Baseball BeatOctober 30, 2007
Boston's Future Is as Bright as Its Recent Past - Part One
By Rich Lederer

With two World Series titles in the past four years and one of the best farm systems in the game, the Boston Red Sox are now the model big-market franchise. Sure, the Sox have built-in competitive advantages and possess the second-highest payroll in baseball, but the organization, for the most part, has used its resources wisely. The same cannot be said of several other franchises, be it small or large markets.

The success starts at the top. The ownership group, headed by John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner, and CEO/President Larry Lucchino, deserves credit for buying the team, investing in it, and assembling an outstanding management team. Outside of George Steinbrenner and Carl Pohlad, I believe Henry, Werner, Lucchino, et al are the only owners who have overseen a pair of World Series championships.

Executive VP/General Manager Theo Epstein, who was hired in November 2002, is one of only three GMs who have won multiple World Series titles (the others being Pat Gillick and Brian Cashman). Not bad for anyone, much less someone who hasn't turned 34 yet.

Manager Terry Francona, who was hired in December 2003, has skippered two championships in four seasons. He is signed through 2008 and will earn $1.75M next year. Francona also earns bonuses for making playoffs and winning the LDS, LCS, and World Series. Look for Tito to get a multi-year extension and a raise that will send his average annual salary toward $2.5M.

Assistant GM Jed Hoyer and VP/Player Personnel Ben Cherington, both of whom served as co-GM during Epstein's absence from October 2005 through January 2006, coupled with Director of Player Development Mike Hazen and Scouting Director Jason McLeod, add to the strength of Boston's front office. Let's also not forget the contributions of Senior Baseball Operations Adviser Bill James, who was hired by Henry five years ago. The depth of talent in the front office is virtually unmatched in MLB.

The management team has a number of important decisions to make this fall. First and foremost is whether it wants to make a run at Alex Rodriguez, who opted out of his 10-year, $252 million contract on Sunday night. Boston, the two Los Angeles franchises, San Francisco, and perhaps Detroit, Seattle, and one or both of the Chicago clubs would appear to have the most resources and interest in signing the soon-to-be three-time AL MVP.

If the Yankees are true to their word and don't pursue A-Rod, then one has to think that Mike Lowell will receive their money and affection. The latter apparently is looking for a 4/$56M deal. Put me in charge and I would not offer anything remotely close to that asking price. The fans can chant "MVP" all they want, but he is not worth that kind of money. He will turn 34 before the season starts and is a risky proposition beyond two years.

Teams should be aware that Lowell was a product of Fenway Park in 2007 (.373/.418/.575 at home, .276/.339/.428 away). They should also all but ignore his 120 RBI. Those runs served Boston well in 2007 but are not necessarily repeatable in 2008 and beyond, especially for a club that doesn't have as strong of a lineup as the Sox.

Lowell may be a good guy, unselfish, and clutch – you know, the types of things we hear about *after* a player performs well or a team wins it all. But wasn't he all those things when Florida dumped his $9 million annual salary on Boston in the Josh Beckett-Hanley Ramirez trade? Wasn't Lowell all that when the Red Sox couldn't find any takers last winter? I know he had an outstanding season but that's now in the past. Success doesn't come by looking in the rear-view mirror; it comes to those who focus on the future rather than the past.

If the Red Sox don't want to wait out what will likely be an auction for A-Rod's services, then it can negotiate with Lowell now. However, I don't see it as an "either or" decision. Kevin Youkilis, while not the equal of Lowell defensively or as athletic as Rodriguez, could man the hot corner adequately for a year or two. David Ortiz could get more time at first base, if necessary, while waiting for Lars Anderson, who just turned 20, to develop into a major leaguer. Jed Lowrie could be a viable option as well. A second baseman at Stanford and a shortstop throughout his professional career, the 23-year-old has the hands and arm strength to make the move to third base. He would be a downgrade offensively but far from a liability.

