contribute until June. At age 41 you have to wonder what the future HOFer has left.
7). Brad Penny / tendonitis and inflamation in shoulder / Penny has been injury plagued though out his career. Last season’s bout with a balky shoulder is the latest. That contributed to his 5.88era with the Dogers last season. If healthy, how does he perform in the AL East?
8). Tim Wakefield / Back stiffness and shoulder pain / Wakefield was shut down and not able to pitch in the 2007 post season because of these issues. He also had many of the same pains last season. Spring Training is 2 days young and already Terry Francona is reporting that he is currently struggling with back stiffness once again. Age may be catching up.
9). Josh Beckett / Oblique injury / Beckett in a press conference yesterday said that he was not anywhere near 100% during the post season of 08. While not a major injury, his weight and possibly conditioning was an alarm in 2008 heading into the season. Getting out of Spring Training this year without those concerns is something to watch.
10). Jed Lowrie / broken left wrist / Lowrie is a switch hitter and that injury (not fully known until the off season) is somewhat of a question because the Sox would like to know if that is what affected his performance from the left side of the plate last season. Easily healed, this wrist injury should not be a major concern when it comes to his ability to play. As a rookie, his consistent performance will be more of a question mark.
11.) Takashi Saito / partially torn elbow ligament / Saito was lights out with the Dogers prior to this set back. Rather then opt for a surgical repair, Saito opted for treatment instead. That’s understandable considering his age (39), but there are huge questions regarding his ability to set-up Jonathon Papelbon throughout an entire season without that elbow being a problem again.
12). Julio Lugo / strained quadricep / Like Lowrie, this is not a major injury. Lugo could rebound physically, but the questions that surround the name “Lugo” for the Red Sox go far beyond injury recovery. His concerns remain consistency both at the plate and in the field.
There you have it. 12 names. Add or subtract as you wish, but you have
to wonder if 12 is too many to hope for. I think the Red Sox will need a miracle to have everyone of them
return to their potential or former self. But is that a problem? There is a lot of depth to this team. There is also a lot of quality in that depth, but with that quality, there remains reason for concern as well.
Let’s hope Terry Francona has been practicing his juggling act. Keeping this team up to par while working around players unable to perform could be his toughest challenge yet.
By Chris Cue
February 5, 2009
The news yesterday was not good for backup 1B/OF Mark Kotsay. Kotsay underwent surgery on his back on January 29 to remove a displaced disc fragment. This is not the first time Kotsay has been plagued with back problems. He had a similar procedure performed early on in his career that kept him out for 9 weeks. This latest procedure, while not considered serious, will however prevent him from being on the opening day roster. Kotsay is expected to miss the first month of the season and may be able to return sometime during the month of May.
The Red Sox signing of Brad Wilkerson now seems to make sense. Wilkerson, while not having the bat Kotsay does, is a decent replacement as a backup 1B/OF and will most likely assume that role until Kotsay is ready to return to the team.
By Chris Cue
January 19, 2009
For as slow as this off season has taken to develop, the Red Sox came out and took care of some serious business this past week. Many are calling it their “Plan B” with “Plan A” being the failed Mark Teixeira negotiations. I’m not so sure. At least one of the items the Sox addressed this week appears to have been in the works no matter what happened this off season.
- Kevin Youkilis signed a 4 year, 41MM dollar extention with a possible 5th year option this week. As MLBTR puts it: “Great value for a guy who finished third in the AL
MVP voting, plays Gold Glove caliber defense, and is one of the leaders
of that clubhouse. Nice move by Boston.” Sox fans agree. Great move and Good terms on a player that was virtually just as good as Teixeira last season.
- The Red Sox added to their already deep pitching rotation by signing veteran John Smoltz earlier in the week. Smoltz, who is signed to a 1 year deal, isn’t expected to see action until early June, but brings with him a 15-4 post season record. The best in the history of the game. Smoltz is an addition to a rotation that already includes: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny and Clay Buchholz. 7 deep with starting pitchers is impressive.
- The Red Sox also signed Mark Kotsay to a one year, 1.5M dollar deal. Kotsay, who played half a season in Boston last year, was looking for a full time job with another club at season’s end. However, the falling market for outfielders brought him back to the Red Sox where he will assume a bench role backing up Kevin Youkilis at First base and JD Drew in right field.
Can the Red Sox “One Up” themselves this week? It’s entirely possible. There remain several possibilities that could at least match last weeks activity.
Here’s a look:
The Red Sox may not stop with extending current players like Youkilis and Pedroia. It’s widely believed that they also have hopes of extending Jason Bay this off season. Bay, who is a free agent after this season may opt to test the free market instead of signing an extention. However, considering the weak market for Outfielders this off season, he may accept a healthy offer from Boston rather then taking a chance on next year.
