Here comes the hard part of the recap series. This recap and the one that will follow cover the two most forgettable seasons in this series: 2011 and 2012.
After missing the post season for the first time since 2010, the Red Sox decided to make a splash. They traded for a player they had coveted for years and signed a marquee free agent. They also were active on the market for relief pitchers. They made a big mistake in not being active on the starting pitching front, however. The shortage in starting pitching would doom this club down the stretch.
Let’s get onto this week’s recap…
Oct 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers design nated hitter Victor Martinez (41) during batting practice before game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Adrian Beltre– I went into further detail on Beltre’s season in Boston in my previous recap. He was one of the best one year signings in club history. After more than re-establishing his market value, Beltre declined his player option and hit the open market. He was still available at the time the Red Sox traded for a certain corner infielder (more on him later). But due to this acquisition, Beltre was no longer a possibility. He signed with the Texas Rangers and has been there ever since. If he stays on his current pace, Beltre should surpass several milestones (3,000 hits, 400 home runs, 1,500 RBIs) and solidify his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Victor Martinez– Acquired at the 2009 trade deadline for a package centered around pitcher Justin Masterson. Martinez was a blast to have around in his season and a half in Boston. He put up a .912 OPS down the stretch in 2009. He put up an .844 OPS while serving as the primary catcher in 2010.
With David Ortiz entrenched at DH, the arrival of a new first baseman, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia waiting in the wings, the Red Sox opted to let Martinez depart the club as a free agent after 2010. He signed a four year deal with the Detroit Tigers. Thanks to the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Red Sox did net two first round picks for Martinez. Who were those picks used on? Matt Barnes (arguably the best RHP prospect in the system) and Henry Owens (arguably the best LHP prospect in the system).
In his three seasons in Detroit (he missed all of 2012 with an injury), Martinez put up an .868 OPS. He capped it off with one of his best seasons ever in 2014 (.335/.409/.565/.974 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs). He was the first notable free agent from the 2014-2015 free agent class to come off the market, re-signing with Detroit for another four years and $68 million. The deal will keep him in Detroit through his age 39 season.
When Martinez calls it a career, he’ll probably be remembered more as the power-hitting catcher of the Cleveland Indians and/or as the excellent DH for the Tigers. But he was a good pickup for the Red Sox and a fan favorite in his brief stay. If Owens and Barnes excel as big leaguers, Vic’s impact will continue to be felt.
Alfredo Aceves– Aceves’ tale in Boston is a tale of two pitchers. He had already already established himself as a reliable workhorse our of the bullpen while with the Yankees. He went 10-1 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.012 WHIP in 84 innings for them for their World Series run in 2009. He got off to a good start in 2010 (3-0 3.00 ERA 1.167 WHIP in 12 innings) before a back injury sidelined him for the season. After breaking his collarbone after a bicycle accident in the offseason, the Yankees opted to non-tender him (his unstable attitude probably made the decision easier). The Red Sox signed him to a major league deal prior to Spring Training.
Aceves was one of the most reliable arms for the entire pitching staff in 2011: 55 games, 4 starts, 10-2 2.61 ERA 1.105 WHIP 75/31 K/BB in 114 innings. At the end of 2011, he was an outstanding 24-3 with a 2.93 ERA 1.083 WHIP and 167/72 K/BB in 240 innings. It would be all downhill after that.
After an injury to new closer Andrew Bailey, Aceves was named closer going into 2012. While he did record 25 saves, the rest of his numbers were very mediocre: 2-10 5.36 ERA 1.321 WHIP 75/31 K/BB in 84 innings. His attitude went sour as well. An infamous blowup at then-manager Bobby Valentine led to him being suspended.
The Red Sox kept Aceves going into 2013. He went 4-1 with a 4.86 ERA 1.730 WHIP and 24/22 K/BB in 37 innings. He quietly cleared waivers and was outrighted that July. He elected free agency after the season ended.
