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Boston Red Sox Series Preview: 8/14 to 8/17

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It’s not often we get to qualify the Red Sox as the last place Red Sox. Sound sweet, doesn’t it? That’s where Boston stands in the division entering this weekend’s wraparound four game series vs. the Yankees.

Their story so far

The Red Sox are fresh off an embarrassing four game sweep at the hands of the Rays at Fenway park. Tampa Bay outscored Boston 42-22 during the series. Mind you that was against the Rays’ not so special offense. Folks, it’s ugly in Beantown.

Since the Yankees swept Boston, the Red Sox have lost six of nine games (so really, they’ve lost nine of twelve). Hate to see it! Although, it didn’t really get bad until the aforementioned series against the Rays. Following the series at Yankee Stadium at the beginning of the month, the Sox split a quick two game set at the Trop. They then came back to Fenway and took two of three from the Blue Jays before things unraveled against Tampa Bay.

This swoon leaves Boston at 6-13 on the season and 6.5 games behind the Yankees. The Sox have the worst record in the American League and are second to the lowly Pirates in all of baseball.

I don’t think anyone expected Boston to be good this season, but did anyone anticipate them being this bad? I assumed that Boston’s offense would carry them a little further and allow them to win some slugfests, but that hasn’t been the case. As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .254/.316/.422 (98 wRC+), which places them 20th in wRC+ in MLB. Even if Boston was hitting better, it’s kind of hard to overcome a pitching staff that’s allowed 112 runs thus far, third-worst of all thirty clubs.

Injury Report

There’s one new injury to report since the last series against the Red Sox. OF Andrew Benintendi has a strained rib cage and is on the injured list. He’ll miss this series. Additionally, we already know that LHP Eduardo Rodríguez was on the COVID-19 injured list, but it was announced during that last Yankees series that he would not return this season. Here’s everyone else, thanks to a little copying and pasting from the last preview:

  • The oft-injured 2B Dustin Pedroia had a knee procedure last August. It’s hard to imagine when or if he’ll ever return.
  • LHP Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery and will not return this year. He should be an option again mid-2021.
  • Boston has two other players on the COVID-19 injured list: LHP Darwinzon Hernandez and LHP Josh Taylor. Their returns are unknown.
  • RHP Collin McHugh opted out of the 2020 season.

Spotlight: Mookie Betts

I don’t know what John Henry was thinking either, Mookie.

At first, I was going to profile Mitch Moreland. He’s been really good offensively and figures to be a trade deadline chip for the Red Sox. But what’s the fun in giving kudos to anyone on the Sox? I’m pro-fun, and I think lambasting the Red Sox for trading Mookie Betts is always a good time. So, let’s look to the west coast to see what the former Sox outfielder is up to.

Oh. Did he hit three dingers yesterday? Yes, yes he did. I guess if there’s any solace for Red Sox fans, it’s that they’re probably going to be asleep during most of Mookie’s career. So they won’t have to see it. Let’s just remind them what they’re missing: Betts is batting .319/.380/.694 (189 wRC+) for the Dodgers so far.

Of course, Red Sox fans could have seen the entirety of Betts’ career if team ownership was willing to pay the 27 year-old superstar. Los Angeles just inked Betts to a 12 year, $365 million contract that’ll keep him with the Dodgers through the end of his career.

It’s *still* dumbfounding that the Red Sox traded Betts away for scraps. Mookie hit .301/.374/.519 (135 wRC+) for Boston since 2014. He also swatted 146 homers, swiped 127 bases, played stellar defense, and racked up nearly 40 WAR. Not to mention his 2018 MVP season when he led Boston to a championship. But hey, can’t keep those kind of productive players around. Just can’t.

Projected Lineup

Here’s the Roster Resource projected lineup along with each starters’ small sample size performance to date:

  1. Alex Verdugo, LF (.259/.328/.431, 105 wRC+)
  2. Rafel Devers, 3B (.169/.229/.323, 45 wRC+)
  3. J.D. Martinez, DH (.232/.329/.435, 103 wRC+)
  4. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.293/.379/.517, 142 wRC+)
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B (.306/.359/.833, 209 wRC+)
  6. Christian Vázquez, C (.241/.267/.483, 95 wRC+)
  7. Kevin Pillar, RF (.321/.345/.464, 118 wRC+)
  8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.211/.274/.246, 43 wRC+)
  9. José Peraza, 2B (.262/.297/.344, 72 wRC+)

On the bench, Boston has backup catcher Kevin Plawecki along with infielders Jonathan Araúz, Michael Chavis, and Tzu-Wei Lin. Chavis will probably play against the lefties the Yankees start this weekend. He’s at .300/.317/.575 (133 wRC+) this season.

