Archive for the ‘Hot Stove’ Category

Changes

Well, it’s been almost a month since the Red Sox lost game 7 of the ALCS to the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I think it’s finally time to come out from the dark recesses of thefoulline.com headquarters, dust myself off, and talk about what I think Boston needs to do to improve their team.

This is a pivotal offseason for the Red Sox. There are some glaring holes in the Sox lineup that need to be filled. If this team remains unchanged, they’ll be watching the playoffs on television in 2009.

There’s going to be a lot of Hot Stove activity going on in the next couple of weeks. The damn Yankees have $90 million coming off their books and are eager spend to improve their poor pitching, and like it or not, the Rays are going to be here for a while. If Tampa acquires a legitimate closer and a quality right fielder they’re going to be dangerous. The American League East is no longer a two-horse race.

So if I were Theo Epstein, this is what I would do, in order of importance.

1. Sign Mark Texiera.

Tex would tear up Fenway Park offensively and play Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. This MUST be done! A switch-hitting. perennial All-Star first baseman does not become available very often. As an added bonus, Tex is a free agent, so it wouldn’t cost Boston any of its young talent to acquire him.

Of course, this means Kevin Youkilis is moved to third base, and Mike Lowell is odd man out. I would try to convince a healthy Lowell to learn how to play first base and become Boston’s super-sub. With Lowell playing a mix of first, third and DH, he could prove to the rest of the league that he is healthy, and improve his stock for a trade. (Minnesota and the White Sox need a third baseman). It wouldn’t be the most popular move in Boston, since Lowell is such a class act, but we are here to win ball games. Get out your checkbook, Theo, and make it happen.

2. Derek Lowe makes his triumphant return to Boston.

Lowe is the type of sinker-ball-throwing, ground-ball-inducing pitcher that is tailor-made for Fenway Park. He’s proven to come up huge in big games, as in the 2004 playoffs, when he won the deciding game in all three playoff series. Not to mention, he wants to pitch in Boston again. He may even give Theo a discount.

I look forward to a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, Lowe, and Wakefield. This would keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen to help solidify the 7th and 8th innings before turning it over to Papelbon.

3. Deal a solid pitching prospect, namely Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz, for either of Texas’s catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.

They each have different strengths: Salty is still a raw talent that hits pretty well but needs to improve defensively. Teagarden is a solid defensive catcher with a laser-rocket arm, and he has the potential to put up some big power numbers. What they have in common is that they both are ready to be a starting catcher in the majors.

I’m starting to lean towards a  Buchholz for Teagarden deal, but either way it’s an upgrade of the aging Varitek. Thanks for all of your hard work, ‘Tek. We’ll see you at Jason Varitek Appreciation day.

4. Trade Julio Lugo for a bucket of used baseballs.

Jed Lowrie is ready to be the everyday shortstop. Lugo sucks. Find some sucker GM to take him off our hands.

…..
It almost seems too easy to improve this team. If Boston makes these moves, you can go and get the champagne on ice. If not, it may be a long season.

Anybody but Ellsbury

The Boston Red Sox have seized the momentum in the great Yankees/Red Sox feud with another World Series victory. Let’s hope that they don’t let up. They have a great opportunity to upgrade their already potent pitching staff and drive a stake into the heart of the Evil Empire by finally beating out the Yankees for the best player available. I don’t care if they knock New York off the top of the high-salary mountain; everyone knows that Boston is loaded with cash after their second World Series victory in four years. If I were Theo Epstein, I’d have the Minnesota Twins on speed dial and start giving up players until they agree to give up Johan Santana.

With the exception of course of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury has already proven that he belongs in the Majors. He plays the game like a seasoned veteran and should be a lock for the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008. We had the opportunity to see all aspects of Jacoby Ellsbury’s game last season: his speed, great defense, surprisingly potent bat, and most importantly his heart.

In professional baseball, it’s obvious when someone can play. This evaluation is a lot easier with a position player than it is with a pitching prospect, which is more like playing the stock market, where no one is guaranteed to perform. There have been countless “can’t miss” pitchers picked in the first round of the draft that have flamed out faster than you can say “Todd Van Poppel.” Does anyone know which Baskin Robbins former #1 pick Brien Taylor is working at these days? With young pitchers it is never a sure thing.

With that being said, I would give up Lester, Buchholz, Lowrie, Crisp and whichever Minor League pitcher they want. I would make them an offer they can’t refuse. With Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, and Dice K locked into the starting rotation for the next several years, Boston has the opportunity to become a legitimate dynasty and have time to restock their farm system.

The funny thing is, I would prefer it if the Red Sox made a deal for the Oakland A’s Dan Haren instead. I think he is just a notch below Santana in talent but would still fit in well in the Boston rotation. Haren wouldn’t cost as much in terms of salary and prospects as Johan but would still be considered another legitimate staff ace.

