Thursday, May 15, 2014

Red Sox Maineiacs Roundtable Discussion 5-15-14

Welcome to the first edition of the RSM Roundtable!  Every so often, we'll pick a few burning questions from Red Sox Nation and debate them around the round table.  In this edition, we tackle five questions. As always, feel free to leave your responses in the comment section below.

Question #1. What should the Red Sox do with Jon Lester?  Extend him now? Wait until he goes through a slump?  Wait until the All-Star break?  Let him go to free agency?  Trade him at the trading deadline?  

Barry: John Farrell certainly wants to sign him to an extension.  He said on the radio pregame show last night that he wants him here long term.  I like the Red Sox philosophy on long term contracts, but I think you've got to make an exception for front line pitching.  Yes, the Red Sox have good pitchers at Pawtucket, but none of them are a sure thing. Not even Henry Owens is seen as a certain "ace"

I say sign him (but wait until the end of the year) His value is at it's highest now. As a fan I hope it stays there, but there's a good chance that it won't.

Deacon Art: The Sox should sign Lester ASAP.  Here are just some of the reasons why:

1. Proven Boston  (AL East) perfromer.  Not everyone can handle this market.
2. Proven post season ace pitcher.
3. Has never missed any time with injury, not a guarantee going forward, but a good indicator
4. Power lefty...they do not grow on trees
5. Because of the influx of young starters potentially joining rotation (and Lackey's option to pitch for minimum next year) the Sox could go to $25M per year for Lester and still reduce the amount paid to this year's rotation by 10-15M.  Peter Gammons recently suggested by 2016 25-40% of the team could be playing for under $1M each.
6. I not Lester who??  Who is at the front of the Red Sox rotation?  No one on the current rotation, unless you belive in a Buchholz resurgence or Lackey pitching like he is now until deep into his 30s.  All of hot pitching prospects are great to have, but none of them are gonna be the #1 guy right out of the gate.  Any other free agents this winter are either gonna want more $ then Lester (Scherzer), aren't as good (Shields, Masterson) or are not AL tested and injury prone (Cueto).

Sign the man.

Cousin Jason:  I am going to agree with Art and say the Sox need to sign Jon Lester immediately. I don't disagree with Barry's argument that Lester's value is currently at or near its peak, however given the list of potential replacements and the fact that a certain team from the Bronx would be willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money for Lester's service the Red Sox cannot afford to let him reach the open market.

Brandon: I’m not surprised to hear that the consensus is we should sign Jon Lester to an extension as soon as possible.  Art laid out the reasons why the Sox should be inking Lester to a long-term deal.  I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here, and I can’t really come up with a single reason against signing Lester other than the danger of signing six-year deals these days when pitchers’ elbows are blowing out like Christmas lights all over the place.  But I agree with Art - if not Lester, then who?  Who else would be worthy of a six year, $150 million plus contract?  The guy doesn’t have any holes left - he has matured in front of our eyes since being re-united with John Farrell, he commands both sides of the plate, he can still bring heat, he’s tested in Boston, he’s tested in the postseason, and he is by all accounts a great clubhouse guy who can teach the next wave of Boston arms how to conduct themselves in the show.

However, how does this work?  A lot of players don’t like to negotiate during the season.  This means I wouldn’t be surprised if a long-term deal gets announced during the All-Star break.  But if you’re in Jon Lester’s agent’s shoes then you’re texting big Jon every day to tell him to wait, wait, wait. His agent must be telling him if he waits and hits the free agent market, then they can get him the Clayton Kershaw 7 year, $180 million type contract, especially since the agent can get the Yankees, Red Sox, and other teams bidding against each other, instead of the Dodgers bidding against themselves for Kershaw. (I just looked up Jon's agent and it is the same agency as Pedroia, who inked a deal in the middle of the season, albeit in August, last season.  Not sure if this means anything.  Pedroia hitting the open market wouldn't have been quite as good as Lester last season because he would have been directly up against Cano)  Another question:  is there a period after the season when teams can negotiate with their own players who will be free agents before they actually become free agents?

