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Late yesterday, when word leaked out that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein had removed the “untouchable” label from young centerfield sparkplug Jacoby Ellsbury in the Johan Santana sweepstakes, Bostonians immediately began making contingency plans. Option A: Grab one of Big Papi’s 33-ounce bats and use it to smash Epstein’s hands, preventing him from signing any deal involving the popular rookie. Option B, should Option A fail: When Minnesota GM Bill Smith and his goons when they arrive to collect, form a human chain with Jacoby safe inside.

Assuming that cooler heads will prevail in the halls of Yawkey Way and that the Red Sox will lose out on lefty ace Santana and retain Ellsbury, there will still be plenty of teams interested in Boston’s other centerfielder, the defensively spectacular Coco Crisp—whom Ellsbury’s phenomenal play renders expendable. In fact, if the Red Sox were determined to get a lefty starter in exchange for Crisp, there are plenty of other deals to consider. For instance, the Atlanta Braves are in the market for a new CF and have prospects to deal, including lefty pitcher JoJo Reyes. In Baltimore, they want new everything, and almost nobody is off-limits, including lefty pitcher Erik Bedard. If the Marlins can’t get a centerfielder as part of a deal for Cabrera, they might be willing to part with southpaw Dontrelle Willis as part of a deal for Crisp. The Brewers have pitching to spare, including lefty Chris Capuano, and even Coco’s mediocre offense would be an upgrade over Bill Hall. The Padres, Giants, and Rangers are all looking to upgrade at centerfield as well, and the Sox have been talking with Billy Beane about a move involving Crisp and young righty pitcher Danny Haren, whose UFH should help him fit right in in the Hub. Crisp could be part of a deal with any of these ballclubs.

The fact that so many teams are hunting for centerfielders only underlines the fact that the Red Sox should not be induced to part with Ellsbury for any price—even for Santana. Not only did Ellsbury perform way above his pay grade down the stretch in September, his insertion into the ALCS lineup saved Boston’s season. He’s already a front-runner for 2008′s Rookie of the Year. While I would be loath to see Santana end up in pinstripes, such a scenario is still preferable to watching in horror as the Red Sox go temporarily insane and empty their savings account to get Johan for themselves.

36 Responses to “Save Jacoby!”

  1. Sarah Green says:

    Rich,

    Hot prospects = cheap, and huge upside.

    Proven ace = expensive, and risk of aging, injured suckage.

    Sarah if the Red Sox get Santana at a reasonable price = yay.

    Sarah if the Red Sox get Santana and overspend = sad face.

    Sarah if the Red Sox get Santana, overspend, and he pitches like crap, like the last time the Sox beat the Yankees in a trade for a pitcher (Eric Bleepin’ Gagne)= total rage.

    Sarah if the Yankees get Santana for Hughes and Melky, plus one or two others = when Beckett and Santana meet in the Fens April 11, you bring the chips, I’ll bring the guac.

    Sarah if the Yankees get Santana in the aforementioned deal, and Santana somehow pulls a Pavano on them and cannot even pitch on April 11, leaving Beckett to face off against Pettitte = you bring the buckets of ice, I’ll bring the champagne.

  2. Sarah, I think you just broke Rickey Henderson’s record for most references to oneself in the third person in any given discussion.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    Paul, you are right about that. Sarah talks about herself in the third person when Sarah is feeling a little out of sorts. And Sarah is feeling very out of sorts after last night’s Pats-Ravens game. Sarah is actually feeling like a big ol’ blob of adrenaline-laced jello this morning.

    Screw it, trade Ellsbury and everyone else for Santana. Sign him to a $200 million deal. I never want to face the wrenching, bowels-liquifying anxiety I experienced last night again. I JUST WANT TO FEEL SAFE.

  4. Coley Ward says:

    Sarah, I didn’t say speedy CF’s grow on trees. But they are a much more common commodity than dominant, once in a life-time lefty aces.

