December 8, 2013

On Baseball: Ramifications from a busy week of deals

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Some quick thoughts after a weeks of deals, including the New York Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal:

The Red Sox expected Ellsbury to leave (although maybe not to the Yankees).

Unlike the reaction when Johnny Damon bolted for New York, the Red Sox fans appear to be reacting with a shrug.

One reason for the shrug is that Boston is wary of long-term deals (re: Carl Crawford).

Another is that the Red Sox are coming off a World Series title. There is faith that general manager Ben Cherington will figure out how to fill the void.

One key to replacing that vacancy is Jackie Bradley Jr. He still needs to develop offensively, but he is actually a better fielder than the Gold Glove-winning Ellsbury, with a much stronger arm.

The Yankees can’t help themselves. When I asked New York beat writers during the playoffs about the Yankees’ interest in Ellsbury, they did not think there was any. New York had Brett Gardner and were looking to reduce payroll. But the Yankees did not make the playoffs and attendance is down, so they opened their checkbook, again.

Ellbury’s exit began in 2010 when he suffered a rib injury that appears to have been mis-diagnosed by Red Sox doctors (who have since been dismissed). Ellsbury took offense at Red Sox management, as well as media critics who called him soft. His public demeanor turned from openly friendly to cautiously cool.

New York is committed to at least six players through the 2016 season (including Alex Rodriguez, who is signed through 2017).

Boston is committed to one player after 2015 (Dustin Pedroia, through 2021), although the Red Sox hold options on Clay Buchholz in 2016 and 2017.

Think the Yankees want Rodriguez’s suspension for the 2014 season upheld? They would wipe $27.5 million off the books.

By signing Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, New York not only spent $283 million, it lost three draft picks - its first-rounder, plus two picks in the supplemental round awarded to New York for losing free agents Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.

Boston still has its first-round pick, plus a supplemental pick for losing Ellsbury and, likely one for losing Stephen Drew.

The Red Sox went two years with Mike Napoli ($32 million). Boston would probably offer Drew a two-year deal (less money than Napoli), but he likely is looking for more.

Napoli’s deal gives Travis Shaw, 23, a chance to develop. He’s off he radar now after a disappointing 2013 in Portland, but don’t discount him yet.

Speaking of development, with A.J. Pierzynski signed to a one-year deal, all eyes will be on catcher Christian Vazquez (Pawtucket) and Blake Swihart (Portland) in 2014. The Red Sox have high hopes.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway may be looking like a man with no place to go. But his trade value is limited and he has a minor league option. With Boston’s elderly pair in the majors (Both David Ross and Pierzynski will be 37 when the season begins), Lavarnway may stick around for insurance.

Boston’s bullpen depth: Koji Uehara, Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Franklin Morales, Alex Wilson and Drake Britton.

Even when Workman was shining in relief, the Red Sox maintained that his true value is as a starter. That kind of rotation depth makes it possible for Cherington to trade a high-priced starter (Jake Peavy and his $14.5 million salary, or Ryan Dempster and his $13.25 million).

Still, it’s hard to give away pitching.

Speaking of pitching, the Yankees have spent a lot of money so far. But does anyone see an improved rotation, which ranked ninth in the American League last year (4.08 ERA)?

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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