Red Sox vs. Orioles

Pedroia to Short?

Sometimes, the answer is so obvious that it was staring you in the face the entire time. Well, maybe Pedroia to short isn’t that obvious, but I’m surprised that it took this long for anyone to suggest the move at all, myself included.

There are risks here, though. Pedroia was moved off short for a reason. Even during the minor leagues, many scouts liked him at the keystone long term. Now, three seasons into his major league career at second base, there is no saying what his arm or his range will look like across the diamond. Though he’s got great fielding skills for a second baseman, there are differences in reading grounders, going to the left up the middle, throwing distances, positional defensive standards, and a litany of other concerns when changing positions.

While on the one hand, this looks like a legitimate consideration, there is a possibility that the rumor is merely a decoy. As the shortstop market has devolved – or, maybe, it became blatantly obvious that Scutaro was the only option to begin with – the Sox have lost significant leverage in their negotiations. In quite an expert move, however, they have essentially quadrupled their pool of candidates from one (Scutaro), to four (Scutaro, Orlando Hudson, Placido Polanco, Felipe Lopez).

Now, those look like some good options – each having their own unique positives. Hudson, perhaps the most established of the quartet with the best fielding reputation, has the lowest WAR at 2.9. Polanco, with his empty batting average but dogged consistency, has a 3.1 WAR. Lopez and Scutaro, the biggest risk-reward tradeoff of the bunch, have the best WAR, at 4.6 and 4.5, respectively.

But there is considerable risk in this type of move, especially in the event that the team were to sign a mid or long term deal with a second baseman. Aside from banking on that player to deliver in the field and at the plate, the Sox would also be betting on a successful transition to shortstop out of Pedroia.

If the team signed Felipe Lopez to a two year deal, for instance, they will be betting against Lopez regressing to his pre-2009 performance level and Pedroia holding down the shortstop position for two-plus years. If either player were to fall off in production, the move could hurt the team more than it helps.

Either way, the move is a brilliant stroke by an organization backed into a corner. If the team is serious about the transition, then it is a great example of ingenuity and thinking outside the box. If they are not considering the switch, then it is a prudent strategical move to salvage what is left of their negotiating power with Team Marco Scutaro and the rest of the field of shortstops.

And, if the Placido Polanco “sweepstakes” are any indication of the strength of the second base market, this could be one of the best tactical maneuvers we’ve seen in years. Two years for $10-$12 million? Sounds like a great calculated risk.

Wagner to the Braves

On Wednesday, the Braves agreed to terms with Bean Stringfellow and reliever Billy Wagner for a $7 million deal in 2010, with a $6.5 million vesting option in 2011 if Wagner reaches 50 games played.

It is a bit surprising that Wagner agreed to a deal this early, as he was one of the best free agent relievers available, one who could have waited out lesser pitchers to maximize his earnings.

Still, the move has to be considered a minor victory for the Red Sox. Though there would have been positives to keeping Wagner on the club, there is something to be said for answering important question marks early in the off season. The Wagner situation was one of these, as this all but closes the book on a Jon Papelbon trade, which could have lead to significant PR issues if or when the rumors started cooking.

Now, the Sox just need to sit back, relax, and make sure the Braves don’t sign any of John Lackey, Matt Holliday, Marco Scutaro, or Jose Valverde to their squad. Should the Braves abstain from signing any of these five free agents, the Sox will collect Atlanta’s 20th overall pick.

The Sox should be able to take care of at least one of Holliday and Scutaro – if not both – while any of the non-Yankee suitors (Seattle, Anaheim, Milwaukee, Mets, or even Boston themselves) will hopefully land Lackey. Valverde looks to be out, as the Braves likely will abstain from a second pricey reliever.

Not a bad haul for an aging rental – and the Sox could use some help on the farm.

And before we close out today’s article, I would like to pose my own poll question: Does anyone think that Tito actually drinks Bigelow Green Tea with Joe Torre (and now Phil Simms) while “reminiscing about baseball”? I think he’d prefer a beer – but, that’s just me.