Friday Update: Dombrowski Chooses Today Over Tomorrow

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When Dave Dombrowski was named Red Sox President of Baseball Operations last August, the prevailing notion was that the administrative change was a step in the right direction. Dombrowski has had a long history of building contending teams as a baseball executive, and there was no reason why he wouldn’t be able to replicate his Florida and Detroit success with a team that had more resources than many, if not all, of its competitors. Yet beneath the surface layer of cheers, there were dissenting whispers bringing up the dark side of a Dombrowski reign. “Oh, you like your prospects and organizational depth?”those whisperers said. “Well don’t get used to them. They don’t call him Dealin’ Dave for nothing”. We were warned. This is what Dombrowski does; he cashes in minor league assets for major league talent (leaving the farm system cupboard completely bare), crafts a playoff team full of All-Stars, forgets about the bullpen, and condemns the team to a cycle of near-misses in October. Continue reading

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Series Recap: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, 6/3-6/5

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox

 

A couple thoughts on this weekend’s Sox-Jays series right after I (sort of) flash some leather from the broadcast boothContinue reading

Leave It To The Kids

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Everyone has their addictions. For some it is the hankering for a cup of coffee, for others it may be the lottery, but for me, it’s baseball prospects. I have collected memorabilia and baseball cards for my whole life; the idea just piqued my interest at a young age and has never gone away. Cards are what began my prospect “addiction”, and here’s how: Just like the in stock market where someone with little money has to look for the possibility of large growth in a newer, cheaper stock because proven stocks are too pricey, I discovered that while I love Ken Griffey Jr. and Pedro Martinez, it would be too expensive for me to buy their best cards. This is where prospects entered my life. I saw that while every prospect might not pan out, somewhere in the vast ocean of the minor leagues there is the next Griffey Jr. The MLB, NFL and NBA drafts are like three extra Christmases to me, a whole new crop of talent to pick apart and in my attempt to find that needle in the haystack.

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He’s The Ace

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The calendar had just flipped to December, but Santa came early this year for Red Sox fans.

About a week after reports trickled out that Boston was “all in” on the David Price sweepstakes, the Sox signed the 30-year-old lefty ace to the richest contract ever for a pitcher yesterday around 5 p.m.: seven years, $217 million. Dave Dombrowski finally got his man.

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And So It Begins…

Hanley Ramirez celebrates his second homer of the day, this one a grand slam, as the Red Sox cruised to a 8-0 opening day victory over the Phillies.

The revamped Sox offense was out in full force on opening day. Five home runs, including a grand slam from old friend Hanley Ramirez, propelled the Sox to their first win of the 2015 season. Relive opening day with a few emails between Greg and I as we get our hopes up and try to contain our excitement after a convincing win in Philadelphia to start another season full of unknowns.

Pat Morey: It appears Farrell abandoned his work the count approach in that first inning. Hard to argue with the results.

Greg Habeeb: Agreed. The guys were being aggressive from the get go, and it paid off in the short term with a home run.

Really great to see DP go yard right away. If he’s healthy and motivated, there’s no reason for him not to return to his usual .300 hitting ways.

PM: And the team needs that Pedey, not the get hot for two weeks at a time Pedey. There’s a lot of big bats in the middle of the lineup, but they need help from the top and bottom if this offense is going to work. If Pedey is locked in with Papi, Hanley, Panda, and Napoli behind him, look out.

Also, I hate opening the season in the NL. This offense has been hyped up, and I want to see it at its full capacity on opening day. Be better, MLB.

GH: I know i thought that was bizarre. Interleague sucks in general, so I’m definitely not a huge fan of that whole situation.

Speaking of guys who need to get healthy, there goes the Flyin’ Hawaiian walking and stealing bases like it’s 2013. He could be an X-factor this year.

PM: They really missed him last season in the outfield and in the lineup. Gold glove caliber defense and a terror on the basepath. The battle for right field between him and Castillo could get really interesting, though, if he doesn’t find that 2013 form. That outfield is getting crowded awfully fast.

Speaking of the outfield, right on cue is MOOOOOOKIE!!

GH: MOOKIEEEE!!! How awesome is it that he earned his spot in the lineup by absolutely raking this spring? I’m all in on Betts. If you told me he was going to hit .350/.420/.500 this year i would believe you in a heartbeat.

PM: I’ll always hold a little grudge with Mookie since he probably gave Jackie Bradley Jr. his final push out the door, but man is it exciting to have a superstar prospect look so great. Should we just give him MVP now or…?

