Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Red Sox clearly have not made as big of a splash as they have in the past few offseasons. They have utilized a more conservative approach and have made sure that they stacked the deck in terms of depth. Spring Training is now in full swing and now it is time to reflect on the underrated and overrated moves that Ben Cherington and co. have made this offseason.
Underrated: Chris Capuano – This was a brilliant signing executed by the Red Sox. After Ryan Dempster announced that he and his $14 million dollar contract were no longer an issue in 2014, the Red Sox found a much cheaper solution to their starting pitching depth. Capuano is only set to make a guaranteed $2.5 millon, however, he has the opportunity to make up to $5 million due to the incentive-laden deal. Nonetheless, the Red Sox saved a lot of money in the bank. This move sounds even better when comparing it to other free agent pitchers. Over the course of the past three seasons, Capuano owns a 4.15 ERA, whereas Jimenez has sported an ERA of 4.45. Jimenez was signed on a four-year, $50 million dollar deal — $45 million more than Capuano at maximum and roughly $7.5 million more in terms of average annual value. He also has collected a career 4.25 FIP (fielding independent pitching), compared to Ervin Santana who has pitched to the tune of a 4.36 FIP in eight big league seasons.
Overrated: A.J Pierzynski – Plate discipline and clubhouse chemistry is something that the Red Sox hold very dear in their organizational philosophy. Well, Pierzynski does not seem to fit the bill in either valued category. For starters, A.J might have had the worst plate discipline in Major League Baseball last season. He had the highest O-Swing% (outside swing percentage) in the league at 49.6%, which has been trending the wrong way in each of the last five seasons, as his O-Swing% has increased every year. He also had the lowest BB% in the big leagues at 2.1%. Pierzynski is also detrimental on the defensive side of the ball too, as he has collected -23 DRS (defensive runs saved) in his career and has thrown out a ghastly 25% of runners stealing bases.
In a short sample size at Fenway Park, he has not had success that would indicate a spike in offensive performance. In 121 plate appearances, Pierzynski owns a career .751 OPS in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway — not at all different from his career OPS at .750.
Finally, A.J Pierzynski, or Major League Baseball’s most hated player, is not exactly an ideal clubhouse presence to have. Reports have come out, however, that suggest A.J is actually a tremendous team player and it is only opposing teams who despise him. These reports should alleviate some concerns on that front but if you’re expecting a 2013 Saltalmacchia-esque performance from Pierzynski, you might want to reconsider.
Underrated: Jose Mijares – The Red Sox signed Jose Mijares on a minor league contract earlier in the offseason. If he makes the major league roster, he will make $1 million but he has the opportunity to make another million courtesy of built-in incentives. Mijares was rocked last season, pitching to the tune of a 4.22 ERA and 3.05 FIP in 49 innings. If you have ever read any of my previous work on here, you probably noticed that I have mentioned the stat BABIP (batting average on balls in play) quite a bit. Mijares’ BABIP in 2013 was unearthly at .410 and there is a zero percent chance that number is remotely similar in 2014. Expect Mijares’ BABIP to fall back to earth and with it, he will be much better in terms of run prevention. Even if he is not much better in 2014, it is still a minor league contract and comes with no risk attached.
Overrated: Edward Mujica – People seem to be stuck on the fact that Mujica has closing experience, but I think we have learned by now that if you’re a good reliever, you’re going to be a good closer. For example, Koji Uehara, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Sergio Romo, etc. have all proven after being deemed “not having the right mindset” that they can occupy the closer role just fine and that is putting it lightly. Mujica has put up low run prevention totals for three consecutive seasons, but his FIP (fielding independent pitching) numbers have not been so good.
Below are Mujica’s ERA’s compared to his FIP numbers:
2011: 2.96 ERA to a 3.20 FIP
2012: 3.03 ERA to a 3.65 FIP
2013: 2.78 ERA to a 3.71 FIP
FIP is usually a better indicator of future performance, and for the most part it is very accurate but Mujicia seems to keep defying his FIP numbers and has continued to post very solid ERA numbers. I think his luck will sooner or later run out and the transition to pitching in Fenway Park will certainly not help his run prevention totals. Although I do not think he will be a bad acquisition, I do believe he will not be worth the $4.75 million he is making in each of the next two seasons.