I’ve Seen The Future, Brother : It Is Murder

From Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein’s excellent article about the state of AL East teams’ farms systems comes this passage: "The Red Sox are anything but stocked when it comes to position players, particularly when it comes to infielders and catchers. Jason Varitek is one of the best catchers around, but the inclusion of Kelly Shoppach in the Coco Crisp deal is a little puzzling. Varitek, 34, is nearly at the scary age for catchers, and there (is) no obvious candidate to step in should something go wrong." Last year, the Yanks packaged Jorge Posada’s expected successor Dioner Navarro in the Randy Johnson deal, leaving the Bombers in a similar predicament in which the Sox find themselves. Both teams have gained great competitive advantages (the Yanks more than the Sox) from the performances of these players at this normally weak position. And now with both players in their mid-30’s and, likely, declining, the Sox and Yanks do not seem to have viable back-up plans for the post-Varitek and post-Posada eras. Is anyone else worried?

24 comments… add one
  • Navarro’s not on the D’back’s 40 man roster — maybe the Yankees didn’t think he was that good.

    john March 3, 2006, 4:47 pm
  • Navarro is on the Dodger roster and will probably get the starting job.

    Nate March 3, 2006, 4:54 pm
  • You’re right. He started the last 50 games last year and hit .273 with a .354 obp. Very good for his age, but he only had 14 rbis in 176 abs — maybe good enough for his age but obviously teams want more (projects to 42 rbis in 528 abs, which is more at bats than he’ll ever get in a year). I guess we’ll find out more this year.
    Of course George really wanted the Big Unit and expected more from him than he got last year. They had to give up some real chips.

    john March 3, 2006, 5:13 pm
  • I have a feeling the Sox never thought Shoppach would be better than a mid-level catcher, and that mid-season catastrophic injuries aside, they can find an able replacment for Varitek over the next year or two, whether through the draft, a trade, or via free agency. It’s not clear that Shoppach at his age and with his minor league record, would have ever been anything special. It’s hard to contingency plan for a disaster, though having a longer term backup plan is something else.

    SF March 3, 2006, 5:27 pm
  • Has everyone already forgotten about Josh Bard?

    Anonymous March 3, 2006, 9:57 pm
  • the red sox included schoppach because of crisp. the indians wanted schoppach, and the sox gave him up. crisp will eventually be the left fielder. the sox have 3 bright highly thought of center fileder waiting in the wings. no question the yankee lineup is on paper the most potent more than likely of all time. however, there are health issues at more than 4 positions, not including the pitchers mound.cf,lf,rf,ctcher. the yankees are 1 injury away from big trouble. no depth on the bench period. the season is so long, injuries are going to happen.add the questionable health of their staff, people should be and more than likely are nervous. forget about scoring 10 runs a agame. they did that last year too. look what happened to both the sox, and yanks. pitching, and defense.the sox are going to better at both. i’ll take the sox winning the division by 4 games or more…this will be the most electric division in all of baseball.

    johnnymulk March 3, 2006, 10:25 pm
  • The Sox have as many pitching questions as the Yanks. Only a Sox fan would declare the Sox pitching will be better this year.
    Either staff could be excellent. Either staff could be mediocre. Both staffs could have injury potential.
    Defense: Matsui over Manny, Damon Crisp?, Sheff Nixon – Sox fans will say Nixon, I’m not sure that’s true, Giambi Youkilis – Youkilis but Giambi’s bat will make up for that, Cano Loretta – we hear Loretta, Jeter Gonzalez – Gonzalez on D, Jeter on all-round and intangibles, A-Rod v Lowell – A-Rod, Varitek over Posada, but not by an enormous margin. Bubba and Cairo are good defensive subs, Yanks dropped Flaherty, Snow is much stronger at first but his bat has declined enormously. Where the Yankee subs are weak is on offense, compared to the Yankee subs of old. If that’s a problem they’ll rectify it during the season.

    john March 4, 2006, 12:06 am
  • Are you kidding me SF? You’ve been doggin’ me all week about making light of the Pavano situation, and here you are suggesting the Sox will have no trouble finding an “able replacement” for Tek. I guess that depends on what you mean by “able.” As Nick notes, the Sox (and Yanks) have had a huge advantage over the rest of the league by getting so much production out of the catcher slot. If that gulf were so easy to bridge, then more teams would bridge it. And there wouldn’t be a gulf. Which is not to say shipping Shop was wrong. But don’t suggest the catcher position isn’t a serious long-term concern. Because it is. For both teams.

