Tag: Boston Red Sox

Early Favorite for Worst Rumored Deal of the Offseason

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com
Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

On Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that if the Boston Red Sox are unable to re-sign Mike Napoli, they could look to make a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, saying:

Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, has tremendous righthanded power (34 homers, 100 RBIs this season), and is considered an above-average first baseman. Yes, he strikes out a ton (184 times in 2013). The Angels could use a third baseman (Will Middlebrooks?) and a pitcher (Felix Doubront?). The Pirates and Rays could also be fits.

God bless columnists, who have to fill up a page in a dynamic market in a dying industry, but this is reaching. In fact, the major issue is that so many teams are rumored to have interest in Trumbo in the first place.

Trumbo has some serious power, mashing 95 home runs and driving in 282 runs over the last three seasons, but those numbers have come with a .251/.300/.473 triple-slash and a 457:115 K:BB in 1,837 plate appearances. Trumbo certainly has some power, but it is a power that will get very expensive within the arbitration process (see Ryan Howard‘s rapid salary increases) while producing very little elsewhere.

Add on the fact that Trumbo is a weak defender at first, third, and the outfield, and you’re paying premium dollar for a player who should truly be hidden at the designated hitter spot, which won’t really work with some guy named David Ortiz in Boston, while it certainly won’t help the Pirates in the National League.

doubrontMore damning is why the Red Sox would give up Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront for Trumbo, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014 and is already 27, coming off of his worst season (based on OPS and WAR) of his career. Middlebrooks isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2016 and Doubront is 26, left-handed, breathing, and under team-control through 2018, while showing improved numbers in ERA and WHIP in 2013.

Certainly, dealing for a powerful bat is intelligent rather than going to the free agent market and giving nine-figures to a player like Shin-Soo Choo, but Trumbo isn’t really a “guy” when it comes to improving a roster. Considering that in 660 plate appearances, Will Middlebrooks has a .254/.294/.462 triple-slash with 32 home runs and 103 RBI, don’t the Red Sox already have Mark Trumbo?

Boston should try to get Napoli to re-sign, they should even try to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia to re-sign, but they need to be smarter than this type of trade to make sure that they don’t fall back to the 2012 Boston Red Sox instead of the 2013 champion-version.

Trumbo2Mark Trumbo is highly overrated due to his power production, but teams like the Red Sox could find players who are just as productive when looking over the last three season’s OPS leaders, where you’ll find Jason Kipnis, Seth Smith, Lucas Duda, and Jason Heyward, with  the same .773 OPS since 2011 that Trumbo sports, while players such as David Freese (.785), Adam Lind (.776), and Brandon Belt (.798), could be more affordable options in a trade or non-tender situation in 2014, while outproducing Trumbo in the OPS statistic over the last several seasons.

Advertisements

MLB TV Contract Eliminates Excuses for the “Small Markets”

Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) had a post at Fangraphs discussing the National TV contracts for Major League Baseball and the value that they will provide for each team. Within the article, Thurm had several valuable bits of information:

ESPN will pay MLB $700 million per year for the right to broadcast games exclusively on Sunday nights, other games (non-exclusively) on Monday and Wednesday nights, extended highlights for Baseball Tonight, the Home Run Derby and other All-Star activities (but not the game) and one Wild Card Game. The deal also includes national and international radio and digital rights.

MLB announced a new national TV contract with Fox and TBS, which also covered the 2014 through 2021 seasons. Under that deal, MLB will receive $800 million per year in combined revenue from the two networks, in exchange for broadcasts rights for the Saturday game of the week on Fox, the Sunday game on TBS and all of the postseason games — save for the one that will be broadcast on ESPN. Fox also retains the rights to the All-Star Game.

That’s $1.5 billion in national TV revenue per season that will go into MLB’s Central Fund, or $750 million more than under the contracts that just expired. MLB can spend money from the Central Fund in a variety of ways, but it’s been assumed in the reporting that the league will distribute the TV money to the teams. If so, each team will receive $25 million more in national TV revenue in 2014 through 2021 than they did in 2013.

Teams aren’t obligated, of course, to use all or even part of that additional $25 million on player salaries. That money can also be helpful to expanding a team’s national and international scouting operation, or its data analysis department, or marketing, or all three.”

