Saturday, December 09, 2006

Quite the Winter Meetings, wasn't it?

You know the baseball world has truly gone mad when Gil Meche, with a grand total of 11 wins for Seattle last season, signs a 5-year, $55 million contract with the Royals. Makes Josh Beckett's 3-year, $30 million extension seem downright cheap, doesn't it?

There were five big pieces of news for the Sox the last few days. Here's my take on each of them:

The signing of J.D. Drew: I'm not over-the-top excited about this, but I'm not as negative about it as many of the talk radio types are either. It's obvious that Drew is a talented, 5-tool player when he's healthy. He put up some pretty good numbers and played 146 games for the Dodgers last year. If he can hit 20-25 homers, drive in 100 runs, play good defense in either right or center field and play 140 games, I would be pretty happy with that.

The question is whether he's capable of it. Drew has only played 140 games twice in his 8 full seasons, although the good news is that those two came in the last three seasons. He would certainly be a better number 5 hitter than anyone Terry Francona has trotted (pun intended) out there the last couple of years, but he's got to play for this to be worth the $70 million investment.

The signing of Julio Lugo: Theo and the Red Sox brass (doesn't that sound like a good name for a band?) love this guy, and he's certainly a pretty good offensive player at shortstop. His defense is an order of magnitude worse than the departed Alex Gonzalez, and I think both Red Sox Nation and the Red Sox pitching staff are going to miss seeing him out there. This is certainly a classic Moneyball play here. The Billy Beane school of thought puts very little value on defense and great value on OBP and OPS, two stats in which Lugo excelled prior to his trade to the Dodgers last season.

It'll be interesting to see how both Drew and Lugo react to the scrutiny of the Boston fans and media. Lugo spent most of his career and Tampa, and Drew has spent the last few years in basically apathetic spots like Atlanta and L.A. I hope they know what they are getting themselves in for.

No trade for Manny: Theo is apparently intent on getting roughly "equal value" for Manny, and no one seems willing to give up the bundle of prospects he's looking for. No one really seems to be sure how badly Manny wants to leave, and even Manny may be changing his mind from day to day.

Personally, I would prefer that Manny stay around. Even though he basically quit on the team after the Yankees sweep last August, he's such a great hitter and so much fun to watch that I would hate to see him go. That said, if someone should come up with the right deal, I'm sure Theo will trade him.

Dice-K: The rumors are that Scott Boras and the Sox are far apart; Boras wants Matsuzaka to be paid like an elite pitcher (in the Roy Oswalt category), while the Sox say they paid for exclusive negotiating rights, plus the guy has never pitched a game in the big leagues.

My guess is this gets done before the deadline on Thursday at midnight. There are just too many good reasons for this to happen, both from the Red Sox and Matsuzaka's perspective. Of course, the current market for starting pitchers may make the Red Sox pay more than they wanted to.

Closers: The market for closers is getting totally out of control. Word is that Eric Gagne turned down an offer from the Dodgers for a $4 million base plus $6 million in incentives. Pretty good money for a guy who has only pitched about 15 innings the last two years. Octavio Dotel, who had Tommy John surgery, got $4 million plus incentives from the Royals. Supply and demand is really working here - the limited supply of closers is driving up the price, even of guys who are damaged goods.

I'm not sure where the Sox will go here. I know they are exploring trades, and there is always the possibility of Hansen winning the job in Spring Training, but closer is the biggest question mark on the team right now.


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