But knowing how bad the Yankees want and need Santana makes me want the Sox to push even harder for him, because no matter how many times I see the Yankees lose, it never gets old. Even if it’s just a player they’re playing for.

Reunited and it feels so good

The more things change in Major League Baseball, the more they stay the same. I know that it is still early in the offseason, but I can’t help but to be a little amused that the Yankees and the Red Sox haven’t made any new acquisitions. Both teams have elected to re-sign their own free agents and have resorted to pretty much put the same teams on the field as last season. Are both teams that content with last year’s lineups? Or is the free agent market that inflated with overpriced and overrated talent? Either way, I was expecting both teams to make some upgrades by now.

Looking at both teams, it’s obvious that the Yankees have more holes than the Sox. They have a lousy bullpen that features an overpriced and rapidly declining Mariano Rivera. They have a starting rotation that may be losing Andy Pettitte. Mix in big-game choker Chien-ming Wang and three unproven youngsters in Phillip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, and this may be the area of the biggest need for the Evil Empire. I have been impressed the last couple of seasons that the Yankees have given their farm system a chance to develop and have avoided trading these guys. Let’s see if this patience pays off for them. It could be long year (I hope) for the Yankees.

The Red Sox have some holes of their own. Although not as glaring as the Yankees, there are some needs to be addressed. First and foremost, the Red Sox infield appears to be locked in for the next three years. Youk, Pedroia, Lugo, and Lowell have proven that they play great defense and they make each other look better. The outfield of Drew, Ellsbury, and Manny looks good for next year, but this will be without a doubt Manny’s last year in Boston. The Sox are going to have to keep an eye open for someone to replace his offense. I have no idea who this could be, but I’m sure it will be addressed.

The biggest concerns for the Red Sox in 2008 are their bench and backup catcher. There is going to be some major overhaul here. I would keep Alex Cora since he can play several positions, even though he is an offensive liability. I would try to keep Bobby Kielty, since he hit the game winning home run in game four of the World Series, not to mention he is a switch hitter. I would use Coco Crisp to land a quality backup catcher that can learn from Jason Varitek and be his eventual replacement. Gerald Laird of the Rangers is a name that has been mentioned in possible trade for Coco, which I think makes sense for both teams.

Being a Red Sox fan/Yankee hater, I am content with the Red Sox keeping their World Series team together for a chance to defend their title. I am also really happy that the Yankees decided to re-sign perennial loser/team cancer/MVP Alex Rodriquez and keep the rest of the team as it was. This guy has shown that he can lose at every level of baseball. Mix in a lousy bullpen, tax evading shortstop, the league’s highest payroll, and two crazy owners for the price of one, and next year should be no different for New York, as they sit at home watching Boston win another title.

Let’s make a deal

Am I the only one getting tired of the New York Yankees dominating another offseason of headlines? Every day it’s something new. If it’s not A-Rod opting out of his contract, only to go back and beg for his old job back, it’s Jorge Posada signing a ridiculous 5 year/$50 million contract. (For the record, Posada will be 53 when the contract expires.)

Now I hear that the Yankees have an offer on the table to bring in Mike Lowell as their new first baseman. You read that right, the Red Sox MVP and World Series hero may be joining the Evil Empire. I just vomited a little in my mouth.

It’s common knowledge that Boston is willing to give Lowell a three year deal. It’s also common knowledge that Lowell is insisting on a minimum of four years. I don’t see either side budging. Now, I don’t begrudge Mike Lowell for trying to get as much money as he can. This is the first time that he has been a free agent and he should explore every opportunity. He’ll be 34 when the season starts and has already won two World Series titles, so this will probably be his last contract in the Major Leagues. But Lowell is a career .280 hitter who had a monster season at the most opportune time. His swing is tailor-made for Fenway, and if he goes elsewhere, he won’t match the offensive output he had in 2007 – no matter where he goes. Lowell is a class act, but I agree with Boston on not going to four years on the contract.

Mike Lowell has earned the right to try and maximize a deal. But dear lord, sign with a team like the Phillies. Not the damn Yankees.

This brings me to the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. It’s time for the Sox to make a big splash. These guys are the world champs, let’s start acting like it instead of sitting back watching the Yankees dictate the market. The Sox need to be proactive and land the biggest player out there. I’m talking about Johan Santana.

If I’m Theo Epstein, I would call the Minnesota Twins and offer a deal of Coco Crisp, Jon Lester and Craig Hansen. Heck, I would even throw in Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year Jed Lowrie in the deal. I would do any deal possible to land Santana. This would give the Sox two #1 pitchers on the staff. A double-headed monster of Beckett and Santana would dominate the American League for several years. Boston needs to do whatever it takes to make a Santana deal happen.