As a result of the above, I would go after Rodriguez in a big way. Nobody knows what it will take at this point. Instead, we only know that the highest bidder will win out. Clubs are going to want to offer no more than six years and Scott Boras is going to hold out for ten. The compromise may be eight but if it's six or ten, it will – rest assured – be ten. If it works, great. If it doesn't, that's OK, too. The Red Sox are loaded and can deploy the money elsewhere if things don't work out with A-Rod.

Aside from Rodriguez and Lowell, Boston needs to make a decision with respect to Curt Schilling. Now 41, the veteran righthander, whose $13M 2007 option vested when the club won the World Championship in 2004, is free to negotiate with any team. Both sides have enough interest in each other that a deal could be reached to bring back Schilling for one more season with perhaps a mutual option for 2009. Andy Pettitte would be a high-end comp at $16M while Greg Maddux would be a low-end comp at $10M. The latter's options could serve as a model for negotiations between the Red Sox and Schilling. Maddux has a $6M player option that increased to $8.75M due to the fact that he exceeded 185 IP last season and San Diego has a $11M club option.

The Red Sox can exercise its option on Tim Wakefield each year at $4M. At worst, bringing back Wakefield gives the Red Sox insurance in case Schilling breaks down and Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz don't pan out as expected. As a sixth starter, Wake would likely get 8-12 starts and could work out of the bullpen as a long reliever when the rotation is healthy.

Be sure to return tomorrow for Part Two when we discuss Boston's lineup, bench, starting rotation, and bullpen in more depth.


I come to this site for good, objective, analytical articles. If I wanted to read this kind of fanboy stuff, there are tons of other sites that offer that kind of fluff. RL might be a Boston fan, but c'mon. This is one of the legit baseball sites that are worth paying attention to, and there's no need to water it down with this kind of junk.

Rich is from Southern California and the son of a baseball journalist. The "fanboy" characterization in itself is laughable. "Boston fanboy" renders the comment altogether idiotic.

They did just win the World Series...

I don't know what makes you think this article is "fanboy stuff." For the record, I'm neither "for" nor "against" the Boston Red Sox. Giving credit when and where credit is due is fair.

Other than opining that "the organization, for the most part, has used its resources wisely" and stating that the "depth of talent in the front office is virtually unmatched in MLB," I discussed the decisions that management faces during the off-season. I will have more numbers and analysis tomorrow.

I think the Red Sox will seriously consider a six man rotation for 2008. I know that Bill James is fascinated by the "Sunday pitcher" phenomenon which has not been tried in 50 years or so. Dice-K also pitched on a six day schedule in Japan I hear.

Imagine if they sign Schilling and Glavine, and maybe Wakefield is back but not at full stregth for awhile. The extra day of rest would help all those guys. While Beckett is 100%, then keep him on the 5 day schedule and just push the other guys back a day if need be. You heard it here first.

If the Sox go for A-Rod then Manny rather than Lowell might be the expendable one.
1. If Lowell really likes Boston, sign him for 2 years at market.
2. Look Boras in the eyes knowing you can live without A-Rod, and tell A-Rod if he wants to win this is the place. If you get him for the length you are comfortable with, he plays SS and Lugo is out. As long as Lowell performs, he stays. Let him walk at end of contract and A-Rod goes back to 3B.
3. If you now have A-Rod's bat, Youkilis can play LF and Lowell 1B if A-Rod is not good enough at SS. Another AL team might trade some youth (maybe an SS if Lowrie isn't it and Lugo is already dealt) for Manny as DH.

It's funny that Rich did not mention the the wonderful signing of Matt Clement, Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo and of course JD Drew. Red Sox's front office is no better than Yankee, the Red Sox can afford to miss the free agent busts. They got hot at the right time just like 2004.

Yes, with only one year remaining on Manny's contract, he is more marketable than ever.

Lowell is unlikely to agree to a two-year deal. He's probably looking at a three- or four-year agreement at somewhere between $10-12 million per season. The fewer the years, the more the average annual salary. Call it 3 x 12 or 4/45.

Looking Boras in the eye won't do any good - not in a competitive bidding situation. That might work with an amateur player or a Dice-K at the deadline when the team is the only offer in town. Showing Boras the money is what it will take to win A-Rod.

