Off-Season Dreamin’

The season is all but over for Boston, the wonderful three-of-four series against New York aside. I’ve had plans for a while of posting what I’d like to see happen this offseason, but I’ve decided to wait to see how everyone does the last couple weeks.

Apart from that, however, we know the Red Sox desperately need a big-name starter. Conventional wisdom has them being a big player in the free agent market this season — even one as soft-spoken as Curt Schilling thinks the Sox will spare no expense to add the final parts for their planned 2007-10 dynasty.

Here’s what’ll be available, with ages (righties first, then lefties):

  • Tony Armas Jr., 28
  • Pedro Astacio, 36
  • Miguel Batista, 35
  • Roger Clemens, 44
  • Adam Eaton, 28
  • Scott Erickson, 38
  • Rick Helling, 35
  • Orlando Hernandez, 36
  • Jason Johnson, 32 (mutual option)
  • B-H Kim, 27 (team option)
  • Cory Lidle, 34
  • Jose Lima, 33
  • Greg Maddux, 40 (retiring)
  • Jason Marquis, 28
  • Joe Mays, 30
  • Gil Meche, 28
  • Brian Moehler, 34
  • Mike Mussina, 37 (team option)
  • Tomo Ohka, 30
  • Ramon Ortiz, 33
  • Vicente Padilla, 28
  • Chan Ho Park, 33
  • Sidney Ponson, 29
  • Brad Radke, 33
  • Jason Schmidt, 33
  • Aaron Sele, 36
  • John Smoltz, 39 (team option)
  • Jeff Suppan, 31
  • John Thomson, 32
  • Steve Trachsel, 35
  • Tim Wakefield, 40 (team option)
  • John Wasdin, 34
  • Jefff Weaver, 30
  • Kip Wells, 29
  • Woody Williams, 40
  • Paul Wilson, 33 (team option)
  • Kerry Wood, 29 (mutual option)
  • Jamey Wright, 31
  • Jaret Wright, 30 (team option)
  • Mark Buehrle, 27 (team option)
  • Bruce Chen, 29
  • Shawn Estes, 33
  • Tom Glavine, 40 (dual options)
  • Ted Lilly, 30
  • Jamie Moyer, 43 (muual option)
  • Mark Mulder, 29
  • Andy Pettite, 34
  • Mark Redman, 32
  • David Wells, 43 (retiring)
  • Randy Wolf, 30
  • Barry Zito, 28

We can knock this list down quickly, by removing all players with team options (if they’re good enough, the teams will pick them back up; if not, we probably don’t want them either), all players likely to retire and all players not bound for the Hall of Fame older than 30. Adding their career ERAs:

  • Tony Armas Jr., 28 — 4.49*
  • Roger Clemens, 44 — 3.11
  • Adam Eaton, 28 — 4.37*
  • Jason Marquis, 28 — 4.50*
  • Joe Mays, 30 — 5.05
  • Gil Meche, 28 — 4.62
  • Tomo Ohka, 30 — 4.04*
  • Vicente Padilla, 28 — 4.01*
  • Sidney Ponson, 29 — 4.89
  • Jason Schmidt, 33 — 3.90*
  • Jeff Weaver, 30 — 4.59
  • Kip Wells, 29 — 4.46*
  • Jamey Wright, 31 — 5.13
  • Bruce Chen, 29 — 4.55
  • Ted Lilly, 30 — 4.62
  • Mark Mulder, 29 — 4.11*
  • Randy Wolf, 30 — 4.20*
  • Barry Zito, 28 — 3.91

ERAs with asterisks were compiled mostly against NL lineups, so add roughly one to two runs to that figure if you want to get an idea how they’ll fare against the Yanks, Jays and Devil Rays four times each next year.

Erasing the players that we know should not be pitching for a team with playoff hopes, that leaves us with: Clemens, Padilla, Schmidt, Lilly, Mulder and Zito.

