The Cafardo Mailbag: Holiday Hangover Edition

On December 3rd, the day after I posted my last Cafardo mailbag, I entered into rehab with the intent of never stealing Nick’s mail ever again.   I don’t want to go into the gory details of going through withdrawal, but let’s just say cold sweats, dry heaves, night terrors, and babies crawling across the ceiling were involved.  It was horrifying, and I wouldn’t wish this kind of torture on my worst enemy.  Anyway, like all recovering addicts, I was faced with a moment of weakness and gave in to temptation.  After enduring a long eight hour car trip home from Western New York, I was very tired and facing a deadline.  I could either stay up all night writing a deep analytical piece as I’d originally planned, or I could steal Mr. Cafardo’s mail again.  Sadly, I chose the latter.  I promise to do my best not to dip into this well again for a while, but this mailbag was so amazing, I felt I had to do it.  I will be back to my regularly scheduled writing on Friday, once I’ve recovered from my long car ride home.

Here are some of my responses to the latest “bag:”

Looks like the Cubs are just waiting for the Red Sox to forget about them taking their general manager and putting off for as long as possible the team’s compensation. It seems like the value of that compensation will become less and less the longer they wait. Why aren’t the Sox trying to push a deal for Matt Garza and some prospects the Cubs are looking for to help build their farm system? 

That first sentence is absolutely amazing, isn’t it?  Yes, the Cubs are waiting for the Red Sox to forget they “took” Theo.  Because Theo clearly had no choice in the matter, and wasn’t the driving force behind taking the position.  Anyway, what makes you think the Red Sox haven’t looked into trading for Garza? Just because it hasn’t been reported via the mainstream media, it doesn’t mean these kinds of deals aren’t in the works.  The Red Sox have long been interested in Garza, and are likely exploring the option of obtaining him to fill one of the two holes in the rotation.

That said, they might not have the prospects to deal for Garza.  Garza is 27 years old, coming off of a 5 WAR season, and has two seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining.  Based on the package that netted the Nationals Gio Gonzalez, the Red Sox would likely need put together a package of four prospects that includes one (if not two) of the following players:  Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, and/or Xander Boegarts.  Is it worth it?  Perhaps.  The Red Sox will be receiving a proven commodity in exchange for four unknown quanities.  On the flipside, the Red Sox might be able to net a better player down the road by holding on to their surplus prospects a little while longer.

Three points/questions:

1. No one should be certain of the return of Bobby Jenks. Unfortunately it appears from a medical perspective (I am a doctor) that his problems are serious. Everyone, of course, hopes this is not the case and prays for a complete healing and his return to baseball.

2. The health of Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are questionable. Beckett has back problems and Buchholz has a problem with strength. It is very possible that both will falter in 2012. For that reason, the Sox should be ready to build around Bard, Aceves and Lester.

3. Are not the moves that Cherington has made good ones?

A few interesting points by this reader.  One, Jenks is not a guarantee to return to form.  While the reader indicates his serious health problems as a reason, his conditioning and command woes also pose a threat to him having a successful comeback.  Hopefully, he comes into Spring Training healthy, in shape, and ready to return to action, but I’m not willing to assume that will happen.

Two, Buchholz’s health is definitely a question.  A lower back stress fracture is a serious injury, and recovery time can vary.  Even if he does recover fully, he may need to change his mechanics, conditioning habits, etc. as a result, which may have an effect on his overall performance.  Furthermore, he’s more likely have more long-term back issues as a result.  That said, he could end up never having another back issue again.  Until he proves he can stay healthy, there will always be a cloud of concern hanging over him.  Beckett’s back issues, though well documented, have not been nearly as serious.  He might have problems, but I don’t think it’s fair to place him in the same category as Buchholz for the time being.  Conditioning is the key for him.

As for Cherington’s moves this season, I like them.  Mark Melancon is a great set-up candidate; Nick Punto is an excellent utility infielder/defensive specialist; and Kelly Shoppach is a solid right handed hitting option in the catcher platoon.  They’re not sexy moves, but they are smart, conservative options that should pay dividends in the upcoming season.