I'm not convinced that Rodriguez can still play shortstop. He's five years older, heavier, and slower than when he last played that position. It would be almost unprecedented for a 32-year-old to revert to SS for anything more than an emergency or interim solution. If anything, he is more likely to play first base at some point than shortstop.

Matt Clement - looked like a cy young contender for 3 months, wore down a little and then took a batted ball off his head in 05. in 06, was ineffective, bit then then it was discovered that he was pitching all year with a shoulder that was torn to shreds. still got way better value out of him than the yankees did with carl pavano.

Coco Crisp - hasn't been the leadoff hitter they imagined, but has played spectacular defense and it's not like they're paying him a ton of money. the guys they gave up to get him haven't exactly set the world on fire so far either.

JD Drew - is an excellent player that had a down year. a down year that happened to coincide with his first season in the AL and his son being extremely ill all year and needing major surgery. I'm very willing to give him a pass on this season.

Julio Lugo - ok, you win on that one.

It will be interesting to see whether A-Rod's opt out will break the $252M curse. Or will A-Rod continue to excel on teams that fall short?

It would bring satisfaction to many M's fans to see him go into the Hall rich, ringless, and bitter.

This is an interesting article, but the A-Rod bit is way off base, in my opinion. He may not get 10/$300 million, the way Boras seems ot want, but it's going to take seven years at least, probably more like eight, to get him. No matter how good a player is, it's never a good idea to sign him at top dollar until his 40th birthday -- unless his 40th birthday is very soon, and he's already shown an exceptional aging curve.

What the Red Sox would likely be getting would be four years of the best-hitting third baseman in baseball, and then three or four years of a first baseman or RF whose offensive skills are deteriorating. That's not to mention injury risk, or the fact that he clogs up the system if a good 1B or 3B prospect comes along.

Also take into account that, while payrolls as a whole have gone up since then, the top end of the free-agent market has seen no inflation at all since Rodriguez and Ramirez were signed. None. I've heard that there was a clause in A-Rod's contract guaranteeing that he be the highest-paid player in baseball . . . but that's not really relevant, because nobody has come close. If you set the market with a contract for Rodriguez this season -- which you will almost certainly have to -- you're likely to still be paying him more than anybody else in baseball seven years from now, when he's liable to be a good-not-great 1B. It's virtually certain that he won't be the best player in baseball anymore at the end of the contract, but it's entirely possible that he'll still be paid that way. That is a bad idea, right there.

Furthermore, the Red Sox get no marginal economic benefit from Rodriguez. They fill their stadium every game. Their nationwide following is huge. Their regional following is loyal, and they make zillions off NESN. There are teams -- most specifically the Angels -- that could use such a signing to brand themselves, can use his 800th home run as their signature moment, and so forth. Some of these teams have not only the money, but more pressing needs, short- and long-term, than the Red Sox.

The Red Sox should not mortgage the future when they'll be perfectly fine going forward without him. I'm not certain Lowell is a good idea, either, but even without either man, the Sox have plenty of flexibility. Youkilis can play third base, and 1B (or DH/LF) are easier to find than 3B. It doesn't make any sense for the Red Sox to make a strong play for Rodriguez, not to me, anyway, and I think there's almost no chance that they'll do it. Add in to all the above factors that the media environment in Boston can be just has turgid and cannibalistic as that in New York, and I can't see it happening, not at all, not even a little bit.

I don't see the Sox seriously bidding for A-Rod, If Lowell leaves, they'll move Youklis to third, go for free agent first basemen or one of their minor league prospects. They aren't going to take a huge wash on Lugo, given he isn't that tradeable at this moment. They will offer Lowell a three year with a fourth year option. As much as A-Rod has only a few teams to be shop around, Lowell can only find a few teams that can afford his price.

I think by far the biggest detriment to A-Rod for the Red Sox is that he is becoming a clubhouse cancer, The Yankees and Red Sox teams may have a savage rivalry, but the players know each other and are friends. A-Rod seemed to get ridicule to mild derision in the Yankee Clubhouse. Witness the teasing of A-Rod when he hit his 500th home run. Also if he is leaving the Yankees because its Jeter's team, well the Red Sox are Varitek's team, along with big clubhouse presence of Papi and Manny...