  • Clemens of course is a second-half-only player and won’t even be available for negotiations until May 1.
  • Padilla after posting consecutive stellar seasons for Philly in 2002-03, is channeling that for the Rangers of all teams, putting together a nifty 14-9 record and a 4.27 ERA (4.06 away from Ameriquest Field). His K/9 (6.88) and K/BB ratio (2.30) are both up from previous seasons — in fact his K/9 is the highest it’s ever been as a starter, but they’re not so far out of line to raise flags.
  • Schmidt has been mentioned a lot, which is why I left him on the list. But he’s 33. He’ll want at least four years. Will we want him in 2010 when he’s 37? Or even 2008 when he’s 35? He’s been a full-time starter since 1997 and had some good years since then, with ERAs around 4. He broke through from 2002-04 (3.45/2.34/3.20 in consecutive years). His strikeout rate has been declining since then, although this year has been better than last in terms of ERA (3.45) and opponents’ average (.236). There’s the NL factor to consider, as well. How long can he continue his late-career resurgence? It worked for Curt Schilling, but do we want to gamble on that possibility when Beckett-like adjustment problems are far more likely in a pitcher with far less promise? It’s a possible consolation prize, but one that would be much more expensive than Padilla with about as much certainty.
  • Lilly has always held such promise, but a 30-year-old with one good season (2004 — 4.06 ERA in 197 innings, .230 BAA)? I think I’ll pass.
  • Mulder wowed everyone by winning 21 games in his second season in 2001, then winning 19 in 2002 and 15 in a shortened 2003. He had a good season last year, too, but he was wretched this year and is now out for the season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery. Incidentally, this doesn’t look good: .232-.259-.264-.273-.327. That’s his BAA every year since 2002. He’s 29, his shoulder is a mess and his numbers are in decline.
  • Zito. Only once in his seven seasons has Barry Zito ever posted an ERA over 4 (though he’s flirting with it this year). And he’s a lefty. And his numbers away from Oakland are incredible this season. Reasons for concern: He’s not fared particularly well in Fenway Park or against the Yankees, his K/9 and K/BB this season are the lowest of his career and his BAA is the second-highest. The .760 OPS he’s allowed is also his career high. So he might be in decline. Or he might be distracted. Or he might just be having an "off" year in which he approaches 20 wins with a sub-4 ERA. It’s worth the risk, and it’s worth the money.

Barry Zito is a pitcher the Red Sox must have — if for no other reason than it means the Yankees won’t have him. Let the bidding war begin, luxury tax be damned. Because a Schilling-Zito-Beckett-Clemens-Wakefield rotation in the second half is going to the World Series and likely winning it.

26 comments… add one
  • Hey Paul, you and your Theo led Sox go ahead and get Zito. And the Yanks will go ahead and get a kid named Daisuke Matsuzaka.

    bloodyank78 September 18, 2006, 11:31 pm
  • Don’t be too sure the Sox won’t at least be driving up the price on Matsuzaka too. The fact that the big money on him will be the one-time posting fee makes it quite likely the Sox will be willing to swallow the one-time cost and go after him as well, considering they would then have sole negotiating rights.
    Something tells me Henry and Lucchino found losing far less palatable than they expected when they formulated the policy for this season. Zito and Matsuzaka are both players that fit the Epstein mold if Henry’s willing to pony up the cash…

    Paul SF September 19, 2006, 12:13 am
  • The Yanks can “go ahead and get a kid named DM” if they pony up a $20M posting fee (blind auction) and then another $30M to sign him. That’s their privilege with their wealth, but BY makes it sound like the Yankees would be digging up a gold nugget from a hidden stream, passing on all the advertised talent that other teams stupidly grab.
    I also think Paul is being a bit naive: if the Sox have actively tried to move a proven Hall of Famer in Manny, why would they then lock in an unproven pitcher for what might be $10M per season, having never seen him face MLB talent on a regular basis? I don’t care how much Henry wants to win, he runs a business and that’s not the wisest business decision. I am not saying they won’t go after DM, but they certainly have a budget limit, probably lower than the Yankees.
    I don’t see the Sox ponying up $25M for the right to possibly end up in a stalemate with an unproven Japanese pitcher. But I’ve been wrong before, for sure.

