Thursday, December 8, 2016

Red Sox Hot Stove Email Exchange

Hot Stove Email Exchange

Brandon TerrillWed, Dec 7, 2016 at 12:38 PM

There's been a furious flurry of hot stove action this week in Red Sox Nation, so I feel a need to have an email exchange amongst the Maineiacs to compile into a blog post. Let's kick these three prompts around for a while and see what we get:

1. I saw on Twitter today that since Dave Dombrowski has taken over, he has traded away 21 prospects from the Red Sox farm system and received 0 back in return. What do we make of this approach?

2. An article on The Ringer today by Ben Lindbergh had the following headline, "The Red Sox Just Became Prohibitive American League Favorites". Do we want to be the "winter champions" (Barry's term) heading into 2017? If not, what do we do if we are anyway?

3. What do we make of the Red Sox picking up the 2018 team option on manager John Farrell's contract in December of 2016?

Jason Allen Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:06 PM

It certainly has been an eventful few days. I love the idea for the post.

1. This is Dombrowski's MO. While it certainly has worked for him over the years to make his big league clubs contenders, it has also left the organizations depleted once "the window" closes. However, the Sox were able to draft and develop 21 prospects for him to trade, so as long as the minor league staffs, scouts, etc. continue to do their jobs at a high level I think the Sox will be fine in the long run. Additionally, several members on the current Sox roster were "prospects" in the recent past. Which may also be why we haven't received any prospects back? Typically, getting prospects means you are in a rebuild or overhaul which the Sox, despite all of their last places finishes in the last decade are not in the middle of.

2. I had the same thought last night that the Sox would be paper champions like the Blue Jays of a few years ago. While it certainly hasn't gone well in recent years for the teams that won the off-season, I think this is a bit of a different case, and is better than being on the other end of the off-season spectrum. As of right now, I don't see how the Sox are not the prohibitive favorite, however in my opinion they were going to at least be one of the favorites going into the season anyways. So we might as well place the crown on our heads and run with it. Weren't the Cubs the favorite all year in 2016? That worked out pretty well for Wrigleyville.

3. I don't see this as a big deal. Maybe the ownership group has learned from the 2011 saga with Tito's contract. Additionally, with Torey Lovullo now in Arizona, there is not that specter hanging over Farrell's shoulder. Is John Farrell the best manager in baseball, no, but he is also not the worst. I am also of the mindset that the players do more to effect the outcome of games than managers do. I do think that like Tito, John Farrell is a great handler of people which is paramount as a MLB manager.

Let me add a question to the mix: What becomes of Buchholz, Wright, and Pomeranz going forward? 

Terrill, Barry Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:13 PM

1. The weakness of this team and farm system when Dombrowski took over was pitching.  He has since brought in two stud starters and a stud reliever (Sale, Price and Kimbrel) to compliment the core of position players that already existed. Thus, turning this team into serious world series contender.  The big question mark is the rest of the bullpen outside of the closer. He had bad luck with the Carson Smith trade.  Thornburg is a stud, but he has a history of elbow problems and could be the next Carson Smith.  One knock on Dombrowski is his inability to build a bullpen. That problem is still very much an issue.

The trade off with all of these deals is long term stability.  This team could compete for a world series for 2-3 years and then turn into the Philadelphia Phillies or it could of had an Atlanta Braves type run of winning the division but never winning the world series. I'm not really sure which one of those approaches I prefer.

If injuries, bad luck or something else prevents them from winning a world series in the next 2-3 years then we could see a sharp downturn in the standings after that. But, after finishing last 3 out 5 years, I am all in on the all in mentality.  (What other choice do we have, really?!)

2. We don't want to be Winter champions. They never become the Fall champions.  But, a lot of teams were picking the Chicago Cubs last year to win it all and they came through. Which is a different thing, but still. The Red Sox of 2017 will be more than just the winter champions, they are a playoff team that added the best starting pitcher on the market.  I also really like the pick ups of Moreland and Thornburg, hopefully they will continue to build upon the bullpen through the FA market with high reward type players like Greg Holland.  

3. I'm tired of the John Farrell talk. He's the manager until he's no longer the manager.  When they pick up his extension means nothing.  

Terrill, Barry Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:30 PM

I'll chime in on Jason's bonus question.  Last year after the Price deal the Red Sox immediately traded Wade Miley.  I think that this year is totally different though.  All three of the pitchers that Jason mentioned have pitched out of the bullpen at different times in their careers and shown that they can be effective out of the bullpen.

