Tag:A.J. Burnett
Posted on: December 14, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2009 7:06 pm

Big Day of Baseball Means Big News for Sox


Baseball is recovering from the biggest day of this off-season thus far. The Boston Red Sox were at the middle of a lot of the day’s news, even if they were not involved with the biggest name.
The Sox were considered the top bidders in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes and that the GM’s winter meetings came and went with Halladay still donning the baby-blue uniforms came to some insiders as a surprise. When Curtis Granderson went to the New York Yankees in a three-team trade last week, many thought that that removed one a top competitors, as the Yankees gave up two young pitchers and a top prospect to land their new centerfielder.
But the Sox did not swing a deal for Halladay as the asking price was ultimately too high. The Philadelphia Phillies made the big splash, acquiring the high priced right-hander in yet another three-team deal that is reportedly sending Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners .
The Sox were however able to land a very valuable right-hander in John Lackey. Lackey came to Boston to undergo a physical and it was reported hours alter that he had agreed to a five-year contract.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is believed it is similar to the contract given but the Yankees to A.J. Burnett , who received $82.5 million over five years (16.5 per year). Both pitchers have had similar success, but Lackey is younger and has been more consistent over his career.
Lackey has put together five straight seasons with at least 10 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA, which is tied with Halladay for the second longest active streak (Johan Santana ). Lackey also has solid post-season experience having played in October ball regularly with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Lackey owns a 3.12 ERA in 78 post-season innings pitched.
Lackey would begin the season as the Sox third starter behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester . Daisuke Matsuzaka becomes the fourth starter, with Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield vying for the fifth spot.
The impact of Lackey’s signing is big for Boston. For several seasons, we have been able to say that the Sox possess a great deal of depth in the rotation. But when July comes around, injuries and trades combined with players that do not pan out (see Penny, Brad and Smoltz, John), the Sox have realized that solid starting pitching is a scarce commodity.
Behind the trio of Beckett-Lester-Lackey, the Sox have one of the elite rotations in baseball. And if Matsuzaka can return to the 2007-08 form when he won 33 games, and Buchholz can pitch the way he ended 2009, then the Sox have the best starting five in baseball.
The strength of the rotation and the siging of Lackey also takes some of the burden off of the offense, and indeed, the ability of Theo Epstein to sign a big-time hitter, which leads us to the other big news for Red Sox nation.
It was reported that Jason Bay has declined Boston’s most recent offer, believed to be around 4 years/$60 million. The New York Mets offered Bay $65 million over four years earlier this week, but were not considered real players to acquire Bay.
Bay is looking for five years, and it seems like whichever team is willing to invest that money in him will be where he lands.
Bay will be 31 years old next season, and a five year deal will mean that he is 36 in the final year of his contract, which is older than both David Ortiz and Mike Lowell , who is practically on the Texas Rangers roster as we speak.
The Sox foresee Bay having to move to designated hitter possibly as early as the third year of his next contract, which means that the Sox will be paying upwards of $15 million for yet another aging DH. An extra year means the Sox have to commit a significant amount of money to a very limited player, while home grown players like Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all will be up for new long term deals by that time.
Bay’s agent has stated that he and his client are moving on from the Sox. Given Bay’s talents and his excellent power numbers last year, there will always be suitors. But the Yankees are likely off of that list after trading for Granderson, and the Mets will return several players from injury with an already swollen payroll.
Matt Holliday still remains available and he is likely the next target on Epstein’s list. Holliday would be a slight upgrade from Bay, but is represented by Scott Boras, so any contract will likely reflect it. Epstein has typically shied away from Boras-represented players (that he didn’t draft), but without Bay, there is a gapping hole in the Sox lineup.
The Sox also made a $15.5 million offer to Cuban right-hander Aroldis Chapman, considered to be the most prized foreign player. 

Chapman is 21-years-old and recently defected from Cuba. He is known for regularly recording triple digits on the radar gun with his blazing fastball.

Posted on: January 2, 2009 2:50 pm

Red Sox fans should be smiling on the inside

CC Sabathia?