- Another player the Red Sox would also like to extend appears the least likely to make that kind of agreement. Jonathon Papelbon will also be able to declare free agency soon and past attempts by the Red Sox to lock him up long term have gone by the way side. It should be noted however, that the same scenario occured with Youkilis as well. Paps is certainly the wild card here, but as with most players, money talks. Now if you can just get Papelbon to quit dancing long enough to listen…..
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly is what will occur with free agent and team captain Jason Varitek. Varitek’s widely reported meeting with Red Sox principle owner John Henry last Friday may have been the occurance that needed to take place as both sides are once again talking. There are no guarantees on this one. Both sides have an adgenda that could derail the talks. The Red Sox would like to have Varitek back on a one year deal, but the captain is reported to be insistent on 2 years. The hopes are that the 2 sides will be able to come to some sort of a compromise that perhaps gives Varitek the ability to earn the second year. It’s not clear that either side is willing to do that just yet. More on this will certainly unfold in the coming week.
So, there ya go. There’s not a lot of unfinished business to attend to before the season begins, but what does remain will be extremely important to what the Red Sox will look like for the 2009 season and beyond. Stay tuned, this could be a very important week ahead.
By Chris Cue
January 15, 2009
Kevin Youkilis and the Boston Red Sox reached agreement today on an extension for him that could be worth an estimated 54 million dollars over the next five years. The announcement of the agreement was first reported by ESPN’s Peter Gammons with further details provided by Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald (link HERE). The estimated contract details as described by McAdam are as follows:
“….The Sox and Kevin Youkilis [stats]
have a four-year extension in place that will become official when
Youkilis passes his physical tomorrow, an industry source confirmed.
The deal will be worth at least $41.25 million, with a $1 million
signing bonus, and salaries of $6 million in 2009, $9 million in 2010,
and $12 million each in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
The Sox also hold an option for 2013 — thought to be worth approximately $14 million — with a buyout of $ 1.25 million.”
This is good news for Sox fans and quite honestly, I’m surprised that Kevin was willing to sign a deal for that amount. All signs pointed to Youkilis being willing to go year to year and test the free agent market when he was able to do so after the 2010 season. His signing follows that of fellow Red Sox player Dustin Pedroia who also signed a long term deal with the Red Sox this off season. Pedroia’s deal reportedly was for 6 years and an estimated 40.5 million dollars.
While this is certainly good news for the Red Sox and for Kevin Youkilis, it will raise questions about the teams long term plans for Laars Anderson who many thought would be the First basemen of the future for the team. Clearly, the Red Sox are willing to cross that bridge when they get to it and were happy to solidify the Firstbase position for at least the next 4 years.
In other Red Sox news today;
Kotsay’s Deal Official
Art Martone of the Providence Journal also reports that the deal for Outfielder / First baseman Mark Kotsay was finalized today (link HERE). Kotsay returns to the Red Sox after spending the second half of the 2008 season with the club. Kotsay’s role with the club will be the same as it was last season. He’ll provide a solid backup to Kevin Youkilis at First base and fill in for JD Drew in Right field. In order to make room for Kotsay on the 40 man roster, David Aardsma was designated for assignment.
By Chris Cue
January 12, 2009
By all accounts this should be a busy news week for the Boston Red Sox. Today’s Hall of Fame voting results may finally show that Jim Rice is worthy of an induction. If that happens, then a few of the other expected announcements may get pushed back in order to give Rice his time in the spot light. The results of the Hall of Fame ballots will be known by 2pm today. Most in Red Sox Nation will keep their fingers crossed that Rice finally gets a call.
Some of the other expected events this week should include the formal announcements of both John Smoltz and Mark Kotsay joining the 2009 Red Sox roster. Both announcements are regarded as academic at this point, but each event will have General Manager Theo Epstein providing the media with the obligatory quotes as to why each of them are good moves for the club.
Their remains a large opening for another item to become news worthy this week as well. It’s no secret that the Red Sox have a “Key” void to fill in their roster. That being who will assume the catchers role in 2009. There are those that would indicate the Red Sox will make no such announcement this week or any week prior to Spring Training. They will cite the real possibility that the Red Sox have already addressed that and will open the season with a combination of Josh Bard and George Kottaras as the teams number 1 & 2 catchers. Indeed, that is a possibility but the smart money say’s that’s not the final solution the club is looking for.
So, will this be the week the Red Sox finally address what many believe was their biggest need this off season, or have the Red Sox already done that? Whether Jason Varitek returns or not, the Red Sox in most circles are not being viewed as having solved the most blatent issue before them when the off season began. No, in order for that to happen, the Red Sox will need to address the future. The Red Sox need to make a move that they can feel confident with regarding who they want to groom to be their primary catcher for 2011 and beyond.
