In this morning’s Notes column, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo suggests that the Red Sox need to ‘make a splash’ to improve but the on-field team and the organisation’s PR record after the disappointment of 2012. Cafardo suggests targeting Josh Hamilton as a free agent or trading for Joe Mauer to address the team’s lack of star power in the every day lineup.

Quite apart from the fact that the team that couldn’t find a way to add “a great all-around hitter who can hit for power and produce runs but also be a pure hitter who can hit for a high average” has yet to exist, the last thing the Red Sox should be doing now is throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at a player in order to make a good impression with their public. This team needs to rebuild from a 69-93 season and find a way to put the best team on the field for the next several years. If adding a Hamilton for Mauer is the best way to do that then fine, but pretending it should be done just to sate impatient fans and media is wrongheaded.

Cafardo acknowledged that with the likes of Pedroia, Ellsbury and Ortiz the Red Sox do have stars in their everyday lineup. For some reason, this level of marketable, recognisable talent that most teams would love it have is insufficient and needs adding to. Doubtless the Red Sox are a team that have the resources to bring in Hamilton at $25m+ per year, but it seems that it is the GMs that avoid making moves ‘because they can’ are the ones that are more likely to put a winning side on the field.

The Cardinals, for example, could have matched or even bettered the Angels’ bid for Albert Pujols last winter if they’d wanted to. It seems they chose not to not because they couldn’t afford to, but because they decided those resources could be put to better use if they were spread around in other areas. One season doesn’t vindicate the decision, but the Cardinals were clearly successful without Pujols last year despite the obvious PR hit from letting him leave. Red Sox fans should hope Ben Cherington takes a similarly long view this winter.

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ESPN Deportes is reporting that Melky Cabrera is now off the free agent market, having signed a two-year $16m deal to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. Add Cabrera to the players that came over from Miami in this week’s Frankentrade and the Blue Jays have put together a lineup which may not necessarily be the best around, but is likely to at least be the most interesting.

SS – Jose Reyes

Assuming the Frankentrade is approved, and there seems little reason to think it won’t be, the Jays new shortstop should be leading off in 2013. Reyes is a strange player, one whose name value and recognition is often ahead of his production, but the low bar for starting shortstops means he can quite comfortably be very valuable even if he’s not an MVP candidate. It will also be interesting to see how Toronto’s turf effects Reyes’ legs over the next few years.

LF – Melky Cabrera

Cabrera will probably be less productive in the filed than he pre-suspension in 2012. Prepare yourself for plenty of ‘not so good when he’s off the ‘roids is he? type comments.

RF – Jose Bautista

Season ending wrist surgery for a power hitter is always concerning so it will be interesting to see if Bautista is able to immediately regain his home run stroke. It may take some time for him to get back to where he was power-wise or it may be instantaneous from day one, the nature of his injury makes it impossible to say one way or another.

DH – Edwin Encarnacion

Can he do it again? A career year that, for many, was a long time coming saw E5 reach career highs across the board so while he’s likely to be a bit below 2012’s numbers there’s reason to believe it wasn’t a complete fluke and he can still be a top level hitter.

3B – Brett Lawrie

After launching himself onto MLB by hitting .293/.373/.580 in his first exposure to the big leagues, Lawrie was something of a disappointment in 2013, hitting just .273/.324/.405. With the additions the club has made this winter there will be less expectation on Lawrie to carry the offence which may help him surpass this year’s numbers.

1B – Adam Lind

Lind may be running short on chances in Toronto but will probably open the season at first base. If he doesn’t hit, however, we could see Bautista replace him and Anthony Gose take over in the outfield.

C – Travis D’Arnaud

As things stand, JP Arencibia is top of the depth chart but it seems likely that D’Arnaud will supplant him next summer providing no setbacks in his recovery from ankle surgery. D’Arnaud will occupy a place near the top of this winter’s prospect lists and could well hit higher than this in the lineup and be a Rookie of the Year favourite.

