Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons  appeared in studio on WEEI on Wednesday to discuss the state of the offseason and to discuss the upcoming Hot Stove, Cool Music events (on Jan. 9, 2010).
Gammons discussed several offseason topics, among them:
–There’s almost no way that the Red Sox  can bring back Jason Bay . The offer that Bay received from the Sox is the best one he’s received, just as the Sox made the best offer (five years, $82.5 million) that Matt Holliday  had received before they moved on to sign John Lackey .
–The Sox and Padres haven’t exchanged any names regarding a potential Adrian Gonzalez  deal. It will be virtually impossible for the Padres to even think about trading Gonzalez before July.
–The availability of Miguel Cabrera  in a trade will likely depend on the Tigers’ performance in the early stages of the season. If he does become available, the Sox would be interested, despite the inherent concerns about Cabrera off the field.
—Jacoby Ellsbury  could see the majority of his playing time in left field, which would help preserve his legs for offense.
—Daisuke Matsuzaka  is in ‘unbelievable shape.’
–It remains to be seen how the Mike Lowell  situation develops following the failed trade to the Rangers. Lowell could become an important contributor as a first baseman/third baseman/DH and right-handed bat. At the same time, the team believes in Casey Kotchman ‘s offensive potential.
Any chance Jason Bay ends up back with the Red Sox as opposed to in Queens?
I think he’d rather be playing in Beirut than Queens. The sad part of this is that sometimes there’s so much competition between agents that the players become pawns. I think in Jason’s case, it would have been really easy to take 4 x 15 [million dollars] in July, which I thought, actually, at the time was a little bit high as an offer. It was clear that the Red Sox just wanted to get him signed and get him out of the way. While the Mets offer is four [years] for 65 [million], it’s so backloaded that I’ve been told by Mets people that it’s far less than what the Red Sox were offering in present-day value. And he obviously doesn’t want to play there. And they’re scared of having him play left field there for four years. It’s really a shame it’s worked out this way. I don’t see any way they’re going to add anybody else here. They’re not going to go above the luxury tax. They’re going to hold some money back to acquire a contract in July for whatever they need. It’s too bad. I know he wanted to go the free-agent route. But at the same time, he really found a home here. It’s really too bad.
It’s the same way with Matt Holliday. Scott Boras  is brilliant. But I’m not sure Matt Holliday has anything comparable to the five [years] times 16.5 [million] that the Red Sox offered him at the winter meetings. I don’t think he’s going to get a Mark Teixeira  contract.
Were you surprised that the Sox moved so quickly to sign Mike Cameron , with Bay and Holliday still out there?
I think they basically had spent five months with Jason Bay and Joe Urbon and just said, ‘Okay, you’re not going to move? It’s been five months. We’re going to move on.’ The night before they did Cameron, they went to Boras, they had the five times 16.5, and he said it had to be a Mark Teixeira contract, so they moved on.
I know that defense has been the focus of this offseason. If you go to Baseball Prospectus and believe those defensive [efficiency] ratings, they were the second worst defensive team in baseball. Watching them, I would say that they were. However they configure the outfield, it’s going to be very good. I know they’d like to find one more right-handed hitting outfielder. And the left side of the infield will theoretically be better. It will be very interesting to see.
My theory is they want to play Ellsbury in left field as much as possible. I thought his improvement, getting to balls inside, I thought he started to make a quantum leap as an offensive player ‘ not Grady Sizemore , but not far removed. I think he’ll be a better offensive player than Curtis Granderson , for instance ‘ quite a bit better of an offensive player than Granderson.
I remember in ‘84 or ‘85, when the Yankees  got Rickey Henderson in a trade with the A’s, I was doing a story on him in beautiful downtown Winter Haven. He said to me, ‘The beating you take when you steal 70 to 100 bases a year is incredible.’ Now, with Rickey, he went into the bag so hard, head first, he was beating up his hands and legs. He said, ‘It’s really hard to play centerfield and run 100 times a year.’ Barry Bonds  has told me the same thing. That’s why he wasn’t playing centerfield in Pittsburgh. He was playing left field.
