Red Sox offseason recap series, part eight: 2009-2010
The 2010 season ended in disappointment as the club failed to make the post season for the first time since 2006. While the club would have a talented offense and solid starting pitching, it was the bullpen that really let them down. Formerly dependable arms Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez would fine new homes before the season ended. Hideki Okajima continued to decline. Jonathan Papelbon endured the worst season of his career. A young Daniel Bard provided the only silver lining in an otherwise ineffective bullpen.
But given the two disappointing seasons that followed, the 2010 club is one that deserves more appreciation, and I believe it receives more of it as time passes. After all, a guy who’s destined for Cooperstown passed through that season, and many fans didn’t notice (well, they noticed what he did, he’s just since padded his numbers to the point it’s time to consider him in Cooperstown). It really was a fun club to watch. So let’s get to this recap…
Oct 6, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey (41) pitches during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Bay– Acquired at the 2008 trade deadline in the same deal that sent disgruntled Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Bay put up a solid .897 OPS in the 49 games he played for the Sox down the stretch. He was also a pretty good defensive upgrade over his predecessor, who had many infamous blunders in his near eight seasons in Boston (in which he was paid $160 million but still claimed to have been “suffering” some months after the 2008 season concluded).
Bay also had a solid line in the postseason that year, putting up a 1.356 OPS in the ALDS and a .927 OPS in the ALCS. The Red Sox were quick to exercise the $7.8 million club option they held on Bay for 2009.
Bay earned every single penny of his salary and then some in 2009. He played 151 games and put up a .921 OPS with 36 home runs, 119 RBIs, and 103 runs scored. It should be noted that the player did have an extended cold streak during the season, however. It coincided with a failed extension negotiation and Bay’s final batting average was just .267, a number lower than his career norm. Bay would be a non factor in a three game ALDS sweep by the Angels that October, putting up a .489 OPS.
The extended cold streak, dip in batting average, and recent postseason ineffectiveness tamed Bost0n’s willingness to keep him in the fold long term. They did make a bid on him as a free agent, a four year offer worth $60 million. The bid was a few million lower than Bay’s minimum asking price and the player declined the offer. He ultimately agreed to a four year deal with the Mets that met his minimum requirements.
Bay would be plagued by injuries, primarily concussion-related, over the next three seasons. For the few million extra, Bay only put up a .687 OPS in three disappointing seasons. The “three” was not a typo. Due to his disappointing play on the field, the Mets and Bay came to an agreement on an early release prior to 2013.
Bay’s final major league stop was the Seattle Mariners in 2013. He played 68 games and put up a .691 OPS (though he did hit 11 home runs) before being released in August of that season. He announced his retirement on March 31, 2014.
It was unfortunate to see Bay’s career come to a premature end. But he was fun to have around in the season and a half he was on the club. The Red Sox got the last good seasons out of him, with 2009 arguably being the best season of his career.
Alex Gonzalez– I went into further detail on both of Gonzalez’s stints with the Sox in a previous recap. When the Sox reacquired him, he was the same stud fielder, but he was also a solid source of offense down the stretch (.769 OPS). The Sox opted to let him walk again after the season. He’s made four major league stops in the last five seasons (Toronto, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit). The Tigers released him after just nine games last year, in which he put up a .452 OPS and not looking like the slick fielder he once was. No other club picked him up after he was released, so it appears that Gonzalez has reached the end of the line.
Billy Wagner– The veteran reliever had just made his return to the game after missing nearly a year due to Tommy John surgery when the Sox claimed him off waivers. The Mets and Red Sox agreed on a deal and Wagner was a big part of the Boston bullpen down the home stretch. He pitched 13 2/3 innings down the stretch, allowing just three earned runs and 16 total base runners while striking out 22.
Wagner played his final season in 2010 for the Atlanta Braves. In his final season, Wagner remained the same consistent pitcher he had always been: 7-2 with 37 saves, a 1.43 ERA, 0.865 WHIP, 2.10 FIP, and 104/22 K/BB in 69 1/3 innings pitched.
I personally think that Wagner will be inducted in the Hall of Fame someday. While he finished two saves shy of John Franco (422 to Franco’s 424), Wagner was much more dominant. He had a better career ERA (2.31 to 2.89), WHIP (0.998 to 1.333), FIP (2.73 to 3.45), K/BB (1,196/300 to 975/495), made more All Star Games (seven to four), had more top ten Cy Young finishes (two to one), and did it all in a shorter time frame (903 innings to 1,245 2/3 innings). The save statistic itself is not what makes a dominant reliever, it’s what they do en route to recording the save. Wagner was as close as you get to a sure thing to shut the door in the ninth. Hopefully the voters feel the same way.