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:05 p.m. EDT: Colten Brewer (opener, vs. Yankees) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (vs. Yankees)

Boston’s going with a bullpen game this evening. This’ll be Brewer’s first career start. You might remember him in the Yankees’ organization a few years ago — he was a minor league Rule 5 pick in 2016, but left as a minor league free agent. He’s probably good for an inning or two tonight.

Brewer.

No announcement yet as to who will start for Boston tonight. Seems like a good opportunity for the Yankees to feast on Boston pitching. Meanwhile, the Yankees have the ace of the staff on the mound. We still haven’t seen Cole put everything together in one start just yet. This will be his fifth outing of the season.

Saturday, 7:07 p.m. EDT: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. Yankees) vs. LHP James Paxton (vs. Red Sox)

The Yankees missed Eovaldi, Boston’s de facto ace, in the previous series vs. the Red Sox. He’s been pretty decent thus far in 2020: in four starts and 22 innings, the hard-throwing righty has a 4.09 ERA and 3.35 FIP. The ex-Yankee fanned ten Blue Jays across six innings in his last start.

Eovaldi.

Eovaldi pretty much only throws fastballs and cutters to righties with the occasional curveball mixed in. Against lefties, he’ll also throw in a splitter more frequently.

Paxton’s coming off his best start of the season against the Rays. Hopefully Saturday is another step in the right direction in terms of velocity buildup. This is The Big Maple’s first start against Boston this season.

Sunday, 7:08 p.m. EDT: TBD/Bullpen Game vs. LHP JA Happ (vs. Red Sox)

Sunday’s also up in the air for the Red Sox. It could turn out to be a slugfest with Happ on the mound for the Yankees. Sigh. As I wrote yesterday, keeping Happ in the rotation is a bad idea (obviously).

Monday, 7:05 p.m. EDT: LHP Martín Pérez (vs. Yankees) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery (vs. Red Sox)

Pérez has actually been kinda good for Boston thus far. In 21 1/3 innings, he’s posted a 3.38 ERA and 3.88 FIP. He doesn’t miss many bats, but he’s been a soft contact extraordinaire thus far.

Pérez.

Montgomery pitched really well against Boston in his season debut: 5 2/3 innings and one run allowed. He’s also coming off a quality start vs. Atlanta last time out.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Brandon Workman (Closer), Matthew Barnes, Austin Brice, Phillips Valdez, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Marcus Walden, Dylan Covey, Ryan Weber

LHP: Josh Osich

The only bullpen to throw more innings than the Red Sox this season has been the Rays’. That’s by design for Tampa Bay, though. Boston has no choice because its starting pitching is so thin. It’s not like its group of relievers are very good, either. The Red Sox are in the bottom-third of MLB in bullpen ERA.

Boston’s top relievers are pretty fresh because the team hasn’t had many leads to protect. Workman hasn’t pitched since last Friday and Barnes hasn’t gone since Sunday. Although, calling Barnes a top reliever is a bit of a misnomer. A few pitchers are likely to be unavailable tonight. Valdez (35 pitches), Hembree (15), Walden (23), and Osich (33) pitched in yesterday’s loss. Weber threw 58 pitches on Wednesday.


A four game sweep is a lot to ask, but if the Rays just did it against them, the Yankees should too. The one game I’d be concerned about is Happ’s start, but there’s also a good chance the Yankees outslug the Red Sox that night. In any event, it’s time to bury Boston and put them out of their misery.

Offseason Review: Boston Red Sox

Now that the dust has (finally) settled on the Mookie Betts and David Price trade, we can finally put a cap on the Red Sox’ offseason. I’ve always been glad to not be a Red Sox fan, but after watching how the team’s winter unfolded, I’m especially glad. Boston went from a World Series juggernaut just two years ago to a team ready to kick the can down the road.

Management overhaul

The direction of Boston’s organization has changed dramatically in the last few months, and it started from the top. Some changes were expected, whereas others not so much.

First, we knew the Red Sox would have to replace Dave Dombrowski, who was let go in September. It’s pretty clear that his replacement, Chaim Bloom, was brought in to undo all of Dombrowski’s work. What, a 108-win World Series champion GM doesn’t get a pass for one disappointing season? Who’d have thought.

