Monday, August 27, 2012

Rules for Retooling

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The Red Sox traded Josh Beckett's terrible contract extension, Adrian Gonzalez's misguided mega-contract, Carl Crawford's tuberculosis of a contract, and the lovable though awful Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and (potentially good) prospects. This leaves them in terrific position to retool, unloading trillions of dollars in bad contracts to the Dodgers who are total suckers. So now that the Red Sox are going to be retooling this offseason, here are a few ground rules. Obviously, I should be the GM of the Red Sox.


1. ABSOLUTELY NO long-term deals for players who aren't going to get better. Adrian Gonzalez got a 7-year, $154-million contract from the Red Sox. He was 29. Carl Crawford got 7 years, $142 million. He was 29. These guys are not going to get better. The best you can hope for is that their production will stay the same for another 3-4 years, and then not fall off too much after that. That's BEST CASE SCENARIO, not most likely scenario. The Red Sox are in a relatively unique position of being able to afford that kind of contract, so it's not always necessarily ill-advised to get a great player for a ridiculous price. But for Christ's sake, make sure he's under 27. Give an Ellsbury/Justin Upton/Mike Trout that kind of money if you really feel the need to give it to somebody. I know those guys aren't going to be available when they're young, which is sort of the point. That kind of contract is almost never a good idea in real reality.

2. If you're going to overpay for someone, make sure it's not for a long contract. There's nothing wrong with signing a 34-year-old if he's going to produce. Even if you have to pay a steep price for him, that's fine. The Red Sox can still compete for championships in this rebuilding period because of their payroll capabilities. They can get the most expensive and best stopgap guys available while they rebuild for the long run. Pay them for a couple of years. No reason to gut the payroll and suck if you don't have to. Related to this rule: don't be afraid to take on the last 1-2 years of a bad contract in a trade if that player is going to produce. In fact, if you can give up relatively little, that's a good thing to do for now.

3. Stop trading away good players for relievers. You had Jed Lowrie right there for the taking, and you blew it to get Mark GD Melancon. Mark Melancon is a good pitcher (despite his inexplicably awful start with the Red Sox this year), but for Christ's sake, a young shortstop who's an average-to-slightly-above-average hitter is so much more valuable than a decently reliable eighth-inning guy. Stop being so focused on the bullpen, and NEVER mortgage any part of your future for the sake of a better bullpen.

4.  Don't make Will Middlebrooks untouchable. By no means should you trade Will Middlebrooks for a reliever, but acknowledge that his production this year isn't going to get a ton better. He strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough. There's no way he's sustaining that batting average over the long term. I'd love to have him at third base because third basemen are slightly hard to come by and he's going to be at least an average hitter, but if a team shows genuine interest, listen to the offer. That team may very well be overrating him, and you can get inflated value back for him. Use my Rule #2 to get a Mark Reynolds or an Eric Chavez for a year as you figure out what your next move will be for third base.

5. A veteran team needs a veteran team manager. One of the hilarious jokes this offseason was taking on Bobby Valentine as the manager of the Red Sox. The guy's a joke. No one in baseball respects him, and he's the opposite of what you want for a veteran team. Terry Francona was perfect. Pick a guy who is good at dealing with personalities, and whom the players like and respect. WHY NOT JASON VARITEK?!?!?!?!?!??! I don't usually get vulgar on this blog, but I must say...if they hired Jason Varitek as the manager of the Red Sox, I would jizz. Immediately. Or, y'know, they could go for like Ken Macha or something. Someone normal. Yeah that'd be fine. Dammit now that I thought of it, I really want the Varitek thing to happen. It won't.

6. Try your best to make sure the players you get are not complete dicks. The past couple of years have made me a believer that the culture in the clubhouse does have an effect on player performance. The chicken and beer thing is obviously overblown, but bringing up young pitchers like Buchholz and Lester with established dickheads like Lackey and Beckett is probably at least slightly detrimental. The Red Sox have two personalities going for them right now: Ortiz and Pedroia. Some more guys who are notably good clubhouse presences would be really nice to have, and any new guys who are total penises might not be worth it.

So this means the following:
  • DO NOT sign Josh Hamilton.
  • Give Ortiz two years for Christ's sake.
  • See if you can wheel and deal Middlebrooks to get a high-quality piece (rumor has it that Troy Tulowitzki may be on the trading block). Probably won't work, but you never know.
  • Overpay for 2 years of Michael Bourn, Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino, Cody Ross or B.J. Upton.
  • Overpay for two, three years AT MOST of Scott Baker, Jorge De La Rosa, Zack Greinke, Colby Lewis, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, or other decent free agent starters.
  • Actually invest in good prospects so that when these stopgap guys leave, you're in a good position.
  • Replace Bobby Valentine with a real human who doesn't think that Mariano Rivera is the greatest pitcher of all time.
With a giant offseason focus on starting pitching, this is a team that can do well in a "rebuilding" stage. You won't get another reset button, Red Sox. Make this one count.

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