    YF March 4, 2006, 1:49 am
  • I happen to agree that the Sox are shy an adequate replacement for Varitek. Bard isn’t it, but then again neither was Shoppach. Neither matches up to the Fisk to Gedman to Varitek (with some guys sprinkled in between) line that has dominated that position for the Sox over past 30+ years.
    As far as team defense goes, Arod over Lowell? Defensively? Arod makes the plays he should, but Brooks Robinson he simply ain’t. Mike Lowell has the better glove. Arod should be playing short (and they should try out Jeter at third IMO). Trot v. Hideki. I’ll take Trot still, but injuries have taken their toll. He was a good defensive right fielder, (not Dewey) but good. He still makes the plays, but he no longer has the range he had. Crisp v. Damon. /shrug We’ll see. Damon throws like my Aunt Mabel (but Crisp’s arm is only marginally better). That said, Crisp has better speed (he’s 7 years younger) and thus has better range, but Damon’s played the positon extensively and Crisp hasn’t. I’d say its a toss-up right now, but we’ll have our answer by mid-season. The rest of John’s comments I agree with.
    As far as pitching goes, I also agree that both staffs have serious question marks, but overall, I think the Sox staff has a higher up side. Fortunatley, so far, Schilling looks good, but pitching to BC ain’t the Yanks. =) I’m praying Foulke returns in good form and hoping Beckett becomes the strong #2 starter that Mussina was (he isn’t any longer). Then there’s Papelbon . . .

    Craig March 4, 2006, 6:30 am
  • Read a bit more closely, YF. Nothing I said there is at all at odds with my Pavano ruminations. If Varitek goes down with a serious injury and soon, the Sox are in a very, very bad spot. Immediately. But for the long term I would think that finding an able replacement for their catchers is less of a concern for both the Sox and the Yankees, due to their financial means; additionally the Sox have another clump of high draft picks this year. Each team probably can look, during the offseason to sign a guy or move a chip in-season for a reasonable, if much less spectacular, substitute. There’s no denying there’s a need at the “catcher heir” position for both teams, but I don’t think you can expect any team to have a comparable replacement for an all-star catcher waiting in the wings, ready to step in at no drop-off in the middle of a season. That would be a very rare situation, and it’s a contingency that would be both a major luxury and highly unlikely. I fail to see why this contradicts my position on Pavano, in any way.
    Both teams need to re-stock the position, without a doubt. We all agree. I just think that there’s very little realistic immediately available insurance in the worst-case scenario for any team but for the long term I’ll assume that the Red Sox’ front office sees some of the same things we do and are prepared to add depth through the draft, free agency, and/or trades.

    SF March 4, 2006, 8:12 am
  • I think it’s an overly generous reading (to Theo’s and Cashman’s benefit) of each situation to say that both Yanks and Sox front offices had soured on Navarro and Shoppach as prospects and thus were included in those deals. Both trades involved players the Sox and Yanks had deemed very important for their short-term goals. Rightly, the Sox identified 2006 as a year in which they can compete for the world series (the same with 2005 for the Yanks), and, as there were very few center field options out there, they went after Crisp very agressively. The Indians took advantage of their situation (Damon’s departure, the gaping hole in center) and got as much future value back as they could. The upshot for the Sox is that for 2006, with all their parts in place, they’re going to be division contenders. The negative is the loss of cheap, young and potentially very good positional players to fill problem positions (3rd and catcher)in the future.

    NickYF March 4, 2006, 2:19 pm
  • I don’t think the Yanks soured on Navarro at all, for the record. Are you alluding to John’s comment?

    SF March 4, 2006, 2:31 pm
  • yeah, I was alluding to your comment about Shopp and John’s about Navarro.

    NickYF March 4, 2006, 2:34 pm
  • Shoppach was 25 when traded, Navarro was 20. They are/were two very different prospects, Navarro the far superior one.

    SF March 4, 2006, 5:41 pm
  • And Randy Johnson is the far superior player to Crisp. The trades are still analagous, even if they are on different scales. If we are to believe the many rumors that surrounded both trades, the Yanks initially offered Cano and Duncan as the prospects heading to Arizona, but the D-Backs held out until they could get Navarro and flip him as part of the Sean Green trade. And the initial rumors/reports about the Crisp trade made no mention of Shoppach. It was only after Mota’s dubious medical test that the Sox included Shoppach in the trade, or so the story goes. The Yanks and Sox were squeezed in both instances. So, in both cases, the teams measured their current needs and reluctantly parted with future useful talent. It’s a gamble for both considering their situations at the catcher position. But I guess that’s what contending wealthy teams do.

    NickYF March 4, 2006, 8:47 pm
  • What he said. Face it SF. DenialThe Charles ain’t just a river in Egypt Boston.

    YF March 4, 2006, 9:39 pm
  • future useful talent
    Again, there’s a difference between a guy like Navarro, who was considered one of the top 3 prospects in the entire Yankees’ organization and one of the top catching prospects in the Majors, and Shoppach, a 25 year old who was in the bottom third of the Top 10 of the Red Sox’ organization and probably didn’t crack the top 50 prospects for the Majors. We all agree on the situations for both the Sox and Yanks, that the catcher-in-waiting position is suspect. But it’s absurd to equalize the two situations. Shoppach and Navarro were/are two very different types of catchers-in-waiting, and to deny that is an incredibly simplistic view of this issue.

    SF March 4, 2006, 10:31 pm
  • SF. Wow. That’s just completely, well, I don’t even know where to go with that. Yeah, Navarro was more valuable than Shoppach. But Randy Johnson is A LOT more valuable than Coco Crisp. I mean. Seriously.