GH: Maybe we should wait another game or two.

Meanwhile it’s the fifth inning and we have now hit 4 home runs after Pedey and Hanley “The Incredible Hulk” Ramirez just went yard.

It’s really encouraging to see guys get good swings on a top tier pitcher so early in the season. If everyone can stay healthy, the Sox are going to rake this year, theres no doubt about that.

PM:PEDEY EATS FASTBALLS FOR BREAKFAST

Also, I love how Clay is attacking the strike zone. He was virtually unhittable a couple years back when he could throw strikes and force batters to swing at that ridiculous curve.

GH: It’s encouraging to see him not stink up the joint (at least so far), but just remember it’s against a Phillies team that might not win 60 games.

PM: It’s baby steps with Buchholz. Pitching well against a sucky team is a good start. He couldn’t have done this last year.

Regardless of whatever happens with our questionable rotation, I find it hard to think this offense won’t be a juggernaut. There’s power and on base guys everywhere you look. They should fill up some ludicrous box scores this year.

GH: It’s also encouraging that Buchholz is locating and has movement on all of his pitches. That is important no matter who you’re facing.

Hamels is done after 5 innings. Victorino is leading off against righty Garcia, and he hasn’t flipped around to bat left handed. I guess he’s ditching the switch hitting thing after all.

PM: Victorino can bat with his eyes closed for all I care as long as he keeps getting on base like this.

I would’ve liked to see a little hit and run there with Victorino on first and X up to bat with Hannigan and Buchholz on deck. Do you think they wanted X to swing away or they don’t trust him to make contact?

GH: I’m sure it had more to do with it being early in the season and winning the game than anything else. I feel like you want to let guys get their swings in early on in the season. There will be plenty of time for situational baseball in the coming months.

Buchholz finally ran into trouble here in the bottom of the seventh, but he worked his way out of it. Again, the 2015 Phillies aren’t exactly the ’98 Yankees, but it’s still good to see Clay executing pitches in tough spots.

PM: Totally agree. It was nice to see him pitch out of that jam, especially with a 3 pitch strikeout to end it. Like you said, it’s tough to get too excited given the subpar competition. But after a season and a half of seeing those same jams turn into 5 run innings faster than a coked up Ricky Henderson, it’s nice to see him put his pitches when he needs to.

GH: In other news, Mets-Nats is on ESPN right now. Watching Bartolo Colon pretend to hit is the highest of high comedy.

PM: Bartolo Colon is now and forever will be my spirit animal.Uh oh, now it’s time for the bullpen. I guess Tazawa is a more than serviceable first option, but after him and a breaking-down Uehara, yikes.

GH: Yeah, when Robbie Ross Jr. is an 8th inning option you probably have issues out there.

I still can’t believe that the Red Sox didn’t trade Uehara at last summer’s deadline. It’s a non-move that looks even worse now considering his injury status coming out of spring training.

Did the front office really expect a 40 year old reliever with a history of injuries would be a reliable option all season long?

PM: Keeping Uehara befuddled me. Not only could they have grabbed an asset, but they probably would’ve worked harder in the offseason to get a backup, also. Now close games will be in the precarious hands of Edward Mujica

If he’s healthy, I trust Uehara. But that’s a HUGE if.

GH: Hey look! Allen Craig with a single up the middle! He lives!