I think Ellsbury really wants to be a great offensive player. Boras is smart enough to know that a Gold Glove is not going to go to arbitration the same way that hitting .300 and stealing 80 bases will. So I think he’ll be open to it. He played left field in the Cape League. They’ll play Ellsbury in left field 80-100 games a year, rest his legs a little bit, and maybe it will keep him fresher over the course of the season.
One of the things, people all have their opinion about Boras, and he’s a tough agent, but he will work with teams if he thinks it’s right. Most farm directors will tell you that he’s the best agent because it’s in his interest and the club’s best interest to have his client succeed. So he’ll cooperate when it comes to that stuff. Like this year with Oliver Perez , he made Oliver Perez go to Arizona, get the work and lose weight to get in shape. I think he’ll understand that with Ellsbury. I think he’ll see, ‘Oh boy ‘ he might make $7 million next year in arbitration.’
Boras told Alex Cora  after he signed his two-year deal with the Red Sox to work out to set up for his next contract.
He’s very interested in that. More and more agents are realizing that part of their responsibilities back to teams is to get guys in facilities and get them in shape. I know that Vernon Wells is doing it, Carl Crawford, at a training center in Houston. A lot of guys go to Athletes’ Performance. My old friend Mike Roberts, who runs the baseball part of API, says that Daisuke [Matsuzaka] is in unbelievable shape and really working hard. He said, ‘Do you think he was embarrassed last summer?’ I said, ‘His criticizing the Red Sox was like his way of saving face in Japan.’ But he’s in tremendous shape.
Before Cameron, they offered the Holliday deal. Did they want Holliday or Lackey more?
I think they looked at it and said it’s going to be harder to get a big-time front-line [pitcher], once they knew that the Holliday thing was going to drag out into the middle of January, I think they said, it’s going to be easier to find a hitter on the market in June or July than it is to get a frontline pitcher.
I don’t think they ever thought he was that interested in coming to Boston. I didn’t know the whole thing about his wife going to the University of New Hampshire.
What is the situation with Mike Lowell?
I think Mike got frustrated and it’s my understanding he did say, or [agent] Sam Levinson said, it’s probably best if he got traded. Okay, that’s understandable. But at the same time, Mike wants to play full time. I understand that entirely. I talked to Mike Reinold after he had been down there to see him.
You have to believe a full offseason of rehab will help him. I remember calling Mike after the first of the year last year. He was really worried about being ready for spring training. One of Terry Francona ‘s great lines was, ‘Tell him we don’t need him to be ready for the Boston College  game.’ I don’t know how this all works out. I really don’t. They’ve been looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder. They may not do that now, if he’s coming back.
They want to give Casey Kotchman every chance. I must say, a year ago in spring training, I did a thing on ESPN.com about the five guys I thought would have breakout seasons. Kotchman was one of them.
One of my favorite statistics in looking at young players as they come up, do they have more walks and more extra-base hits than strikeouts? On the major-league level, in the last 50 years, there are only 11 of them ‘ Pedroia and Pujols are two of them, by the way ‘ that have that. Kotchman’s numbers were unbelievable in the minor leagues. It’s such a good predictor of guys being really good hitters. Actually, he’s not that far from it on the major-league level. Except for the time, he was hitting .330-something in Anaheim in 2008 and got beaned. He struggled after that. Then, he didn’t play much here.
He’s a great first baseman. I get the impression Tito really wants to play him. I can see him, I talked to [Angels hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher about it a lot during the playoffs, he said if he can just relax, this ballpark was made for him. He’s Nick Johnson  with defensive skills. So it will be interesting to see what happens with him.
The Sox probably don’t believe as much as Mike Lowell believes that he’s going to be a better, more mobile player.
