Tag:San Diego Padres
Posted on: December 30, 2009 12:42 pm

In a Less Than Desirable Situation, Mets Sign Bay

Jason Bay agreed in principle to a four year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets on Tuesday, officially ending his season-and-a-half stint with the Boston Red Sox.

 While GM Theo Epstein never explicitly stated that the Sox were out of the bidding war with Bay, the writing was on the wall. Epstein signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal, and used the money that would have gone to a long-term deal with Bay to sign right-hander John Lackey.

The Bay signing has wide-ranging implications for several clubs, but the actual move should raise some perplexing questions. Of the free agent hitters available at the beginning of this off-season, Bay was second best behind Matt Holliday. Bay wanted to stay in Boston and the Red Sox hoped to keep him. But Bay insisted on the prospect of a fifth year of any type of contract, and the Sox remained resolute against it. When the Mets came calling with a similar four-year deal to what the Sox were offering plus a vested option for a fifth, Bay accepted the deal that he had been looking for.

But once the Sox had signed Cameron and Lackey, they were effectively out of the discussions for Bay. The Sox are less than $10 million away from the luxury tax limit for the 2010 season, and re-signing Bay would have put them over that limit. The St. Louis Cardinals have focused solely on re-signing Holliday, thus removing one potential buyer for Bay. The Angels, Mariners and Yankees also went after other players and dropped out from the Bay sweepstakes as well.

In the end, it appears as though the Mets were bidding against themselves. Due to a rash of injuries last season that sidelined seemingly the better half of their lineup for extended amounts of time, the Mets were in desperate need of a power-hitting outfielder, and it showed in the negotiations with Bay.

One of the biggest snag-ups about Bay was his defense, which often went unnoticed in the strange dimensions of Fenway Park. With no designated hitter in the N.L., Bay will have to play the outfield until he is 35 or 36, a prospect that deterred the Sox, especially for $16 million a year. Bay also displayed an unfortunate inability to connect on off-speed pitches and was prone to very cold slumps.

The Mets’ new CitiField is quickly becoming known as a right-handed hitters nightmare. Just ask David Wright: his home run total dropped from 33 in 2008 (the last year in Shea Stadium) to 10 at the new CitiField. Bay has spent most of his career in the N.L., so there should not be a terrible layover while he tries to become acclimated with new ballparks and pitchers, but the Mets would be foolish to expect a home run total in the high 30s from Bay.

But at least the Mets got their man. For the Red Sox, the search is on for some spark in the middle of the lineup. They remain the number one buyers for third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is an excellent fielder with some offensive upside. But if Beltre is the answer, that means that Cameron and Florida Marlins cast-off Jeremy Hermida will patrol left field for the ’10 campaign. Combined with speedy Jacoby Ellsbury and the mediocre J.D. Drew, the Sox may field an outfield that has a legitimate shot to account for less than 30 home runs.

Other names are possibilities, such as ex-Yankee Xavier Nady, who would be a decent option in the outfield, but injuries limited him to only seven games in 2009. If the Sox were unwilling to go after Bay, they will definitely stay clear of Holliday, which means that any other move would have to come via a trade. And if the Sox were unwilling to unload the farm system to acquire Roy Halladay, then the same can likely be said for the PadresAdrian Gonzalez.
Posted on: January 3, 2009 1:54 pm

Boston is the Best Place for Bard

Until ten days ago, Josh Bard seemed destined for infamy in the eyes of Red Sox fans. His named was becoming cliche, with phrases like "That player is so bad, Josh Bard could catch better than him," or "That trade hurt us even more than Josh Bard." When Boston signed Bard in the 2006 off-season, they were looking for a more dependable back-up for Jason Varitek than Doug Mirabelli, who in parts of six seasons with the Red Sox managed only a .237 batting average and 48 home runs in over 1,000 at-bats. Bard's performance in Boston was vividly nightmarish.

He started only five games in 2006, all of which were starts by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Bard proceeded to allow ten passed balls in only 53 innings, leading Wakefield to start the season 1-4. A few days into May, Bard was traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Mirabelli with, most notably, Pawtucket Red Sox reliever Cla Meredith, who was called up by the Padres upon his arrival, and finished his rookie year 5-1 with a microscopic 1.07 ERA in over 50 innings pitched. Bard, meanwhile, backed up Mike Piazza and hit .338 in 231 at-bats for the Padres.

Needless to say, Bard left Red Sox fans with a bitter taste in their mouths.

So, imagine the surprise when GM Theo Epstein announced that, in a year in which the Sox have likely lost all three of last season's catchers to free agency, the Red Sox have resigned Josh Bard to a one-year contract.

But Red Sox fans should not dismay. Yes, we have seen a number of players come through a revolving door labeled "talented, but cannot play in Boston," but seldom do they get a second chance. Bard is one of the better hitting catchers in the major league, and he brings with him the fifth-highest career batting average among active catchers.

For Bard, Boston was a shocking dose of reality. Professional athletes have a tendency to take a lot for granted, but Bard has emphasized after his signing that playing in Boston taught him nothing is ever guaranteed. He will be a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox next season.

First, the expectations are extremely low. Because of his last stint, there is nowhere to go but up. Second, he was not around long enough to show that his offense abilities allow him some slack for his defensive shortcomings. In the same way that Varitek's abysmal offensive production was dismissed because of his defense and play-calling ability, so too will the opposite be true for Bard. And thirdly, Bard is by far the best available option. There is no point for the Red Sox to empty their farm system for a player like Jarrod Saltalamacchia when Bard is available through free agency.

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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