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Must Be March

You know spring training in Fort Myers is boring the writers when Nick Cafardo spends three pages discussing the biggest non-controversy Boston has ever seen, the departure of Jason Bay.

Seriously. Who cares? The Sox' doctors saw problems with Bay's knee. Bay's and the Mets' did not. Bay got a better deal from the Mets than the Sox were willing to offer. And everyone moves on. Except Nick Cafardo. 

27 replies on “Must Be March”

I think it’s a big deal to Cafardo because he’s from the camp that believes Bay was more valuable to the Sox than most are willing to admit. We’ve (You and I) been down this road before, I think he’s more valuable than people are giving him credit for. His offense, streaky or otherwise, was elite at points last season and that’s very difficult to replace or duplicate. This is an argument that may never get settled, but at the very least we will have to wait until June or July to see how things work out.
As for the Mets, who’s shocked that they overpaid in both dollars and years? Raise your hand…Nobody. The Mets are awful at signing Free Agents, they consistently overpay and in this case it was both money and years. In Bay’s case, I can’t blame them. They needed to do something for their fans and Bay was really the only answer.
PS: Great piece over at Fangraphs re: Theo’s comments about Ellsbury’s defense and where his actual defense ranks.

You’re dreaming if you think Bay’s name won’t or shouldn’t keep coming up. Everytime the Sox offense struggles, and it will, Bay’s name will come up. Him crushing the weaker NL pitching won’t help either.
More problematic for your perspective is the Sox would have signed him. They just didn’t want the extra year. the last time they played that game? Damon. How’d that workout again?

In other news, it looks like Dice-K will be out to start the season:
But, like the article mentions, they can simply use their top 4 starters to start the season off anyway. The first time the Red Sox will need a 5th starter is April 19th. And if he’s not ready by then, Wakefield can start.
So, not a huge deal, but certainly not a good sign for that healthy season everyone’s been projecting for him.

And certainly not a good sign for the supposed rotation depth. The more I think about it the more I would not be surprised if the Sox fail to win 90 games. Then again when Theo was caught truth-telling he called it a bridge year.

So Matsusaka has a little problem in February and because the Sox don’t need a fifth starter until after mid-April they’re bringing him along slowly. That suddenly makes the Sox bound to fail to win 90 games?

bay’s departure will only be an issue if the sox offense struggles…the front office handling of this situation and fan reaction remind me of the last time a left fielder left the sox…not a quote, but it went something like this: we didn’t need him anyway, we got [bay] and he’s awesome…no wonder his grapes seem a little sour now…and now you got mike cameron as his presumed replacement…let’s see how it works out before being so quick to poo-poo it as a non-issue…
by the way, to answer the question from the other thread, i do expect the sox to get some flack by expecting players to, in essence, insure themselves…apparently they don’t understand that injury risk is inherent in athletics…the upside for them is that they mitigate the risk, and steer clear of more fragile players unwilling to share the risk…the downside is that they alienate certain free agents, and possibly miss out…it’s about managing your risks i guess…i don’t blame them…

Wait, does anyone think the Sox did the wrong thing with Manny, and how he gave up? Does anyone think the Sox would have been better off without Manny for those fifty games and his minor league replacement? Did the Sox not get great value for Manny in the form of Bay? Did they not come within a game of the World Series even after trading Bay?
The issue here is not whether Jason Bay was a good player – I think he was certainly a good player. The question was whether the Sox front office felt that Bay for four years and sixty-something million dollars was a wise, fiscally responsible move, and whether they could risk far fewer dollars for the potential of someone providing comparable value.
The Sox have taken an admitted risk. They have a possibility that a far cheaper player on a far shorter contract will provide similar value (between offense and defense), with added flexibility down the road. I am not sure why Sox fans, as a generalized mass, are being taken to task for acknowledging this.
As for Damon, nice try. The four years without him worked out just fine. Who knows and who cares how it would have played out otherwise, I am pretty damn sure the odds of winning a championship with him were just as slim as winning without him. And they won one. All the roster moves that happened surrounding and following his departure conspired, somehow, to bring the Sox a title, in some weird and cosmic way. I’d let him walk away every time…

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I am not taking Sox fans to task for acknowledging that it was opinion of the Sox FO that they had to move on.
It’s the “Seriously. Who cares?” comment that provoked my comments at least. Paul and I have had this conversation and we respectfully agree to disagree on this one. I think that Cameron has some large shoes to fill and that Bay is better than people are giving him credit for. Should the Sox have signed him? I don’t know the answer to that because if they end up getting a big bat because of the flexibility they gained by NOT signing him, then it’s a good move. My only point is that Bay will be missed tremendously in the Sox lineup this season. At until they can replace his bat with a similar type of hitter.