Bloom came over from the Rays’ front office where he was VP of baseball operations. Tampa Bay’s executives tend to get poached more than other organizations, and the reasoning is pretty clear: wealthy owners are impressed by those Rays’ teams win totals on low payroll. So, John Henry wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Bloom should be able to keep Boston afloat in terms of being a merely good team. Even though he’s clearly here in some part to trim payroll, he’s also working with a higher budget than the Rays have ever had. The Red Sox should win in the mid-to-high 80s this season, but the next time they are World Series contender isn’t going to be in the short-term.

In addition to Bloom, the Red Sox made an unplanned managerial change. Once Alex Cora’s name came up in the Astros’ cheating scandal, it was only a matter of time until he and Boston parted ways. Ron Roenicke, Cora’s bench coach, will take the helm.

They voluntarily traded Mookie Betts

Pretty much, Dave.

I’ve already spent some time ranting about the Mookie Betts trade here and here. Anyway, anytime you can trade the best player not named Mike Trout for pennies on the dollar, you gotta do it. Payroll flexibility is in vogue these days and the impending free agent Betts posed a big financial threat to Henry’s $6.6 billion Fenway Sports Group conglomerate.

By trading Betts, Boston significantly downgraded its outfield and playoff odds. PECOTA projects Betts to slash .294/.381/.538 (142 DRC+) and accumulate 6.2 WARP, second to that Trout fellow. Alex Verdugo, the headliner in return for Mookie, will presumably take over in right field. Verdugo’s projection is pretty average: .271/.330/.434 (101 DRC+) and 2.4 WARP.

Boston will have the right to keep Verdugo for the next five seasons, though it’s difficult to imagine him ever approaching Betts’ production. Yes, he’s already a solid player and was Baseball Prospectus’s 19th-best prospect entering last season, but Betts is a superstar and only three years older than Verdugo. Moreover, all indications are that Betts is a great guy. Meanwhile, Verdugo reportedly was present during an alleged sexual assault with other Dodgers’ minor leaguers that’s seemingly been swept under the rug.

An incomplete rotation

Boston starters had a 4.90 ERA last season, 11th-worst in the majors. Naturally, they decided to do absolutely nothing to improve the pitching staff. Granted, I think Chris Sale is a good candidate to rebound after a down 2019, but everything else isn’t very pretty.

First of all, they traded away David Price in the Betts blockbuster and will absorb half of the $96 million remaining on the southpaw’s deal. Price wasn’t very good in 2019, but he’s just a year removed from being a Boston postseason hero.

Now, if the Red Sox simply think Price isn’t good anymore, then that’s fine. But if that’s the case, at least do something to boost those around him. Instead, barring any last minute moves, Boston is going to trot out this rotation in 2020:

  1. Chris Sale
  2. Eduardo Rodríguez
  3. Martin Pérez
  4. Nathan Eovaldi
  5. ???

Yep, that’s noted offseason addition Martin Pérez joining the middle of the rotation. That’s the move Boston made to shore up its rotation that needs Sale to rebound, E-Rod to repeat his strong 2019, and Eovaldi to stay healthy and rediscover his 2018 form.

To make matters worse, the rotation is incomplete and seriously lacks depth. The fifth starter is a mystery — maybe Chris Mazza? Matt Hall? Yikes. Last year, at least they had some respectable names for depth in Rick Porcello and Andrew Cashner. The downside this staff has, particularly if Sale gets hurt, is remarkable. Boston may still hit aplenty even without Betts, but it’s going to be hard to outslug teams with this rotation.

Quick hitters

Boston’s other offseason moves are pretty unremarkable. They added José Peraza to replace the still-available free agent Brock Holt. The Red Sox also found themselves a new backup catcher in Kevin Plawecki. He replaces Sandy León.

One bullpen move may pan out nicely for Boston: the trade for Austin Brice. Admittedly, this is a bit of a reach as I was trying to find *something* positive Boston did. Brice, a right-handed reliever last with Miami, posted a 3.43 ERA and struck out 46 batters in 44 2/3 innings last season. He’s not a hard thrower, but his curveball appears to have some potential with a 94th percentile spin rate.

Offseason Summary

Lastly, here’s a quick look at the changes to the Red Sox major league roster.

In:

  • Alex Verdugo
  • Martin Pérez
  • José Peraza
  • Kevin Plawecki
  • Matt Hall
  • Jeffrey Springs
  • Austin Brice
  • Chris Mazza
  • Josh Osich

Out:

  • Mookie Betts
  • David Price
  • Steve Pearce
  • Rick Porcello
  • Brock Holt
  • Jhoulys Chacín
  • Andrew Cashner
  • Travis Lakins
  • Sam Travis
  • Sandy León

Mailbag: Dodgers vs. Yankees, Lindor & Arenado, Taijuan Walker, All-Time Yankees Team

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Happy Friday, everyone. This time next week there will be actual photos from Spring Training. Hope you’re all ready. I know I am. It’s been a long offseason, even though it’s been an unusually entertaining one as far as baseball season goes. Big players signed. Big trades happened (or maybe didn’t happen?). There was definitely drama. A lot of this energy should carry over into the 2020 season, and I’m personally very excited about it. March 26 can’t get here fast enough.

Until then, it’s mailbag time! Four more great questions today, and as always, send yours in to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to be included. We choose our favorites each week.

Dan Asks: Are the Yankees better than the Dodgers post-Mookie?

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This question was sent in the other day before there was new uncertainty about the Mookie Betts deal. Let’s assume that the deal goes through for now and that it goes down under similar parameters. Mookie is a huge, huge upgrade for the Dodgers. A week ago, I would have said the Yanks and Dodgers were the two best teams but that the Yankees were better on paper. With Betts, though, that gap is all but completely gone.

To answer your question, let’s try to make this one semi-empirical. Here is the 2020 ZiPS projection for the Dodgers, which obviously came before the trade:

So, before adding in Betts, that’s 48.8 fWAR added, and, when combined with the 48 WAR baseline for a replacement level team, comes out to be a 96-97 win projection. That’s very, very good! Adding in Betts only makes the Dodgers more potent: ZiPS projects him for 5.7 fWAR, or a net gain of 3.6 over Verdugo. The addition of David Price, too, adds about 2 additional wins. Overall, that puts the Dodgers at a 102 win projection. Insane.

But the Yankees are every bit as good. Let’s run through the same exercise with them. Here is there ZiPS projection:

As I noted in a mailbag a few weeks ago, if you add that all up you get a…102 win projection for the Yankees. Exactly the same as the Dodgers! Kind of boring, isn’t it? But that’s just the reality of these two teams right now. They’re the two consensus best teams for a reason.

Of course, it’s never as simple as “adding up the (projected) WAR.” Injuries happen, as do insane breakouts like 2019 Gio Urshela. Dramatic regression can happen, too. As they say, that’s why the play the games! It’s what makes it fun. At the same time, it’s only February 7. The projections – and our own eyes – can tell us something. What both of these tell us is that these two teams are capital-S Stacked. They are the two best teams in baseball for sure.

The stage is set to rekindle a historic rivalry between America’s two largest cities – and one that has been dormant since 1981. You know MLB wants it. Hell, *I* want it. There are likely very few differences between the two teams if we’re being honest. If I had to choose one roster, it would be a tough call – but c’mon, it wouldn’t be that tough. This isn’t Views from Chavez Ravine. I am taking the Yankees every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Dan Asks: Am I crazy to be interested in Taijuan Walker as the 5th starter?  He never lived up to his potential, but he’s still only 27!  Much higher ceiling than Happ has. 

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No, you’re not crazy. In fact, Derek wrote about Walker as an option just yesterday. He is a former top prospect who is still somehow only 27-years-old, as Dan notes. There’s a lot to be enticed by, especially considering the complete overhaul of the Yankees’ pitching apparatus recently. Maybe they can finally unlock that potential after all this time. In this context, sure, why not? Offer him a MiLB deal and see what he’s got in the tank. There is absolutely no downside to doing so.

Back in reality, though, that’s a very unlikely scenario. Consider a few factors. First, he hasn’t really pitched in the Majors since 2017, when he went 9-9 with a 3.46 ERA (3.93 FIP, 100 ERA-) in 157.1 IP for Arizona. While his strikeout rate (21.4%) and walk rate (8.2%) were essentially league average, his under-the-hood metrics were not: he got hit hard, doesn’t have great spin nor velocity. Sometimes pitchers just don’t pan out. Remember, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

He’s only thrown 14 innings at the big league level since, which is very significant time away from the game. He had Tommy John surgery in 2018 – you can come back from that! – but also got hurt in his rehab last year.