Aceves signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles prior to Spring Training in 2014. He was released in late March after failing to make the club. The Yankees reunited with him on a minor league deal a day later. He was brought up to the big club early in the season, but his stay was brief. In 19 1/3 innings, Aceves went 1-2 with a 6.52 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, and 16/4 K/BB. He was outrighted after a month in the big leagues. He received a 50 game suspension in July after testing positive for recreational drugs, and was released in late August.
Aceves is an asset when his head is right and he allows his talent to take over. But his unstable attitude alienates him from his teammates. Until he can control that, he’ll have a hard time sticking around for the long haul.
Bobby Jenks– Hard to label him as “notable” considering he pitched less than 16 innings for the club. But he was paid $12 million for his “effort” and had recorded 173 saves going into 2011.
Despite having been in decline in the previous two seasons (his ERA and WHIP went up in both seasons), Theo Epstein saw it fit to give Jenks a closer’s salary despite the likeliness he was going to be used as a middle reliever. In 15 2/3 innings, Jenks went 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA, 2.234 WHIP, and 17/13 K/BB. He would go on the disabled list three times that year.
A serious back injury (bone spurs, spinal infection due to surgical complications) prevented Jenks from ever returning to the mound. He was released in July of 2012. It’s very unlikely he ever tries to make a comeback.
Teams should take a lesson out of the Jenks contract: don’t sign declining, injury-prone relievers. But if you do, don’t pay him like a pitcher who isn’t injury-prone or in decline.
Matt Albers– At this point, it’s should be noticeable that the Red Sox opted to replenish their bullpen (their Achilles Heel in 2010) with quantity, rather than quality. That’s not a knock on Albers, who was alright during his Boston tenure. But he had been a rather mediocre pitcher at the time the Red Sox signed him after he had been non-tendered by the Baltimore Orioles.
Albers was rather mediocre in 2011: 4-4 4.73 ERA 1.438 WHIP and 68/31 K/BB in 64 2/3 innings. The Red Sox did opt to tender him a contract in 2014 however, a decision which proved to be a wise move.
At the 2012 trade deadline, Albers was 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA 1.144 WHIP 25/15 K/BB in 39 1/3 innings (though his FIP was 5.03). The Red Sox sold high, packaging Albers with Scott Podsednik (who would re-sign with the club just nine days later) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Craig Breslow. Breslow would play an important role for the 2013 World Series Champions and Albers was the player who helped make it possible.
Albers put up solid lines after his departure from Boston. He went 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, and 19/7 K/BB in 21 innings. He was dealt to the Cleveland Indians after that season as part of a three team blockbuster involving Shin-Soo Choo. He was a reliable piece of the Indians’ bullpen that year (3-1 3.14 ERA 1.270 WHIP 35/23 K/BB in 63 innings). He departed as a free agent and returned to the Houston Astros, the organization that drafted him. In an injury-shortened 2014, Albers posted a 0.90 ERA, 1.300 WHIP, and 8/3 K/BB in 10 innings. The Astros declined his option for 2015, making Albers a free agent.
Dan Wheeler– The final bullpen addition for the 2011 season. Wheeler was coming off a solid second run with the Tampa Bay Rays when the Red Sox signed the Rhode Island native prior to 2011. Wheeler was a mixed bag in his single season in Boston. The 1.115 WHIP, 39/8 K/BB and 49 1/3 innings pitched were good. The 4.38 ERA and 1.3 HR/9 IP? Not as much.
The Red Sox declined the option they had on Wheeler for 2012. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians as a non-roster invitee prior to Spring Training. Wheeler made the club out of camp, but struggled out of the gate: 8.76 ERA 1.946 WHIP 2/7 K/BB in 12 1/3 innings. The Indians outrighted Wheeler a few weeks later and he finished the 2012 season for their Triple A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio. He signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals that offseason. His final games as a professional were spent playing for my hometown Omaha Storm Chasers, where he put up an unimpressive line: 1-3, 9.00 ERA, 2.200 WHIP, 10/5 K/BB in 15 innings. The Royals released Wheeler a month into the season and he announced his retirement in February of 2014./
Wheeler had an up-and-down career, which is not unusual for a relief pitcher. He did get to play for the Red Sox, a dream come true for most boys raised in New England. And the Red Sox played their cards right with Wheeler, getting his final adequate season as a big leaguer.
