Cherington, Fenway High’s “Dean of Discipline” Playing “Bridge” at the GM Winter meetings


“Discipline…Discipline …Discipline …” is Ben Cherington’s mantra, so don’t expect him to buy a FA with a long-term contract this week at the GM’s meeting.  If Ben dated twins while attending Amherst, they would have been named Prudence and Patience; but, even a Puritanical married couple in New England wouldn’t  name a baby girl “Discipline”—unless it puts them over a dozen kids.

With just $90 million committed to current contracts, Cherington is flush with cash; the Sox spent $ 173,186,617 million in salaries in 2012; that leaves the Boston GM $83 million and change to spend on FAs to fill his holes at 1b, OF, and starting pitcher and enough left over to purchase a SS who can it like Mike Aviles or Marco Scutaro, or even Jed Lowrie.

Expect Ben to demonstrate his discipline—underscoring his stark contrast to Epstein’s heedless largesse—and sign 1-3-year contracts with low risk players.

Ben will not spend $98 million on a 7-year deal and settle for a B.J. [Upton].

Josh Hamilton dreamers need to wake up and accept that he is not coming to the Red Sox–not for $175 million over 7 years. [Dodgers]

Top-rated FA starter Zack Greinke for $150 million over 6 years?  Wouldn’t be prudent. [Angels]

So, assuming Mr. Cherington, the Dean of Discipline at Fenway High School, will find a few reliable veterans—via free agents pool or trade–to plug his holes with players, who will sign for 3 years or less, let’s rank the candidates:

FIRST BASE

Alex Gordon

Prior to being drafted in 2005 he played on Team USA, won college player of the year, the Dick Howser Trophy, the Golden Spikes Award, the Brooks Wallace Award and the ABCA Rawlings Player of the Year award and was named the No. 1 college draft prospect by Baseball America their Minor League Player of the Year award as a Third baseman.

The super star college 3b from Nebraska started at the hot corner for the Royals, then at 1b, and then–to make room for prospects Mike Moustakas [3b] and Eric Hosmer [1b], he moved to the outfield and won two consecutive Gold Gloves [2011-2012] for excellence as a Left fielder.

In a trade the Sox acquire a reliable, solid citizen type that will appeal to Ben’s sensibilities and KC picks up two prospects to add to their collection and Gordon finally gets a shot at a ring—by 2015.

WAR 7.1 [2011], 6.2 [2012]…Can play 3b, 1b and OF…Won two Gold Gloves in OF…

Career stats: BA .269

OBP 348

 SLG 439 OPS

.787 OPS+

112

Bonus: Team control to 2015 with team option for 2016.

Not Scott Boras client.

And the year, age, cost:

2013 29 $9,000,000
2014 30 $10,000,000
2015 31

     $12,500,000

2016 32

*$12,500,000

$12.5M Team Option
Earliest Free Agent: 2016

More on Gordon here: http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/11/08/elegant-1b3bof-player-for-sox-bridge-game-guess-who/

Mike Napoli

Can play 1b, catch, or DH; needs a one-year deal to prove his 2012 slump season was an aberration, so he can cash in for a multi-year deal in the future.

Napoli missed 54 games, plunging to.227-24-56, but the Sox Killer still had a “career week” with .389, 4 homers and 10 RBI in just five games against the Red Sox.

A year in the Red Sox batting order would allow Napoli to return to his career average stats:

.259, 22/85, 83 Rs, SLG .507

Also, consider how Napoli might serve as a backup and tutor for Salty and Lavarnway.

OF

Torri Hunter

Still one of the top defensive outfielders in MLB, he had an outstanding last contract year with the Angels in 2012: .313, 16/92 with 24 doubles and 81 Rs.  His career average stat line:  .277 25/95 with 34 doubles and 89 Rs is equally solid and his 5.5 WAR for 2012 is impressive.  So, what’s not to like?

He was making $18 million per season and, at 37, might want a multi-year final career contract; that would cost the Sox nearly as much as Greinke money, but he may settle for a 1-year cameo to improve his future FA value.

Rob Bradford of WEEI Radio in Boston says Hunter has expressed interest in playing in Boston in the past, in large part because of the presence of his longtime friend, Red Sox DH David Ortiz.

After 5 years with the Angels, he is coming off his best season ever:  .313/.365/.451, 16 HRs.  Gold Glove contender in right field; his WAR of 5.3 (per Fangraphs) was his career best.

Jason Bay

Came in a trade in the summer of 2008 to be Manny Ramirez‘s replacement, and had a good year; in 184 games: 9HR/37RBI, SLG .537, WAR 1.8, BA .293 and in 2009 in 151 games, he had a great year: 36 HRs, .921 OPS, 4.9 WAR.

But, that was then and this is now: .165 in 2012 for the Mets. Often injured, he played 123 games in 2011; he faded badly in 2012, posting just a .536 OPS in 70 games.