These season I look for the Sox to instill a sense of urgency beginning with the first spring training game. Last year it seemed as though they were going through the motions and it was reflected when the games started to count.

I was wondering what your thoughts are? Do you think we see a different approach to the spring? 

It will be important for fans to feel a sense of urgency starting in Spring Training.  That said, we shouldn’t measure their “urgency” by looking at the Grapefruit League standings.  ST results mean very little.  Instead, we should focus on the player’s conditioning, defensive efforts, and smart aggression on the basepaths.

If John Lackey comes back strong and closer to his past performance, do you see the Sox possibly picking up his contract option early and restructuring his contract? If he would agree to it, then they could average the amount more evenly and therefore have more to spend annually while still avoiding the luxury tax. Your thoughts? 

With the Red Sox only required to pay Lackey ~$500K in 2015, the question is when (not if) the Red Sox will pick up his option.  If he comes back healthy and pitching well, they’ll be glad to have him on board for 2015.  If he doesn’t come back as expected, they’ll cut him and eat the ~$500K.  It’s a small price to pay considering they’ll save $2.7M (per season) toward the luxury tax.

With the payroll being what it is for this season, isn’t it possible for the team to sign a player to a contract that is back-loaded? For instance, sign Ryan Madson for around $38 million for three years. Pay him $6 million to $8 million the first year, and split the difference the remaining two years. Or is that not allowed within the scope of the CBA?

When MLB figures payroll for luxury tax purposes, they use annual average salary, not actual salary.  As a result, backloading a contract won’t help the club at all.  Furthermore, it will adversely affect the club’s ability to stay below the threshold in each subsequent season that follows.  It’s not a bad suggestion, but it doesn’t work unfortunately.

Any chance the Sox would consider re-signing Daisuke Matsuzaka if he’s healthy and the price is right? I’m wondering if things might be better with Bobby Valentine’s presence. Or maybe the Sox will be happy to have the whole Dice-K experience over?

At the right price, the Red Sox will sign or trade for anyone–including Dice-K.  Perhaps Bobby V’s presence will help him, but I wouldn’t go into the situation expecting an instant turnaround.

We all know the Sox need another starter, another back of the bullpen stopper and it would be great to add another big righthanded bat. What do you think about trading for Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh as our closer instead of overpaying for somebody like Ryan Madson who’s looking for $9 million or $10 million, then possibly bringing back Hanley Ramirez to Boston for Youkilis and Jose Iglesias?

That’s a possibility, but I feel like that’s an overpay for Ramirez at this point.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think Han-Ram is an incredibly talented player, but he’s coming off of a down year (2010) and a completely forgettable, injury riddled season (2011).  He doesn’t carry the same value as he did last year or the year prior.  Furthermore, we’ll be expecting him to change positions from shortstop to third base.  That drops his trade value even further; even in a market starved for third basemen.  So, while it’s a possibility, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

With Beckett, hopefully a thinner Lester, Buchholz, Bard and Aceves in the rotation, and Matt Albers (hopefully slimmer), Franklin Morales, Melancon and I’m sure a couple of others Cherington has yet to acquire in the bullpen, what’s wrong with that set-up?

Absolutely nothing.  I would prefer to see Cherington acquire a starter to fill the fourth slot into the rotation (allowing Aceves to slot back into the swingman role), but it’s certainly acceptable.  Melancon would ideally fit into the set-up role, but he would be more than serviceable as a closer if it came to that.  Albers, Morales, and Jenks all have potential, but they remain question marks.  If two of the three pitch up to their capabilities, the bullpen should be in great shape.

What do you think are the odds that Mike Aviles gets the starting job in right field? 

The only way that happens is if some sort of worst case scenario emerges.  Cafardo mentioned a platoon in his bag, but I see him serving in a super utility role this season.  Look for the Red Sox to kick the tires on right handed corner outfielders like Cody Ross, Rick Ankiel, and Ryan Ludwig to take PAs against lefties, while giving either Ryan Kalish or Josh Reddick a shot at playing against RHP.