    YF March 4, 2006, 11:12 pm
  • This post is about the catcher position. What do the relative values of Crisp and Johnson have to do with anything? You are missing the point entirely, it seems almost willfully, to try to be dramatic (hence the cutesy failed strikethroughs and the “wow”). Cut the rhetorical crap and address the issue. Navarro and Shoppach likely have two extremely different major league futures, so to cojoin the two is a joke. The Red Sox did not trade, it seems, their 140 game a year catching future away. The Yankees may have. Mind you, if I were the Yankees I would have done the same, so I am not criticising the Johnson deal or the Yankees’ attitude towards Navarro. But to say that two deals somehow have this false equivalency with regards to how the teams treated their catching position futures is ridiculous.

    SF March 5, 2006, 8:06 am
  • SF, I guess what I’m reacting to in your argument is your continuing faith that Theo is the master of all situations. Very simply, the Sox’s future options in regard to the catcher position are worse now than if Shoppach has not been included in the deal. Again, according to reports, the Sox did not originally propose his name in the first offers. But because the deal almost fell through, the Indians were able to ask and get Shoppach included. If the Crisp deal falls through, what options do the Sox have for the center field opening? And without a decent center fielder, how less competitive are the Sox in 2006 (during Manny’s and Ortiz’s winding down reign of terror)? You’re telling me that Shoppach likely is viewed by the SOx front office as a mediocre major leaguer to be and yet the Indians who have a better track record with minor leaguers turned major leaguers insisted on getting him. It’s possible that every move Theo makes is golden, there’s never any hesitation, never any compromising of future plans for the immediate short-term need, but I think it’s unlikely. And I think the Indians trade is an example of Theo losing more than he wanted to for the sake of the immediate future.

    NickYF March 5, 2006, 12:10 pm
  • SF, I guess what I’m reacting to in your argument is your continuing faith that Theo is the master of all situations. Very simply, the Sox’s future options in regard to the catcher position are worse now than if Shoppach has not been included in the deal
    I think you are projecting your own thoughts onto mine. I fully agree with pretty much everything you posted (is that not good enough?). But the Sox trading Shoppach has little to do with “everything Theo does is golden”, and in the context of this thread I never asserted that. Truthfully, though I think Theo is an excellent GM, I’ve never asserted that everything he does is golden – just see my reaction to his resignation for how indispensable I thought he was. My main argument, and I think it is neither unreasonable nor invalid, is that Shoppach and Navarro have different Major League futures ahead of them, and the Sox’ catcher situation, however weak for the future, was likely pretty darn weak beforehand if Shoppach was considered the heir apparent to Varitek. Navarro was a 20 year old top prospect. Shoppach wasn’t. So being added as part of the Crisp deal would likely indicate that the Sox were not as high on KS as, say, you. And the fact that Navarro was the centerpiece of the Johnson trade should also say something about his prospects. I am befuddled why this is so controversial a statement. The bottom line is that if Varitek went down this season and was replaced with Shoppach the Sox would probably be in a in a world of hurt. The weakness at the catcher situation predated the Crisp trade, and Theo has to, like you say, deal with that, and pretty soon. It seems like you guys are trying to force a debate when we are in basic agreement. Why?

    SF March 5, 2006, 1:13 pm
  • the only assertion I’m disagreeing with is the idea that the Sox soured on Shoppach as a player. That seemed like a rationalization after-the-fact of a move that certain minor league experts (such as Kevin Goldstein of BP and formerly of Baseball America)found (his words)”a little puzzling.” Why did someone like Goldstein, who is respected in the field of minor league player evaluation, find Shoppach’s inclusion in the deal slightly puzzling? For one, if V-Tek goes down the Sox would be in less a world of hurt with K/S as the replacement. As it stands, you have the much scarier prospect of Bard/Flaherty. I’m guessing Goldstein thinks Shoppach is a much better player than these two. And I’m also guessing that he thinks K/S is a viable major league catcher for the long-term. My feeling is that the Sox included Shoppach because they were in a pretty tough position given their lack of a center fielder, and they included him knowing full-well that he’d be a solid catcher going forward.
    Secondly, another point of disagreement, the centerpiece of the Johnson trade was Vazquez, not Navarro, as the center piece of the Crisp trade was Marte, not Shoppach.
    Why am I bringing up these basic minor differences of opinions and interpretations of fact when essentially we’re in agreement? Look at the calendar! It’s spring training, my first season on the blog, and I’m just taking some practice cuts.

    NickYF March 5, 2006, 1:36 pm
  • My speculation is that the Johnson trade wouldn’t have happened without Navarro or Duncan, end of story. The Crisp deal ended on the inclusion of Shoppach, but my thought is that it didn’t start there.
    And do you really think that the Indians view Shoppach as an everyday Major Leaguer? With Victor Martinez in the fold? Or do they see him as a moveable chip, able to get return value, or quite possible as an able backup? This is how the Sox saw him, that’s my guess.
    We really don’t disagree very much here, as far as I can tell.

    SF March 5, 2006, 1:52 pm
  • What happened to the minor league pitchers? The sox cut talent that was incredible. What happened to real talent vs.?

    Jay March 29, 2006, 12:36 pm

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Next post:

Previous post: