|12.16.09 at 1:02 pm ET|
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein stopped short of saying that outfielder Jason Bay’s tenure in Boston is over, but the team architect did refer to Bay’s time as a Red Sox in the past tense when discussing the free agent.
“I don’t want to say the door is completely closed on any one player out there,” said Epstein. “But Jason, obviously, in his year and a half here did an outstanding job for us. That’s a trade that we would make again any day of the week. Whatever team does sign him is getting a quality person and a quality player. We feel like we landed a quality person and a quality player here today ourselves [in Mike Cameron].”
Bay’s representative, Joe Urbon, rejected the Red Sox’ most recent offer late last week. At that time, the Sox moved on and made the decision to pursue pitcher John Lackey and Cameron, an outfielder who will require fewer years and dollars than Bay will command.
The Sox view Cameron and Lackey as being a significant part of an effort to improve the team’s run prevention. Even so, the departure of Bay — who finished third in the American League with 36 homers last year — raises questions about whether the Sox will pursue another move to add a replacement bat.
Cameron has been an incredibly consistent performer throughout his career, with significant power that has resulted in steady 20-25 homer production on a year-in, year-out basis. But he is a hitter with a career .250/.340/.448/.788 line, a far cry from the .267/.384/.537/.921 line that Bay produced as the most productive hitting outfielder in the American League last year.
That, in turn, has raised curiosity as to whether the Sox might use some of their newly acquired depth to pursue a hitter. In particular, a FoxSports.com report that the Sox are going to renew their efforts to engage the Padres in trade talks about first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has created curiosity as to whether the Sox might try to package Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury for the slugger.
Epstein talked generally about how he viewed the team’s approach to adding a bat at this point, suggesting that the team felt that it could compete with its current roster (give or take a couple of bench contributors), but that it would continue to explore the possibility of adding offense both this offseason and during the year.
“We’ll see,” Epstein said of the possibility of adding a bat. “We’ll certainly continue to monitor both the trade and free-agent markets to see if there are any further improvements we can make to this ballclub. That said, I don’t think we’re in a rush. I don’t think there’s a sense of desperation. We like the mix that we have right now.
“Generally speaking, it’s easier to add a bat than a pitcher during the season. So, I think our pitching staff is going to be extraordinarily deep. If we do go into the season with a mix similar to what we have right now, and a need for a bigger bat somewhere in the lineup does develop, I think that can probably be addressed during the season. By no means am I saying we’re done, but I also don’t feel a sudden rush to go out there and do something dramatic.
We like the mix we have. If there’s a chance to upgrade now, we’ll take it. If there’s a chance to upgrade during the season, [the team will explore that].”
|12.16.09 at 12:27 pm ET|
Mike Cameron’s two-year, $15.5 million deal breaks down as follows: the 36-year-old will receive a $1 million signing bonus and $7.25 million salaries in each of the next two years. Cameron also will receive limited no-trade protection that gives him the right to veto trades to three clubs.
|12.16.09 at 10:46 am ET|
A few thoughts on Mike Cameron and the Red Sox outfield:
–Two talent evaluators suggested that, right now, the three-time Gold Glove Cameron is a better defender than Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield. He also has a stronger arm than Ellsbury, which would play better in center. Ellsbury’s strength right now comes on his side-to-side routes, while he sometimes struggles to judge the depth of the ball. Cameron’s talents translate right now to moving in all directions.
That said, the Sox believe that Ellsbury will improve in center as he becomes more familiar with the league. Eventually, he could be Cameron’s equal at the position. (In that context, it is worth noting that Cameron is regarded as still above-average, but that at 36, his range is not what it once was.)
That being the case, assuming that the Sox view Ellsbury as a key contributor for the next four years (and not as someone who could be traded out of the organization), they might be better served to let him continue his development in centerfield, rather than turning him into an outstanding left-fielder and entrusting the position to Cameron.