Are the Red Sox as I know and love them going to be terrible? Is all of Red Sox Nation nervous? Are we excited? Will I still be able to trash talk to my A’s and Giants fan/neighbors because their teams are way below the level of my Sox? 

I like this person’s style, as I also like to talk trash to my Giants and A’s friends.  Still, I wouldn’t be nervous.  All is well.  Cherington and company are making smart cosmetic changes (rather than sweeping, wholesale changes) to a team that needs some tweaking.  They’ll still have to battle it out with the Yankees and Rays for a playoff spot, but you should still expect 90-95 wins in 2012.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Nick Cafardo Mail Bag

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

8 Responses to “The Cafardo Mailbag: Holiday Hangover Edition” Subscribe

  1. magowanite December 28, 2011 at 8:42 AM #

    There's no more battling required — the second wildcard team, also known as the Northeastern United States Rule Amendment, was tailor-made to aid the Yankees and Red Sox with getting into the playoffs… even on those years where the Rays or Blue Jays manage to win the division.

    • Matt December 28, 2011 at 10:16 AM #

      Except for the fact that the Rangers/Angels are definitely expected to compete for the wild card spots, too.

  2. Rod Hinman December 28, 2011 at 9:56 AM #

    Rick Ankiel is a left handed batter. Andrew Jones would be a great pick up. He hit 13 home runs in 190 at bats in New York, what would he do in Fenway? Plus the yanks still want him. Boston should talk to Washington about trading Crawford for Werth. Each player fits better with the other team. I think Boston will trade for a starter and sign Madison or sign a starter ( Oswalt ) and trade for a closer.

    • @chriskelley81 December 29, 2011 at 4:48 PM #

      This comment started off ok, then the wheels fell off rather quickly.

      You're right, Ankiel bats and throws lefty, so he probably wouldn't be a fit. Andruw Jones could be a fit, but the major question for him would be defending RF.

      Here's where things get off track – I don't think ownership is going to sign Jones simply to spite Hank and Hal. The Yanks will move on and sign another right-handed outfield bat and probably forget they even rostered Jones at one point.

      Now, I'd like to know more on this Crawford/Werth trade, because if anyone had a worse year in a new uniform besides Crawford, it was Jayson Werth. Crawford is a superior defender, and I'd be willing to say that last year at the plate was a statistical anomaly. He'll bounce back and be close to .300 again. As for Werth, I think his numbers will improve this year, but they will in no way be close to what he did in Philly. So my questions are, how is Werth a better fit in Boston than Crawford? And why is everyone so impatient with Crawford?

  3. Randy December 28, 2011 at 1:29 PM #

    I don't understand the impatience around compensation for Theo. If you were Ben Cherington, wouldn't you want to see how the winter went down before you cashed in on that outstanding debt?

    Near the end of the off season, If it turns out that the Sox cannot pick up any pitching elsewhere, then maybe you get serious about giving up the prospects, on top of Theo, for Garza. Or maybe we sign Oswalt to a one year deal and then we pick up a prospect from them.

    In any case, it seems to me that the longer this plays out the better. Theo is not going to ship off anyone the Sox might be interested in without at least a phone call first.

    • @ChristopherB609 December 28, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

      The need for a resolution regarding compensation is a strange one. Seems people don't understand that the Cubs have a somewhat lackluster system. The deeper they dive into their off season rebuilding plan, the better the farm system becomes, upping the odds that the Sox could obtain greater value, though that is not guaranteed.

      • cdchi December 30, 2011 at 12:44 PM #

        The Red Sox should have settled on compensation for Theo before the let him become entrenched in the Cubs front office. I believe that was when the Sox had the most leverage .I recently read that Theo and the Cubs cannot hire any Red Sox front office people for 3 years ,as part of the compensation .I hope that was not the final part. I would really like the Sox to put a package together for Garza,a solid pitcher, who understands and flourished in the AL east . The package it will cost the Sox for Garza,may not be so valuable ,if the compensation issue could be included.

    • Cory December 30, 2011 at 10:42 PM #

      Does it make sense to wait until Garza and or there other pieces are moved? then we have more prospects to choose from.