Bob Nightengale reported the other day that Walker worked out for a number of MLB scouts, and his velocity was way down:

These are all worrying signs to me – enough to say that no, I don’t think Walker deserves an MLB deal with the Yankees. He’s a perfect candidate for a rebuilding team trying to take a flyer on a guy who might finally realize his potential. Unfortunately, he doesn’t belong anywhere near the Yankees’ 40-man roster. On a MiLB deal, though, sure. Like I said, no downside there.

Bryan Asks: Let’s say the Yanks decide to throw caution to the wind and really throw their money/assets around to create a juggernaut. What are those moves (actual trades), and what impact do they have on the luxury tax situation? Does it start with a trade for Arenado?  Do they go after Lindor and extend him? Do they acquire both?

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Well, as I noted above, the Yankees already have compiled a juggernaut. That’s what they did when they went out and got Gerrit Cole, after all. But I am always in favor of improving on a team — the 1998 Yankees won 125 games, including the playoffs, and traded for Roger Clemens after the season – and I like the spirit of this question.

In an ideal world, but still one that recognizes the inherent reality that there are a limited number of prospects and tradable players, I want Lindor. How can you not? He’s a 26-year-old shortstop who won’t be a free agent until 2022 and is a career .288/.347/.493 (119 wRC+) hitter with sterling defense. He is basically the ideal baseball player. Unfortunately, the Yankees just don’t have the prospect power to get it done, I don’t think. if there was a bidding war over Lindor, the Yankees would lose. Nor do I think Cleveland will actually trade him (yet). So, with much regret, I am going to rule him out.

Arenado, on the other hand, would be a lovely addition. I wrote about what I think that package would take here, and Derek covered why he’s such a good player here. This is all pretty self-explanatory, and his contract means that the Yankees could probably get him in a trade similar to what they gave up for Stanton (again, if he’s actually available). It would be like a free agent signing, essentially.

As for what he’d do to the CBT, well, he’d add a lot. Spotrac has the Yankees at a $257 million payroll for CBT purposes – a few million less than my estimate here. That’s well over the $248 million threshold. Arenado commands a $32.5 million CBT hit for the team, so they’d be around $290 million. Historically, that’s where the Yankees should be, and the actual payroll tax wouldn’t be that bad. (It’s not as much as anyone makes it out to be, ever.)

But it’s not going to happen. It just isn’t. If this scenario were to happen, though, Arenado is the likely mega addition they’d make. If only this was MLB: The Show. As it stands, the Yankees are pretty good now.

George Asks: Name your all Yankee team by position, from all eras, vs. your all non-Yankee team.

This is a fun one, but I’m going to cheat a bit. As you might have guessed, I know a bit more about Yankees’ history than other teams’ or the league more broadly. I’d have to think a lot more about my “non-Yankee” team and I just don’t have the same depth of knowledge on players, so I’m going to just stick to the Yankees for now. I’ll just pick players, not choosing an individual season or anything like that.

But I am going to complicate it a little bit. I’ll choose my overall “best Yankees team”, which is always a bit easier with the Yankees. There are just so many great players to choose from. So I will also add, in parentheses where applicable, the players I’d choose out of those I’ve seen play. Here it goes:

  • Catcher: Yogi Berra (Jorge Posada)
  • First Base: Lou Gehrig (Mark Teixeira)
  • Second Base: Robinson Canó
  • Shortstop: Derek Jeter
  • Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
  • Left Field: Joe DiMaggio* (Hideki Matsui)
  • Center Field: Mickey Mantle (Bernie Williams)
  • Right Field: Aaron Judge
  • Designated Hitter: Babe Ruth (Jason Giambi)

Yes, yes, I know. DiMaggio wasn’t a left fielder. Don’t care! He played 60 games there in his career and if I’m assembling this team, I’m not leaving him off. That would be unconscionable. He’s moving to left. And is Judge an ambitious choice? Absolutely. Do I care? No, I absolutely do not care. Not at all. I want to see our man hit with these guys. I think this lineup would be good! Just a hunch.

