Theo Took a Shot at Mariano Rivera
According to reports from Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Red Sox took a run at a New York Yankee great this off-season, but it wasn’t Derek Jeter. The Sox reportedly offered Mariano Rivera a 3-year deal, 1 more year than he took to re-sign in New York. Since the news broke yesterday, more information has emerged that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim also offered Mo a contract, but he turned both down to stay in the place where he has made a name for himself. With all the buzz surrounding the possibility of Jeter coming to Boston and the now infamous New York Post picture of him in a Red Sox uniform, no one expected Mo to be a target in New England. Theo made a statement to the Red Sox and Jonathan Papelbon by going at Mo, showing that he is committed to bringing on the best possible players and that he was willing to offer a 3-year deal to a 40+ year old. This morning the Yankees are reportedly taking a charge at Carl Crawford, making me wonder, did Theo poke the bear by going after Rivera?
The Yankees have always been a factor in the Crawford race, just like the Sox will likely be a factor in the Cliff Lee race, if for nothing else than to just drive up the price. My bigger concern is the Yankees having the budget to be able to go after a few of the big name stars out there and once again, steal a player or two away from the Sox. You know Brian Cashman and baby Steinbrenner were not happy to hear the Sox offered Rivera a 3-year deal and their jumping heavy into the Crawford race the next day just seems like too much of a coincidence to not be strategic. There is an eerie feeling in the air because the Yankees have yet to make a big splash in the free agent market and it’s the 1st week in December. They are like a cat waiting to pounce. They are surely having tons of meetings and conversations behind closed doors and are just waiting for the right moment to attack their prey and bring in their big stars.
We have seen this before and it scares the living crap out of me. The reports have been that no one is sure if the Yankees have the money to bring in both Lee and a Crawford or Werth, but we know damn well, if given the opportunity, they will find the money. The concept of a budget for the high level teams in baseball is an imaginative concept and no one knows that better that the Yankees brass. Winning is everything and whatever it costs, it costs, regardless of luxury tax issues. They need to fill up that shiny new stadium of theirs and players like Lee and Crawford accomplish that. They are electric and exciting to watch. They also make the Yankees instantly the favorites to win the World Series, if they weren’t already. That aside, can’t you see Steinbrenner signing Crawford as much to screw the Red Sox as to help the Yankees? I certainly can.
Getting back to the Rivera offer. What does taking a shot at Mo tell Pap about his future in Boston? It is a clear message that Theo felt he needed to go after a reliable closer and lock him up for the next 3 years. Translation: He doesn’t trust Pap to be a top tier closer in the long-term. If he truly had trust the Pap was one of the best closers in baseball and would continue to be in the future, he wouldn’t have even tried to replace him. For those who think that Rivera and Pap would have been in the same bullpen if Mo had come to Boston, get real. The Sox would have either non-tendered Pap or lined up a trade for the closer, because if there is one thing I know about Pap, it’s that his ego is too big to play 2nd fiddle. Papelbon is still one of the best relievers in baseball, but with a rocky season in 2010 and an ego that continues to grow with each passing minute, there is cause for serious concern. If Pap does continue to struggle, don’t be surprised to see Daniel Bard step-in more and more as the season wears on.
All the negatives about Pap aside, there is no reason he can’t bounce back to his dominant self in 2011. He just turned 30 years old a few weeks ago and still has great arm strength. If he can focus on the command of his ‘other’ pitches (besides his fastball) and begin to balance his approach to batters, he will be fine. With any great pitcher, adjustments are key to long term success. It was clear that the opponents know his stuff well and could predict what was coming that he hardly had a chance at times (not that it’s difficult to look fastball on every pitch). The advancement of his off-speed stuff and his now 5+ years of experience should help him to adapt and develop. He feels Bard breathing down his neck and knows he needs to step up the plate (no pun intended) and return to the form we all know and love. This season is critical if Pap hopes to have a long career as the Sox closer, because if he struggles, don’t expect to see him in 2012 (or maybe even the 2nd half of 2011).
Between the Sox poking the sleeping giant and the questions surrounding Papelbon in 2011, the off-season is never boring. So much so, that the next few weeks will likely be the most entertaining in a while. Keep checking back for more news and analysis as rumors, signings and trades swirl around the MLB.