|02.05.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
It is now just under a year since the Red Sox gave Jon Lester the sort of deal that had no precedent. The Sox and Lester agreed on a five-year, $30 million deal that includes a $13 million option for the 2014 season. That deal represented a record in terms of guaranteed years (5) and dollars ($30 million) for a pitcher who had yet reached arbitration eligibility. (For the context of the deal at the time, click here.)
For the club, there was some risk involved. The Sox were making a sizable long-term commitment to a pitcher on the strength of one truly dominant year at the big-league level. Less than one year later, however, it becomes obvious that the deal is one that may end up saving the club tens of millions of dollars.
Over the last two years, Lester has established himself as one of the most dominant left-handers in the game. He is part of a conversation that includes CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Cliff Lee and not many others. In 2008-09, he went a combined 31-14 (tied for the 6th most wins in the majors) with a 3.31 ERA (13th), 377 strikeouts (12th), and a puny 74 OPS+ (6th). In his career, he is now 42-16 with a 3.66 ERA.
Yet assuming that the Sox end up exercising their option on the 26-year-old, he will cost $42.75 million between now and 2014. He’s only given up one year of free agency — two if the Sox exercise their option — but assuming the Boston front office does indeed keep him for the final year of the deal, Lester’s first two free-agent years would be coming at a cost of $11.625 million and $13 million.
As Brian MacPherson of the Union Leader has pointed out, those figures seem like a bargain when compared to the two market-changing contracts that were just signed by Tigers ace Justin Verlander and Seattle’s royal figure of pitching, Felix Hernandez.
Verlander — who has one more year of service time than Lester — just inked a five-year, $80 million deal that will keep him in Detroit through 2014. His free-agent years are being valued at $20 million each. That deal went just over the five-year, $78 million deal that Hernandez — who, like Verlander, has one more year of service time than Lester — signed to remain with the Mariners through 2014. His first three free-agent years are valued at an average of $19.33 million per season.
Verlander has a career record of 65-43 with a 3.92 ERA; he’s never had an ERA below 3.45. His strikeout numbers (8.0 per nine innings) are better than Lester’s (7.9), but not by much, and Lester is more of a groundball pitcher than Verlander.
Hernandez’ numbers compare more impressively to Lester’s: he is 58-41 with a 3.45 career ERA, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a tremendous groundball rate that is better than either Lester’s and Verlander’s. He is also the youngest of the three. (Hernandez turns 24 in April; Lester turned 26 last month; and Verlander turns 27 later this month.)
If you were to bet on one pitcher to be the best of the three — regardless of contract — it would be Hernandez. But would you anticipate that he will be so much better than Lester that he would be worth an additional $35 million over the next five seasons? Probably not.
Put another way: had the Sox waited until after the 2010 season to sign Lester to an extension when he had accumulated four-plus years of service time, barring a disastrous performance in the coming year, there is little question that he would have been in line for a long-term deal along the lines of the ones signed by Verlander and Hernandez.
Of course, Lester’s contract cannot be compared apples-to-apples with the two that were just signed. He agreed to his deal at a much different point in his career than did either of the other two pitchers. In that regard, Lester did an excellent job of achieving a lifetime of security after just a couple years in the majors. Again, he received more guaranteed money than any other pitcher in his service class at the time that he signed his contract.
That said, the recent deals suggest that the Sox, by moving aggressively to achieve a long-term deal at an early stage of a dominant young pitcher’s career, got one of the best bargains in all of baseball. If Lester remains healthy, and continues to perform at the elite levels that have characterized his past two years, his deal with Boston will be one of the most team-friendly around.
|02.04.10 at 6:11 pm ET|
WEEI.com’s Lou Merloni reports that after talking to Nomar Garciaparra, the former Red Sox shortstop is intent on playing in the majors for the 2010 season if the right situation presents itself. Garciaparra said his calf, which has been hindering the 36-year-old for the past few years, feels better now that has in quite some time.
Garciaparra has talked to a few major leagues teams, but is holding out for the right situation. He also has had conversations about potentially doing work with the MLB Network. Garciaparra played in 65 games with Oakland last season, hitting .281 with three homers.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that Garciaparra was “widely expected to retire.”
|02.04.10 at 1:33 pm ET|
According a post on Twitter from NPB Tracker, Sports Hochi is reporting that the Red Sox are one of four teams to have offered a minor league contract to left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi. The other three clubs reportedly showing interest are the Giants, Padres and Dodgers. Takahashi is a 34-year-old left-hander who has started for most of his career.
Last season with the Yomiuri Giants he went 10-6 with a 2.94 ERA, striking out 121 batters while walking 36 in 144 innings pitched. Takahashi made approximately $1.3 million in 2009 with Yomiuri. The lefty’s best pitch is a screwball-type offering, with his fastball usually topping out at 90 mph. For more on Takahashi, click here.
|02.04.10 at 11:26 am ET|
Even though the great majority of the 15 Japanese baseball-playing participants have left the Athletes’ Performance training facility in Phoenix to attend their respective spring trainings in Japan, Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is still working out at AP. Matsuzaka, who began his first offseason training at AP in early Dec., has left a positive impression on the Athletes’ Performance staff, according to the facility’s Director of Methodology Craig Friedman.