You just never know who gets hurt, what happens. I remember the year he came over from the Marlins, people saying, writing, scouts saying, he’s done. He’s lost his bat speed. ‘¦ And of course it turned out that he played great for them. Playing first, third, being a right-handed DH, maybe he ends up being an important part of the team. Who knows?
The thumb injury isn’t that dramatic ‘ plenty of guys come back from this. So why did Texas blow this up?
I don’t think Max Ramirez  is any loss to Red Sox Nation.
I guess [the Rangers] got cold feet, having to spend $3 million. I don’t see it. I think they’re being a little bit silly here.
He has to be a little bit better in terms of the hip. Alex Rodriguez ‘ operation was really minor. It can’t be compared to Lowell’s. But Chase Utley ‘s, I still think he’s one of the five best players in the National League , but he was not quite the same defensive player this year after having the hip operation. I’m sure he will be this year. He’ll be the same guy again.
I think it takes some time. I didn’t understand that these operations didn’t exist a dozen years ago. It started in Europe and this is a very new technology. Mike’s a little bit older and a little different body type than Utley. It’s something that’s new. I have to believe it will be better.
It was tough at the end. The playoffs, he couldn’t move at all. I understand that. But he’d also been playing everyday for a full season.
What can be expected of Mike Cameron at this point in his career?
I think a great deal of energy. He is a really good defender. The only thing that worries me is that he’s so fearless that with all the things that jut out in Fenway that he’ll run into something. But I think he’ll hit 25 home runs, he’ll steal 20, 25 bases and be a really good outfielder. He is in great shape and he’s completely fearless. He will strike out a lot.
To me, he’ll probably hit seventh or eighth in the order. He hits left-handed pitching ‘ he has in the past ‘ pretty well. He’s a guy that good teams want him. The Yankees tried to trade Melky Cabrera  for him the year before and the Brewers changed their minds on it.
He’ll be a good player. It’s one of those years, they make the deal with Florida [for Jeremy Hermida], they have Kotchman around, they have a couple of guys who people have loved for years. If all of a sudden one of them breaks out the way David Ortiz  did, or even Kevin Millar did really here, then they get one or two pretty good players in terms of depth.
Where do you see the Adrian Gonzalez situation being right now?
I don’t think that Jed will even think about trading him until July. One of the things he found when he went out there, he’d always said all those years when he was with the Red Sox, they didn’t do deals based on how they thought the public would react, as we know ‘ trading Nomar, some other things. They did what they thought was in the best interests of the team.
They have to think about selling tickets in San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez is from there, he’s Mexican-American, he’s the most marketable player they have. This is a new ownership. They can’t afford for their first move to be trading their most important player. Now, if they’re 25 games out on July 1st, that may be a different story.
Another problem they have in making trades is that they played really well the last two months. I’ve always likened it to a college basketball  game where a team is down 40 points and they rally to lose by 10, so everybody says, ‘Wow ‘ they played great in the last 10 minutes.’ But actually, they’re going to be back to losing by 30 the next time they play that team. My guess is that’s what the Padres will be. They have to get much more athletic in the outfield. They’re playing [Kyle] Blanks in left field, which is going to be a problem. I don’t think he’ll even think about it for a while. I think they’ll go into this next season, then see where they’re at, and then talk.
I was talking to Jed a couple days ago. He said he was amazed reading some of the names that they supposedly exchanged. Because they hadn’t. The Padres now have the Red Sox’ assistant general manager and their scouting director. They know the difference between Casey Kotchman and Michael Bowden .
Are you surprised the Sox went five years with John Lackey, and how do you think it affects the Josh Beckett  situation?
I was surprised. I understand that one of the things they really felt about Lackey the last year and a half is that he really developed feel ‘ changing speeds a lot better than he used to. He used to be a head-on guy. But I think it’s going to make it difficult.