I think there is a legitimate concern with Pomeranz elbow and his innings workload from last year.  He also was very good out of the bullpen in the playoffs. .  I could see him in an Andrew Miller type role for the Red Sox this season.  Right now I would give the #5 starter nod to Buchholz.  I liked the way he finished last season and he would give the rotation a little bit of R/L balance.  As a knuckleballer Wright can be the ultimate swing guy.  This guy was an All Star last year, needless to say the Red Sox don't win the division without the first half success that he had.  

Ultimately it's going to come down to which one of those three pitches better and health.  Depth in the rotation is a good problem to have especially when you know that all three can pitch out of the bullpen and be effective if necessary.  Lots of times these situations have a way of working themselves out.  

I personally would go into the season with the following 12 man pitching staff: 
5. Eduardo Rodriquez
9. Robbie Ross Jr. 

With Heath Hembree, Robbie Scott, Noe Ramirez and others around as AAA insurance (I have to admit I'm not sure about the minor league options of those three guys). Also as I mentioned I'd love to see them bring in a guy who could be a high risk high reward kind of guy like Holland to pitch the 8th inning, although Thornburg may be that guy.  

The starting pitching depth that is necessary for a full baseball season is going to have to come from the major league roster. Because there is no starting pitching depth at Pawtucket anymore (yes I'm talking to you Henry Owens).

Jason Allen Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:36 PM

Looks like Barry and I have similar ideas on the winter champions and John Farrell. I really like his answer on the trading of prospects as well.

As a follow-up to Barry's pitching comments, I really want Santa to deliver Greg Holland, I think he would be awesome for the bullpen. Also I believe that Heath Hembree is out of options so he either makes it or is released. Not sure about Ramirez or Scott. I also noticed that you left Carson Smith and Fernando Abad off that list. Lastly, Dombrowski in the press conference yesterday mentioned Owens and Brian Johnson as pitching depth, so put that in your smoke and pipe it, Barry!

Terrill, Barry Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:38 PM

While I'm on a roll let's fill out the rest of the 25 man roster.
10. Jackie Bradley Jr. 
13. IF, 3rd Catcher, or an extra pitcher

Jason Allen Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:42 PM

Let's just open the season! Barry's got it all figured out.

Terrill, Barry Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:43 PM

By all accounts Carson Smith won't be ready until June, and honestly I forgot about Abad, probably for the best that I don't remember him.  I do think that it's possible that the team keeps 13 pitchers which would open the door for Abad to make the team, but honestly when talking about the last 1-2 spots on the roster injuries during spring training will probably take care of that naturally.

Yes I know what Dombrowski said yesterday and I stand by my comments: Henry Owens and Brian Johnson suck. 

Jason AllenWed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:46 PM

Looking forward to the e-mails that come in, but I'm now off to a faculty meeting...which like Owens and Johnson suck!

Brandon Terrill Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 1:46 PM

Dombrowski must have been celebrating the Sale trade by sticking something in his own pipe and smoking it if he thinks Henry Owens is going to have any success in the major leagues.

Brandon Terrill Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 2:34 PM

1. Seeing that statistic at first (21 prospects out, 0 in) is alarming. Pump the brakes, Dombro! But....then I started thinking. Each of the deals individually I have liked. And what's the worst that can happen? We'll have a moment years from now when the roster gets old at once and we have no young talent to replace it, and we'll be the Phillies as Barry said. And yet, I don't see that trajectory for this team - the Betts, Bogaerts, Benintendi, Bradley, Swihart, Ed Rod core is so young, most of them will still be here for years. And even if this hypothetical downturn does happen - will it be any worse than three last place finished in five years which we just lived through in 2012-2015? The Red Sox had compiled so many good prospects through that bad run, that we could actually afford to trade 21 of them and still have guys like Rafael Devers, Sam Travis, and Justin Groome on the farm. Finally, my only reservation is a comment Jason made - if we drafted and developed all of these guys once, we can start to do it again. However, we lost a bunch of scouting and development staff this offseason, and as of my knowledge they haven't been replaced. That does not speak to Dombrowski valuing these positions within an organization, which is scary when you look at how poorly the Tigers drafted and developed during his tenure.

2. I'm going to go ahead and ignore the fact that we are Winter Champions for the rest of the off-season, thank you very much. I'm going to avoid reading any of those articles and instead convince myself that we are different from these past Winter Champs because we're not being projected to go from 4th or 3rd place to AL champs, but rather from third overall finish in the AL to first. That's not much of a leap when we only lost Big Papi off of last year's team.