Casey Kotchman– Good defense can only carry you so far. But when you play a premium power position, a good glove is almost meaningless if your career slugging percentage is a meager .385. Such was the case(y) with Kotchman.
The Red Sox acquired him from from the Braves in exchange for Adam LaRoche (who was a free agent after the season) and hoped he could at least provide a spark off the bench, if not take advantage of Fenway’s dimensions to lock down an everyday job. In 39 games, Kotchman put up an unimpressive .572 OPS.
The club did opt to tender him a contract for 2010, mainly because his lower price tag and glove did have some trade value. The Seattle Mariners took the bait and gave back a solid player who I will talk about later. He put up a .616 OPS for the Mariners in 2010 and was non-tendered after the season. He did put up a solid .800 OPS for the Rays in 2011, helping the club make the playoffs. Kotchman actually found his way onto the roster only after Manny Ramirez’s announced his first retirement, however. He was granted free agency after the season.
His last full season was with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, where he put up a .612 OPS in 142 games. Kotchman’s final major league stop was for the Marlins in 2013. In his six game cameo, he put up a .048 OPS (yes, OPS). The Marlins released him in late August of that season.
First base tends to be the easiest position to defend. To play it, you need to have a well above-average OBP and hit for power. Kotchman’s career .326 OBP (which is higher than what Pablo Sandoval put up in 2014 to those who think he would fit as a first baseman) and .385 slugging percentage weren’t enough to disregard in favor of his slick glove.
Takashi Saito– I covered Saito in more detail in my last post. He was a decent but unspectacular member of the Boston bullpen in 2009. His option was declined and he returned to the National League where he had two more solid seasons for the Braves and Brewers. His final major league stop was with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012. He returned to Japan for 2013 and has spent that last two seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Rocco Baldelli– Another player I went into further detail with previously. Baldelli was a serviceable reserve outfielder for the Sox in 2009. He did struggle to stay healthy due to a muscular disease that plagued him throughout his career. He returned to the Rays organization in 2010 and played his final games later that year. Baldelli remains an employee in the Rays front office. While his career was cut short, the Rhode Island native got to live the dream shared by many of the New England youth: he got to play for the Red Sox.
Mike Cameron– The Red Sox took a low-risk gamble when they signed the soon-to-be 37 year old to a two-year deal worth $15.5 million before the 2010 season. Unfortunately, the gamble didn’t work out. Cameron struggled with injuries in 2010 and 2011. He put up a .729 OPS in 48 games in 2010.
The Sox allegedly upgraded their outfield the following winter with the signing of Carl Crawford, which demoted Cameron to a reserve role. Cameron put up a .477 OPS in 33 games before being designated for assignment midway through the season. The Florida Marlins purchased him in early July. Cameron put up a .751 in 45 games for the Marlins but was released in mid-September.
Cameron agreed to a deal with the Washington Nationals in December of 2011, but voluntarily retired prior to Spring Training.
It’s always a gamble to sign an aging player. The Red Sox had the right idea in mind with Cameron; they just got the wrong results.
Darnell McDonald– McDonald was a former first round pick turned minor league journeyman when the Red Sox brought him into the organization prior to 2010. He made his way onto the roster when Jacoby Ellsbury went on the DL and played well enough to remain on the roster (though prolonged injuries to Ellsbury and Cameron played a part in
Sep 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre (29) follows through for an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics during a baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
it as well). McDonald would put up a .766 OPS in 117 games in 2010 and assured himself a spot on the main roster in 2011.
McDonald played 79 games as a reserve in 2011 and put up a .704 OPS. He put up a .678 OPS in 38 games in 2012 before being designated for assignment that July. The Yankees claimed McDonald off waivers and he played four games for them before they DFA’d him as well. He spent the remainder of 2012 for their Triple-A affiliate in Scranton-Wilkes-Barre.
McDonald’s final season was for the Chicago Cubs in 2013. He put up a .785 OPS in 25 games. The Cubs released McDonald on April 2, 2014. McDonald announced his retirement four days later and he was hired by the Cubs as a baseball operations assistant nine days after that.
While his playing career didn’t quite unfold as the former top pick likely envisioned, McDonald appears to be on track to being a baseball lifer with his new career in the game.