I can come up with, okay, Beckett’s career ERA in Boston is 4.05. The last two years in the postseason he’s allowed 18 runs in 30 innings. Blah, blah. But the staff views Josh Beckett as the captain of the pitching staff. He’s a model guy who’s a leader, he cares about whether the team wins or loses. I think that’s going to be a tough negotiation. I do think they’ll make every effort to keep him. I really do.
If he has a normal season, the negotiations will start at five years.
I think that will provide for some interesting negotiations.
For Beckett, it’s a win-win ‘ Beckett is now clearly the top guy in next year’s free-agent market.
My guess is that Cliff Lee goes out on the market, but yeah, [Beckett] should be the No. 1 guy after Lee. If he has a really good year, and in fairness, I understand part of his reputation was that he was a great October pitcher, and he hasn’t been a good October pitcher the last two years, but he’s also been hurt. Okay, now, like A.J. Burnett, he has a history of some injuries.
At the same time, if he comes back and is healthy for a whole year, puts up 33 starts, doesn’t have a pull or a shoulder problem or hip problem, whatever different things he’s had, then in my mind, there’s no reason he won’t win 18-20 games, and as we’ve seen with Lackey and Burnett, that’s $16, $17, $18 million a year.
Who won the Halladay trade?
I think Seattle did really well. They’ve built that team up. Jack Zduriencik has done a great job with the defense. But I love Halladay pitching in Philadelphia. Jayson Stark, I don’t remember the numbers, but he had some great numbers on what the Toronto Blue Jays  have been the last two years without Roy Halladay  starting. It’s incredible. They have been like a .430 winning percentage team. In Philadelphia, with pretty good defense, a team that scores a lot of runs and a team that’s a lot of fun to play for ‘ that team, it’s crazy, they’re really fun ‘ he’s in the National League, I think that helps.
I’m a big Javy Vazquez guy. It’s hard not to like him. He’s one of the most likeable people. I know that Ozzie Guillen  felt he was a National League pitcher, he wasn’t tough. I think that kind of drove him out of New York, although he did have some shoulder problems that he never talked about that one year with the Yankees. I know the Red Sox really wanted him before the Wagner signing. That will be very interesting to see, too.
One thing I’m impressed about by the Yankees is by bringing in Granderson and Vazquez, they’ve gone out to add to Rivera and Jeter, they’ve added incredible people. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think the character of the team has really evolved. To me, Melky Cabrera is a nice fourth outfielder. I understand Liberty Broadcasting, or whoever owns the Braves , in getting rid of Soriano and Vazquez, they’ve taken $16 million off their payroll. That deal wasn’t about getting players. I read today on MLBtraderumors.com, there was talk about Frank Wren yesterday saying we’re going to get a major bat. It turns out to be Troy Glaus .
Will Miguel Cabrera be out there?
I think a lot of it will depend on how the Tigers play for the first couple of months. It’s a different situation, because the owner there loves his city and he’s watched it die. He doesn’t really care about how much money he loses. It’s not just the pizzas ‘ he’s got casinos around Detroit. There was a lot of talk about a fire sale in Detroit this year. Jim Leyland  called me [to say], ‘There’s not going to be a fire sale. The owner’s not going to allow that.’
But, if they get off to a bad start, they’re not going to be able to move Dontrelle Willis. They’re not going to be able to move a couple of other pitchers. If they’re 12 games out on June 15, I could see Cabrera getting moved, and I could see the Red Sox being very interested. He’s got a huge contract, but he’s also a monster bat. Just don’t put him at third.
No reservations about bringing him to Boston, on or off the field?
I think there are always going to be issues off the field with Miguel. He’s a great kid. He just gets into these issues. But there are a lot of people who were with the Marlins who will tell you Miguel Cabrera was nowhere near the problem that Dontrelle Willis was. Dontrelle is a great guy.
The Marlins, there was a couple times when he was confronted by other players, but they really liked him. They traded him because they got Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller .