So we’ve looked at his free agent signings, we’ve looked at his trades and now it’s time to see what kind of a scrap master Ben Cherington was in 2012-2013. The Red Sox were a mess last season and as is the case with those sorts of teams, mediocre performance has a tendency to look better than it is while under-performance is always magnified. Resisting temptation to bring back unnecessary pieces or to pass on reliable players in favor of shiny, new toys is a challenge. Here’s what Ben Cherington did – and didn’t – do last offseason:
Cody Ross (signed a 3 year, $26 million contract with Arizona)
The Ross signing was a steal for Boston last year and injury issue aside this year, the Diamondbacks have to be pretty happy with what they got from Ross in 2013. He was able to stockpile around 1.8 fWAR which puts him right about where he should be in terms of his annual salary. That being said, there are some causes for concern heading forward.
For one, his SLG returned to career norms this year and without the benefit of the green monster, he took a full-blown 70-point hit. Even more worrisome, his ISO was the lowest of his career with at least 100 PA’s (.136) in spite of being in a park that’s more or less regarded as a hitter’s haven. His defense – which was great this year – was where a significant portion of his value was tied up, and given his career numbers it’s not sustainable.
That leaves the Diamondbacks with a player who’s injured, has sagging power and is a defensive question mark. It’s only year one, but the forecast for year two isn’t all that rosy.
When coupled with the fact that Cherington was essentially able to procure Jonnny Gomes for $5 million per, it seems like a better investment even if his defense was predictably poor. Like Ross last year, Gomes was brought in to mash and he’s done exactly that, posting a .338 wOBA to Ross’ .326 mark.
The cherry on top is the platoon Gomes has formed with Daniel Nava in LF that hit .279/.379/.465 combined. Obviously, this is a slam dunk win at $5.506 million for the season when compared to the $8 million the Diamondbacks are paying Ross.
James Loney (signed a 1 year, $2 million plus incentives with Tampa Bay)
Mostly a salary dump in the Punto trade, Loney didn’t do much in Boston and when the season ended, it surprised no one that Cherington and company moved on rather quickly.
And in the least surprising news ever, the Tampa Bay Rays – as per the usual – ran into the burning building when everyone else was running out and signed Loney to a dirt-cheap, 1 year, $2 million deal with some incentives. And boy oh boy – did it pay off.
While Loney’s bat faded down the stretch, he managed to pile up 2.8 fWAR this year while hitting a comfortable .299/.348/.430 and a .339 wOBA. Ironically, he was picked up for his supposedly good glove, but he was less than stellar on the defensive end of things, posting a -5.0 FRAA this season.
The Red Sox did alright here, signing Mike Napoli and the 3.9 fWAR that came with him and surprisingly got some stellar defense to boot. It’s hard to knock Cherington for passing on Loney, but it’s also hard to not praise Tampa for doing what they usually do – and that’s see value where no one else does.
Scott Atchison (Signed a 1 year, $750k contract w/ incentives with the New York Mets)
Atchison was a non-singing I was honestly a little surprised to see given his strong numbers coming off last year (a 1.58 ERA, 2.72 FIP in 51.1 IP). The Mets took a nice, low-cost gamble on him and at the time, it seemed like a really great call. While Atchison has always been more of a ground ball and low walk guy than he is a swing and miss strike guy and even given the Red Sox offseason RP acquisitions, he’s a guy who I feel like could have found a home somewhere in the Red Sox bullpen in 2013.
At some point though, I have to wonder whether his rehabbed elbow ligament is what not only scared the Sox away (despite being effective in Sept. 2012), but also led to his sudden dip in performance this year. That being said, he experienced an actual increase in his velocity and swstr%, which would suggest that health wasn’t an issue at all. The one thing that definitely jumps off the page is his 58.4% LOB%; so misuse in extreme high-leverage situations could have been the culprit.
Either way – things worked out in a way for the Sox – especially with the continued success of Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller – and then of course the value they got in Koji Uehara. That being said, injuries to Franklin Morales, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan and underperformance from trade acquisition Matt Thornton, Alfredo Aceves and Clayton Mortensen means he certainly could have been valuable to the Sox this year – especially at the money he went for. Considering the issues the Sox had with mop-up situations this season, he would have been a useful piece to have.
Vicente Padilla (Signed in Japan)
The thing about Padilla is that there’s Padilla the fairly valuable reliever and Padilla the chainsaw wielding psychopath. The statistical case is decent, but realistically, it’s hard to imagine Vicente Padilla as being a member of this year’s clubhouse. He wasn’t a popular guy last year and I don’t think he’s been all that well liked at any point in his life, ever. That being said, bullpen chats between him and Alfredo Aceves could have been the best thing in Red Sox history. Or the worst. Depends on your worldview on wonton murder and masochism.
Retained David Ortiz (2 years, $26 million plus incentives)
This was an absolute slam dunk win for Cherington – at least through year-1. Ortiz ranked 8th in baseball in wRC++ (152), 8th in wOBA (.400), 10th in OBP (.395) and 3rd in SLG (.564). Overall, Ortiz was an absolute bargain this this season considering what some of his colleagues at the top of the MLB leaderboards are making.
Also lost in the shuffle was that he was able to stay almost completely healthy once he returned from his achilles heel injury that kept him sideline for nearly all of Spring Training. Not bad for a 37 year old DH. Thanks to Ortiz’s production this season, he earned about $19 of his guaranteed $26 million in year-1, which means that barring a monumental fall off next year, he should easily be worth what the Red Sox decided to pay him, even with incentives.
Signing anyone north of the age of 35 is usually asking for it, never mind an aging DH who’s had some health problems. That being said, while the risk level was probably higher than the Red Sox would normally be comfortable with, there was a case to be made for resigning him outside of the performance realm and in terms of what he means to the brand itself – which as we know, took a tremendous hit in 2012. That in and of itself made a compelling case for bringing him back.
Overall: It’s really hard to knock Cherington on any of his key departures/re-signings with the possible exception of Atchison, who I feel like could have been insanely valuable in a mop-up role on this team. Even with the inflated numbers in New York, the soft underbelly of the Red Sox all season long was their mop-up relief and with Atchison still aboard – at that money – it’s hard to make a case that it was a wise decision to let him go considering how things turned out.
The flip side to that argument is that, well… relievers. The Red Sox had lots of them and it was hard to imagine that provided everyone maintained a clean bill of health, that they wouldn’t have been able to find a suitable replacement to Atchison without having to spend more money. Unfortunately – worst-case scenario happened and literally NONE of those options were dependable for extended stretches this season. All that being said, it’s about the process and sometimes – no matter how good it is – you don’t get the results you want. That’s certainly the case here.
Nearly every other move – especially letting Cody Ross walk – ended up being a wise move. Ortiz’s signing may have been – in fact – the highest risk of all of these and yet still, that move worked out, too. Overall, in terms of deciding who to keep and who to let go – it’s hard to argue that Cherington did anything less than a really good job. Maybe they should cast him on American Pickers.
Categories: David Ortiz