    Last season, in 33 games, Ellsbury stole nine bases. That projects to about 44 stolen bases over the course of a full 162 game season. Ellsbury’s OBP was .394 and his OPS+ was 131. Now, I think we can all agree that it’s unrealistic to expect Ellsbury will keep getting on base and slug at that rate. Pitchers will have more opportunity to find the holes in his swing. They’ll learn how to pitch to him. It happens to almost everybody. But let’s say he puts up an above average OBP of .370 and an OPS+ of 110. That’d still be very good.

    Who could the Sox get to replace that level of production? Kenny Lofton last season had an OBP of .367 and a OPS+ of 105. He also had 38 stolen bases.

    Now, Lofton obviously wouldn’t be a perfect replacement for Ellsbury (He doesn’t have Jacoby’s arm and he’d be more injury prone). But he’d be adequate. And wouldn’t it be worth a minor downgrade in CF for a major upgrade in starting pitching?

    I say yes.

  5. Paul Moro says:

    Sarah, here’s what us non-Bostonites heard from your comment:

    “FIRST PLACE IS’NT GOOD ENOUGH! WE NEED TO DOMINATE! OBLITERATE! CHAMPIONSHIPS MEAN NOTHING IF YOU CAN’T BRING YOUR BIGGEST OPPONENTS TO TEARS AND EXASPERATION!!!”

    So as a Mets/Nets/Giants fan, I have to ask: “What’s it like to be so deliciously evil?”

  6. Nick Kapur says:

    I dunno, Paul. I mean, I’m not a Bostonian. But bringing the YANKEES to tears and exasperation? Is that really evil?

    Because in my world, when the Yankees suffer, that is kind of the opposite of evil. When the Yankees lose, somewhere a baby is smiling, a bunny is hopping, and an angel gets his wings.

  7. Paul–

    Sadly, non-Bostonians largely are correct in their translations.

    It’s called an inferiority complex. And every real Boston sports fan suffers from severe aggressive impulses as a result.

    Decades of despair… its not like those complexes go away overnight. I’m being completely serious here. There’s a lot of lasting bitterness.

    Not that there isn’t an element of delicious masochism in it–OH IT HURTS SO GOOD. If we aren’t blowing World Series, we have to anguish about hot stove deals BECAUSE WE LOVE THE PAIN. WE NEED IT. We will seek it out.

    Speaking of pain–did you see Ellsbury has signed with Boras?

  8. When Sarah tells Melissa that Lester coming off chemo and a possible rookie of the year are more valuable than Santana; Melissa thinks Sarah is placing too high of a value on sentimental favorites.
    Something tells Melissa that Theo won’t do that.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    I know SI writer Peter King also hails from Boston (something about this city just seems to breed sportswriters), so maybe the fact that he agrees with me will mean nothing to the doubters. But still, I had to note it. Here’s what he had to say about a deal involving Jacoby for Santana:

    “Ellsbury’s going to be a fun, electric, great player anchoring the outfield for the next decade while stealing 50 bases a year with a good on-base percentage. Santana is the best pitcher in the game, arguably, right now. But he’ll be 29 next opening day, he has 175 starts under his belt with 1,308 innings pitched. That’s a lot of wear on a hard-throwing pitcher. Does he have three years of prime pitching left? One? Seven? And the money you’ll have to pay him … How will Josh Beckett feel after basically winning this team the World Series and then making half what this new import’s making?”

    Coley, I’m not going to dignify your Kenny Lofton suggestion with a response. He is old enough to be Ellsbury’s grandfather.

    And Paul, can you tell me why New Yorkers have such a superiority complex, such that when other cities want to be the best at something, New Yorkers act like they’re getting all uppity and forgetting the natural order of things?

    Margaret, I did see that Ellsbury signed with Boras. Boras must represent like half the Red Sox roster now. It’s disgusting.

