Baseball BeatNovember 22, 2005
Red Sox-Marlins Trade Analysis
By Rich Lederer

News: Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell have reportedly been traded by the Florida Marlins to the Boston Red Sox for Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and a player to be named later. The deal should become official once physicals are satisfactorily completed for all five players involved in the transaction.

Although the Marlins and Red Sox have not confirmed or denied the trade, the Texas Rangers held a conference call with reporters on Monday night to report that Florida was moving in a different direction. In other words, the rumored trade talks between the Marlins and Rangers are dead. Beckett will be heading north to New England rather than westbound to his home state of Texas.

The first-round draft pick (second overall) in 1999 out of Spring High School (Spring, TX) has been one of the most highly touted pitchers in baseball for years. The 6-foot-5 RHP blew through the minors in 2000 and 2001, pitching a total of 26 games and 133 2/3 innings of A and AA ball before making his MLB debut on 9/4/01. He was an instant success, hurling 24 innings while striking out a batter per frame and allowing just 14 hits. His 1.50 ERA, however, was a bit misleading as he gave up five unearned runs in those four games. That said, the youngster's 3.38 RA was impressive and a sign of things to come.

Beckett became famous at the age of 23 when he shut out the New York Yankees in the sixth and final game of the 2003 World Series on only three days' rest. He pitched a total of 42 2/3 IP in the postseason, giving up 21 hits, 12 walks, and 10 runs while whiffing 47 batters. His 0.77 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, and 2.11 ERA made him an untouchable and elevated him to first- or second-round status in many fantasy leagues the following spring.

Unfortunately, Beckett did not live up to the hype in 2004 and, despite setting career highs in GS, CG, IP, K, and W, was more of a disappointment than not in 2005. Josh served two stints on the disabled list last year, marking the eighth and ninth times he has been placed on the DL during the past four seasons.

What Beckett offers is a ceiling that ranks among the highest when it comes to starting pitchers. His numbers don't put him in the league of Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, or Johan Santana, but his stuff rates alongside these pitchers, as well as A.J. Burnett, Roy Halladay, Rich Harden, Felix Hernandez, Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano, as one of the dozen or so best. Beckett had the third-highest average fastball (93.5 mph) among all MLB pitchers with at least 162 IP last year and hit triple-digits on the radar gun on three occasions, based on information provided in The Bill James Handbook. His 12-to-6 curveball is, at a minimum, a plus pitch and arguably one of the better breaking balls around when he is on top of his game.

But for all of Beckett's strengths and potential, his record is somewhat flawed. He has never come close to throwing 200 innings in a single season and his home/road splits leave performance analysts scratching their heads a bit, wondering how much of his success is attributable to pitching home games at pitcher-friendly Pro Player Stadium.

Beckett's Career Record:

         G   GS    W  L    IP      H    R   ER   HR   BB   SO   ERA  WHIP   BAA   
Home    57   56   26 14   326.2  264  128  114   26  130  342  3.14  1.21  .222   
Away    49   47   15 20   282.1  265  138  120   29   93  265  3.83  1.27  .248
Total  106  103   41 34   609.0  529  266  234   55  223  607  3.46  1.23  .234

Beckett's career ERA of 3.46 compares to a park- and league-adjusted norm of 4.04, according to His ERA+ is 117, which puts him in the same group as Bartolo Colon, Matt Morris, Mark Mulder, and Kerry Wood. Of these pitchers, Beckett is more like Wood than the others -- two of the most promising, yet underachieving pitchers in the big leagues.

Beckett and Wood are both from Texas and are pretty good comps. However, Josh is three years younger than Kerry and won't be coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery when he reports to camp next spring. He will also make a lot less money than Wood in 2006 and 2007. Beckett agreed to a $2.4 million salary last January and is arbitration-eligible this year and next. My best guess is that he will make five or six million next season. If all goes well, I suspect the Red Sox will try to lock him up to a longer-term deal by buying out his last arb year at a premium with the hopes of getting a small discount in the out years of the contract.

As to whether it is prudent for Boston to take on Lowell's bloated contract, I think the answer is clearly "yes." Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that the soon-to-be 32-year-old third baseman (.236/.298/.360) is worth $9 million over each of the next two years. He's not. But I don't think he is a lost cause either. The Gold Glove third baseman had the second-lowest BABIP (.253) among qualifiers in the majors last season and his strikeout rate (.116) was the lowest of his career. The multi-million question is whether he has completely lost his power. Lowell's Isolated Power (.124) was a personal low and his HR/FB ratio (.04) was near the bottom among all hitters.

When acquiring a talent like Beckett, you sometimes have to take the bad with the good, so to speak. Here's how you have to think about this one: pretend Beckett is making $9M and Lowell is making $5-$6M. It basically all works out the same because the former is making less than market and the latter is making more.

I asked Jim Callis of Baseball America last night for his perspective on the trade. Jim follows the Red Sox closely and is an expert when it comes to evaluating young players. "Ramirez and Sanchez are two of Boston's four best prospects, along with Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester. There probably wasn't another team out there willing to give up a shortstop prospect and a starting pitching prospect combo as good as Ramirez and Sanchez."

Well, how about the Dodgers -- could they offer Joel Guzman and Chuck Tiffany or Greg Miller? "Guzman isn't a shortstop, Tiffany might be a reliever, and Miller is hurt," Callis responded.

Despite parting with two of its best prospects, Jim thinks the trade is a good one for Boston. He has heard that Jesus Delgado might be the third minor leaguer in the deal. "Delgado is an interesting guy. He had Tommy John surgery and missed 2002-03. Works at 95 and hit 97-98 last year out of the 'pen in low-A. Good curve at times, not much of a changeup yet. Promising arm but far away. Not a bad third player if he's the guy."

Callis also told me that Sanchez never had TJ in contrast to the article reporting the trade, saying "he had a nerve moved in his elbow." What Sanchez has though is one impressive record last year in high-A and AA.

Anibal Sanchez's 2005 Season:

Team       Lg     IP     H    R   ER   HR   BB   SO    ERA    BAA   OBP   SLG    G/F
Wilmington  A+   78.2   53   25   21    7   24   95   2.40   .187  .253  .278   0.89
Portland   AA    57.1   53   28   22    5   16   63   3.45   .244  .308  .355   1.14
Totals          136.0  106   53   43   12   40  158   2.85   .212  .277  .311   0.99

Callis, who says Ramirez has "great tools" and can "definitely play SS," points out that he "keeps hitting .275 with 8 HR."

Hanley Ramirez's 2005:

Team       Lg   G   AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO   SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG  
Portland   AA 122  465  66  126  21   7   6   52   39   62   26  13  .271  .335  .385

I believe more teams should be making these types of trades. Every club can't make a legitimate run at the World Series. Some need to retool for the future. If nothing else, transactions like this allow for lots of discussion and analysis. As for me, I think the Red Sox-Marlins trade can be summarized as follows: a Beckett and Lowell in hand beats three players in the bushes.


I think this is a good trade for both teams. The Marlins clearly don't believe they can win with the team they put out there last year. Beckett was about to get expensive and with the impending loss of AJ Burnett it seems like a good time for a small rebuilding year. I don't think we're going to see a '97 style fire sale. The Marlins have a handful of young players ready to contribute and just received two more. I expect they will be a very exciting team to watch in 2007.

The Red Sox who actually have a pretty deep farm system right now trade a shortstop who is talented but blocked by Renteria and Sanchez was considered third in the Papelbon/Lester/Sanchez big three. Lowell adds power at third and Youkilis moves to first. The Red Sox rotation of Schilling/Clement/Beckett/Papelbon/and eventually Lester should be strong for several years.

I really like it.

I think it is a good trade for both teams, too. Hard to argue from Boston's perspective and Florida apparently has little choice in the matter.

Ramirez has the tools but his offensive production thus far hasn't lived up to his status as one of the top prospects in baseball. As a result, his trade value may be at or near a high point right now even though he has only batted two times in the big leagues.

I'm not sold on Youkilis as the Red Sox first baseman of the present or future. A .275/.375/.425 type hitter doesn't fit the bill as a 1B at Fenway. He provides insurance for Lowell and makes for a useful backup at both corners, an occasional DH, and a PH for a championship-caliber team, especially at a salary of around $500K.

The Marlins could be a team to reckon with in a couple of years. They've run this play before and have a good nucleus of young talent to be competitive once again, provided that it has the revenues to plow back into its payroll.

I suppose this means Mueller is truly a free agent and has lost leverage with other clubs with Boston not interested. Might be interesting to see whether Damon changes his tune of "sign all of us if you want me". He said that with Oakland when Giambi and Izzy were approaching FA, and when the A's focused on Giambi and ignored him, he later said he didn't mean it and might have stayed if he got a good offer that meant the others left.
Wouldn't be surprised if Lowell picks up HR's at home even if less than average overall with the bat in 06.

Mueller would make a nice stop gap for a team like the Dodgers because they need a bridge to get to a player like Andy LaRoche in 2007. However, he'll probably find someone willing to give him two years.

Not to nitpick, but the Dodgers could have easily gotten Beckett w/what they've got in their farm system. How about Guzman, Billingsley and, if a third is needed after that, Kemp, Miller or Kuo.? That's a better package than what Boston offered for players of relatively similar experience and status w/in their respective organizations.