CF – Colby Rasmus

In a similar situation to Lind in that he has to start justify his opportunities with better performances. He’s young enough to believe he can still become a solid everyday player but he’s only demonstrated that potential in brief flashes.

2B – Maicer Izturis / Emilio Bonifacio

If it’s Bonifacio there could be lots of stolen bases at the bottom of the order. If it’s Izturis they’ve got themselves a steady enough player to fill out the line up. Which may not be interesting enough for Alex Anthopoulos so expect a second base acquisition any day now.

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Picking up from the weekend’s NL glovemen, here are the panel’s (my) choices in the AL:

Catcher – Matt Wieters

A repeat win for the Baltimore backstop who also took home the award in 2011. Although he’s not in Wieters class defensively, it’s worth noting that Russell Martin has made improvements behind the plate in the last year or two.

First Base – Adrian Gonzalez

These are my awards and I have no problem with someone winning a Grabby in both leagues in the same year. Mark Teixeira won another Gold Glove at the position this year but I’ve always thought of him as a solid rather than anything above and beyond that.

Second Base – Dustin Pedroia

Robinson Cano is always pushing his Boston rival but I still see Pedroia as the better defender despite the significant strides taken by Cano in the last few years.

Third Base – Adrian Beltre

Here’s what I wrote last year:

“I must declare a slight bias here. I love the way Adrian Beltre plays. There’s few sights I enjoy more during a game than watching him make flat footed throws across the diamond or charging in to make a bare handed play. This could be his award for as long as keeps playing and I don’t mind admitting it.”

Yep, still applies.

Shortstop – Brendan Ryan

I still like the defense of last year’s winner JJ Hardy, but Ryan’s glovework has been exceptional this year. He’s very much in the Adam Everett mold in that all of his value is provided without the bat in his hand but his glove is good enough to carry some pretty putrid hitting.

Left Field – Alex Gordon

With Brett Gardner missing almost the entire season and Desmond Jennings still developing defensively, Gordon is pretty clearly the class of the AL left fielders. Despite winning two Gold Gloves and a Fielding Bible award (not to mention a Grabby), Gordon’s defense doesn’t seem to get talked about as much as one might expect.

Centre Field – Mike Trout

Pretty big shock that he didn’t win a Gold Glove this year, right? People may argue it’s meaningless and irrelevant but that doesn’t mean we can’t be surprised by some of the picks given what we know about the voting system. Trout replaced last year’s winner Peter Bourjos as the centre fielder for the Angels and the fact that it’s not far from a toss up as to who the better defender is speaks well of both players.

Right Field – Josh Reddick

Torii Hunter continues to be a solid defensive right fielder into his late 30s while Ben Revere would win if it was solely a decision based on ability to chase down and catch balls but his non-existent throwing arm makes him a poor fit in the right field. Reddick has the classic throwing arm of a right fielder as American League baserunners will attest while his glove and range are both comfortably above average.

 

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Whether something can be called a tradition after just two years is debatable, but after last year I’m once again going to be handing out The Grabbies to best defensive player at each position in either league. Obviously these are completely subjective picks and while I’ll look at some defensive metrics I’d rather trust reports from people who are watching the games and what I’ve seen myself.

Catcher – Yadier Molina

We start with probably the easiest choice of all. I suspect I wasn’t the only one to who once believe that Ivan Rodriguez was the best defensive catcher I’d seen, but I’m now convinced that Molina has surpassed him.

First Base – Adrian Gonzalez

Joey Votto is a good defensive first baseman and Freddie Freeman has also been impressive but Adrian Gonzalez became, to my mind, the NL’s best defensive first baseman the day he was traded from the Red Sox. I’m not trying to measure defensive value accumulated or anything like that so Gonzalez is more than worthy of the nod here.

Second Base – Brandon Phillips

A repeat win for the Reds second baseman. Darwin Barney has some eye-popping defensive numbers but there appears to be some questions over whether he accumulated them more through the way the Cubs set up defensively than any particularly outstanding work on his part. Barney is solid enough but I still view Phillips as the better defender.