“Did they not come within a game of the World Series even after trading Bay?”
I can only imagine this was written in March, 2011 and you’re talking about the 7-game series loss to the repeat champion Yanks.
Regarding the Bay non-signing: The Sox lost a very good hitter and managed to improve their team on paper by spending else where. In addition, they didn’t tie themselves up on a long-term deal with a future DH. Seems like a good offseason for Theo and the gang, even if it meant increasing payroll for 2010.

John, I think (and Paul can speak for himself) comes from a criticism of the media, not from analysis of baseball per se. I think Paul is just lamenting the fact that Cafardo is rehashing a story in a LOT of words that has been run through the ringer.
I feel sort of the same: in early March, with no games played and ST not even going in earnest, who cares about discussing the departure of Jason Bay? It’s just about the last thing on my mind. Come May or June it may not be. But right now – really, who cares?

See Nick, I don’t know that I’d agree that they are better on paper. With Lackey the starting pitching is better, given, not arguing that point. I am not convinced that Cameron, Beltre and Scutaro make them better than they were. Much like I am unsure, taking my man crush out of the equation, that Nick Johnson makes them better or equal to what they were. I love defense, I think it’s an important part of baseball, but look at the two teams that played for the WS last year…The Sox seemed to have put all their eggs in the defense and flexibility basket, while getting older and taking a step back in offense in certain spots. We shall see, but I am just not ready to say they are better on paper, just my opinion.

seemed to have put all their eggs in the defense and flexibility basket
Really? I mean, this team, whatever you think of the offense, isn’t the Kansas City Royals. I think your comment is pretty extreme.
Look, the front office has limited options – only certain players are available every year and trading has to be an agreement between two teams. I believe the Sox thought of the Victor Martinez acquisition last year as a move for 2010, quite clearly. I don’t really look at the Sox’ lineup and see murderer’s row, but I also see a lineup that can complement, really strongly (assuming reasonable health), a good pitching staff and a fine defense. I would say that the Sox are trying for more balance this year. The Sox have a massive distance to fall to become a “no-hit all-field” team. It could happen, but I don’t think it’s the probable outcome.
I also think it is quite unfair to hold any team to the standards of accomplishing on paper, in the preseason, what the Yankees did last year, which was win 103 games and pretty much dominate the last three months of the season. That is just unrealistic, and as a fan if I start expecting shit like that I will be disappointed just about every season. And, any team’s front office should tell fans who have those expectations every year to go do something anatomically impossible.

I don’t think what I said was extreme at all. We have had this discussion here at the site quite a few times re: the Sox focus (in FA’s) has been to upgrade defensively and remain flexible long term. Not Signing Bay or Holliday seems to point to both those points. If the Sox wanted the better offensive option, it was clearly Bay or Holliday. In the end, both ended up signing deals that were longer than most teams were willing to give them, including the Sox. In turn the Sox stayed true to not getting tied down to long contracts with aging offensive minded players and remain both flexible (payroll wise) and get better defensively. All I am saying is that in my opinion, the Sox are putting a lesser offense on the field than they have in the past. Not that of the Royals or Padres, but just less potent than what we have been used to seeing from them. They are still a very good offense, just in my opinion not what they have been. With their pitching and defense they have a chance to be very good regardless. Their pitching and defense might be good enough to offset any shortcomings they have offensively, but as a someone looking on the outside in, I think this offense, as is, is short of what it needs to be. Again, not extreme, just my opinion.
As for the comparison to the Yankees and Phillies: My point was that both teams in the WS were not defensive minded teams. Without having the numbers in front of me I’d guess that the Phillies were better than the Yankees overall in team D, but still probably middle of the pack over all and not elite. That’s really all I was saying.