AL TV Deals
Local AL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

Beyond the television money being received directly from Major League Baseball, each team has their very own local television contract, as well. The dollars being tossed towards clubs has reached absurd levels, as the Los Angeles Dodgers will bring in $340 million per season through 2032 in local television money alone, meaning roughly $390 million including the money coming from MLB. When the Dodgers have that kind of money coming in before averaging 46,216 fans per home game, ranking No.1 in 2013 MLB attendance, you can see the revenue and profitability that comes from these mega deals.

Local NL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)
Local NL TV Deals (courtesy Fangraphs.com)

The money is huge, and when you factor in how many teams are being extra cautious with the contracts that they hand out, it makes it seem unreasonable for clubs to cry “small market” any longer. There is no “small market” when a team is streaming revenue of $43 million from television contracts like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins were in 2013, and that number will go up to $68 million with the additional $25 million in 2014. And, while so many were upset with the Marlins and their owner, Jeffrey Loria, for the club’s consistent losing, fire-sales, and sticking Miami with an expensive stadium with a Triple-A worthy roster playing each night, it can’t be as hard as it is for Houston’s fans to watch the Astros pocket $105 million in television deals in 2013, while fielding a team with a payroll of $26 million.

Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros
Jeff Luhnow, GM, Houston Astros

With international signing limits and caps on spending within drafts, it doesn’t seem fair that owners and teams are able to sit on millions of dollars of revenue while doing very little year in and year out to field a competitive team. Certainly, the Astros are utilizing the wizardry of Jeff Luhnow to develop a dynamic farm system, which is ranked in the upper-half of the league after being one of the most vacant systems in all of baseball for nearly a decade. However, if other teams decided to gut their major league rosters to build in the same manner, how could MLB and its commissioner tell fans that they were fielding a solid product?

When the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, and Boston Red Sox publicly entrenched their baseball operations within data analysis and the sabermetric way, they also committed to spending wisely and finding value, possibly bargains, by linking players and their abilities to areas that the club needed to improve. By signing their young players to lucrative contracts early in their careers, the Rays were able to manage the long-term salary of their stars by avoiding the arbitration process, while, simultaneously, taking on a huge risk by investing in a player who may battle an injury or be unable to make adjustments when the league caught up with their skills. Evan Longoria, for example, was signed to a six-year, $17.6 million deal (with team options for 2014 through 2016), after just seven days in the majors. The A’s have been very careful with their payroll over the years as Billy Beane has utilized the Moneyball way to build success out of a spacious ballpark and on-base driven offensive players, though that has changed with players like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick being key members of more recent teams. Boston, on the other hand, seems to have learned their lesson from the failures of mega-contracts that were given out to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, shipping the huge deals to the Dodgers and finding payroll relief and success through finding strong character players, which landed them a championship this season behind the leadership of new additions like  Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino.

When looking at teams that have created unique ways to be competitive, though, does it show a pattern or a method to success, or can spending money guide a team to a title? The Dodgers, for example, have over $190 million committed to their payroll in 2014 before free agency has even started. Add on the rumors of the club is interested in acquiring David Price via trade with the Rays and being a major player in the posting process and negotiations with Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, and the Dodgers could have a starting rotation (that’s right, five guys) earning over $100 million in 2014. The New York Yankees tried for several years to build a contender through free agency, but the club was most successful when they were building from within with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Andy Pettitte in the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s…though, they did win a title in 2009.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

No team can duplicate the science that one team has perfected, but they can certainly try. As teams like the Twins and Marlins continue to try different techniques in finding success, one thing remains evident: they need to spend money to be successful. The Twins have struck gold with recent international signings and drafts, adding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to their system, but how will they help Joe Mauer at Target Field with the terrible pitching that they continue to produce? The Marlins tried to buy success when they signed Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle prior to the 2012 season. That experiment lasted all of one season before Miami sold off several pieces to rebuild with prospects that they received from the Blue Jays.

