This one courtesy of James, aka “jgr jgr”. James submitted a few puzzling questions, though this one made me think the most:
“Is there some hitter or pitcher out there under the radar that you think will be wearing a new Boston uniform in 2010?”
Well, going off this question, we’ll avoid talking about the likely suspects, including Bay, Holliday, Harden, or Scutaro who have all received a great deal of coverage not only on this site, but on Sox discussion boards ‘Nation’ wide (Yes, that was a pun. No, I won’t apologize.)
As for truly under the radar names, we must look really deep into the free agent roster, probably to the point of back-end bullpen types or bench hitters. While these moves may not be exciting to the average layman, these are the transactions that make championships. Depth and injury/slump insurance is perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of building a championship team. John Henry could grab any fan off the streets to build a team that could win 100 games if everything were guaranteed to go as planned. However, the true talent and meddle of a front office is tested by their contingency planning.
When a team has the type of financial resources the Sox have, it’s difficult to pick a truly “under the radar” name that will make an impact, as the players the team is likely to sign are usually the top free agents, too big to fly below the hard deck.
But there is still value to be that the rest of the baseball world is not discussing. Here’s a few that I think the Sox may settle on before the off-season ends:
Value at Starting Pitcher
Assuming that the Cubs re-sign Rich Harden, while Ben Sheets and Erik Bedard find other suitors, I would love to see the Sox sign Carl Pavano. Though his 5.10 ERA left much to be desired, Pavano actually turned in quite a season in 2009, with a 4.00 FIP ERA to go along with a 3.77 K:BB rate. While his 6.64 K/9 was merely average, a 1.76 BB/9 rate is more than adequate.
Seeing as his game is predicated on inducing contact, he may struggle a bit with the Sox poor defense. Still, his .335 BABIP is just about a textbook case for unluckiness as a pitcher. His home run rate is also a bit elevated. All told, Pavano will make some team very happy, especially if he signs for around $5 million as MLB Trade Rumors seems to think he might.
Sure, he might have some injury woes in his past, but there is a significant part of me that wants the Sox to sign Pavano over Rich Harden for 2010. Not only will Pavano cost less, but it will allow me to put the Pavano name of the back of a Red Sox tee, something I’ve been wanting to do since he stole $40 million from the Yankees between 05-08. It would be nice to buy the jersey without having to get it custom made.
Chad Bradford: I must say that I’m a huge fan of groundball machines. Other than employ an awkward, mound-scraping delivery, there’s nothing Bradford does better than induce ground balls. With the contract he is likely to command, at just a couple million, Bradford’s 78 mph fastball would be a great asset out of the ‘pen for the Sox.
Chan Ho Park: Another underappreciated and undervalued pitcher, Park owes his depleted stock to an awful stretch with the Rangers, Padres, and Mets spanning 2002-2007. Somewhere along the line, however, Park learned how to pitch and resurrected his career with the Phillies. Signed to just a $2.5 million base salary, he can pitch from the bullpen or the rotation. With his 3.49 FIP in 2009 to go along with a 7.88 K/9 and 3.56 BB/9, Park can be a very effective pitcher for a contending club. As long as his velocity holds (91.0 mph in 2009), he will command the strike zone and rack up the quality innings.
A cheap fifth starter/ long man option, he is an excellent option at an affordable price. When players like Park get overlooked every year, it makes you wonder if the small-market teams really deserve all the sympathy they get.
After reading the recent article on Jeremy Hermida, you probably are now aware of my affinity for platoon bats. While there are not many great lefty-only mashers on free agency, I would welcome the addition of a batter to platoon or partially platoon with the Sox’ hitters.
Unfortunately, this free agent class is handicapped by a lack of lefty-killers. Gabe Kapler was the only true batter who fit the platoon bill. Though at first glance he appears to be a good fit, Reed Johnson doesn’t have enough power to carry the small side of a platoon.
At this juncture, I would love to see the Sox extend a Spring Training invite to Andruw Jones. Though this is not nearly the ANDRUW JONES who hit 92 home runs between 2005 and 2006, he seems to be able to fit the role of a fifth outfielder that can deliver on spot duty. He still possesses considerable power and brought a great approach to the plate against southpaws (29 BBs against 24 Ks in 148 PAs in 2009). Though he hit far more home runs against righties (13 HR in 162 ABs in 2009) than lefties (4 HR in 119 ABs), he possesses enough upside for an invite or low cost signing.
When considering the Sox’ offseason moves this year, don’t underrate the transactions that the media may write-off as “filler” or unimportant. Remember when Nick Green held the infield together in the late spring? Those one or two small moves every year can make the difference between a playoff appearance or early golf rounds in Florida.
If you have burning questions about Red Sox Baseball, please submit your questions to Mike_Silver_FireBrandAL@yahoo.com. We’d love to hear what’s got you thinking!