I'm not sure what Callis was getting at but a) Guzman is twice the player Ramirez is even if you reduce his value by moving him to 3B, 1B, LF or RF and b) the Dodgers system is flat out better than Boston's - the top players are better, the core is deeper.

most important is that the Red Sox immediately "forget" what they are paying Lowell, and use him as his performance dictates.

Well, Nolan, the Dodgers certainly had the MEANS to do something really stupid, like throw away Guzman and Billingsley for a perpetually-injured underachiever who can't pitch 180 innings a season and is a free agent in two years. But having the means to do something extremely dumb is not justification for doing something dumb. If Billingsley and Guzman are not traded away, the amount of value they will give the Dodgers over the course of twelve combined pre-free agency years far, far outweighs any value Beckett could possibly give them in two years. We can't be sure Guzman and Billingsley will live up to their hype, you say? Hell, Beckett has YET to live up to his hype (which is why the Marlins are trading him while he is still quite affordable for them), and Beckett has proven to be far more physically fragile than either Guzman or Billingsly. Three and a half years in the majors for Beckett, and he has gone on the DL on nine separate occasions. Amazing. The Marlins made a great trade dumping $18 million-worth of a washed up player and getting twelve pre-free agency years of the best shortstop prospect in baseball and a pitcher who profiles as a #2 starter in the majors for a sore-armed pitcher who would not have been with them past 2007.

I don't think the Red Sox would have traded Hanley Ramirez if they truly believed he was the "best shortstop prospect in baseball." He is a talented player and should be an upper-tier SS (meaning, in the top half) in the big leagues in due time. However, I would rank both Brandon Wood and Stephen Drew ahead of him. Ramirez may have an edge defensively, but Wood and Drew project to be much, much better offensively.

Rich, I offered MY opinion about Ramirez's relative ranking as a shortstop prospect, which has nothing to do with the prevailing opinion in the Red Sox organization, where I presume a few statheads still work post-Epstein. My position reflects the fact that I am not convinced that Brandon Wood or Stephen Drew will play at shortstop in the majors, or play it for long anyway, much the same way that Jim Callis told you "Joel Guzman is not a shortstop," notwithstanding that that is where he has always played in the minors.

Obviously Boston would not have made the deal they did if they thought they were parting with too much for what they were getting back. But in my comment above I clearly looked at the trade from Florida's vantage point, and I don't know how much you know about the Marlins' organizational philosophy, but I imagine you would be aware that they are easily the most hard-core "tools-first" organization in all of baseball. I am sure they don't care about Ramirez's stats. I am sure the Marlins don't care about how much he does, or does not, walk. Scouts love Ramirez, and think what he will do in future, offensively, is not reflected in his stats now. We will see in the coming years if the scouts, and the Marlins, are correct in their beliefs about Ramirez.

Richard - My point was not that the Dodgers *should* have offered Guzman and Billingsley but rather that, had they done so, it would have been a more attractive package than Ramirez/Sanchez. I was responding to the intimation by Jim Callis that the Red Sox were offering some sort of once in a lifetime deal that the Dodgers would not have been able to match. This just isn't the case. Guzman is better than Ramirez - Billingsley is better than Sanchez.

Additionally, the best SS prospect in baseball is certainly not Hanley Ramirez. Guzman, Drew and Wood (as Rich Lederer pointed out) are all superior. I even would go further by disagreeing with Rich Lederer that Ramirez is a top-tier prospect. He played poorly last year and is running on hype.

What about the trade that the Rangers were supposedly offering? Hank Blalock and a minor leaguer, I think it was? I would've taken that in a heartbeat over a bunch of minor leaguers, none of which have proven track records in the majors (and IMO, Hanley Ramirez doesn't seem that much like a super-prospect, nor does he seem ready for the majors)

I don't think Blalock would have been a good fit at all for Florida. His offensive statistics are inflated due to playing half of his games in Texas. Not only is Ameriquest a hitter's ballpark but Pro Player Stadium is a pitcher's ballpark. Blalock's numbers would look materially different if he played for the Marlins rather than the Rangers.

Check out his home/away splits last year:

        AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
Home   .297 .361 .534 .895
Road   .231 .276 .335 .611

Moreover, this is not a one-time aberration either. To wit, here are his career splits:

        AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
Home   .310 .379 .548 .927 
Road   .238 .296 .396 .692

By peeling back the onion skin, you can see that Blalock is one of the most overrated players in baseball. Ramirez is a much better option than Blalock AND cheaper to boot.

Hrmm... but it seems foolish to me, to be trading a guy like Beckett for three minor leaguers who have no experience at all. At least for Delgado, they're getting a guy like Mike Jacobs who's gotten a few at-bats at the major league level and has shown what he can do. Hanley Ramirez, even given his minor league numbers, seems barely above average offensively.

But it wasnt Beckett for three minor was Beckett and LOWELL. Lowell has a negative value of $10+ million it was three minor leaguers and 10 million dollars for Beckett.