–Jeremy Hermida’s situation becomes an interesting one to consider now that Cameron is on board. The Sox did not sign Cameron to a two-year, $15.5 million deal to have him be a platoon player. That being the case, Hermida could struggle to get at-bats, barring injury or trade of Cameron, Ellsbury or J.D. Drew.
According to a major-league source, the Sox had told Hermida that they were inclined to try to trade him if they re-signed Jason Bay. It will be interesting to see whether Cameron’s arrival leads to a similar outcome.
Hermida, acquired from the Marlins earlier this offseason, is likely to make a bit more than $3 million as a second-time arbitration-eligible player.
UPDATE: While the Sox might have been inclined to shop Hermida had they signed Bay or Matt Holliday, they believe that he will be able to receive a healthy number of at-bats with Cameron on board. Even though Hermida will be one of three left-handed hitting outfielders for the Sox (along with Ellsbury and Drew), the team is hopeful that he will get enough at-bats to see whether he will be able to realize some of the considerable potential that he flashed earlier in his career. Hermida is best suited for left, but can play either corner; the presence of Ellsbury and Cameron gives the Sox positional flexibility so that Hermida can be a first option as a substitute for any of the three outfield regulars.
–On the other hand, Cameron could make it palatable for the Sox to consider moving Ellsbury in a deal. FoxSports.com is reporting that the Sox are making a renewed push to acquire Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and now might consider a package of Clay Buchholz and Ellsbury for the masher. The report cautions that a deal is not close, and may never be, but moving Ellsbury as part of a blockbuster would represent one way to free up a potential positional logjam.
UPDATE: The Red Sox do not anticipate any deals that might include both Ellsbury and Buchholz in the same package.
–Cameron has expressed a willingness to play all three outfield positions, and the Sox believe that the incredibly athletic outfielder is entirely capable of doing so. However, Cameron has not played a corner outfield spot since incurring a brutal concussion in right field as a member of the Mets on Aug. 11, 2005, when he and centerfielder Carlos Beltran had a head-to-head collision.
–Cameron was impaired down the stretch in 2009 by hamstring and ankle injuries. Though he played 149 games, he stole just seven bases, a career-low. Still, he receives raves for the shape in which he keeps himself, and so he was viewed as a reasonable bet to stay healthy for the next two years. That said, if his legs are in decline, that would jeopardize the very asset (Cameron’s defense) that proved so important in convincing the Red Sox to make a play for him.
|12.15.09 at 11:50 pm ET|
The Red Sox have planned a pair of press conferences to introduce their newest free-agent signees on Wednesday. The first will introduce outfielder Mike Cameron at 11:30 a.m. That will be followed at 1:30 p.m. by a press conference for right-handed pitcher John Lackey.
Cameron, 36, signed a two-year, $15.5 million deal. Lackey agreed to a five-year deal for a reported $82.5 million.
|12.15.09 at 3:41 pm ET|
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the deal between the Red Sox and John Lackey is for five years and $87.5 million, or $17.5 million a year. If accurate, that average annual value (AAV) would be $1 million a year greater than the $16.5 million AAV that right-hander A.J. Burnett received from the Yankees with the five-year, $82.5 million deal he signed last offseason. (UPDATED at 3:48 p.m.: Olney later issued a correction that the deal was for five years and $82.5 million, the exact amount of Burnett’s deal.)
Since GM Theo Epstein took over the club, the Sox have not signed a player to a contract of more than $70 million. That standard was set with the five-year, $70 million deal signed by outfielder J.D. Drew following the 2006 season. Lackey would also join Drew as the only free-agent whom the Sox have signed for as many as five years.
Daisuke Matsuzaka signed a six-year, $52 million deal after the Sox won their posting bid for him, but the Japanese right hander was not dealing with a free market. The team has signed homegrown players Jon Lester (5 years, $30 million) and Dustin Pedroia (6 years, $40.5 million) to deals of comparable length before either was eligible for free agency.
|12.15.09 at 2:35 pm ET|
It is entirely possible that the most pitched battle of the offseason begins anew today in Houston.
Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to have a workout in front of talent evaluators, including the Red Sox, Yankees and numerous other clubs from all market sizes (the A’s and Marlins, for example, are both reportedly interested). The 21-year-old is an international free agent whose door will be wide open to eight-figure bids.
Based on conversations with a handful of talent evaluators who have seen Chapman pitch in international competitions (most recently, last spring’s World Baseball Classic), the left-hander is described as possessing the sort of electric arm that leaves evaluators drooling. His fastball registered as high as 102 mph in the WBC, and he has shown the potential for a sharp, nasty slider.
That said, while Chapman comes with a big arm, he also comes with what the evaluators described as “a lot of risk” (a phrase that was connected to Chapman a few times). The last time that he was seen by many scouts was in the WBC last March. He’s considered fairly raw, and lost development time since he has not been tied to organized baseball since his defection early last July.
Though he showed incredible stuff in the WBC, he had an unimpressive 5.68 ERA in the tournament, walking four and striking out eight in his 6.1 innings spanning two games. Evaluators frowned that the southpaw yelled at teammates and umpires during the tournament, raising questions about his makeup and maturity (with the caveat that, at 21, he is quite young).
There is no denying the raw talent of Chapman. His ceiling is almost certainly that of a No. 1 starter. That said, the notion that he is a left-handed version of Stephen Strasburg – the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft who throws 100 with a hammer curve – may have been exaggerated.
All the same, because Chapman is a free agent, the bidding for his services promises to be intense. Sources at the Winter Meetings suggested that, since the pitcher changed representation from Edwin Mejia to the Hendricks Brothers last month, talk of a $40-60 million bonus has quieted. The new agents tabled murmurs about what the left-hander would seek, holding off on such notions until today’s workout. Even so, multiple evaluators believe that the contract that Strasburg got from the Nationals – a major-league deal for $15.1 million – will be used as a benchmark by Chapman.
Of course, given the report by ESPN’s Jorge Arangure that the Red Sox offered Chapman $15.5 million to sign when they met with the pitcher in November, it would appear all but certain that the 21-year-old will accomplish that goal.
Barring an injury, the question is not whether he will exceed Strasburg money. The issue is how far beyond that figure the bidding for his services will go.
That said, despite Chapman’s considerable gifts, evaluators were unanimous that he should not be regarded as being in the same class as Strasburg. Whereas Strasburg was viewed as virtually major-league ready at the time he was drafted, Chapman is described as requiring significant development before he would be major-league ready, particularly given the amount of time that he has had off.
And, while it will be tempting for teams to pour significant money into acquiring a pitcher with such incredible velocity, there are plenty of cautionary tales about hurlers who hit triple digits early in their careers before seeing their velocity plummet due to subsequent injuries.
One need look no further than Maels Rodriguez, believed to be the first Cuban pitcher to be clocked at more than 100 miles per hour earlier this decade. Rodriguez was a dominant force in Cuba by the time he turned 20, but injuries wrecked his career and velocity by the time he defected in 2003. He was drafted by Arizona in the 22nd round in 2005, but never played in the minors.
Rodriguez, however, was injured by the time he came to the States. Chapman does not come with any health-related red flags. Today, if he can offer a reminder in Houston of his unique combination of gifts – a 6-foot-4 left-hander who is 21 and throws over 100 miles an hour – Chapman will find a long line of teams bidding huge sums for his services.
|12.15.09 at 6:09 am ET|
Do you like the signings of John Lackey and Mike Cameron?
- Yes (83%)
- No (17%)
Do you feel the 2010 Red Sox will be better than the 2009 Red Sox?
- Yes (74%)
- No (26%)
Do you think that the money for Lackey would have been better used to re-sign Jason Bay?
- No - the team did the right thing to pursue a pitcher (81%)
- Yes - the team should have kept Bay (19%)
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