With a new GM now in place and ready to take action and make adjustments to the Red Sox lineup, we will continue the examination of some of those moves or changes that should be made. Or in this case, the ones that shouldn’t be made.
After a dismal month of September for the entire Sox club (Ellsbury aside), many fans and critics were calling for Josh Beckett to take the fall. His name was pegged as the ring leader in what turned out to be a circus of events in the clubhouse and as a result, many felt that it should be Beckett who gets shipped out of Boston.
But hold the press. Are you crazy? Trade Josh Beckett? That would be baseball suicide and here’s why:
Beckett was coming off a frustrating and underproductive 2010 season. Plagued by injuries, Beckett only made 21 starts (a career low) and 127.2 innings, his lowest since his rookie year in 2002. His record of 6-6 and ERA of 5.78 was an indication that things weren’t right and it allowed many to question if his newly signed four-year contract was going to be a bust.
The 2011 season brought renewed optimism for both Beckett and the Red Sox and the tall Texan didn’t disapoint for the most part. Aside from a disastorous September, Beckett was lights out and without question the ace of the staff.
He started 30 games and threw 193.0 innings, both above his career average. His 2.89 ERA was the best of his career and is almost a full point below his career average of 3.89. His opponents batting average and WHIP were both career bests at .211 and 1.03 respectively. Beckett had a 13-7 record and if it weren’t for a lack of run support throughout most of his starts, he quite possibly could have made a push for 20 wins.
The biggest success for Beckett this season was his health. Sure he ate chicken and drank beer during starts which helped lead to a speculated additional twenty pounds of weight he inherited over the season; but he was able to withstand the grueling six month regular season any major injuries. This helped lead to his 193 innings of work, which took some pressure off the bullpen at various times throughout the season.
Let’s explore the possibility of trading Beckett. Ben Cherington would not take draft picks or prospects if he even considered moving Beckett. He would want a proven starter and may even demand a bonified “ace” to come back the other way. Who would possibly be available to fit that requirement? Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners comes to mind as does Dan Haren of the LA Angels.
Would either of those two just mentioned be able to handle the scrutiny of the Boston media and the pressure cooker that is Red Sox Nation? King Felix is nestled nicely in Seattle, more of a football town than a baseball town. Dan Haren has had one superb season, so his status as a big game pitcher remains to be determined.
To think that Cherington would trade Beckett for anything other than a starting pitcher is absurd so let’s not even go there.
Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers are most likely deemed untouchable and considering the age difference between Beckett and those two, I don’t see the Dodgers or Giants making that move.
How about Cole Hamels? He’s proven he can pitch on the biggest stage when he shone in the 2008 World Series. But inconsistency in the last few years has many questions around Hamels and if it came down to him or Beckett, I’m going with Beckett any day of the week.
Let’s not over look the fact that Beckett has been able to go into Yankee Stadium and totally dominate and shut down a fierce Yankee lineup. He also handles the Boston market extremely well and has shown he can pitch in a hostile baseball town. He feeds off the Fenway faithful and doesn’t buckle under the pressure that comes with playing for a big market club like the Red Sox. Something not every ball player can do as we’ve so many times over the years in New York and even some in Boston.
With John Lackey set to miss the entire 2012 season, another factor to consider is the amount innings of work that are suddenly needed to be filled. Beckett has proved he’s healthy and can be relied upon for thirty-plus starts which will eat around his usual 200+ innings.
Cherington now has to find some starters who will tackle the vacant innings that both Lackey and Tim Wakefield will leave void. So a Beckett trade isn’t likely to be on the top of his list of things to do.
Heading into next season the Red Sox have one of the league’s best three man rotations. Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, when healthy and on their game are three of the best in the game. Given how young they still are, these front three are a great starting point for Cherington to build an electric starting rotation around.
So for the Beckett haters out there, you better get over your disgust for the former World Series MVP. He made mistakes, as did others on this team, but his on field performance for the first five months of last season were exemplifying of what he can do. He is the ace of this staff and will be an integral part when the Red Sox battle for the division next season.
Trade Josh Beckett? Not a chance in my mind.