3. I understand picking up the '18 option now so it doesn't become an issue and Farrell doesn't pull a Jim Riggleman and quit midseason because he feels offended. And yeah, I guess Farrell needs some credit for handling the personalities on last year's team, handling the Hanley transition to 1B and rebuilding his rep, handling the Papi farewell tour, bringing along so many kids, and leading the Bearded Idiots which feels like 10 years ago now. I'm just so sick and tired of Farrell seeming like he is not watching the same game as we are in post-game interviews. Can't he just tell the truth for once? If I have to watch a pitcher give up 5 runs and 4 walks in 3 innings again then hear Farrell talk about "I thought he did some good things out there today" again I'll scream. Also, has he ever done something in-game that we looked at and said, "wow, great move John, good thing we've got that guy!" I spent 70% of the ALDS gazing wistfully across at Tito in the opposing dugout and wishing we still had that guy. Instead of being a specter hanging over his shoulder, I saw Louvollo as the crutch that Farrell leaned on for the real heavy in-game lifting. Of course, I have zero inside knowledge that this is the case, but you can't prove it isn't! I've wanted to get rid of Farrell for years now and the fact he's under contract for two more years makes me salty.

Brandon Terrill Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 2:43 PM

I think it's more likely that Christian Vazquez makes the opening day roster and Swihart starts at AAA so he can catch every day, just like last year. Swihart has the higher ceiling still and should be playing every day, not watching future hall of famer Sandy Leon play every day ahead of him.

I think it's a big year for Swihart to prove he's going to be a player. Does he get DH at bats?

Speaking of the DH spot, am I the only one who's concerned about Hanley becoming a full-time DH? I read stories last year with quotes from Hanley talking about how important it was for him to be in the infield and feel involved. You could see him talking to baserunners and talking to the pitcher and slapping the pitcher on the rump all the time. Now he's going to hit four times a night and otherwise sit in the dugout? Be by himself in the clubhouse batting cages without his Big Papi mentor there to keep him focused? Despite what Hanley himself says about being excited about it, I'm terrified that moving to a full-time DH will destroy his engagement and he'll backslide as a player.

Art Terrill Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 5:55 PM

I'll give two quick answers to questions 2&3. My preference would be not to win the winter. But when you trade no major leaguers to get Chris Sale you'll win the winter. I will take the chance.  As far as the Farrell 2018 option, this was simply a move to ensure Farrell is not a lame duck. If this winter winner falters his ass will still get fired.

Art Terrill Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 6:38 PM

Three lists showing why Dave D has not gutted this system.

1. Top three prospects in this system:
Andrew Benintendi ( who still qualifies until late April)
Rafael Devers

This is likely still the best top three in baseball, granted a lot less depth on list.

2. The actual 21 traded prospects in approximate ranking best to least:

9. Carlos Asauje

And the rest are guys like Jonathan Aro and Jose Almonte

The only likely All Stars are guys traded for Kimbrel and Sale.

3.  The "system" may be less fertile,but look at these big leaguers and their ages next April:

Mookie Betts 24
Xander Bogaerts 24
Jackie Bradley Jr. 27
Andrew Benintendi 22
Catchers Leon 28, Vazquez 26, Swihart 25
Brock Holt 28 
Pablo Sandoval 30

Chris Sale. 28
Rick Porcello 28
Drew Pomeranz 28
Craig Kimbrel 28
T. Thorn burg. 28
Joe Kelly 28
Carson Smith 27
Matt Barnes 26
Robbie Ross 27

This is a young team nearly from top to bottom heading into their prime.

Jason Allen Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 10:01 PM

Art's most recent e-mail was essentially what I was trying to say in my first e-mail with regards to the fact that the roster is currently young, which makes moving 21 prospects palpable. Additionally, the list of "prospects" we traded is not necessarily a list of the Baseball America Top 20 Prospects list.

I also agree with Brandon that Vazquez is more likely to make the roster than Swihart. 

On John Farrell, I would agree with Barry in that I am tired of hearing about him and his contract. My point on Lovullo was that we no longer have a guy that showed he can do the job in the dugout that fans a pining for. I too looked longingly at Tito and wished that he was still in Boston. I would also agree that the extension does not guarantee he is the manager in 2018 as Art said.

