Red Sox-Marlins Trade Analysis
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 Baseball-Reference.com. 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 MLB.com 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.