Marco Scutaro– Originally signed to be a bridge to highly-touted prospect Jose Iglesias, Scutaro proved to be a solid stopgap in his two seasons in Boston. He put up a .721 OPS in 150 games in 2010 and a .781 OPS in 113 games in 2011 (he was one of the only players who hit well in September of that season).
The Red Sox exercised their option on Scutaro prior to 2012. Budget constraints and a need for another bat in the outfield led the club to trading him to the Colorado Rockies for pitcher Clay Mortensen. Scoot put up a .684 OPS in 95 games in Colorado before being dealt to the San Francisco Giants at the 2012 trade deadline. He put up an .859 OPS for the Giants in 61 games. He was the NLCS MVP that October (1.140 OPS) and the Giants went on to win the World Series.
Scutaro put up a .726 OPS in 127 games as the Giants primary second baseman in 2013. Back problems limited Scutaro to just five games in 2014. He’s on contract for $6,666,666 for 2014. With the emergence of Joe Panik, it’ll be interesting to see what the Giants do with Scutaro. With his recent back trouble and age, Scutaro won’t net much of a return and that salary is probably more than they’d like to pay a reserve. We shall see…
Bill Hall– The player the Red Sox got in exchange for Casey Kotchman, Hall wound up being a valuable utility player that season. He played every position except first base, designated hitter, and catcher that season (yes he did pitch one inning of relief). He put up a .776 OPS with 18 home runs altogether.
The Red Sox opted to decline the option they held on Hall after the season. It proved to be a wise move. He struggled in stints with the Astros and Giants in 2011 (.575 OPS). The Yankees signed him prior to the 2012 season, but he failed to make the club out of spring training. He spent the rest of the season in the Baltimore Orioles organization and made a late season cameo for the big club, slashing a .222/.500/.556/1.056 in seven games. He signed with the Angels prior to 2013, but failed to make the club out of spring training. He re-signed on a minor league deal but was released that May after putting up a .515 OPS in Triple A.
Hall has since been playing for the Independent League Long Island Ducks. He put up a .776 OPS in 2013 and a .718 OPS in 2014. Maybe he’ll get another chance at a utility role in the majors, but time is running out.
Adrian Beltre– One of the best one-year bargains in club history. Beltre put up a .919 OPS and played elite defense at third base in 154 games in 2010. He declined his player option after the season and a reunion became unlikely after the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez.
Beltre has been with the Texas Rangers for the past four seasons, putting up an .893 OPS with 117 home runs and winning three more Gold Gloves in the process. He has one more guaranteed season on his contract with an option for 2016 that will easily vest if Beltre stays on his current pace.
Speaking of current pace, Beltre will likely hit his 400th career home run this season and also has a very good chance at 1,500 RBIs and 1,400 runs scored. He’s also 396 hits shy of 3,000. If he reaches these numbers, he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame.
John Lackey– Lackey’s story in Boston is one of reaching the lowest of lows and achieving redemption. The Red Sox signed him to a five year $82.5 million deal prior to 2010. Lackey was okay in his first season. He made 33 starts, pitched 215 innings, had a 3.85 FIP and won 14 games that year. But his 4.40 ERA and 1.419 WHIP left much to be desired, especially with his high salary.
The 2011 season was a disaster for Lackey. Though he was pitching with an elbow injury, his poor numbers made him a very disliked player in the eyes of many fans. His final line in 2011: 28 starts, 12-12, a 6.41 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.619 WHIP, 108/56 K/BB, and a league worst 114 earned runs in 160 innings pitched. Lackey would miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the club was contractually obligated to pay him that season. That was $15.25 million in dead money.
Lackey made a good comeback in 2013. While he finished with a 10-13 record, he had a solid ERA (3.52), WHIP (1.157) and K/BB (161/40) in 189 1/3 innings pitched.
He had a stellar postseason that October, out-pitching Justin Verlander in the ALCS (6 2/3 innings, four hits, zero walks, eight strikeouts). Lackey made two starts in the World Series, totaling 14 innings with a 2.57 ERA and 1.214 WHIP. It was Lackey who was credited with the win in the clinching game. He walked off the mound to a huge standing ovation and finally tipped his tap to the crowd. His redemption was complete.
Lackey pitched 21 games for the Red Sox (11-7, 3.60 ERA, 1.231 WHIP and 116/32 K/BB in 137 1/3 innings) before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline. The return the Red Sox received was former All Star Allen Craig and cost-effective right-hander Joe Kelly. Not a bad return for a guy who many wanted released after 2011.