Recently at UmpBump HQ, there’s been a lot of Boston Red Sox talk. While the Yankees have acquired themselves some big-ticket items and the already-strong Rays made a few smart, affordable moves, the BoSox have been raiding the sale rack. And they’re clearly not done yet — this morning’s announcement was the signing of Takashi Saito, and there’s word they’re also focusing on Miguel Montero. We debated a few of their recent moves, for Josh Bard, Rocco Baldelli, John Smoltz, and Mr. Jamie Kotsay.
Coley: Now the Red Sox have signed Mark Kotsay. How is this guy a fourth (or even fifth!) outfielder? The Sox have insane depth. It really is like they have money to burn.
Paul: the 4th/5th OF thing isn’t so important as promising these guys PAs. Baldelli is always a game-time decision. Plus, Kotsay spells Youk at first, who will also spell Lowell at 3rd. He’ll get a decent amount of playing time. Plus, it seems that Kotsay is a very good defensive firstbaseman and isn’t terrible offensively. I think it’s a good use of 1.5MM.
Coley: That’s what I mean about Boston’s depth. They’ve got Kotsay who can play outfield and 1B. They’ve got Youk who can play 1B and 3B. They’ve got Lugo who can play SS and 2B and Jed Lowrie, who can play almost any infield position. Regarding at bats, I understand why guys want to play for Boston, but I’m surprised a guy like Kotsay wouldn’t go somewhere where he could get more at bats.
Sarah: “They’ve got Lugo who can play SS and 2B” should read: “They’ve got Lugo who sucks no matter where you put him.” (Readers: take one drink.) Kotsay wanted to go somewhere where he could be a regular, I thought he just couldn’t find a taker.
Coley: I understand that Kotsay couldn’t find a starting job, but there surely are teams where he stood a better chance of getting regular playing time, or “burn” as we call it in the industry. The Giants, for example, need an outfielder and a 1B, and Kotsay plays both. Maybe Kotsay’s counting on Lowell being hurt and Youk playing third?
Sarah: Why not? Lowell was hurt for much of last season. And I think if the choice is limited playing time with either the Giants or the Sox, the answer is pretty clear.
Coley: I don’t think it’s clear. Both the Giants and Sox have a shot at making the playoffs this season. Both play in gorgeous stadiums. And the weather and food is better in San Francisco. Plus, I’m sure Kotsay has roots in the Bay area from his days in Oakland.
Paul: Maybe the Manny situation played a role. If Kotsay thought there was a chance that Manny signs in SF, there goes his “burn”.
Sarah: Those are all good points. But maybe he’s just as happy not to move across the country right now, all things being equal. Or maybe he just really likes red Sox fans. :)
Coley: He doesn’t need the warm embrace of Red Sox nation. He’s got Jamie. And I don’t think there’s much chance Manny signs in SF. They don’t have the money.
Paul: I don’t think that Manny’s going to end up in SF either. But it’s all about creating doubt. Say, the Red Sox played that hand – “Manny might go to San Fran. Stay here and you don’t have to worry about it. But you have to decide now.”
Coley: That’s probably roughly what they told Brad Penny, right before they went out and signed John Smoltz.
Paul: I don’t think the Smoltz situation will hurt Penny. (Beckett-Lester-Smoltz (after he recovers) -Matsuzaka-Penny.) It’ll hurt Wake. Now the whole “bringing Josh Bard back” thing makes sense. I was wondering why the Sox would do that when they shipped Bard out a couple of years ago because he couldn’t catch the knuckler.
Sarah: Another big draw for players (maybe in Penny and Baldelli’s case) is Boston’s medical staff. They are known for having basically the best medical staff in MLB. Plus, being in Boston, they have access to some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world. I think the Sox signed Bard because they realized:
a) he was one of the better options (if not the best option) for a backup catcher
b) they have openly said trading him away was a mistake
c) they are not done trying to get a young catcher to replace Tek as the starting guy
Coley: I’m really interested to see if a Buchholz-Saltalamacchia trade happens. The Bard thing confuses me a little, though. If the Sox do land Salty, I don’t see them starting the season with Salty and Bard as the two catchers. First of all, I don’t think either of them can catch Wake. Second, if the Sox land Salty, I think they’ll pair him with a veteran.
Sarah: They did carry three catchers for pretty much the whole second half last year. Besides, anyone who turns out to be surplus can be traded this summer.
Paul: I don’t understand the three catcher thing for an AL team. You’re already down one bench spot for the DH. Why burn another one with the third catcher? Then again, the Red Sox are far smarter than i am.
Coley: If the Sox did carry a third catcher, and it was a veteran, it would have to be somebody who was just happy to be on the roster. I don’t think Tek would sign on just to mentor the kids. Maybe Sal Fasano is available?
Sarah: At this point, if the Sox do get, say, Teagarden for Buchholz, this is how I see it playing out:
- Tek and Tea split time; Tea catches Wake (if Wake even pitches — he was injured for much of ’08 too)
- When Tek gets injured, Tea takes over; Bard backs him up (Tek plays hurt all the time — probably hurts more than JD Drew ever does, but is made of pig iron, chewing tobacco, and Clint Eastwood’s spit, so he never says anything — but with a young, talented catcher on the roster, he wouldn’t have to keep sucking it up all the time).
- If it’s Salty and not Tea, the Sox have Salty take over first base now and then; Wakefield retires rather than force Bard, Salty, or Tek to catch him, because Wake always puts the team first. He’s just that kind of guy.
Nick: If the Sox trade for a catcher, they definitely won’t resign Varitek. If the trade happens, one of Bard or the new guy will have to catch Wakefield.
Sarah: Well, yes. That is the unspoken “nuclear option.” Though part of the reason no other team wants to sign him is that they’ll have to give up a draft pick to do so (because the Sox offered him arb and he declined) and so far, no one has wanted to do that. So even if the Sox do get a young catcher in addition to Bard, Varitek still might end up in the Sal Fasano posish of “just wanting to be on the roster.”
What do you guys think? Sox fans, how do you feel about this bevy of small moves compared to New York’s two giant signings? Non-Sox fans, would you want to see your team take a chance on Varitek? What about the Saito move? And we barely touched on Smoltz! Let’s keep the convo going in the comments.