What’s the deal going to be or will there even be another deal? Is a trade or signing imminent or is there simply no answer to be found again this year?
These questions hang over the Red Sox like a deep fly ball hit into center field. A ball that appears to hang in the air longer then Newton’s Law say’s it should, but everyone watching it knows it has to come down sooner or later….right?? Well, many have begun to wonder. Will this be the week we make a play on that ball, or will it continue to hang up there even longer giving Red Sox fans reason to question if an apple ever really hit Newton on the head?
One thing is certain, whenever that ball finally does fall to earth, there’s sure to be disagreement in how it should have been played. That’s fine and is as it always is with passionate Red Sox fans, but at least there will be some sort of decision…..even if the decision is “Wait ’till next year”, an answer….any answer THIS week would be appreciated.
The Red Sox have added more players to fill out the 25 man roster. Most notably, Mark Kotsay will return to the 1B/OF role he had with the Sox last year.
from Boston.com (Link HERE)
“While the Red Sox believe they have a formal agreement in place that
will bring Mark Kotsay back on a one-year deal, the agreement cannot be
finalized until the player returns from a trip to the Caribbean, the
Globe’s Tony Massarotti reports. Kotsay is believed to be in Aruba, but
is scheduled to travel to Boston for a physical exam following his
return to the United States.”
Also, just announced is the addition of Takashi Saito to the Red Sox bullpen.
also from Boston.com (Link HERE)
“The Red Sox have signed free-agent reliever Takashi Saito to a one-year
contract with a team option for 2010, major-league sources told FOXsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal Saturday.
The deal includes a guarantee between $1.5 million and $2.5 million,
according to the report, and Saito will have the chance to earn more
than $7 million if he reaches all of his incentives. Rosenthal reports
that Saito has already passed his physical.”
Now, how about that catcher Theo??
By Chris Cue
January 8, 2009
Numerous Boston area papers are reporting that the Red Sox are close to signing both Rocco Baldelli and John Smoltz.
Take your pick:
Boy, if you didn’t know any better you would think there was something to this huh?
Of course I’m kidding. Both players look to be close to signing with the Sox. I have a different take on each of these guys and what their potential value could actually end up being with the club. Until Smoltz seems a bit closer to signing, for now let’s focus on Rocco Baldelli who appears to be very close…..but not official yet.
Rocco is a native Rhode Islander. Nothing wrong with some real home grown New England talent right? Funny thing is he wasn’t a Sox fan as a kid. That’s a bit strange don’t you think? Not really. Speaking from first hand experience (I grew up in East Providence), there were not that many non-Red Sox kids that I grew up with, but there were some. I honestly think (looking back on it now) that those few kids who were around were influenced by their fathers. It’s not too strange considering the amount of people that moved in and out of that area at the time. However as a whole, those kids had to have a pretty thick skin to not to be a Sox fan around the crowd I grew up with. Rocco obviously is a pretty tough minded guy. Nothing wrong with that either now that he’s seen the light 🙂
The addition to the team Rocco brings is he’s a really good right handed bat off the bench and (when healthy) an above average Outfielder as well. The only concerns about Baldelli is his health. I doubt most of you need an update on that situation. So, without going into a great deal of medical terminology that would be lost on most of us, let’s just say that his original diagnosis was a bit off and now doctors believe that his condition is more easily treated. That still doesn’t mean he’s ready to take the field for 150 games as an everyday outfielder, but it is encouraging that he may not suffer as much from the fatigue that nearly ended his career. Tough not to cheer for a guy like that….no matter what team he’s on.
Rocco’s addition to the Sox bench does raise a few questions however. Considering how fraile JD Drew can be at times, if he needs an extended stay on the bench again this year, questions about Rocco’s durability to just step in and pick up the slack for that period of time will arise as well. It’s not a large issue, but it is one the Red Sox should plan for. As it stands right now, the Red Sox have yet to replace Sean Casey as a backup corner infielder. Considerations may need to be made regarding who they target to fill that role. Mark Kotsay would have been (and still may be) a great option to have around. A player like him that has a decent glove at Firstbase and can also fill an Outfield role would be a real asset should Baldelli be unable to play one or two days while Drew is out. The only other option the Sox presently have is to stick Youkilis out there. Not that Youk is a horrible Outfielder, he’s not, but you would have to think his glove is better served at First or Third base. It would be my guess that Casey’s replacement will end up being a Kotsay or Hinske type just to be added insurance.
No matter who or what role the Red Sox decide on for that spot, it isn’t going to be hard to cheer on Rocco Baldelli. Perhaps it’s a bit premature, but let me get a head start be saying:
“Welcome Rocco! We’re Glad To Have You!!