No, Seriously … The Answer

Nick Cafardo — who clearly copied and pasted his print-edition story for tomorrow into a blog post for tonight (psst, Nick, change the time reference when you do that) — reports the Red Sox are close to signing Rocco Baldelli as their fourth outfielder and perhaps close as well to signing John Smoltz as their midseason-replacement starter.

The Baldelli announcement could come at the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday night. Frankly, it's hard to pick a favorite, as both these moves would be terrific for the Sox:

As of last night, sources indicated that Smoltz was leaning toward Boston's offer which was said to be somewhere in the vicinity of $5.5 million guaranteed with the opportunity to earn a few million in incentives which could hike the salary up to $10 million. … The Sox do not anticipate that Smoltz will be ready until later in May, but one of the incentives being discussed would be a roster bonus if he's with the team by June 1.



That would mean the vast majority of our outfield innings would be played by:

  • Jason Bay (134 OPS+, -15.9 UZR/150; BillJ '09: .280/.376/.505)
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (87, 9.0; .302/.359/.424) 
  • J.D. Drew (137, 17.4; .273/.395/.477)
  • Rocco Baldelli (113, 48.6; .279/.330/.465)

Can we pause here to reflect on just how good J.D. Drew was in right field last year? The fact that Tony Massarotti or anyone else can question whether he is worth the money after his 2007 playoff performance and this incredible season on offense and defense is simply mind-boggling. Among right fielders with at least 450 plate appearances last year, only Ryan Ludwick had a higher OPS+, and among right fielders with at least 100 games in the field, only Randy Winn had a higher UZR/150. Yes, he missed time last year, but then he came back and raked (again) in the postseason. 

Anyway, that's a good outfield, and young: Ages 30, 25, 33 and 27. Drew will probably miss games, and Ellsbury may or may not struggle. The flexibility such a signing provides is easy to see: Ortiz gets a break, say against Scott Kazmir, so Bay moves to DH, Ellsbury moves to left (where he is astounding defensively) and Baldelli takes over in center. 
And the top six starters would be:
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka (168 IP, 159 ERA+; Marcel '09: 164 IP, 3.79 ERA)
  • Jon Lester (210 IP, 144 ERA+; 171 IP, 3.76 ERA) 
  • Josh Beckett (174 IP, 115 ERA+; 167 IP, 3.85 ERA) 
  • Tim Wakefield (181 IP, 112 ERA+; 169 IP, 4.45 ERA) 
  • Brad Penny (95 IP, 68 ERA+; 127 IP, 4.25 ERA)
  • John Smoltz (28 IP, 165 ERA+; 94 IP, 3.73 ERA) 

There's quite a bit of redundancy there, with all of them projected to perform quite well. If Penny falters, Smoltz will be there. If Smoltz falters, there's Masterson. If Masterson is bullpen-only or experiences a sophomore slump, there's Buchholz. If Buchholz still doesn't have it together, there's Bowden.

Or one or two might be part of a package for a catcher. In either case, a Smoltz signing makes this a deep, formidable rotation, much like a Baldelli signing does for the outfield. Let's hope the Sox can close both of these deals.

21 comments… add one

  • Scooped by the length of time it took me to compile that post!
    Rosenthal says the Sox are “on the verge” of signing Smoltz, and Gammons says the Baldelli signing “is expected to be announced” at the writers’ dinner.

    Paul SF January 8, 2009, 12:30 am
  • Depth baby depth.

    SF January 8, 2009, 5:47 am
  • No!
    Both are good moves for the Sox. I think Paul kind of called the Smoltz move a while back, or at least hoped for it. I’m surprised that the Braves weren’t able to bring him back. Man, they’ve had a poor off-season.
    If Smoltz pitches, he might actually be the team’s #1. He’s that good. And Baledelli as a 4th outfielder is a great depth move.

    Nick-YF January 8, 2009, 6:51 am
  • Oh, yeah? Well the Yanks are talking about making Phil Coke (15 IP, 14 K, 2 BB, 0.61 ERA, 724 ERA+) a starter!

    Rob January 8, 2009, 7:58 am
  • Let me preface my statement with I am a HUGE fan of both Smoltz and Penny.
    In theory these moves are very solid and really risk free, but the success of all 3 of these moves hinge on the health of these players. If John Smoltz is 80%+, this was a brilliant move, but we won’t know that for some time yet. Great move on paper, congrats Sox fans and F.O. but I am going to hold off a final verdict until I see all 3 on the field on a regular basis. Arm, elbow, shoulder injuries sometimes don’t play along according to the plans you have made, just ask Mr. Schilling and Freddy Garcia.

    John - YF January 8, 2009, 9:56 am
  • It’ll be weird seeing Smoltz in any other uni, that’s for sure. But ya, seems like the risk-rewards pay here, though the Penny+Smoltz money is less than (or close to) Pavano money, so you got to love that.
    Baldelli I’m not sure about, but then again, I might be viewing him as a Yanks option, where he would have to start, as opposed to being a backup.