(By the way, I’ve said this already but Napoli’s weird mullet/flow thing he’s growing on the top of his head looks and will continue to look absolutely ridiculous)
PM:Craig lives! He’s a sneaky good fit on this team as a utility guy who can play first and outfield. At worst he’ll give you what Nava did these past few years, but with much more upside. If he disappears again or struggles, Nava is right behind him anyway.
GH: GRAND SALAMI!
PM: HULK SMASH!!!
With a broken bat, nonetheless. I guess all of his gains in the gym this offseason weren’t just for show. I think he’ll be happy to have the green monster for 81 games once again.
I certainly don’t want to overreact to one game, which everyone will be doing today, but it feels like these guys are really locked in this year.
GH: 162-0 HERE WE COME!
But in all seriousness, you can’t ask for a better start to the season than that. I know the Phillies are a crap team, but there aren”t a lot of bad things to say about 8-0 win to start the year. Hopefully this is a sign of more things to come this season and not just an above average team crushing a terrible one.
Anything else you want to add to wrap up Opening Day?
PM: I’m just happy to have baseball back. Every spring we get our hopes up and get excited over what this team could be. We’ve been lucky over the past decade, but there’s also been a lot of disappointment. I honestly think this season could go either direction. Win or lose, though, after today, it’s clear this team won’t be boring. And that’s a good start.
GH: I agree. Last thing: Thoughts on Porcello’s extension?
PM:I guess they liked what they saw in spring training. That’s a rather hefty price tag for an above average pitcher yet to really establish himself as a legitimate top of the rotation guy, especially one who hasn’t even thrown a single pitch yet in the regular season. I think he has plenty of potential, but with a contract like that, we’re gonna need a lot more than just potential from him.
Porcello’s shiny new deal also begs the question, where was this money in the Lester negotiations last spring? Seems like a deal Lester would’ve gone for back then. I have to think there were larger Lester concerns in the Sox front office than just his asking price, because they certainly didn’t shy away from throwing out big bucks on a pitcher with a far less proven track record.
GH: I agree that it was a strange move to make in the wake of the Lester debacle that took place this past winter. But at the end of the day Porcello is almost exactly five years younger than Lester. By the time his contract is up, he’ll be entering his age 31 season, which is the same season Lester is entering this year. It’s a lot of dough to be sure, but that’s the going rate for relatively young, effective pitchers these days.
If the Sox really are that averse to offering pitchers over 30 long term deals, it makes sense to lock up Porcello now. He’s only 26 years old after all, and his ERA has gone down in each of the past five seasons. If you assume that the Red Sox are better defensively than Detroit has been over the last half of a decade, you can expect Porcello to pitch more in line with his FIP (3.70 over the last 3 seasons) than he had before he had better luck in last year’s breakout campaign. In Lester’s last three full seasons with the Red Sox (2011-2013), his average FIP was 3.84.
I’m not saying that Porcello is better than Lester, I’m only saying that the extension makes sense, especially if the front office feels that Porcello still has room to grow and improve.
PM: Well put, and hard to argue now that you broke out the advanced metrics. I think this just about wraps it up. Always a pleasure, my friend. One down, 161 to go.

What To Watch For: Fort Myers Edition

After a long snowy winter, spring is in the air. Pitchers and catchers went through their first official workouts on Saturday, and players of all positions have been participating in baseball activities as spring training gets underway. With all of the stuff that went down this offseason, all eyes are on the Red Sox in Fort Myers. There are plenty of storylines around the team this time of year. Here are some things that Sox fans should be paying attention to and/or keeping in mind as baseball season starts to get rolling:

Welcome To Boston Kung Fu Panda!

If you had the under on the “Over/Under 6.5 days before someone somewhere freaked out about Pablo Sandoval’s weight”, congratulations, you win! Sandoval showed up to camp looking less than slim, prompting a mini media firestorm (and thinkpieces about his diet) in which everyone was forced to decide whether the Panda was actually fat or if he always just happens to look like that. Sandoval responded to his critics in a not-so-jovial way, meaning that it took less than a week for our new third baseman to be at odds with the notoriously needling local media. Personally, I think it’s no big deal, but if Sandoval did indeed blow up in the offseason (honestly, it’s tough to tell if he actually gained much weight. It’s not like he was a skinny guy to begin with) and he struggles out of the gate, I can promise you that things will get ugly between him and the Boston reporters. It will be interesting to see how Sandoval looks once the actual games begin. He’s not necessarily the most athletic looking guy, but he’s known for his deceptively quick feet and soft hands at the hot corner. If Sandoval isn’t in shape, it should be apparent early. Again, it’s only spring training and he has a month and a half to get himself to where he needs to be physically.

Whatever The Heck is Going On with the Outfield

We knew that the outfield was going to be, for lack of a better term, a clusterf*** coming into the season. As of right now, the Sox have eight players competing for what is realistically only five spots between Rusney Castillo, Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, and Brock Holt. Ramirez and Castillo seem to be locks to start the season out there coming into spring training, though the former is learning a new position and the latter has only had the smallest of sample sizes to work from as far as Major League experience goes. John Farrell tried to bring more clarity to the situation by naming Victorino the starting right fielder assuming he’s healthy in a move I wasn’t happy about, though that only managed to raise more questions about the status of Mookie Betts. I understand the choice on a basic level: Victorino was an integral part of 2013’s championship team and if he’s healthy enough to replicate his performance that season he is an excellent player to have in the everyday lineup both at the plate in the field. Farrell is showing loyalty to a veteran player who helped him win a World Series. But on the other hand Victorino missed all but 30 games last season with back issues, and even though he was “healthy” in 2013 he still only missed 40 games. 2013 was one of the best seasons (and luckiest, as he batted a tough to sustain .321 average on balls in play) of Victorino’s career, and at age 34 and coming off of back surgery, I seriously doubt that he will be able to be that player again.