Every team should be active when free agency begins. There is no excuse for the “small market” teams when each team is receiving nearly $50 million dollars from MLB each season from the league’s national TV deals. Add on a minimum of $18 million for local TV deals (which the Marlins and Pirates have, lowest of all teams), and you’re looking at $68 million in revenue before the team takes the field, provides marketing space in the stadium, sells a ticket, or sells a t-shirt this season. Of course, there are operating expenses for a team and their employees, but how much exactly? Why exist if the owner is more focused on the bottom line and profitability of the club than the club’s long-term success? After all, we’re talking about billionaire owners paying millionaire players, and every time an owner complains about how much money they aren’t making, you can look at the figures that were provided above and laugh…as you make five-figures and save for months to pay $200 or more to take your family of four to a game once or twice per season.

Another major question could be: is there too much money in baseball? If a team like the Dodgers is bringing in nearly $400 million in revenue on television deals alone, how can the Pirates and Marlins compete against them? The Dodgers could sign Tanaka, trade for Price, and add Robinson Cano to play second base, and the club would still have nearly $150 million in annual salaries before reaching $400 million, over five-and-a-half times the amount that the Pirates and Marlins have in revenue. If or when Clayton Kershaw reaches free agency, if or when Mike Trout reaches free agency, and if or when Bryce Harper reaches free agency, what are the smaller revenue clubs to do? My answer to that…see the Tampa Bay Rays, who compete in the AL East with much smaller revenue numbers than the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and even the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, by being smarter, more creative, and careful as to how they have built their roster each season.

And if there is still concern about your team and wanting to cry “small market”, remember this:

Goo Gone Wild: Why America Now Hates the Red Sox

One game into the World Series and instead of the national media latching on to the total domination that came from an 8-1 final score, they are talking about this:

Lester2
Now, the question is: what was that on Jon Lester‘s glove on Wednesday night in Boston? He seemed to be going to the substance during the game, but due to the conditions (very cold), it would seem unreasonable to think that it was Vaseline, as St. Louis Cardinals‘ minor league pitcher Tyler Melling tweeted during the game, because that would make the ball even harder to control; however, could it have been some other substance to assist with Lester’s grip?

How much does doctoring a ball really assist in a pitcher’s skills? Would the Cardinals have allowed the Red Sox to score eight runs over eight innings if Lester hadn’t been pitching so effectively?

The bottom line for the Red Sox win wasn’t about Lester at all.

What Adam Wainwright was doing last night wasn’t working. His ineffectiveness had very little to do with Jon Lester’s dominance, and Wainwright’s ineffectiveness had a lot to do with his inability to miss the Red Sox bats when they had runners on base. His way of doing things wasn’t working and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t take him out when he didn’t have “it”.

During the game, the apparent love for the Cardinals from the national media was highlighted by this tweet from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and the MLB Network:

“The Cardinal way” likely refers to the club’s annual success, building from within, and solid performance on the field. However, while the Cardinals were sluggish defensively on Wednesday night, primarily shortstop Pete Kozma, this wasn’t a defensively gifted club in 2013. Sure, the fielding percentage was fifth in MLB, but the club lacked range, which was pointed out by MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, who used the team’s UZR Rating to say this:

It is easy to jump on the St. Louis Cardinals bandwagon and their internal baseball expertise, but the team was outplayed Wednesday night, regardless of what was on Lester’s glove and the apparent advantage that he may have gained from “cheating.”

If Lester had given up three runs in the second inning instead of having the umpires get together and make the correct call, would the bias towards Lester and what he did or didn’t have on or with his glove still be such a major topic today? Would the world have been okay with things going against the Boston Red Sox instead of the Cardinals fighting an uphill battle?

Smart people in baseball will use information like this:

Dan Brooks is a pitching genius over at Baseball Prospectus, and if you need further proof that doctoring a ball isn’t a big deal, notice that Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame and the Steroid Era players are left outside of Cooperstown on the curb waiting for a shot.

It’s hard for me to not dislike the Cardinals being a Cincinnati homer and a Reds fan at heart, and the whining from fans and the questioning of Lester that is being published from major outlets today (ESPN, NBC, and Yahoo to name a few) is just the norm that I typically observe; However, more shocking is the fact that the original tweet from Melling (which started the whole conversation) was “mysteriously” deleted.