Here’s the rotation, with the all-time rotation on the left and my rotation on the right:

  1. Roger Clemens
  2. Whitey Ford
  3. Andy Pettitte
  4. Ron Guidry
  5. CC Sabathia
  1. Roger Clemens
  2. CC Sabathia
  3. Andy Pettitte
  4. Mike Mussina
  5. David Cone

Despite their absurd offensive history, the Yanks have surprisingly few no-doubt Hall of Fame pitchers in their history. Fun fact: did you know that Masahiro Tanaka’s 17.4 bWAR ranks 23rd all time among Yankee starters? Me neither! But it’s true. He should continue to rise into the top 20 with a normal season this year, too. Pretty wild. (This also means that several years of Peak Cole™ will make him one of the best pitchers in Yankee history pretty quickly.)

And, finally, an abbreviated bullpen:

  • Setup Guy: Dellin Betances
  • Closer: Mariano Rivera

I mean, obviously. Don’t need to explain this one.

Thoughts A Week Before Pitchers And Catchers Report to Camp

It is pretty wild to think that spring training will begin next week. The offseason has flown by. Admittedly, 95% of my sports focus was on the San Francisco 49ers and their incredibly fun season. Luckily, baseball went into hibernation after the winter meetings so my football craziness didn’t prevent me from missing anything significant. I guess MLB was waiting for my 49ers to choke a Super Bowl title away to kick back into full gear. I appreciate the much needed distraction. Here are some thoughts as I slowly recover from one of the worst sports moments of my life.

1. Challenging the Global View of The Betts Trade: We all had a pretty strong inkling this was going down, but it is still pretty mind blowing that it actually happened. Mookie is easily a top-five player in the league. There are clearly no baseball reasons for a premiere franchise like the Boston Red Sox to trade their franchise player. This was a financial decision made by one of the most profitable franchises in the league.

Boston’s offseason plan was crystal clear following two personnel moves. The Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski this winter because team brass believed he overspent for a title. That reasoning is absurd, illogical and insulting. While all of these descriptions are true, Red Sox ownership decided it was time to move on. They turned to former Rays executive Chaim Bloom to steer the franchise towards financial austerity and prudence. Generally speaking, a team isn’t hiring a former Rays employee to go on a shopping spree. His directive was to get under the luxury tax. With the Betts/Price deal, Bloom was able to accomplish this in only a couple of months on the job.

There is no denying this trade was essentially a salary dump of one of the game’s best players, but don’t count me in the group that will proclaim this is bad for the game. This IS the game in 2020. The industry has been operating in this manner for years now. Outside of the Miami Marlins, with an ownership group that should’ve never been awarded the team, every major league franchise can afford big time contracts. The Rockies can afford Arenado. Cleveland can afford Lindor. The Red Sox can afford Betts. They just refuse to do it, because they can refuse to do it.

This is the current economic structure of the game. Unfortunately, the CBA gives teams the power to conduct business in this manner. I am a staunch player supporter. Until the public knows all of the owners’ financial information like we know the players’ contract details, the owners will always have some cover in their selfish decision making. Do I like this reality? No. Do I have to look at player movement decisions through this lens? Yes. The MLBPA has to do whatever it can to improve these labor situations for its members.

Even from an on-field perspective, it is hard to believe this is bad for the game. Mookie Betts landed with another behemoth. The Dodgers are every bit as valuable a franchise as Boston. Los Angeles has been the class of the National League for years. Many people have spent the last few offseasons trashing the Dodgers for not being aggressive. They’re finally aggressive and the dialogue focuses on Boston’s loss. The state of the game can’t be that dire when an elite team acquires an elite talent and plans to do everything they can to extend said player. It’s bad for the franchise who foolishly gave up on that great player.

If we include all of the participants in the transactions, we get an even clearer picture of how the game didn’t suffer from the Betts deal. The Minnesota Twins are a better team with Maeda. The Angels are a better team with Joc Pederson. It feels like a leap to lament the state of the game when three of the four participants in the deals improved their rosters.

We should also consider the player’s own agency when it comes to these deals. These trades are almost always viewed through the team’s perspective and rarely the player’s perspective. It is quite possible that Mookie Betts didn’t want to be a Red Sox long term. Or at the very least, he was going to be a career Red Sox only on his terms.

If we are to believe the reporting on Mookie’s future, he clearly wants to enter the market and help his fellow union members. Many of us clamor for the players to be more proactive with their careers. Mookie is doing just that. He fulfilled his six-year responsibility and he was solely going to serve his own interests moving forward. That would be the right attitude to have. This trade is clearly driven by financial reasons on the team’s behalf, but it is a possibility the player was making it clear he was prepared to move on.