“He’s doing great,” Friedman said. “We have two Japanese coaches on staff, one of which has been working with him the whole time. The updates that I’ve gotten on him is that he is doing really well.” It was reported by MLB.com that Matsuzaka had “unexpectedly taken a week off” from AP, but Friedman reports that the pitcher has lived up to expectations during his time in Phoenix.
The other Japanese baseball players participating at AP this offseason, along with Matsuzaka, are: Shuhei Fukada, Hiroyasu Tanaka, Tsubasa Aizawa, Masamitusu Suzuki, Koji Yamasaki, Ryota Igarashi, Yoshinori Sato, Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi, Chikara Onodera, and Tetsuya Iwasaki.
|02.03.10 at 12:47 pm ET|
The Red Sox officially announced their minor league deals with right-handed reliever Joe Nelson and catcher Gustavo Molina. Both players have been added to the roster of Triple-A Pawtucket. The team also announced some changes to its baseball operations department.
The press release follows. For more information on Nelson, click here.
The Red Sox today announced the signings of catcher Gustavo Molina and right-handed pitcher Joe Nelson to 2010 minor league contracts. In addition, both players have been invited to Boston’s Major League Spring Training camp as non-roster players.
The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
Molina, 27, spent all of last year with Washington’s Triple-A Syracuse affiliate, batting .209 (44-for-211) with two home runs and 24 RBI in 72 games. He appeared in 68 games behind the plate, posting a .986 (6 E/415 TC) fielding percentage while throwing out 16 of 39 attempted base stealers (41 percent). Originally signed by the Chicago White Sox as an international free agent in 2000, Molina has played 19 Major League games for the White Sox (2007), Baltimore Orioles (2007) and New York Mets (2008), batting .118 (4-for-34) with one RBI.
Nelson, 35, split last season between the Tampa Bay Rays and Triple-A Durham. He began the year with the Rays, going 3-0 with three saves and a 4.02 ERA (18 ER/40.1 IP) in 42 relief outings before an August 1 option to Durham. The right-hander made 13 appearances for the Bulls, going 2-2 with a 6.23 ERA (12 ER/17.1 IP).
He returns for a second stint with Boston after pitching in three games for the club in 2004. Originally selected by Atlanta in the fourth round of the 1996 draft, Nelson is 7-2 with 13 saves and a 4.07 ERA (65 ER/143.2 IP) in 149 career Major League games for the Braves (2001), Red Sox (2004), Kansas City Royals (2006), Florida Marlins (2008) and Rays (2009).
Both players are on the Pawtucket roster.
RED SOX ANNOUNCE CHANGES IN BASEBALL OPERATIONS: The Red Sox today announced three changes in Baseball Operations. Eddie Romero, who has served as Coordinator, Latin American Operations since 2006, was promoted to Assistant Director, Latin American Operations. Gus Quattlebaum was promoted to Assistant Director, Amateur Scouting after working for the club as a Major League scout since 2006. Steve Peck was named a Major League scout. He joined the Red Sox in 2009 as a professional scout after 13 years on the coaching and scouting staff of the Seattle Mariners.
|02.03.10 at 10:04 am ET|
With the reporting date for spring training remains a couple weeks away, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is putting the finishing touches on his offseason preparations for the 2010 season. Pedroia offered WEEI.com a glimpse of a day in the life of his workout schedule in Arizona.
Video is below. For a more detailed description, read Rob Bradford’s “The Offseason: A day in the life of Dustin Pedroia” by clicking here.
|02.01.10 at 8:10 pm ET|
A baseball source has confirmed that the Red Sox have agreed to a minor league deal with right-handed reliever Joe Nelson. The deal was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com (via Twitter).
The move is a low-risk one with some potential payoff for the Red Sox, given that Nelson is two years removed from a season when his numbers were among the best of any National League reliever.
The Sox were looking to add more bullpen arms into a back-end competition that currently includes right-handers Scott Atchinson, Boof Bonser, Ramon A. Ramirez and Robert Manuel and left-handers Dustin Richardson, Brian Shouse and Fabio Castro. Because most of the Sox bullpen is settled (with Jonathan Papelbon at the end, and Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez all but certain to take key set-up roles), it seemed they would likely have a difficult time selling their opportunity to an established reliever.
“We can always add depth and create competition in spots. There is already some competition. With the numbers in the ‘pen, we have to whittle it down,” GM Theo Epstein said on Friday. “We’re always on the lookout for more additions if they make sense. We don’t necessarily have great opportunities to sell at this point with certain aspects of our club, but if somebody is prepared for some competition maybe we could be the right landing spot for some guys on a minor-league deal.”
Apparently, Nelson proved open to just such an opportunity.
Nelson, 35, was 3-0 with a 4.02 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays last year, striking out 36 in 40.1 innings. He suffered command difficulties, however, as he walked 27 batters. That — and his $1.9 million deal in 2009 — came on the heels of a career-best 2008 season, when he had a 2.00 ERA and struck out 60 in 54 innings for the Florida Marlins.
Nelson was previously in the Red Sox system in both 2002 and 2004. Though most of his first stint in the organization was lost to injury, when healthy in 2004, he recorded a 2.96 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 51.2 combined innings in Double A and Triple A, and he appeared in three games (allowing five runs in 2.2 innings) in the majors.
His signature pitch is “The Vulcan,” a changeup that he throws with a grip reminiscent of the greeting offered by Star Trek’s Dr. Spock.
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