    SF September 19, 2006, 1:18 am
  • I rate Wakefield higher than a #5 starter.

    Hudson September 19, 2006, 1:56 am
  • Definitely Hudson. I think Paul only listed him there because in that potential rotation, he would be the #5.

    Quo September 19, 2006, 2:15 am
  • Well, I might have gotten carried away with myself last night — not enough sleep, too many dreams, or something like that. I wonder if either team could afford to go after both Zito (four years, $50 million) and Matsuzaka (as SF noted, likely another $50 million when it’s all said and done).
    I’d prefer Zito — he’s a proven commodity and still young. Matsuzaka is anything but young or proven, but just as expensive.

    Paul SF September 19, 2006, 10:43 am
  • Matsuzaka worries me. The price is astronomical, he has thrown a shitload of innings and pitches (it ain’t the years, it’s the mileage) and success in Japan does *not* translate directly to MLB. Even Ichiro and Matsui aren’t what they were in Japan. Buyer beware.
    Zito is a solid 3rd starter, IMO. There is reason to worry about how things will go when he endures his usual early season struggles in the cauldron of the AL East, too. And he wants top dollar. But I think you can project him more easily than D.M.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) September 19, 2006, 11:13 am
  • The thing that is most attractive about Zito is the second half of every year, and his durability is something to admire as well. That being said, that first half year could be terrible for him in Boston or NY, and he also comes with Boras which automatically drives most teams out of the running.
    That being said, I do belive that the Red Sox will drive the price for either way into the stratosphere if they feel they can’t get him. Boras isn’t stupid, and he knows both teams need that other starter in the worst possible way. When I look at Zito, I don’t see him ever leaving the west coast without an inordinate amount of money and years. If it takes five years, seventy million, I’d rather have Schmidt.
    What’s the story with Peavy? Isn’t he avialable as well? I don’t have the time to look it up, but I thought he was on the block as well.

    Brad September 19, 2006, 11:23 am
  • “I don’t see him ever leaving the west coast without an inordinate amount of money”
    “he also comes with Boras”
    the realization from both the Yanks and Sox that he’s probably not worth it, even though Boras will try to actively engage both teams via his typical slimy tactics. The danger for the Sox, especially, is getting into an auction situation and then getting stuck with the merchandise along with the bill.

    lp September 19, 2006, 11:38 am
  • I couldn’t agree more, LP. The thing that makes Zito so attractive is his ability to go long in games and late in the season, but it’s not worth what Boras will ask for. I personally feel that Schmidt will be courted heavier by both teams.

    Brad September 19, 2006, 12:34 pm
  • Also, the Red Sox and the Yankees both get ahold of Zito pretty well, so what’s the advantage for either in a playoff situation?

    Brad September 19, 2006, 12:35 pm
  • Here’s the number that scares me:
    That’s how many guys Barry Zito has walked this season. Combined with 13 hit batsmen, that’s 108 free passes he’s issued this season. I suspect that, in a bandbox like Fenway, he’d get smacked around but good. I’d rather he go elsewhere.

    C. Joseph September 19, 2006, 2:05 pm
  • As suspected his lifetime #s in Fenway and Yankee Stadium aren’t anything special:
    Fenway: 4.65 ERA / 1.58 WHIP
    Yankee Stadium: 4.24 / 1.36
    Not exactly someone to break the bank for.

    lp September 19, 2006, 2:15 pm
  • To be fair to Zito, those numbers were compiled while facing Yankees and Red Sox lineups that were at or near the top of the league. Tough competition.
    I still generally agree that he’s not an elite pitcher, though.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) September 19, 2006, 2:54 pm
  • I’d be happy if the Sox overpaid for Zito (which is the only way they’ll get him).
    Anyone else seen this? Remarkable piece:
    A-Rod really does come off as quite narcissistic and I don’t like the way he casually mentions teammates as those who get e freer pass than him.
    But the best bit is this:
    There was one game against Boston in Yankee Stadium in June when Rodriguez looked so anguished by the rough treatment from New York fans that Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, while watching him from the on-deck circle, grew concerned. Ortiz caught Rodriguez’s attention and gave him an exaggerated exhale, the way you might when a physician asks you to take a deep breath. Rodriguez would later thank Ortiz. “It was painful to see his face,” Ortiz said. “I had to tell him to just breathe and relax.”
    What a legend Papi is.