As someone who is firmly planted on #TeamMookie, this news is concerning if only because of the potential looming Cole Hamels trade which the Red Sox may or may not make. Betts was excellent in his limited time last season, slashing .291/.368/.444 in 211 plate appearances at age 21. As one of the few recent Red Sox prospects that have actually produced at the major league level, it pains me to think about a world where he’s shipped off to Philadelphia and proceeds to be awesome for the next 12 years. While I don’t think it would have been prudent to have given him the starting job right away either, I was hoping that there would have been a positional battle this spring where Victorino and Betts would have had to win the job based on merit rather than seniority. It’s early to tell, but hopefully there is a meaningful spot for Betts on the Opening Day roster where he can contribute to the team. That leaves (likely) two more spots for 5 other players. Holt, Betts, and Craig provide positional versatility, Nava is a switch hitter and specifically crushes right-handed pitching, and while Bradley Jr. has yet to prove he has even the smallest semblance of an offensive game, he does things like this on a regular basis. It’s going to be a tough call for Farrell, and it will be interesting to see who makes the cut out there.

Henry Owens Watch 2k15

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Henry Owens was invited to spring training for the second straight year, meaning that if you follow the team you should probably take note of how he does. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the 22-year-old, who dominated Double A Portland before a more up and down stint at Triple A Pawtucket. Owens is the best hope for the Red Sox to develop a star pitcher from within, something they have really struggled to do in recent years. Clay Buchholz is the only homegrown pitcher in the starting rotation and while he hasn’t been as reliable as, say, recently departed Jon Lester, he’s still had some moments when healthy. Owens doesn’t project to have the same upside as Buchholz did coming up through the system, but at 6-6  205 lbs he does have the frame of a workhorse. His fastball usually sits around the low 90’s and though it isn’t an elite-level pitch Owens has benefited from increasing command. Over three levels between 2013 and 2014, Owens has seen his BB/9 drop from 4.56 in 20 starts at High A Salem at the beginning of 2013 to 2.84 in last season’s small Pawtucket sample size. Back in October Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet projected Owens as a #3 starter with potential for better if his command and secondary pitches continue to improve.That may not set the world on fire, but it would be  a victory for a Red Sox farm system looking to end a developmental drought of starting pitching.

The Chase for Yoan Moncada

Having already traded for (and subsequently trading away) Yoenis Cespedes and signing Castillo late last summer, the Red Sox are looking to dip into the Cuban talent pipeline once again with their pursuit of 19-year-old second base phenom Yoan Moncada. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported late last night that the three lead candidates are the Red Sox, Yankees, and the suddenly profligate Padres, with the bidding supposedly moving north of $20 million. Moncada is highly rated by scouts due largely in part to his youth and upside. In two seasons (101 games) in the Cuban National Series, Moncada has posted a slash line of .277/.388/.380 in 367 plate appearances to go along with 21 steals despite being nearly 11 years younger than his competition. While Moncada likely wouldn’t really factor into this season’s plans and isn’t even necessarily going to be part of the team, this is absolutely a situation worth watching given that Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval are locked up for the next half decade, Xander Bogaerts is still highly regarded by the front office and manning shortstop, and Betts is already waiting in the wings in that 2B/OF spot that Moncada would likely fit into. Still, the Red Sox have never been afraid to make a splash in the international market as we learned with the Daisuke Matsuzaka and Castillo signings, so even though Moncada might not be a perfect match that the Sox have gotten this deep into the negotiating process shows that they are willing to create room for him. Regardless, this is something Sox fans should be keeping an eye on, especially if the Yankees decide to unload a pile of cash and bring Moncada to the AL East.

EDIT: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted out a half hour after I posted this that the Red Sox and Moncada have agreed to terms in the $30 million range. Huge investment for the Sox and one that throws Mookie Betts’ future with the team into greater uncertainty. I don’t have much to add to what I wrote here other than that it will be interesting to see where he fits into the team’s plans and that the signing gives even more depth to an already impressive farm system. This move could be a game changer.

Spring training is a time for wild speculation, shameless optimism, and is a sign that warmer weather is around the corner. There will likely be a lot more narratives that emerge over the next month plus and it’s important not to overreact to anything. That said, keep an eye on these situations for the rest of the spring. They could be telling for how the rest of the season (and in the case of Owens and Moncada, future seasons) will play out.