At the end of the day, we are still going to watch the games. When March 26th rolls around, we’re all going to forget our laments of the business side of things and obsesses over every pitch, hit and managerial decision. Yes, there are clear issues in the industry that need to be resolved. The on field product remains strong. Ultimately, that is what will keep us going.

2. Thriving In The Details: The Yankees are the best team on paper. This still feels accurate even with Betts moving on to LA. The Yankees rotation projects to be elite. Their bullpen remains imposing. The projected lineup is devastating. While all of this is true, there is still room for roster improvement. I have long held onto the belief that championship teams win titles in the details. Yes, great teams need elite level players, good health, leadership, and fortune. They also maximize their roster spots with the best players available for the roles that need to be filled.

In particular, the primary back up middle infield role is one area that could use an upgrade. The Yankees are pretty shallow in that department. In letting Didi go to Philadelphia, the team chipped away at depth in a crucial area of the field. The decision also limits DJ Lemahieu’s versatility. This is fine if there was a proven and capable major leaguer to back up both second and short. They simply do not have that on the current roster and this seemingly works against the team’s approach to roster building.

The obvious in house candidates are Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada. There is nothing that I’ve seen from Tyler Wade’s offensive profile that suggests he could be an average player if Gleyber or DJLM goes down for an extended period of time. Baseball Savant rates him similarly to players like Garrett Hampson, Adam Engel and Phillip Ervin. FanGraphs projects him to slash .224/.289/.322. He did improve his plate discipline in 2019, but it’s not clear what he can contribute offensively. The glove is good. The speed is great, but even then the Yankees are a team reliant upon power and good baserunning isn’t predicated upon raw speed.

It is hard to project Estrada because he only had 69 PAs last season. He did have some nice moments filling in from time to time, but is there anything that we saw to suggest he could produce on a consistent basis? He doesn’t have eye popping minor league numbers either. If I had to choose between Estrada or Wade, I would lean towards Thairo because there is some more power in the bat. I wouldn’t feel great about either guy.

The Yankees spent $324 million dollars for Gerrit Cole. This is as clear a sign the team is going all in this season to win a championship. When you make a considerable investment like the Cole contract there shouldn’t be any what-ifs on the roster. Each player on the 26th man should be a competent major leaguer. Brock Holt would be a solid addition to the club. You know that he will make consistent baseball plays, will get on base and provide solid defense. You’re looking for reliable play from the back up position, not a learning curve. Holt can provide that better than Wade or Estrada.

3. No One Year Deals?: It is a little surprising that the Yankees haven’t played in the one year deal market. They signed a few minor league deals, but no short term major league contracts. Both Didi and Dellin signed for one year with the Phillies and Mets respectively. One can assume the money was a little too rich for the Yankees especially considering what they spent for Cole, but there were smart short term deals they could’ve pursued. Eric Thames, Jose Iglesias, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Castro all signed for one year at relatively low money. All of them would have been solid additions to the roster.

It appears the Yankees are content with their in house options and will look to add before the trade deadline once they get a better feel for the team. It is always better to acquire talent with just money, but that isn’t totally how the Yankees operate.

No longer inevitable: Red Sox trade Mookie Betts and David Price

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We knew a trade including Mookie Betts was coming — but not of this magnitude. The details are trickling in still, but various reports indicate a framework as follows:

  • Dodgers get: Mookie Betts, David Price, cash from Red Sox
  • Red Sox get: Alex Verdugo, Brusdar Graterol
  • Twins get: Kenta Maeda

This sure looks like a no-brainer for the Dodgers. As if they weren’t already the National League favorites, Betts and Price further cement LA’s status. Verdugo’s a nice player and has a solid future, but the odds of him ever coming close to Betts’s ability is slim to none. Meanwhile, Minnesota addressed a big need by acquiring Maeda to bolster its rotation. The Twins struck out on big name starters in free agency this winter, so Maeda should be a big help and is under contract for four seasons.

As for Boston, well, you know how I feel if you read my post earlier today. Verdugo is cool and all (114 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR as a 23 year-old in 2019), but he’s a steep drop from Betts. Boston can keep him for five more seasons, provided he doesn’t become too costly for them. Graterol, 21, is a hard-throwing righty and a top prospect. Minnesota apparently thought he was a reliever long-term, hence their willingness to deal him. I’m sure Boston will try to see if he can stick in the rotation before relegating him to the bullpen.

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