So the question really comes down to what Jon Lester wants.  At this point, if he wants to sign an extension in Boston, he could make a call and probably have a deal before the end of the day.  If he wants to wait until the All-Star break, that will probably happen.  But if he wants to make as much money as he can for as many years as he can get with his last big money contract of his life (and make his agent rich in the process), then he will wait until free agency and make the Red Sox bid against the Yankees.  It’s one thing to say “sign the man”, it’s another to have the man and his agent leave years and millions on the table to do so.

Barry: #1 Let me clarify my answer on Lester. From the Red Sox FO point of view they should wait until the end of the year to sign him. Why? Because his value cannot go any higher than it is right now. I'm not even sure that a Cy Young award and another postseason like last year could make it go much higher than it is right now. It can only go down, so they might as well wait until the end of the year and perhaps it will go down a little.  Either way, I personally want the Red Sox to ante up and pay the man.

Cousin Jason: I would disagree that a Cy Young and another post season would not drive Lester's price higher. If those 2 things happen and he gets to the open market, someone will pay a huge price tag for him...the Red Sox or otherwise.

Barry: My point is that someone will pay him a boatload of money now in free agency whether he wins a Cy Young Award or not. Now if he wins a Cy Young and has a good postseason he will certainly make more money. Let's say 150 million instead of 135. Either way it's a lot of money.
His value has nowhere to go but down.

Deacon Art: Brandon, or his devil's advocate, says it all comes down to what Jon Lester wants.  If you google Jon Lester, hometown discount, you will come up with a bushel of stories from last January's Boston Baseball Writer's Dinner.  Lester said he wanted to be here (Boston) until they rip the jersey of my back. He goes on to say he not expects to have to take a hometown discount when signing before free agency, but is "willing to do so".  In spring training Lester repeated the same sentiment.  At the end of spring training, even aftr word leaked of the lowball 4 year, $70M offer, Lester stayed positive in his public comments.  At this point in time, there is no reason to believe Jon Lester wants to pitch anywhere other than Boston. 

Cousin Jason: So since we all seem to be in agreement that the Sox need to sign Lester, regardless of when that is, what would YOU offer the big lefty to stay in a Boston uniform?

Brandon: I would go up to 6 years, $150 million for Lester.  Why not?  But my question remains, is there a period after the season ends when teams can negotiate with their free agents to be before they actually become free agents?

Cousin Jason: The answer to your free agency question, appears to be a 5 day "quiet period" after the World Series in which only the Sox could negotiate with Lester.  I like your 6/150 deal, but might alter it to be something like 4 years with 2 options (team or player) for $150-160. 

Deacon Art: The 6 yr 150M is the max I would go for Lester and I think the six yers would concern the Sox more than the 150 mil.  I think the only way Lester gets an AAV of 25M( from Boston, anyway) is with a shorter deal...4 yrs 100M or maybe 4yr 110M, would be more to the Sox liking.  My personal opinion for a fair offer is 5 years 115 M ( 23m per year).

Question #2. The Red Sox are finally back above .500 for the first time since being 2-1.  The Red Sox have had an up-and-down season so far in 2014.  What do you attribute their rocky 2014 start to (or would you even deem it “rocky” at all)?

Barry: DANIEL NAVA as soon as we sent that M*****F***** down we've played
winning baseball.

No, in all seriousness: Motivation.  The Sox left spring training in '13 with A LOT to prove.  The Red Sox left spring training this year with a long-term success approach.

Also, Shane Victorino's injury coupled with the loss of Ellsbury and the disappearance of 13 Daniel Nava and the top of the order was handcuffed. That had a lot to do with the slow start for the offense.  The pitching, the rotation and bullpen, has been outstanding with only a few stinkers here and

Deacon Art: I think calling it rocky is an overstatement.  I can think of three reasons for the slower than hoped for start.  
1. April weather always seems to hamper offense.  Not just Boston, look around at the other teams records.
2. Hangover from winning World Series.  As much as the veterans assured evryone they had turned the page, you had White House visits, Ring ceremonies and Patriots Day ceremonies.  Several days ago I saw a stat during the Sox game saying they had the thrird best AL record since April 19th.  As the hangover went away, the play has and wil improve.
3. The kids are still adjustging to the Show.  Give them some more time.

Cousin Jason: The sluggish start to the Red Sox season I would say can be attributed to all of the factors that Barry and Art mentioned. I especially liked Barry placing the blame on Daniel Nava.