Third Base – David Wright

Chase Headley won the Gold Glove at third base, a pick that seems perfectly reasonable, but I have Wright just shading him. On pure defensive tools Ryan Zimmerman should run away with this, however his throwing rickets are an issue.

Shortstop – Brandon Crawford

Crawford’s glove, range and arm are all excellent. They’re also going to have to remain excellent because his .248/.304/.349 batting line is about as good as his offense is going to get.

Left Field – Martin Prado

Not the strongest of fields at the position for the NL. Prado takes it over the Gold Glove winner Carlos Gonzalez.

Centre Field – Michael Bourn

I’m a big fan of Drew Stubbs’ defensive work and I think Andrew McCutchen is a far better centre fielder than the metrics seem to credit him for, however Bourn’s excellent work in the field should seem him well rewarded as a free agent this winter.

Right Field – Jason Heyward

Heyward’s collection of tools make him almost the prototypical right fielder and his selection here completes a clean sweep of Braves outfielders taking home ‘awards’. Carlos Beltran also deserves a mention here for his continued excellence.

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Now the dust has settled a bit on the Giants World Series title, there’s been a chance to appreciate the turnaround of their higher paid player. When they signed Barry Zito to a 7 year, $126 million contract prior to the 2007 season I’m sure they envisaged him starting the first game of the World Series for a championship winning side and, one way or another, they now got to that point.

What makes Zito’s role in the Giants’ success all the more incredible is that, as many will remember, the left hander was left off of all three playoff rosters during the team’s postseason run in 2010. That year Zito was coming off of a mediocre, although not dreadful, year that saw him post a 4.15 ERA over 33 starts and his omission from the playoff roster came as no surprise. This year Zito was coming off of a mediocre. although not dreadful, year that saw him post a 4.15 ERA over 32 starts and was kept on the playoff roster. Clearly the differing construction of those two Giants teams played a part but once included Zito earned the spot by his Game One performance in the Fall Classic.

Zito took the ball in Game One this October and tossed 5 2/3 innings of one run ball to set the Giants up for what would eventually be a World Series sweep. He also slightly belied his reputation as one of baseball’s worst hitting pitchers but adding a two-out RBI single off of Justin Verlander for good measure. He may have got his ring and World Series share in 2010, but it was pleasing to see a pitcher like Zito, who’s so enjoyable to watch when he’s ‘on’, momentarily set aside his decline over the last several years and play a key role in bringing another championship to San Francisco.

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ESPN has a story up today that might well get lost in the shuffle of the playoffs, John Farrell and the three-way trade, but could end up having some fairly significant ramifications. Shohei Otani is an 18 year old pitcher currently playing for his Japanese high school team and it seems he’s regarded highly enough to be seen as a first round pick in their amateur draft which takes place next week. Unfortunately for the Japanese teams looking at picking him, it seems Otani would rather make an immediate leap to the U.S and Major League Baseball.

If Otani goes ahead with his plan, he would be the first Japanese player to move to the U.S straight from school and would set a precedent that would likely be a serious concern for baseball in Japan. Although it would appear to be too late to stop Otani skipping the draft, tt would be no surprise to see Japanese clubs try to find a way to block players from following in his footsteps. It’s clearly no good for Japanese baseball to have their top talents bypass the draft and go straight to an MLB club. Whether any ruling would be legally enforceable is questionable, but even if something was put in place the next logical step for players wanting to go to America would be to make the move even younger and attend an American high school and try and become draft-eligible.

Otani has apparently been scouted by major league teams and has the ability to hit 100 mph with his fastball so he’s clearly the sort of pitcher, however raw, that MLB teams would be interested in adding to their system. If he starts a trend of Japanese high schoolers skipping their domestic draft to move to the U.S it’s entirely possible we may see a wave of Japanese players making an impact in MLB. Getting them into MLB team’s minor league set ups as early as possible can only lead to better player development. The effect such a trend would have on Japanese baseball could, however, be devastating.

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