According to the Associated Press the Mets agreed to terminate the outfielder’s contract with one year remaining on it. The Mets were so eager to dump him they ate his $21 million 2013 salary.

The selling point is that Bay would come cheap and would likely take a 1-2-year deal for @$13-14 million with built in performance incentive bonuses.

Would he be like that goldfish that was floating on top of your tank that revived with a pinch of salt?  Or will he be that dead mackerel you saw washed up in the seaweed on Revere Beach?

SP

Hiroki Kuroda

He just joined the FA players who rejected their qualifying offers; every player who received the $13.3M qualifying offer from their respective teams, B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, Kuroda, Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, Kyle Lohse, Adam Laroche, and Josh Hamilton, rejected them.

Moving to the AL Kuroda found success with the Yankees last season:

16 Ws, 3.32 ERA; 2-0 in five starts against the Sox in 2012.

“Since the Red Sox were so bad in 2012, their first-round pick is protected. Signing Kuroda would mean that they would forfeit their second-round pick instead.” [ Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.]

He was a late bloomer; he started his pitching career at age 33 and, now 37, he is willing to sign a 1-year deal that would allow him to pitch or retire in Uenomiya (Osaka City, JP) on his own timetable.

Cherington might be willing to go one or two million over the $13.3 million minimum offer he turned down with the Yankees, say $14.5 with incentive bonuses.

Anibal Sanchez

Sources say he is looking for a 5-year deal for $50 million. [Wouldn’t be prudent.]

Here ESPN asks:

Would you hand $50 million to a pitcher who has never won 15 games and has already had surgeries on his elbow ligament and labrum?

Someone will. History shows that would likely be a mistake. Six pitchers have received free agent contracts of at least $35 million without a 15-win season on their resumes.

Of those six, only one (Ted Lilly) arguably performed to the level of his contract.

Largest free-agent contracts to starting pitchers who never had more than 15 wins in a season

Player

Total Value

Team

Wins During Contract

Darren Dreifort $55.0M Dodgers 9
Gil Meche $55.0M Royals 29
Carlos Silva $48.0M Mariners 15
Ted Lilly $40.0M Cubs 54
Oliver Perez $36.0M Mets 3
Wilson Alvarez $35.0M Rays 17

[SOURCE: http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/_/id/8610855/for-boston-red-sox-buyer-beware-comes-free-agent-starting-pitchers]

With their history of serving DL time, Dan Haren, Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum  could be bargains, or at least be willing to stay within a 3-year contract, or long enough to prove they are healthy and then go FA for a lucrative multi-year deal.

SHORTSTOP

At the GM meetings Cherington said he is spending most of his energy on the corner outfielder positions, first base, and starting pitcher. The current party line is that they will give Jose “Can You Swing” Iglesias a chance to win or lose the starting job in Spring training.

Cherington waffled and wiggled and finally took both sides of the issue:

“We believe Jose is ready to be a major league shortstop, but we’re not ready to commit to that. We’re going to look at ways to improve the team and shortstop could be one of those areas and we’ll see what opportunities exist.”

[That mixed message endorsement should send Iglesias to the Hitter’s Hangout batting cages in Miami--pronto!]

Iglesias hit .118, striking out in 24 % of his 68 ABs in 2012;  just .031 (1-for-32) with men on base.

Reports say the Red Sox could sign a veteran utility infielder to fill that gap; remember Mike Aviles? Marco Scutaro? Jed Lowrie? [Not to put too fine a Punto on that sore subject.]

Also recall that the Sox have a decent reserve SS; former Pirate, 27-year-old Pedro Ciriaco hit .293 over 76 games (12 of them at short) with 2 HRs, 19 RBIs, 16 SBs and 33 runs.

It seems unlikely that Stephen Drew might take a 1-year deal to prove he is healthy and then go FA for the big bucks; anyway, the Sox may have already seen enough of the Drew’s Brothers, remembering how Stephen’s brother, J. D, blew.

Since Cherington is conservative by nature and methodically adding veterans to his home-grown core and John Henry wants to stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold,  do not expect a high profile/long contract/high priced free agent signing during the GM meetings, or even a blockbuster trade.

Ben will be signing less splashy FAs [think Hideki Kuroda, Torii Hunter, Russell Martin] and trading for stop-gap, short contract players [think: Alex Gordon, Asdrubel Cabrera] to form the “bridge” to Cherington’s Next Great Red Sox Team in 2015.

[Hey, Sox fans, it could be worse:  Ben could say he is beginning a tunnel, a Big Dig, to the Land of Franchise Future.]

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Tags: "Next Great Red Sox Team" Alex Gordon Anibal Sanchez Asrdrubel Cabrera Ben Cherington Featured GMs Hideki Kuroda Jose Iglesias Mike Napoli Torii Hunter Winter Meetings