“…I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I am not taking Sox fans to task for acknowledging that it was opinion of the Sox FO that they had to move on.
It’s the “Seriously. Who cares?” comment that provoked my comments at least. …”
as usual, john probably said it better than i did…i do agree with the sox for taking a hard line on who they are willing to take risks with, and i want to see the yanks do more of it, but the “who cares” attitude is rationalism at its extreme…and no, i don’t think anyone thinks that the sox were better off keeping manny, especially under those circumstances…but the absolute lovefest with bay at the time combined with the the “manny who” attitude of some leaves me wondering what happened a mere season and a half later…all of a sudden you don’t need bay because the new focus is defense…right…all he did for the sox in 09 was ops .921, all star, silver slugger, and finished 7th in mvp voting…i know, but he sucks at defense…who cares indeed…

but just less potent than what we have been used to seeing from them. They are still a very good offense, just in my opinion not what they have been
You said they were “putting all their eggs in one basket”. I guess this is semantic. I wouldn’t look at the Sox as even remotely putting all their eggs in one basket, quite the opposite – they seem to be a team that might be able to win games a number of ways, not just by mashing the tar out of the ball and hoping the pitching does well enough.
As for Bay, I think I likened him to Jay Buhner a number of times last year, and hardly participated in the lovefest. In fact, I believe Paul and I were on opposite sides of the Bay situation.
i know, but he sucks at defense
And this is important. According to many, many people, both stat wonks and otherwise, he REALLY sucks at defense. How is that not important in the calculation, as it seems to be brushed off as not nearly so relevant by too many people in this discussion.

“The Sox seemed to have put all their eggs in the defense and flexibility basket, while getting older and taking a step back in offense in certain spots.”
That was a comment solely referring to the FA’s the Sox signed. Not overall. My apologies if that was not clear.

i think we do agree that given the refocusing of the sox priorities on pitching and defense, bay’s deficiencies are more glaring…when he was acquired, that seemed to be less of an issue than trying to replace manny’s bat with someone with a better attitude…the only part of the reaction to the bay departure that i disagree with is that bay’s contributions have suddenly been devalued because we now realize, or realize that it’s important, that he can’t play defense…

That was a comment solely referring to the FA’s the Sox signed.
But this isn’t true either, John. The Sox upgraded massively on offense at shortstop, upgraded last July at catcher, and it’s not like Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre are their positions’ answers to Adam Everett.
When compared to Bay and Holliday, Cameron is obviously not in the same league offensively. But he’s also a very good hitter for his position, as is Beltre. To say the moves focused solely on defense and flexibility is misconstruing the nature of the talent the Sox acquired.
And just to note, letting Damon go led to drafting Daniel Bard and Kris Johnson. And while Johnson seems to have stalled at AA and is a nonroster invitee to camp this spring, you might have heard of Bard. So looking at Damon’s departure in isolation isn’t really correct without looking at what the Sox received in return. Similarly, letting Bay go (and trading nothing for Billy Wagner, then letting him go) has improved the Sox’ draft position from picks 29 and 67 (before adding supplemental picks) to picks 20, 36, 39 and 57. There’s value in that, as well.

As for the original post, yes, my take was that this whole nonsense over Bay’s knees and the contract and all this is just a. not that interesting, b. been discussed a lot already, and c. is probably not all that uncommon. I really have no idea what Cafardo’s reasoning for such a lengthy article about it is, except that he needed something to write and happened to be in Mets camp.

Last July? Do I really need to write FA’s in the offseason? Come on fellas, really.
How about this…The Red Sox focus this offseason was’s that?
Bottom line is Jason Bay is a far better offensive player than Mike Cameron. Adrian Beltre hasn’t been an offensive threat since 2004. He hasn’t posted an OBP over the respectability line of .350 since then. 2004 is also the last time he posted an avg over or near .300. So he has a lot to prove offensively before I or anyone can say he’s not a defensive minded 3Bman. In 8 seasons Scutaro has had over 500 AB’s just twice. In one of those seasons (LY) he was extraordinary and in another he was average. So again, you need to see more. Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro had very similar 2008’s, the difference between the two was 2009.
What I am saying isn’t a BAD thing, it’s just being honest. The focus was defense and flexibility, argue semantics all you’d like, but that’s the case, just look at the players you signed and how long they were signed for!