    Lar January 8, 2009, 10:11 am
  • In theory these moves are very solid and really risk free, but the success of all 3 of these moves hinge on the health of these players.
    It’s a stretch to expect all three to be healthy and excellent all season. But I think it’s also a stretch to expect none of the three to be healthy and excellent during the season. For the minimal costs involved, they don’t need much health or performance to have substantially upgraded their bench/back-end rotation.

    Paul SF January 8, 2009, 12:16 pm
  • you are correct paul…expectations are so low for this type of acquisition that anything more than say a ponson/colon-type contribution is a bonus…kidding…i really like baldelli, not sure about penny, but smoltz is a hall of famer…he may not be the smoltz of old, but i’m not as good as i used to be either…
    nothing wrong with stocking the depth chart…

    dc January 8, 2009, 12:33 pm
  • Here’s what I don’t get: If they’re willing to drop between $10 and $20 million on Smoltz and Penny, why not sign Sheets? In my mind he comes with the same injury concerns but he’s significantly younger and better.
    Baldelli is a great signing. I wish the Yanks were willing to give him a chance.

    Rob January 8, 2009, 12:43 pm
  • Because Sheets may be demanding 2 years and 25M guaranteed, plus the draft pick. And it’s putting all eggs in one basket and doesn’t spread any of the risk around.

    SF January 8, 2009, 1:00 pm
  • Also, reports are that Sheets’ shoulder is quite an issue. I don’t think it’s $ when it comes to Sheets. With the amount of talent he possesses there must be a reason the GM’s are staying away. Also having Smoltz, Penny this gives them some room to possibly work some of the younger guys into the rotation for spot starts or until they are both ready. It’s depth and flexibility, I get it. I just need to see Smoltz and Penny out there before I tip my cap 100%.

    John - YF January 8, 2009, 1:13 pm
  • If you get Sheets on a two year deal, then the second year is certainly likely to payoff. Smoltz isn’t a knuckleballer (and so isn’t ageless) and Penny has very low strikeout rates. For instance, Penny’s 2007 is a complete mirage.
    I could see Penny being, at best, league average and Smoltz somewhat better. Of the two, of course Smoltz is the better signing especially since they could always shift him to the pen. But he is going to be 42 years old.
    For about the same guaranteed yearly money they could also sign Lowe. I understand the reasoning about depth, but given the depth in Sox farm, one sure thing would seem better than two might-be’s. That’s a lot of guaranteed money for two might-be’s.

    Rob January 8, 2009, 1:26 pm
  • Rob – you also have to figure in the draft pick compensation. Penny, Smoltz and Rocco don’t require a pick compensation. Lowe would, so that needs to be weighed into the equation.

    dw (sf) January 8, 2009, 1:37 pm
  • then the second year is certainly likely to payoff
    How, exactly? What if his shoulder is frayed and blows out in the first year and he needs reconstruction that eats the second year?
    If Sheets would sign a two year deal with the second year vesting based on performance then that might be the case. But everything so far has pointed to him wanting two years guaranteed, up front, at bigger dollars.
    For about the same guaranteed yearly money they could also sign Lowe
    Derek Lowe can be had on a one year deal for $10M? Really? If so, turning down the Mets was perhaps the dumbest move ever in the history of free agency. Or do you mean Rob Lowe?

    SF January 8, 2009, 1:43 pm
  • Good point on the draft picks.
    $10 million assumes they get absolutely nothing from Penny and Smoltz. $12 to 14 million seems more likely, depending on the incentives.

    Rob January 8, 2009, 1:52 pm
  • “Baldelli is a great signing. I wish the Yanks were willing to give him a chance.”
    The Yankees did express interest, but Baldelli’s wife loves to shop on Newbury Street. (I kid, I kid.)
    I’d still love to get Kotsay back in the fold, too. Although I doubt that’s likely.

    I'mBillMcNeal January 8, 2009, 1:55 pm
  • I’d like to see Jeff Bailey given the shot as fifth-OF/1B backup. He acquitted himself well in his stints with Boston.

    Paul SF January 8, 2009, 1:59 pm
  • Smoltz, Baldelli and Penny are all risky moves, but the payoff could be huge. Sheets came with more baggage, so I like the decision to avoid him… its too bad D-Lowe is still holding out for big bucks.
    Bottom Line: Once Tek sees the light and send Boras crawling back to Boston looking for a 1-year deal, the Sox will be in good shape… though I wouldn’t be opposed to making a deal for Salty or the like either.

    bottomlinesox January 8, 2009, 3:00 pm
  • why is no one talking about the glut of catchers in the Mariner’s system, and them as a potential trading partner?

    dw (sf) January 8, 2009, 4:22 pm
  • The Mariners management hasn’t been much heard from since last year’s failure. Rumor is everyone but the new manager is 30,000 leagues under, without a suit.

    Hit Dog January 8, 2009, 5:37 pm
  • Saw this comment on Baseball Think Factory:
    If John Smoltz ever ran into a swarm of bugs in the playoffs, he’d capture the bug leader, tear its head off, and then swallow the bug leader’s body, and then the swarm would retreat in fear.

    Paul SF January 8, 2009, 6:03 pm

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