    Anonymous September 19, 2006, 3:00 pm
  • That post was me, by the way.

    Sam September 19, 2006, 3:01 pm
  • Great link. Top posting that article.

    attackgerbil September 19, 2006, 3:07 pm
  • A. We must get Zito, overpay him if need be. Everyone here knows, without even a teeny tiny doubt that he goes to the Spanks if the Sox don’t grab him. His numbers may not be stellar vs. the sox and spanks, but if he goes to NY he will be the next Mussina and haunt us for 4 years.
    B. Get Schmidt too, and get him on the long term contract which will easily be traded in 2009 or 2010 when their is not enough talent (like every year) and somebody else will take the risk on him.
    C. Becket had better pitch better next year to be our 4 guy behind Schill, Zito and Schmidt.
    D. Paps is the number 5 guy in the rotation with Wake moving to the pen. It is time.
    E. Move Clement to the pen as the most expensive reliever ever.

    Manny's Mission September 19, 2006, 3:51 pm
  • A couple problems, MM: Schmidt and Zito will cost too much even for a team like the Red Sox, and I really just have no confidence in Schmidt. At least Padilla is younger and has pitched well in an AL hitters’ park.
    Clement will be dealt for whatever the Sox can get for him plus eating much of his contract. I question the value of moving Papelbon, especially considering the potential perils of adjusting back to being a starter, and taking Wakefield — guaranteed 12-15 wins and a ton of quality innings — out of the rotation.

    Paul SF September 19, 2006, 4:18 pm
  • After looking at the list a little more closely, Paul, do you really think that Atlanta is going to pick up that option on Smoltz?
    If either team could pick up Smoltz, and move him back into the bullpen, it’s a huge addition. For the Red Sox, it would allow Papelbon back into the rotation, and for the Yankees it would give them something along the lines of Smoltz, Farnsworth, Mo – which is a pretty damn good combo..

    Brad September 19, 2006, 5:47 pm
  • Actually Brad, I was figuring Smoltz would retire. For some reason, I kept hearing that, but I could be totally off.
    He would be an excellent move for the Sox, for sure, in that it would give them a closer and allow them to move Papelbon to the rotation, essentially creating a Schilling-Beckett-Zito-Wakefield-Papelbon rotation with a possible Clemens entry in the second half and the worse half of Wakelbon moving into the long-relief role.

    Paul SF September 19, 2006, 6:04 pm
  • Clemens’ stats are further padded by the relatively easy lineups he’s faced:
    Cubs 3x
    Pirates 2x
    Brewers 2x
    D-Backs 2x
    And in his six starts against probable/possible 2006 playoff teams (Twins, White Sox, Marlins, Cardinals, Phillies x2), he’s made it into the 7th inning only once.

    airk September 19, 2006, 6:22 pm
  • *sorry: delete White Sox from that list and add Detroit

    airk September 19, 2006, 6:24 pm
  • The only clear perception I get from Smoltz is that barring another injury, he’s going to start until he retires.

    Quo September 19, 2006, 7:00 pm
  • “wonderful 3 of 4” trumped by awesome 5 of 5, when it really counted….somehow I don’t think the sox will make any bigger splash this off-season than they have in past seasons, despite shilling’s musings…they typically don’t go over a certain price tag, and their recent history supports that will continue….the sox always go after the “bargains”, and i’d be surprised to see them deviate….personally, i’d keep pap as a closer…what he can do there is a known asset…

    dc September 19, 2006, 8:43 pm
  • …check out the boston globe article about jh considering nascar as his next distraction from the sox….oh boy

    dc September 19, 2006, 9:27 pm

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