Brandon: I think the slower-than-hoped-for start boils down to two factors:
1. Inconsistency.  As I outlined in a post back in mid-April, the Red Sox’ early season schedule was berserk with fluctuating start times, white house visits, ring ceremonies, etc.  It’s hard to get into a game of routine when your routine keeps getting thrown into a food processor.  Also with consistency, the lineup was in flux while Victorino and Middlebrooks were on the DL.  This team had Ryan Roberts (not sneaky good) come in off the scrap heap and suck for several games.  We had Brock Holt for a couple cups of fairly successful coffee.  We had Mike Carp play 3B one inning and pitch another.  We had Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and a guy from the right field grandstand hit leadoff for us.  We had Koji miss some time.  We had Mujica be expected to be a 7th or 8th inning guy suck it up out of the gate.  As we stand on May 13, we have a lineup that is consistent, a rotation that has been solid (not great, a few stinkers, but solid), and a bullpen that is figuring out its roles (including Andrew Miller being an unhittable monster for the 8th inning lefty).  It’s no surprise we have the third best record since April 13.
2. Rookies and youngsters.  Bogaerts, Bradley, and Middlebrooks have had some growing pains.  Two of three have been jus so-so in the field (not you, Mr. Stud CF), and all have been so-so to fair at the plate.  As the kids continue to get comfortable at the MLB level, this lineup will get better and better.

Question #3. What do we make of Clay Buchholz?  He’s been unable to pitch past the fifth inning in three out of his    seven starts this season.  Also, Clay is only signed through next season ($12 million in 2015, team options for 2016 and 2017).  Does Clay become trade bait at the deadline?  Will next season be Clay’s last in Boston?

Barry: Again, long-term approach.  Best-case scenario is that the "rest" for his arm early in the season will lead to him being our best pitcher in August, September and October.  With that being said I don't think Buchholz resigns here.  He'll be allowed to leave for draft picks.

Deacon Art: Let's wait another month or so to judge Clay.  Buch had shown major improvment before the recent clunker in Texas.  If he is still building arm strength, he could still be the #2 guy to Lester on this staff.  If he is traded in the next year or so, it will be to make room for one of the kids, not just to dump Buch overboard.

Cousin Jason: I do not see the Red Sox picking up Buchholz team options for 2016 and 2017 but can foresee him pitching the remainder of this season and next in Boston. However, hopefully Buch performs like early last year and the glimpses we have seen recently (Texas excluded). If he does that I think management would be prudent to shop Clay this winter.

Brandon: I agree that next year will be Clay’s last in Boston, unless he builds arm strength and dominates for this year and next.  But let’s say next year is his last year.  Wouldn’t it make sense for Boston to shop him aggressively at the deadline this year, or more likely during the winter while he still has trade value?

Barry: the Red Sox will not trade Clay Buchholz for anything less than market value.  If Clay recovers and has a great 2nd half of the season and his value is at it's peak, only then should they trade him.  And that's only if they know that they don't want to pick up their team options on his contract.  Those two team options would be attractive to potential trade suitors because they would have him under contract for 3+ years, depending on when he was traded. However, as I stated earlier  I think the Red Sox would rather get draft pick compensation for Clay than a player in return.  They want to build him back up enough so he is someone that teams covet enough to give up a draft pick for.  Then let him walk after 2015 as a free agent.

Cousin Jason: I am pretty much indifferent on Buchholz at this point. I love it when he pitches well and hate him when he gets bombed like in Texas.

Question #4. How are we feeling about the Grady Sizemore experiment at this point in the season?

Barry: I'm a little bit disappointed in the front office and coaching staff for thinking that he could play CF every day coming out of spring training.  They were bailed out by the Victorino hamstring injury.
They should have had the foresight to see that Sizemore was really competing agains Nava and Carp for a corner outfield spot.

As a platoon LF he is doing a fine job and he seems to be fitting in with his teammates quite well.

Deacon Art: I hate to sound like a broken record but I think we need more time to see if Grady can shake off more of the rust and become a productive hitter again.  But we have one answer for sure.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. is the center fielder on this nine, Grady Sizemore will not be, his future is on the corner outfield spots, likely left.