With the big name settled, it’s time to look at Mike Lowell’s replacement at third. My buddy and loyal thefoulline.com reader Fergie proposed making a deal for Scott Rolen of the St. Louis Cardinals. My initial thought was that this guy is too injury prone and struggled offensively last year. But as I have thought more about it, the idea is starting to grow on me. Rolen is great defensively, and with hitting coach Dave Magadan’s influence, he could regain his offensive prowess. At only $12 million a season, the Sox would have the chance to buy low, and it might only cost a decent minor leaguer or draft pick.

This is not the time for Boston to bask in the glory of their World Series Championship. This team is going to need to make improvements if they hope to challenge for the title again next season.

On to more important matters
Here’s this week’s softball update from Dylan.

“Get your sunglasses on and buy your tickets to the Gatorz Laser Show”

In a game that was a lot closer then the 24-0 score implies, the young lads from Gatorz Bar and Grill improved to 14-2 on the year to close out the regular season in first place, with the claim that they beat every team in the league at least once by over 20 runs. More impressive was that the Gatorz team for the first time in four weeks didn’t get into a fight during the game with the opposing team.

Thefoullline.com’s own Dylan Hamilton had an off night at the plate, going 3-6 with three singles and four RBIs. “The crew at 84 decided to shred my abs to pieces in a workout on Tuesday night,” Hamilton said. “I had no bat speed without a crushing pain. No pain, no gain, I guess.”

Hamilton led the team in average this year, batting .725 for the season, and on paper was tied for home runs, although Dylan feels the team stat keeper may have missed a dinger or two. “I hit a monster shot against D/M Construction, but I think Allison was talking to her husband when the ball was hit. She may be on the trading block this offseason if that keeps up.” But the offseason speculations will have to wait, as Gatorz Bar and Grill starts the postseason this coming week in a grueling two-losses-and-you’re-out tournament. The Gatorz Boys should be the overwhelming favorite to win the title.

~Dylan “I wonder if my softball team can open next season in Japan too” Hamilton

TheFoulLine.com Hot Stove Report

I love watching Major League Baseball. Some people complain that the 162-game season is too long, but not me. I think they should make it 200 games a year. Baseball is the one sport that can deliver for seven months straight. People say that baseball is boring, but turn on ESPN during the baseball season and you will consistently see the best highlights in all of sports. Huge home runs, acrobatic catches, collisions at the plate.

Think about it: the NFL is fun to watch, but if they were to add more games to the schedule, teams would be so beat up when the playoffs started that nobody would want to watch. Not to mention, everyone already knew the Patriots were going to win the Super Bowl in week one.

This brings me to the other “major”sport, the NBA. Remember when basketball was must-see TV? Back when Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkley and the Mailman were playing, basketball was worth watching. Now the NBA has turned into which team can dunk the most, or who can shoot the most three-pointers. Bring back some bounce passes and some quality team defense and I might tune in.

There used to be another major sport involving pucks and sticks that I really enjoyed. But then came the lockout, the stupid Versus Network contract, and the Anaheim Ducks vs. Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup final. And just like that, hockey became irrelevant.

The other thing that makes baseball a year-long sport is the Hot Stove League. The World Series ended 10 days ago and we are still reading about MLB in the papers. Why is this? Because every baseball fan in the offseason channels their inner George Costanza and thinks that they can be the General Manager for their favorite team. I certainly do. I have already worked out deals in my head that would add Johan Santana, Alex Rodriguez, and Torii Hunter to the Red Sox. Of course, the Sox payroll would be $300 million a year, but it’s not my money, so who cares. Speculating which players are going where and what your team is going to look like for the upcoming season makes following baseball fun year round.

Which brings me to some quick Red Sox Hot Stove Notes:

  • It looks like Curt Schilling will be signing a one-year deal with Boston. I am really happy about this for a couple of reasons. First of all, Schilling was a solid pitcher once he got himself in shape. Secondly, this gives him another year to tutor Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Finally, after being a big part of two Red Sox World Series Championship teams, he should retire as a Red Sox.
  • We all know that Jacoby Ellsbury will be the starting centerfielder for Boston next year. I would like to see the Red Sox get a good, young backup catcher for Coco Crisp.
  • I think that there is a 50/50 chance of Mike Lowell coming back. I don’t see the Sox giving him a four-year deal. I think it’s going to be either 3 years/$40 million for Lowell or the Sox make a trade for Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins.
  • There are rumors that Boston is looking into acquiring Johan Santana. If there is any chance to get this guy, give the Twins anyone they want. Beckett and Santana heading up a rotation would be scary.
  • Also, Dylan “Just Call Me Jacoby Ellsbury” Hamilton went 4 for 4 in his men’s softball league game last night and was one single away from hitting for the cycle. If he keeps this up, Boston will have to seriously consider inviting him to Spring Training.