Adrian Gonzalez– After coveting Gonzalez for years, the Red Sox finally got their guy in December of 2010. They acquired him in exchange of prospects Casey Kelly (RHP), Anthony Rizzo (1B), and Rey Fuentes (OF) and agreed to a seven year $154 million extension during the season.
Sep 27, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) hits a solo home run in the first inning of the game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzalez was always thought to be a guy who would be a prototypical fit for Fenway Park, and the theory proved correct. In 2011, Gonzalez put up a .957 with 213 hits (an AL best), 27 home runs, 117 RBIs, 108 runs scored, three triples, and 45 doubles. He was definitely a great hitter in Fenway, but the beliefs that he’d be a perennial 40-50 home run threat were a little premature. Unfortunately, Gonzalez cooled off down the stretch, one of the many pieces of an ugly puzzle as the team collapsed and missed the post season.
Gonzalez put up a solid .812 OPS in the first four-plus months, but it was a far cry from his numbers from 2011. It didn’t help that the lucrative extension kicked in that year and he was being paid $14.7 million more to do much less. Gonzalez was also believed to be one of the “clubhouse lawyers” who were demanding the firing of disliked manager Bobby Valentine.
Despite his decrease in production, the organization seemed content with what they had in Gonzalez, until he was needed to purge a couple other bad contracts. On August 25, 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed Gonzalez and Josh Beckett off waivers. The Red Sox agreed to let Gonzalez and Beckett go, but the Dodgers also had to take the contracts of Carl Crawford and Nick Punto (both of whom had already cleared waivers). The Dodgers agreed and a blockbuster was underway. Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett, and Punto headed to the Dodgers while prospects Ivan DeJesus, Jerry Sands, Allen Webster, Rubby DeLaRosa, and first baseman James Loney headed to Boston.
In the past two seasons, Gonzalez has remained a consistent performer. He’s hit at least 22 home runs, batted in no less than 100 (his 116 RBIs in 2014 led the NL), and put up an OPS no lower than .803 and plays good defense at first base. Despite the solid numbers, he’s a far cry from what he had been in San Diego and the $21 million annual salary appears to be a little steep.
The Red Sox always thought Gonzalez could help their club and they were right. But rather than being a long-term solution in the middle of the order, he ended up being the key to ridding the club of several bad contracts.
Carl Crawford– You need to block out the past four seasons to remember exactly why the Red Sox coveted Crawford so much, and it’s actually understandable. During his eight-plus seasons in Tampa, Crawford was a durable speedster who played good defense. He tortured the Red Sox at the plate and on the base paths (more so during the games in Tampa than at Fenway). The Red Sox signed him to a seven year $142 million deal in the 2010-2011 offseason and it was universally celebrated by most of RSN.
Crawford was a bad fit from the very beginning. He began 2011 in a prolonged slump and never recovered. His final line in 2011: 130 games, .255/.289/.405/.694 with 11 home runs, 56 RBIs, 65 runs scored, and 18 stolen bases. He made $14 million that season.
Crawford suffered a wrist injury and required surgery that offseason. He wouldn’t debut until July. In 31 games, he put up a .785 OPS. While the numbers were better, they were overshadowed by his durability issues. On August 23, 2012, Crawford was shut down for the season and underwent Tommy John surgery to repair UCL damage in his elbow. He agreed to waive his no-trade clause two days later and was included in the blockbuster with the Dodgers.
In his two seasons in Los Angeles, Crawford has put up a .750 OPS for a very crowded Dodgers outfielder. He’s a far cry from what he used to be and is one of the highest-paid players who’s doing so little. When he’s not playing, Crawford’s usually whining about his time in Boston. In hindsight, Crawford probably should’ve taken a lesser, but still lucrative offer from the Angels to play with his friend Torii Hunter. But it’s hard to say if that would’ve prevented the injuries and ineffectiveness from happening. It would be nice to see Crawford stop complaining and put up better numbers. He had been a likeable player before that, and he could be again.