The Red Sox Management is pretty phobic of long term contracts, and if any contract that have given them fits, is Manny's contract..

The only team besides the Yankees that I feel has a chance is the Mets, they can offer the money, A-Rod doesn't have to move, he probably has a shorter porch to hit home runs etc. etc. I still think the Yankees are still in the picture, because they are the only ones that can match these extortion like demands.

I don't see the Dodgers making a run for A-Rod, mainly they felt quite burned by Boras with the JD Drew optioning out of his contract and the Dodgers were going to file a tampering complaint with MLB. The Dodgers also don't have the money to offer to A-Rod, compare to Cable TV owning Red Sox and Yankees.. Angels are in the same boat, I see them going for a DH, they also would spend the money on pitching and farm system.

The whole ironic thing is that the Yankees are the only team that would offer A-Rod a long term contract and pretty close to the money he and Boras are demanding. The only reason why the Red Sox or the Yankees enter the A-Rod sweepstakes is to jack up the price for the other side. If A-Rod is not going to the Yankees, then the Red Sox are probably not interested, and pray he goes to the Marlins or a NL team, so they don't have to worry about him too much during the regular season.

If the Dodgers really don't have the same money as the Red Sox, then they are poorly run.

The only team besides the Yankees that I feel has a chance is the Mets

Really? I think the Mets are the only big-market team less likely than the Red Sox to try to sign A-Rod. They already have a SS and a 3B, and the media environment is exactly the same as with the Yankees -- if he's really that bothered by it (and it seems he is), he's not going to be interested in going back, unless it's to prove he can with the Yanks. I think there's virtually no chance he goes across town.

It seems to me that the Angels should be the obvious favorites. They have the money, the need, and signing him probably makes them the best team in the AL. Plus, all of the fiscal externalities I mentioned in the previous posts. The Dodgers and Cubs both have the money, too, and he's a fit if they think he can play SS, or if the Dodgers are looking to move LaRoche.

Didn't the Jays win back to back world series in 93/93 under the same ownership?

The Detroit Tigers made the first splash of the off-season today as they acquired shortstop Edgar Renteria from the Atlanta Braves for a couple of prospects. The slick-fielding .291 lifetime hitter was traded for right-hander Jair Jurrjens and centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez.

Renteria, a better fielder than Carlos Guillen, will take over short and allow the sore-legged Guillen to move to first base. The move not only improves the overall defense of the infield, but it solves the first base hole that has existed for the past few seasons.

In Jair Jurrjens the Braves get a, as Kevin Goldstein said, a pitcher that "...throws a low 90s fastball, decent slider, and deceptive changeup." Although others were speculating that the Braves would scoop up Nate Robertson in the trade, Jurrjens is younger and will be cheaper for more years than Robertson. The move will give the Braves more fiscal flexibility over the next few seasons and ensure that they will have at least one Curacao native on the team still with Andruw Jones likely to leave via free agency.

Hernandez is a centerfielder with great upside. Although he may never reach the power potential that scouts think he'll develop, Gorkys is blazingly fast. In a couple years he could provide the Braves with good defense in the outfield and a decent leadoff bat with speed that hasn't been seen in that spot since Rafael Furcal. His acquisition could make the outfield picture somewhat cloudy in a couple years as Jeff Francoeur is already in right, Brandon Jones is poised to take over left, Brent Lillibridge may move to centerfield, and prospect Jordan Schafer.

Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski pulled off this trade with the new Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren. Overall, this trade looks pretty good for both sides as the Tigers improve their infield defense and add a good hitting shortstop, while the Braves solve their shortstop problem, add a cheap starter and improve their farm system that was hit hard in the Mark Teixeira trade.

This is a pretty significant trade as it takes a major shortstop off the weak trade and free agent market. Yet the Tigers and the Braves were able to keep from announcing it until after the World Series...."cough, cough".