Adrian Beltre hasn’t been an offensive threat since 2004.
Seriously? Since 2004, Beltre has been worth -6.9, 7.0, 10.3, 6.0 and -7.9 runs above replacement while playing half his games in one of the league’s strongest pitchers’ parks. Last year was obviously bad for him, but he has been consistently between six and 10 runs above replacement. From 2006-08, Beltre was one of only three AL third basemen to provide more than 10 runs of cumulative value with the bat — the other two were ARod and Mike Lowell. In fact, the numbers show that from 2006-08, Lowell and Beltre were very similar offensively, and no one can credibly claim Lowell wasn’t “an offensive threat” during those days. Heck, Beltre posted a 108 OPS+ over those three seasons, while Lowell posted a 111. Beltre had a higher OPS+ than Lowell in two of those three seasons despite a lower OBP every year and a lower slugging percentage twice. Why? Because park effects matter.
as for Scutaro, if he simply performs at his career average, which is well below his performance last season (and slightly better than his 2008), then he will post an OPS 65 points higher than the combined output of the Sox’ shortstops last season. Scutaro has never over the course of a season had an OPS as low as Lowrie/Green/Lugo/Gonzalez posted in 2009.
I’m not arguing the focus wasn’t on defense and flexibility, but to say the Sox put all their eggs in that basket is to discount the very real offensive improvements they should receive from two, likely three positions (four if you count a full season of Martinez).
By contrast, the difference in the lineup between Bay and Cameron is about two wins of offense, or 20 runs, according to Fangraphs (Cameron is consistently worth 10 runs with the bat, Bay in Boston was a little over 30). By contrast, the improvement from Varitek to Victor Martinez is more than 30 runs (make it 20 to discount the third of a season Martinez was already with Boston last season, and you have the Bay-Cameron and Varitek-Martinez moves canceling each other out without factoring the improved defense from both newcomers, which surely we agree has some value, even if we disagree how much).
I know you’re not arguing explicitly that the Sox’ offense is worse for their moves over the past six months, but you seem to implicitly be arguing this by saying the Sox will miss Bay’s bat. I think you’re right in the sense that there will be situations where we’ll think, “Man, it would be nice to have Bay set to crush a three-run homer here” because homers are fun, and we notice them, and we miss them when they’re not as prevalent, but I don’t think the end of the season will prove those isolated anecdotes to be an accurate interpretation of the offense as a whole.

We have to agree to disagree on this one. I think Bay will be greatly missed in this offense, that’s just my opinion and only time will prove me right or wrong.
As for Beltre…I understand what you are saying completely. .260/.330/.780 (OPS) don’t really jump out as an offensive minded 3Bman. Over the past 3 seasons Casey Blake has been a better offensive 3Bman than Beltre. Comparable to Beltre? Kevin Kouzmanoff over the past 3 years. You get my point. Until Beltre has another 2004, he will remain a defensive 3Bman in my mind. When you are in the same category as Kouzmanoff, Teahen and Blake, there’s a lot left to be desired. Again, agree to disagree.
Time will tell. Beltre can have a renaissance in Boston and he could be the Bay type guy they need. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s my opinion that the Sox will miss Bay and they will struggle offensively as is. With that said, the pitching and defense are good enough when healthy to make this a VERY good team. So in the end, this argument may end up being meaningless.

Over the past 3 seasons Casey Blake has been a better offensive 3Bman than Beltre. Comparable to Beltre? Kevin Kouzmanoff over the past 3 years.
I am agreeing to disagree with you, but I enjoy player comparisons, so without prejudging, I figured I’d look these three up.
Beltre, past three seasons, had two good years and last year’s injury-plagued catastrophe. 112-108-82 OPS+, the aforementioned 10.3, 6.0 -7.9 runs above average (I said replacement before, and that was incorrect; it’s pre-replacement adjustment). 113-108-87 wRC+, which is Fangraphs’ linear weights, park adjusted, league normalized offensive stat.
Blake, past three seasons, went 103-113-123 OPS+, posted 4.3, 11.0, 13.5 runs above average, went 105-115-119 wRC+. So he has had a better three seasons than Beltre. I had no idea he was so good, and quite the late bloomer, as well. Blake looks to be an average fielder, maybe slightly below average.
Kouzmanoff, past three seasons, went 110-100-100 OPS+, posted 9.5, 0.3, -1.6 runs above average and 114-100-98 wRC+. He seems to be a very good fielder.
So I would dispute the connection to Kouzmanoff, who has had one season as good as the seasons Beltre put up from 2006-08, and otherwise has been mediocre with the bat. Beltre hasn’t been as good with the bat as Blake, but Blake has been very good with the bat; it’s not an insult to not be as good as Casey Blake over the past three years. And this is of course including a year from Beltre that is arguably unfair to him, given the injuries he played through.
Anyway, that’s just for fun. I will agree to disagree with your stubborn refusal to bend to my will. ;-)

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