Kozma1Jon Lester was better than Adam Wainwright and there wasn’t anything that was going to help that, even if Pete Kozma was turned into Andrelton Simmons, Ozzie Smith, or Omar Vizquel defensively in Game One. While calling a player out for cheating can be a slippery slope (get it…because of the Vaseline), baseball observers should look at the bigger picture from last night – the Red Sox looked like the better team.

As the World Series moves to Game Two on Thursday, we should all be hopeful that the focus turns to a new game and a fresh start for St. Louis, where the Cardinals will ride the coat tails of postseason domination specialist Michael Wacha. It isn’t good for the game for all of the rumors to be more important than the game, and Major League Baseball brushing aside the possibility of Lester cheating quickly was the right thing to do. See the ball, hit the ball, shut up and play baseball. If you’re the better team, you’ll win.

2013 MLB World Series Preview

Courtesy: MLB
Courtesy: MLB

Between this Wednesday night and Halloween night, Major League Baseball will crown the 2013 World Series champion. After some stellar pitching from 22-year-old Michael Wacha for the Cardinals and a couple of heroic grand slams from Shane Victorino and David Ortiz for the Red Sox, St. Louis will play Boston for the fourth time in World Series history (1946, 1967, and 2004 were the previous battles).

Below is a little of what you will see and what you should expect.

Game One: Wednesday, October 23, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston

Pitching Probables: STL – RHP Adam Wainwright vs. BOS – LHP Jon Lester

  • What to Expect in Game One: Most of the Red Sox haven’t really seen Wainwright before, as Shane Victorino (23 plate appearances), Stephen Drew (21 plate appearances), David Ross (12 plate appearances), Jonny Gomes (11 plate appearances), and Mike Carp (three plate appearances) have combined to post a .169/.229/.369 against the Cardinals’ ace; however, Lester is even more unknown to St. Louis, as only Matt Holliday (six plate appearances), Carlos Beltran (three plate appearances), and Yadier Molina (one plate appearance) have ever faced the Red Sox lefty. With Beltran in a Cardinals uniform and Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform, both teams have playoff superstars who are not short on writing fairy tales. With Boston rocking from the exciting finishes against Detroit and the small advantage in experience against Wainwright for the Boston lineup, expect to see Boston take a 1-0 lead.

Wacha1Game Two: Thursday, October 24, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston

Pitching Probables: STL – RHP Michael Wacha vs. BOS – RHP Clay Buchholz

  • What to Expect in Game Two: Wacha has been nothing short of incredible in his brief career, especially in the postseason. The young right-hander has a 3-0 record in three starts to go along with a 0.43 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and a 22:4 K:BB in 21 innings. Of course, Clay Buchholz isn’t short on the resume, having gone 12-1 in 16 regular season starts with a 1.74 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 108.1 innings, although his three postseason starts have left a bit to be desired in 2013 (5.40 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 3 HR allowed in 16.2 IP). Even with a lack of experience, there is no betting against Wacha in Game Two, as I expect another solid outing and a 1-1 series heading to St. Louis.

Game Three: Saturday, October 26, 8:07 PM; Boston AT St. Louis

Pitching Probables: BOS – RHP John Lackey vs. STL – RHP Joe Kelly

  • What to Expect in Game Three: St. Louis may have some intelligent and excited fans in Busch Stadium on Saturday night, but they don’t have the experience to win the game. Lackey has started 14 games in his career in the postseason, and while he has faced Beltran and Holliday a combined 20 times in his career, they own a .000/.150/.000 with just three walks to account for successful experiences against the Red Sox righty. While Kelly was quite effective once he moved into the rotation in 2013, he was shaken pretty dramatically in his Game Five loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. With another solid lineup and strong competition on the mound for the opposition, I expect Boston to take a 2-1 lead.

Game Four: Sunday, October 27, 8:15 PM; Boston AT St. Louis

Pitching Probables: BOS – RHP Jake Peavy vs. STL – RHP Lance Lynn

  • What to Expect in Game Four: With four days of rest, it wouldn’t be shocking to see both teams go back to their Game One starters here. If either or both teams go with a four-man rotation, Peavy and/or Lynn will be the starters going. Peavy only started 10 games in 2013, and while Lance Lynn wasn’t electric every time out, he is 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 194 career innings at home. Peavy has some experience pitching in St. Louis due to his time with the San Diego Padres, but it amounts to just four starts and 26 innings. If this game consists of the clubs’ fourth starters, it will likely result in whoever makes fewer mistakes. Due to Lynn’s success at home and being more of an unknown for the Red Sox hitters, I expect the Cardinals to tie the series 2-2 here.

Lester WainwrightGame Five (if necessary): Monday, October 28, 8:07 PM; Boston AT St. Louis

Pitching Probables: BOS – LHP Jon Lester vs. STL – RHP Adam Wainwright

  • What to Expect in Game Five: I’m anticipating the return of the Game One starters here, but if each team goes with a three-man rotation, then move move each starter from games five through seven up a game. Don’t expect the same results, though, in the second time around. Wainwright OWNS pitching in St. Louis, where he is 53-32 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 702 career innings. While the opposing batters have now seen each of these starters, this one will have all of the makings of a 1-0 win, with the Cardinals taking a 3-2 advantage and shipping it up to Boston with a Wainwright complete-game shutout.

Game Six (if necessary): Wednesday, October 30, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston

Pitching Probables: STL – RHP Michael Wacha vs. BOS – RHP Clay Buchholz

  • What to Expect in Game Six: Boston won’t be worrying about a thing heading into this elimination game at home. Buchholz will take the mound and the mystique and greatness of Michael Wacha will finally be broken, as the Boston Red Sox slug their way into another Game Seven.

Game Seven (if necessary): Thursday, October 31, 8:07 PM; St. Louis AT Boston

Pitching Probables: STL – RHP Joe Kelly vs. BOS – RHP John Lackey

  • What to Expect in Game Seven: It doesn’t really matter who is on the mound in a game seven, the game will always be one for the ages, and this game will be nothing different. Again, this could be the Game One starters (who would have started games one, four, and seven, if each team only goes three starters deep), which would make this game even more intriguing than the potential Kelly/Lackey matchup that you see here; however, I expect this game to go into extra innings, as each team relies on their stellar bullpens at the first sign of trouble. The deeper bullpen will win this game and that team, in my opinion, is Boston, who will win the World Series in seven games, 4-3, as Koji Uehara proves unhittable once again.

Of course, I personally loathe St. Louis and would find them losing in seven games as a fantastic way to end the season; however, this should be a fantastic series for casual fans and baseball enthusiasts alike, and I’m truly looking forward to it.

When Fantasy Baseball Goes Wrong

FernandezRemember when you gambled on Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez in your starting rotation earlier this spring? Well, congratulations to you and your number one seed in the fantasy baseball playoffs, and I hope you enjoyed your first round exit against the lowest seeded team in the playoffs.

It seems like every year that the top teams are taken out by the lower seeds, just like catching the yearly No.12 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament taking out the No.5 seed. Even teams that were riding another near-Triple Crown season out of Miguel Cabrera are now probably thinking about who they are going to be keeping this winter after the Detroit Tigers’ slugger has battled an abdominal strain while missing 11 games since late July, costing his owners victories and a title.

Whether you play in a one-year league, a dynasty league, a points league, or a standard roto-league, you’ve probably been the recipient of the late season luck or the suffering owner of another 2011-Boston Red Sox-esque collapse for your fake team.

It truly isn’t an avoidable situation.

How were you supposed to know that Brewers shortstop Jean Segura was going to crash so hard that owning Ronny Cedeno may have been a better option? Seriously…the last 28 days:

Segura:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip sOPS+
2013 Totals 145 619 584 74 173 20 10 12 49 44 12 25 83 .296 .331 .426 .757 249 .328 111
Last 28 days 22 94 88 7 21 2 1 0 5 7 5 5 11 .239 .280 .284 .564 25 .273 59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

Cedeno:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip sOPS+
2013 Totals 84 269 247 24 64 8 3 3 21 4 4 13 68 .259 .300 .352 .653 87 .345 83
Last 28 days 22 82 75 10 26 2 1 2 9 1 3 6 15 .347 .395 .480 .875 36 .414 144
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

It doesn’t stop there, however.

Allen Craig‘s injuries have limited him to a .738 OPS in the second half when he has been on the field, while Brandon Belt (.922) and Brandon Moss (.989) have not only outproduced Craig, but they’ve bettered Chris Davis (.871), Prince Fielder (.840), and Joey Votto (.908) since the All-Star break.

PhillipsKhris Davis, the 25-year-old rookie outfielder for the Brewers who took the spot of Ryan Braun after his suspension, is just as likely to be carrying a team running towards a championship as Pirates’ superstar, and possible NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen. Will Venable has outproduced Jose Bautista, Kole Calhoun and Junior Lake have provided more punch than Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Rios, and Billy Hamilton may be stealing a title right now while Brandon Phillips takes a face to the sphincter and a slump to the playoffs (a .421 OPS over the last two weeks).

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Fantasy baseball is a long season, just like the real thing. One can never truly prepare for the out-of-nowhere injuries, but if you thought that Harvey, Fernandez, or any other innings-limit candidate pitchers were going to help you, Bill Engvall has a sign for you on his redneck comedy tour.

What can you do to overcome these situations next season?

Assume that the solid young arm won’t help you in September and sell him off early?

Puig2Any small sample size that seems unreasonable probably is, so don’t assume that Yasiel Puig is a better player than Mike Trout.

Rely on veterans who have been through 162-game seasons before, who may be less likely to break down after August.

Have enough depth to cope with injuries and slumps – don’t deal it for spare parts near the trade deadline to get you over the proverbial “hump”.

Know that no matter what you do…it’s probably wrong. Luck plays a huge role in the No.8 seed knocking off the No.1 seed, and even if it isn’t every season that the upset occurs, it is just as likely to happen than not. If your league doesn’t give point values to the No.1 seed as a “home-field advantage” concept, they start off with the same likelihood of winning in the first round as the team that just snuck in.

Fair or not, you’re probably screwed. Just move on to fantasy football and figure out that Dolphins’ running back Lamar Miller and Bengals’ running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will probably be defeating your Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady-stacked lineup next weekend. You’re living a fantasy. Deal with it.

Ellsbury to Cincinnati?

Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs.com held a chat on Monday. In it was this gem:

12:07
Comment From Guest

Jacoby Ellsbury has had wild fluctuations in performance throughout his career. What’s he actually worth this offseason and what will he get paid? Where do you think he ends up?

12:08
Dan Szymborski:

I think the Mets actually make a play for him

12:09
Dan Szymborski:

Predicting where palyers will end up before the season is even over is a fool’s errand! There will be plenty of interest – maybe Rangers or Mariners or even a team like the Reds

Choo2With Shin-Soo Choo eligible for free agency after the season, the Reds could be looking at other options in center field, just in case Choo were to get an offer from, say, the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, or another deep-pocketed club; however, whatever team doesn’t sign Choo will likely be all over the slightly younger Ellsbury as another option.
As I wrote in another recent article, there are plenty of options out there as options in center(Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, or cost-effective, homegrown talent in Billy Hamilton), but would the smartest investment for Cincinnati be the current Red Sox center fielder or attempting to re-sign their current leadoff star?

When looking at the careers of Choo and Ellsbury, they are both solid leadoff hitters:

Choo:

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Batting 1st 218 217 1009 849 154 252 60 3 29 81 27 129 209 .297 .406 .477 .883 405 .364
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2013.

Ellsbury:

I Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
Batting 1st 579 575 2726 2481 398 724 140 28 47 246 197 185 358 .292 .345 .428 .772 1061 .324
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2013.

Ellsbury2There is some give and take for both players, but considering that both are represented by Scott Boras, is this worth taking time and effort for Cincinnati given their eventual need to extend Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, and Aroldis Chapman over the next three seasons?

Ellsbury is 29 years old, turning 30 in September, while Choo turned 31 in July. Outside of their relatively close age, they are drastically different players.

Choo, who would be wise to market himself as a leadoff hitter (even though he has had very productive seasons hitting in the middle of the order for the Cleveland Indians), is an on-base machine, currently sporting a .412 OBP (2nd to teammate Joey Votto in the NL), while possessing enough speed (16 stolen bases) and power (46 extra-base hits) to be considered an extremely valuable, all-around player. While his defense in center is borderline inappropriate (last among qualified CF with a UZR/150 of -17.9), he still possesses an above average arm and his experience in right allows for a bit of roster and positional flexibility, though the Reds wouldn’t need much help in right, barring a Jay Bruce injury. After making $7.38 million in his final year of arbitration, he will likely command between $13 and $15 million per season on the open market, especially after Boras refers to Nick Swisher‘s four-year, $56 million deal as a starting point.