Terrill, Barry Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 7:50 AM

If Vazquez is on this team then they'll have 3 catchers.  Swihart will make the team because he is a switch hitter that can also play LF, and he gives them another option at DH.  Even if he is going to catch full time as the team has stated he gives you enough flexibility that you could keep him and Vazquez, as well as Leon.  Swihart can also DH versus lefties and Hanley can play 1B.

The offense is already a little too right handed and Vazquez just adds to that.  Swihart gives them another option at C, LF and DH.  Farrell and the Red Sox obviously love Vasquez and his defense, so anything can happen as far as the roster goes, but the only way that Swihart starts at AAA is if he has an awful spring training.  In the long run it will probably be Leon that ends up back at AAA.  

Brandon Terrill Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 9:08 AM

The Blake Swihart situation is an interesting one. What is the best approach for the 24-year-old's development? I'm not sure that it's having him move around from C to LF to DH every few nights. I think I'd rather see him settle in at one position every day at AAA and have routine and success coming back from injury.

The bigger problem that Swihart is a better, more experienced hitter from the left side. Having him in a DH and/or LF platoon against LHP means having him get a lot of right-handed at bats. He's only had 98 plate appearances in his career at the big league level as a RH hitter against LHP, as opposed to 284 as a LH hitter against RHP. He only went to the plate right-handed seven times in all of 2016. I think we should really think of him as a LH hitter, not a switch hitter. We'll see in spring training how his right-handed swing looks, but I'm not sure this is the optimal role for the 24-year-old's development in a critical year for him. 

Last year, he was forced into playing some LF because the Red Sox were so thin there. But now that Benintendi seems ready to take over that spot for a decade, I think it's time to move Blake back to catcher full time and have him either prove he's better than Leon and Vazquez or not. I still hope and believe he is the best catcher on our roster if he's healthy and swinging well.

Terrill, Barry Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 9:22 AM

Brandon makes some good points about Swihart and his situation.  We'll have to wait and see what happens with him, but just in my opinion I think there is almost no way that he ends up back in Pawtucket.  If he's slower to come back from injury than expected then maybe he needs a little extra time, but that's the only scenario I see.

One thing that will be interesting is to see how Farrell handles the DH situation.  Everybody loves Papi and we shouldn't underestimate how much his loss will hurt the offense, but the ability to have that DH spot be flexible and rotate several different people could be a real bonus for this team.  Guys, like Swihart will be able to get more at bats.  But, right now Farrell is on record as saying that HanRam is going to DH more than he plays first base.  Moreland won the gold glove at 1B last year, so obviously he will likely play there more than Hanley.   But it does give you some R/L flexibilty.  For example: 

Against a RHP you could run this line up out there if Hanley is struggling or needs a break. 

Pedroia 2B
Benintendi LF
Betts RF
Moreland 1B
Bogaerts SS
Sandoval DH
Holt 3B
Swihart C

Just in filling out that lineup I had so many options I couldn't really pinpoint one that I liked more than the others...I guess the point is we will have a lot of options. 

Also, despite the numbers I think that Swihart is actually considered a better right handed hitter, I could be wrong though.  

Brandon Terrill Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 9:40 AM

Can Moreland be the cleanup hitter type? Maybe. He has had over 20 dongs each of the last two seasons. He did hit just .230 with a .720 OPS last year though. He will be sure to come up with a lot of runners on base this year and see a lot of right-handed pitching. He's playing on a one-year contract too, so he's sure to be motivated. With both Moreland and Sandoval, there's a chance they knock in a ton of runs with Betts, Bogaerts, Pedroia, and JBJr on the bases a lot, or there's a chance they strikeout with the bases loaded a lot and leave us wanting to throw our remotes through our televisions.

Nobody responded to my worry that Hanley will become disengaged and it will affect his performance if he becomes a close-to-full-time-DH. Am I alone on this one?

Terrill, Barry Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Moreland is not an every day type of player, so Hanley will play enough 1B to keep him interested. I'm more concerned with a lack of focus from Hanley.  Last year he was motivated to win for Papi's last season and Papi was always there to keep him focused.  He could really be in for a down year this year without Papi around.  Or the move to an almost full time DH could jump start a late career resurgence.

As far as clean up hitter types, this team doesn't really have any.  Hanley is about the only potential clean up hitter that we have.  Mookie has had some success in the 4th spot and so has Pedroia.  I think the length and balance of the lineup this year will be their strength and not their middle of the order.  

Of course this whole thing could change if they sign Edwin Encarnacion for 1 year $20 million.  

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