Cousin Jason: Grady Sizemore has shown flashes, his walk-off hit against the Reds being the most recent, of being a key component to the Red Sox 2014 campaign. However, I think Barry hit the nail on the head with his assessment that making Sizemore the everyday CF out of camp was shortsighted. So far I think what we have gotten from Sizemore is a plus for the Sox.

Brandon: I agree that Sizemore seems perfectly suited to being the left-handed portion of the LF platoon.  Now that the expectations have come down from everyday CF, comeback POY to MVP levels to a productive platoon guy, he can settle in and continue to improve.  Barry’s joke aside (which did make me laugh by the way), I don’t think Daniel Nava got much of a shot in 2014, and I hope he is back up with the big club for another extended stay at some point.  Although it would probably take a significant injury to Gomes, Sizemore, Carp, or Victorino for that to happen.  Nava hit like crap (not Carp) this year, but it’s baseball and everybody goes through slumps.  He was such a positive part of last year’s team that I think he deserves another run.

Question #5: Do you think the Red Sox are missing a corner outfielder with pop, or somebody who could at least hit .280/20/80? Should they make a big push for Giancarlo or someone like him at the deadline?  Should we wait to see what we have in Bryce Brentz?  Should we hold steady with Sizemore/Gomes/Nava?

Barry: We have basically the same corner outfielders that we had last year. If this is a shameless attempt to try and drum up Giancarlo Stanton rumors...Well Done!

Deacon Art: If the offense is floundering in July ( I think it will not be), the Sox could shop for a bat.  I think a more likely time for this is next off season.  In the long run both corner outfiled spots could use an upgrade.  Giancarlo Stanton may becoming less available by the day as the young Marlins improve. One name to watch for is Jason Heyward, he becomes a free agent after 2015 at age 26.  He is not a Stanton and has underachieved in Atlanta, but if the Sox do not fill the corner spots from within, including Bryce Brentz, Heyward is young and established enoough to tempt them.

Cousin Jason: I think the Sox corner OF is not an issue for the Sox. Brandon is simply trying to drum up a campaign for Stanton, whom appears more likely to remain a Marlin.

Brandon: First off, news hit the wire today that the Marlins believe Jose Fernandez has blown out his elbow and will need Tommy John surgery, which is terrible for baseball.  It’s an absolute elbow epidemic out there right now (check out my comment on Art’s Nick Esasky All-Stars post for an incredible story about Erik Hansen and about how torn elbow UCL’s may have always happened at close to this rate, they were just never diagnosed as well).  This also means that the Marlins will likely fall fast in the NL East, potentially making Giancarlo available again.

Now, I am perhaps guilty of testing the Giancarlo trade rumor waters here at RSM, but in general I don’t agree with that approach.  I think the Yankees and Red Sox for years always went after the biggest name available and expected to plug him in to Boston or New York and have it work.  Baseball doesn’t work like that, at least not always.  Team chemistry is an elusive beast.  Some guys can’t handle Boston (Edgar Renteria and Adrian Gonzalez, table for two!).  Some guys have too high of expectations to ever live up to (Carl Crawford, right this way).  The Red Sox have had the best success in recent years when they add mid level veterans to their homegrown talent.

That said, the Sox’ system is overflowing.  Just take a look at the RSM Top Prospects List for May.  It’s insane.  What are we going to do with all of those guys?  Why the heck not package a few of them for a LF who is an upgrade over the Sizemore/Gomes platoon?  Some of those prospects are blocked, and some will turn into Frankie Rodriguez (i.e. busts).  Giancarlo is just the most common name thrown around, but in theory, would you guys support trading some of our plethora of young talent for a LF bopper to protect Napoli in the lineup?

Cousin Jason: Not only is Jose Fernandez's elbow a blow to the Marlins but also to the Dewey Evans Hitmen in the infamous Bush League! I agree with your premise that the Red Sox cup runneth over with prospects and there is not enough roster spots for all of them in Boston and therefore I would not be opposed to trading some of that talent. However, the LF bopper that you spoke of I do not believe currently exists in MLB. 

Here are the HR leaders of LF eligibles from Yahoo!:

That lists consists of mostly guys whom the Sox could have signed as free agents, guys the Sox have traded, guys that are on the decline, and guys that there current teams would not part with.

Thoughts on Brandon's prospects for the next Jim Rice?