    And Melissa, I don’t think it’s sentiment to keep your cheap, young lefty starting pitcher and your cheap, young leadoff-hitter/CF, both of which have huge upside, rather than send them both packing in exchange for one man who, frankly, will cost a fuckload and may not have more than 2-3 good years left. To go back to my original post, if the Red Sox want pitching, even lefty pitching, even good lefty pitching, there is plenty on the market. The last thing the Red Sox need to do right now is get all starry eyed and talk themselves into Santana, at the cost of as many as five other players, possibly including two players that were essential to the 2007 World Series title. That is madness.

  10. Paul Moro says:

    I didn’t even mean it as an insult!

    Anyhow, here’s the thing with Peter King’s comments – he’s talking as if Ellsbury becoming a top-notch lead-off hitter is an inevitability. But he questions Santana (and rightly so). But Ellsbury himself is no lock by any stretch of the imagination. You’re right about not knowing how much Santana has left – but the same could be said about pretty much anybody. I understand the hesitation about giving up prospects – but when you have the chance to acquire the best pitcher in the game without having to give up your top prospect (Buchholz), isn’t that a good deal? Although the more I hear about Lowrie, the more I wonder…

  11. Sarah,
    I would simply suggest that you consider that Ellsbury and Lester do not have as much upside as you seem to believe. Since you want to compare Santana to Pavano would you believe that Ellsbury’s minor league numbers compare to David DeJesus of Kansas City, he doesn’t project out to be the next Johnny Damon. Peter King as well as other reporters on the East Coast have a high opinion of Ellsbury because he’s right in front of them. If he were in a small market they wouldn’t be giving him a second glance. He put together one month, that doesn’t an all-star make. Lester’s health issues alone should give one pause as to his future. If I were Minnesota I would be asking for Buchholz and Ellsbury, I wouldn’t even want Lester. If Boston wants to acquire Haron from Oakland I would bet Beane wants at the least Ellsbury and Lester as well. Once Santana is off the market the price for other pitchers will go up. Also don’t get Eric Bedard confused with Johan Santana. I would take issue with an assertion that there is plenty of good lefty pitching on the market. Whatever quality lefty pitching there is on the market expect it to draw a steep price. It looks like Detroit has just added Miguel Cabrera to an already tough line up so the American League isn’t going to be any easier to win this year.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    Melissa, no one is getting Buchholz. He has already thrown a no-hitter. Or does mentioning that mean I’m just sentimental and looking at too small of a sample size?

    Everyone is talking about what a gleaming, golden God Santana is. I’m just trying to bring some balance to the conversation. Nonetheless, I’ve already said I’d support a move involving Lester. I can’t support moving Ellsbury because the role he fills for Boston is too important. At the end of the season, when Ellsbury was in the lineup, the Red Sox won. When Ellsbury came out of the lineup, the Red Sox lost. It’s as simple as that.

    And I think it’s important to note that neither Lester nor Ellsbury are untested young punks. They’re not teenagers. For all intents and purposes, Ellsbury is Boston’s Opening Day starting centerfielder and Lester is their No. 4 pitcher (and would be a No. 2 starter on almost any other team). This is not a no-brainer. This could be a very expensive move for Boston.

    And I’ll remind the peanut gallery that most folks (though not me, and not Nick) thought Gabbard, Beltre, and Murphy for Gagne was a no-brainer back in July. We saw how well that turned out.

  13. Nick Kapur says:

    Okay, okay, let’s step back for a moment, set emotions aside, and think this through.

    The way I see it, the Red Sox can easily afford to give up Ellsbury, if they have to, because they have Coco Crisp.

    These trade proposals always need to be considered within the relative context of what other pieces a team has. If the Sox didn’t have Crisp, or had already traded him away or something, then even despite the fact that Santana for Ellsbury and Lester would objectively be a good trade for the Sox if looked at in a vacuum, I would have to agree with Sarah that giving up a very promising young centerfielder for an ace pitcher when you already have 6 major league quality pitchers would not be a good idea if you don’t have a replacement.

    However.

    Since the Red Sox DO have Coco Crisp available to step into center field, the trade has to be evaluated in terms of the potential dropoff from Ellsbury to Crisp versus the potential gain from Lester to Stantana. And when viewed in that context, I think it is clear that including Ellsbury in a trade for Santana would still be a GREAT trade for the Sox. Because the dropoff from Ellsbury to Crisp is simply not all that much, relative to what would be gained by getting Santana. Crisp is clearly a major-league caliber CF, especially on defense, and he still has considerable up-side left on offense.

    No one is disputing that there would probably be a slight dropoff in centerfield from Ellsbury to Crisp. But that is not the issue here.

  14. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I don’t know that we all agree “that there would probably be a slight dropoff in CF from Ellsbury to Crisp.” From the discussion so far, it sounds like the pro-Ellbsbury-for-Santana folks think that Ellsbury is some unknown, that he might secretly suck, or at least that he’s way over-valued. And while I have enjoyed watching Coco Crisp patrol the outfield these past couple of years, I’ve never seen any hint of this alleged .300 hitter he was supposed to be. But you would hardly know that from this discussion.

    I think you also have to factor in the opportunity costs in tying up so much money in one player, especially a player who doesn’t play every day. It’s one thing to give Manny Ramirez, the best hitter of his era and a durable position player, $160 million for 8 years. It’s quite another to give that amount to a pitcher for 5 years.

    And Nick, so far you are the only other person who has even acknowledged that the Red Sox lineup will be weaker without Ellsbury. But your response falls short, as pretty much every other comment has fallen short, because it fails to address BOTH the trade itself AND the lucrative contract Santana will demand. I don’t think you can talk about one without talking about the other.

  15. Nick Kapur says:

    Sarah, I know about the money, but I just don’t think money matters to the Red Sox anymore, the way they are really milking their revenue streams these days.

    I mean seriously, if they can afford give $10 million a year to Julio Lugo and $14 million a year to JD Drew, they can easily afford to give $22 million a year to Johan freakin’ Santana!

  16. Can’t speak for everyone but I’m not so much doubting Ellsbury himself. I like the guy and generally speaking, he’s my kind of player. I just don’t think we should overlook the inherent risk of any prospect. Obviously, that’s not to say that all prospects should be traded for proven vets at every opportunity. It’s a case-by-case basis. A team like the Sox can afford Santana’s contract. Plus, I’m still positive on Coco, quite possibly because he doesn’t play on my team. If I were you, I can see myself being more skeptical so I understand your point. And I can completely relate to how much fun it is to watch your farm’s prospects grow into stars.

    But I also think that having Santana seriously increases the Sox’ chances of playing in October for the next few years. And when they do, they go in with a front line of Santana, Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Buchholz. That’s just nuts, and I’m incredibly jealous of the thought.

    With all this said, “sample sizes” – and I agree that the term sounds cold – are incredibly important to put things into perspective. There are tons of guys who’ve had impressive debuts to their MLB careers over the years. But not many of them can sustain that success over a longer span of time. Look at guys like Scott Podsednik, Ross Gload, Angel Berroa, Ben Grieve, Bob Hamelin, Terrmel Sledge, Josh Barfield, Eric Hinske, etc. Sure, I can rattle off the names of guys who’ve succeeded too, but that’s not the point.

    I’m not saying that Ellsbury is going to fail. If I had to bet, I’d say that he will be an above-average CFer (which isn’t as easy as it sounds) and lead-off guy. That’s obviously valuable. But I’m also saying that Johan Santana is the greatest pitcher since Pedro Martinez. When you can get him without giving up your #1 prospect and, depending on whether or not you prefer Ellsbury to Lester, your #3 prospect, AND you can afford his contract, I think you should do it.

    But you’re also right to prefer Ellsbury to Crisp.

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