EllsburyEllsbury is a peculiar player, having busted out in 2011 with 83 extra-base hits (including 32 home runs) while leading MLB in total bases (364), while following that season up with all of 11 home runs over his last 909 plate appearances. It seems as though Ellsbury will be able to present himself as a speedster with gap power and above average defensive skills at a premium position, as he is currently 4th among qualified CF in UZR/150 (12.4) while leading MLB in stolen bases (47) and racking up 44 extra-base hits (he leads the AL in triples with eight and has seven home runs). Similar to Michael Bourn in his skillset since the 2011 outburst, Ellsbury will likely get a slightly better contract than the Indians’ center fielder, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal this past offseason, if only because Scott Boras can play into the fact that Ellsbury had such a dramatic 2011 season as a selling point.

While Ellsbury is slightly younger and could, potentially, be a little cheaper than Choo in the free agent market, who is the best option for the Reds?

With a need for top of the order speed, on-base skills, and defensive skills, Ellsbury, in my opinion, would be the best option for Cincinnati; however, the question remains – should the club consider locking up a big-money, free agent center fielder when the club needs to be concerned with the costs of Homer Bailey and Mat Latos in arbitration?


//

Get to Know: Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts2The Boston Red Sox called up their top prospect, shortstop (or future third baseman, depending on who you ask) Xander Bogaerts. The slugging infielder is getting the call as Boston has limped through August, going 8-9 heading into Monday night’s game in San Francisco, the day after finishing off a four-hour marathon against the New York Yankees in Boston. There isn’t much that can help a team going across the country without much time for rest, but if anything can spark the Red Sox, it is one of the game’s premier prospects.

At the age of 20, Xander Bogaerts has established himself as one of the top sluggers in the minors, and the fact that he can handle shortstop is what makes him an even more intriguing item. The last two seasons have been outstanding for the Aruba-born, prospect:

Year Age Tm Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 19 2 Teams A+-AA BOS 127 532 476 71 146 37 3 20 81 5 44 106 .307 .373 .523 .896 249
2013 20 2 Teams AAA-AA BOS 116 515 444 72 132 23 6 15 67 7 63 95 .297 .388 .477 .865 212
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/19/2013.

Bogaerts3The plan is for Bogaerts to play three to four times per week, sharing time at third base and shortstop, likely becoming a regular against left-handers at short, with Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew. Bogaerts’ improved approach at the plate this season, even through his advancement into Double and Triple-A, shows a lot of maturity, and while he is unlikely to become Miguel Cabrera, who was a shortstop in his earliest years within the Marlins’ system, he could make a very similar impact to what Manny Machado provided for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012, only likely more offensive-minded improvements for the Saux than defensively.

Solid gap power, a lineup full of veterans, and very little pressure in becoming “THE GUY” right away could lead to a pretty impressive introduction to the majors for Bogaerts. He is definitely a player to watch over the rest of the season and if you weren’t familiar with his name already, you’ve probably been in a coma and we’re all glad that you’re doing better.

My Prediction:

Bogaerts is going to be a superstar, especially if he stays at shortstop. He has impressive power and a solid approach that will allow him to post All-Star caliber numbers from an up-the-middle position; however, he isn’t going to be a true masher like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. Think 20-25 home runs in his best seasons but with over 30 doubles and an OPS over .840. Even moving to third base, Bogaerts is a star.

This is a special talent and there is a reason why he wasn’t included in any deals at the deadline. The Red Sox new management will be hanging onto this type of talent going forward, creating a new group of “idiots” to compete in the AL East. With Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury headed towards free agency, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Bogaerts become a fixture in the heart of the order when spring training breaks next season.

For fantasy nerds, he needs to be snatch up immediately in all leagues and if you’re in a keeper league, he’s been long gone and the next several weeks will only make it harder to acquire him.

Bogaerts1Enjoy the future of the Boston Red Sox.