Deacon Art: As far as the available cornr outfield bats, I believe Jason has hit on an important point....there is not much out there that is remotely available( no Mike Trout deal in other words).  Besides the mediocre list of LFers, I checked for all outfielders and came up with eleven who could be available in the next year or two or three. In no particular order:(with their ages as of this season)

Giancarlo Stanton     24
Jason Heyward        25
Yasiel Puig              23
Justin Upton            27
Yoenis Cespedes     28
Jay Bruce               27
Jose Bautista          33
Alex Rios                33
Michael Brantley      27
Matt Kemp              30
Alex Gordon            30

Then I checked years of their free agency.  Not so the Sox could pursue as a free agent but to be able to trade for them a year or two ahead of free agency, when their current team may be looking to move them.

Rios is free likely after this season (Texas option for '15), Rios and Bautista signed thru '16 likely too old

After 2015 season FA's are Heyward, J Upton, and Cespedes

After 2016 Stanton, Bruce, Gordon, Bautista

Brantley and Puig are signed thru 2018, two least likely available on this list

Matt Kemp is signed for around 20M+ annually thru 2019

The big fish is still Stanton, I think the most likely targets after Stanton are Cespedes or one of the Braves duo.

Cousin Jason: On the OFer front, am I the only one who thought (Mike) Giancarlo Stanton was older than 24? Did he reduce his age by a few years when he changed his moniker? Out of that list Art provided, how many of those guys do we think could hack it (pun intended) in the Boston market? Most of them have only played in a small market environment, how would that translate to the big stage? Alex Rios to me would be an intriguing FA this winter if Texas declines their option, anyone else feel the same? How about offering Buchholz to the Indians this winter from Michael Brantley, obviously a huge hypothetical here?

Brandon: Alex Rios is a very intriguing free agent (although I don't see why Texas would decline their option unless Rios stinks the rest of the year, and in that case he wouldn't be so attractive to anyone).  As Art and I discussed at one point, you hear the name Alex Rios and you think, "yeah, he's a pretty good player", then you look up his stats (averaged 18/76/28 HR/RBI/SB the last four years with 42 stolen bases last year as a 32 year old.  Plus he has played in 147, 145, 157, 156 games the last four years so he is durable) and see that he is definitely an upper-echelon outfielder in all of MLB.  I would love to see Rios manning LF for the Sox, as long as we could get him for the Victorino 3 year, $39 million type contract.

Michael Brantley is probably the best player on the entire Cleveland roster, depending on how you feel about Carlos Santana.  Given he is only 27 and he is locked up through 2018, he is probably untouchable.  But, given how bad the Indians rotation has been, and the fact it will get worse with losing Masterson to FA this winter, wouldn't the Indians at least have to have a front office meeting to discuss a Buchholz for Brantley deal?  Depending on Danny Salazar's development, Buchholz would immediately be their ace pitcher, and he would have three years left on his deal, with two of those years being optional outs for Cleveland.  I would think they would discuss it and turn it down, unless we add a kid or two to sweeten the pot.

Giancarlo has the best mix of youth, skills, and remaining potential of the group.  If we're going to unload some of our glut of kids for someone, he's the guy.  Giancarlo could hit 50 bombs playing in Fenway.  A 3-4-5 of Papi, Giancarlo, and Napoli would be the best 3-4-5 in baseball bar none.  My concerns about "been down this road with big name acquisitions flaming out in the Boston fishbowl" would obviously apply to Stanton, but I take that gamble every day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.

Cousin Jason: I'm glad to see I am not the only one intrigued by Rios and can envision trading Buchholz to Cleveland for Brantley. You are probably correct on Stanton, but I just feel like playing in Miami with no fans and media coverage along with limited expectations makes Stanton a 50/50 bust proposition in Boston, reminiscent of Adrian Gonzalez?

Deacon Art: I would do a deal based around Buchholz for Brantley perhaps with some other parts.  But it does not really solve the mystery of how do the Sox use the huge inventory of kids( even after assuming at least a few will be busts or at best secondary MLB players).

I still think they make a off season push for Stanton, or some other player who becomes unexpectedly available....Bryce Harper, maybe.

That's it for round one of the Red Sox Maineiacs Roundtable.  Check back next time.

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