A.J. Burnett?

Mark Teixeira?

Kevin Cash?

These were the questionable free agents over which the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox renewed their rivalry in classic, off-season style. After missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons, the Yankees' front office put their farm system retooling program on hold to pursue many high-priced free agents, and that Sabathia followed the money and signed a highly lucrative contract in New York came as no surprise to Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox showed no interest in acquiring Burnett, as the asking price for the oft-injured starter was far too high.

Sabathia and Burnett were not surprises, but it was the signing of Teixeira that really drew the ire of Red Sox fans at owner John Henry and other members of the front office. Big Tex was supposed to be the Sox's man, the one free agent that the Red Sox not only had a genuine interest in, but also a legitimate chance of signing. But as is the case for many of the Scott Boras-represented players, the Sox decided to play hardball and were beaten out by a few million dollars.

But secretly, Red Sox fans are smiling. Why? Because now almost a decade worth of seasons have now come and gone when the Yankees have tried to buy their way into the postseason by throwing exorbitant amounts of money at talented free agents. The Yankees went through an incredible run in the late 90s, but did so with a perfect mix of home grown talent and free agents, much like the way the Red Sox have won two World Series this decade. Yankees' GM Brian Cashman tried to stand up to the reign of Steinbrenners and prevent them from continuing to ship prospects to other teams for the superstar caliber players, or sacrifice future draft picks for major free agent signings.

Red Sox fans are in a win-win situation. While they missed out on Teixeira, and lost Manny Ramirez, they are still very much contenders for the A.L. pennant, and they have done so with farm raised players. If the Red Sox win, then all is well in the Nation, and who cares how many free agents the Yankees signed? If the Yankees win the division, then Red Sox fans will remain the leaders of a country-wide riot about the Yankees' ridiculous spending habits.

So smile, Red Sox Nation.

Posted on: May 1, 2008 10:57 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2008 10:46 am

Red Sox Recap 5-1-08

The Red Sox were blanked by A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jays avoided a sweep. Some thoughts on the game:

Tim Wakefield delivered a good start, limiting the Blue Jays to only three runs over seven innings. He continued a streak of now five consective starts by Red Sox pitchers that have gone for at least seven innings. However, a knuckleballer rarely throws a shut-out because there are so many minute things that can happen with the pitch that results in the opposing offense capitalizing on a hanging pitch, or one that bounces in the dirt with a runner on third. The Sox will be very happy with Wakefield’s effort, because three runs in seven innings should be plenty to give the Sox a chance to win. As it were, the offense failed to produce again, and Wakefield’s good start proved fruitless. Wakefield had better control than he did in his last start in Tampa, the last start where a starter did not go seven innigs, where his knuckleball was dancing all over the place. He did yield four walks, and oddly missed with the rare fastballs that he did throw, especially in the 3-0 counts, but he limited the damage, and got some help from his defense. Although Wakefield is a reliable starter, it is nearly impossible for him to take the intensity and confidence that the rest of the starters have built up and for him to shut out a team for eight innings. Over a season, Wakefield’s numbers will certainly hold up, especially against other teams’ number three or four starters, but it is difficult for him to extend the feeling of dominance that the other starters definitely were beginning to feel. The starters know the offense is struggling, and they have picked up their intensity.

Speaking of the offense struggling, the Sox achieved a rarity tonight: they won the series, two games to one, but got outscored 4-3. The Sox have now only managed four runs over their last five games, and have been shut-out twice. With Wakefield on the mound, the Sox lineup always looks a bit difference, and with J.D. Drew injured and Julio Lugo given the night off, the lineup was obviously not at full strength. It has been said before in this recap that the Sox will fail to sustain a consistent offensive attack when their lead-off batter remains questionable. Jacoby Ellsbury has been out for the last four games, and both of the shut-outs. Neither Coco Crisp nor Dustin Pedroia serves as good lead-off hitters, Crisp because he does not make enough contact and strike-outs too often, and Pedroia because he does not walk a great deal and has average speed at best. Ellsbury serves as the prototypical lead-off hitter, and the Sox desperately need his bat back in the lineup. He was heating up and making solid contact before he went down, and his on-base percentage has been high all season. He should likely be ready to start playing soon, and the Sox offense will likely hit his stride again when he does.

Incredibly odd though it may seem to say, the Sox welcome the first place Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow, and in addition to seeing some of the starters that helped them sweep the Sox for the first time during their last series, Rays’ ace Scott Kazmir will also make his season debut this weekend. Kazmir is far and away the best pitcher on the staff, and lead the A.L. in strikeouts last year, and always pitches the Sox hard. His return will force the Rays to decide who he is going to replace, a decision that the Sox will also have to face soon. Today is May 1, and technically the out clause in Bartolo Colon’s contract allows him to become a free agent if they do not promote him to the major league club. Perhaps his pending return to the majors has spurred the members of the Sox rotation, at least the two younger pitchers, to up their intensity level. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein have implied that they feel that it is unlikely that Colon will enforce that out clause, and will stay in the Sox organization. Colon will likely throw a simulated side session this weekend of about 45-60 pitches, and if he performs well, he will go back to triple-A Pawtucket and begin making starts again. If he continues to be healthy, it should take him about three starts to get back up to regular form and strength. The Sox will have to decide what to do with him by the end of May, and if he pitches more games like he did in his first start in Pawtucket, he may in fact enforce that rule if he is not brought up to the majors club.

These are some thoughts that came in response to this recap:

As far as Mike Lowell's expectations are concerned, they were never quite high to begin with. He is getting up there in age, and any hope that he was going to near the .324-21-120 that he churned out last year. As we are seeing with Manny Ramirez, players somehow seem to play better when there is a contract on the line. Lowell produced, and got his contract. Realistically, the Sox were looking for Lowell this year to simply provide some protection for Ramirez in the number five hole in the lineup. However, going on the disabled list has severely dampened that hope. Lowell is certainly not washed up, but will likely produce numbers more similar to what he was able to do during his first year with the Sox. In 2006, he batted .284 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs, and if he produces those numbers, or at least close to, then the Sox will be happy. But run production from someone who is not a power hitter is difficult when the guys in front of you are not producing. Lowell's numbers swelled last year because David Ortiz finished the year batting .332. It is the reason why even though Ramirez has a much higher batting average this year, Ortiz has more RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are getting on bas for Ortiz, but because Ortiz's batting average is struggling, Ramirez does not come up with many runners on base. But Lowell will earn his keep by the end of the year.

Someone who will not earn his keep is J.D. Drew, and it has little to do with him. Red Sox fans will never be impressed or satisfied with Drew because they feel that he does not produce enough to warrant the amount of money the Sox are paying for him. Drew's $14 million salary is second on the team only to Ramirez's, but Drew is simply no where near as good as Ramirez. We all know that Drew has been plagued by injuries, and his tenure here has been no different, but if you pan out Drew's career statistics over a 162 game season (his career high for games played in one season is 146), his numbers still only average out to 25 home runs and 85 RBIs, and that would be if he played nearly twenty games more in one season than his career high. The fact is that Drew did not force the Sox to sign him and give him $14 million. Theo Epstein wanted to have Drew play right field, and he paid him a lot of money for it. Drew will be a victim of his own good fortune: he is being paid $14 million, but there is no way that he can produce like it. If the fans want to boo, direct it at Epstein, and not Drew.

All in all, though, the Sox offense will not be the bane of this team. The only team in the majors that has playoff-caliber pitching but no offense is the San Diego Padres, and the Sox certainly have a better lineup than the Friars. They will likely lead the league in all of the important categories by the end of the year: on-base percentage, runs scored, average pitches per at-bat, etc. They are struggling heavily, but all teams are allowed a rough stretch.

The Sox welcome the Rays back to Fenway tomorrow, and will see if Clay Buchholz can continue his recent hot streak. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

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