Kotchman to Seattle
With all the positive moves the Red Sox have made this off-season, it’s a bit curious that Casey Kotchman became the first player expendable in the wake of the Adrian Beltre acquisition.
Following the trade, the party line claimed that Kotchman became obsolete – and expendable – with four starting-caliber corner infielders on the roster. While it is certainly true that the team does not need four such players to man two positions (Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, Mike Lowell, Kotchman), it seems as if the team has forgotten that they have been aggressively shopping Mike Lowell since November.
Following a trade of Mike Lowell – whose occurrence is a near certainty – the team is likely to be without a quality reserve corner infielder. Sure, Jed Lowrie and Bill Hall will be able to man the position in the event of injury and off-days, but what kind of upgrade do they provide over Kotchman?
In the event of a significant injury to Beltre or Youkilis, both Hall and Lowrie would be completely miscast as a full-time option. In addition, with Beltre missing 51 games this past season, entrusting the insurance policy to either option is a very dangerous proposition.
Handing Lowrie the job for any extended period is a poor option with wrist injuries and difficulty at the plate ruining his 2009 season.
Hall, on the other hand, has declined considerably at the plate since his career year in 2006. Posting a .740 OPS in 2007, he followed that up with a .689 figure in ’08, before collapsing last season to the tune of .201/.258/.338 in 334 at-bats.
For a team with championship aspirations, these are not the types of player that should be leaned on – even as a contingency plan.
Which begs the question – why trade Kotchman?
Though Kotchman would be somewhat expensive for a bench player in 2010, with some pundits projecting a $4 million arbitration figure for the first baseman, the deal seems poor given the options available.
Maybe the best move at this point would be to keep Mike Lowell. As Epstein stated in a recent article from the Red Sox homepage, perhaps Lowell will be able to embrace a role as a part-time player with the team.
“ ‘We’ll probably be able to put Mike in a situation either here or elsewhere where he can make an impact on a team. If he’s a little bit slower rehabbing or hasn’t quite gotten back to the position where he can play regularly, then I think Mike feels like if he’s going to have a complementary type role, he’d rather have it here, better in Boston than anywhere else, the way he feels about the Red Sox and the way we feel about him. I know it might look awkward from the outside, but it’s a situation that will probably take care of itself as long as we stay on the same page, and we certainly are right now.’ ”
Even with the hip and finger maladies that accompany Lowell, it would be odd if the team would be unable to find another organization that would take him on – assuming that the team will pay a significant portion of his salary. With the third base vacancies across the league, it would be an upset if a team would not take him on at the $3 million that Texas was willing to accept.
But, is a trade of Lowell really the best move that the Sox could make? If Kotchman were still in the fold – a reliable, $4+ million player for 2010 – it would make some sense: save the money and lean on Kotchman to spell Youkilis and Beltre. But, with no other reliable options, the team could run itself into some serious trouble by letting Lowell go.
With the team saving just a projected $3 million by trading their veteran third baseman, it would be hard to argue against keeping him. Though the team would be criticized for employing a $12 million role player, a $9 million write-off is certainly worse. It seems as if the weight of the team’s $146 million payroll is getting very heavy.
Chapman to the Reds
According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, the Cincinnati Reds have come to terms with Aroldis Chapman on a 5-year, $25 million deal. Though the Red Sox were reported to be among the front-runners to acquire the left-hander’s services, fans should not frown too much about the development. Despite Chapman’s blazing fastball and stellar scouting reports, a deal of this magnitude is a very risky one for a young amateur.
The Reds may have some serious questions to answer in the upcoming seasons. If Chapman takes longer than two years to become major-league ready, he could turn into a significant waste of resources, as the team will have paid $25 million for the first 2-3 years of his career. In this scenario, it will be difficult for Chapman to be worth anything more than an ordinary free agent – a reward that may be difficult for Cincinnati management to justify, as their payroll topped just $70 million twice in the past decade.
A team with deep pockets such as the Red Sox could have made good use out of such a contract, as their dollars-to-wins efficiency ratio could have made the deal a positive one. Especially with the “bridge years” to develop their prospects, the Sox could have made good use out of such a contract. Still, such a deal would not have been a home run by any means. Even Stephen Strasburg was less expensive, costing the Nationals 4 years and $15.1 million.
Such are the perils of free agency in the Major Leagues. For the Reds’ sake, hopefully they will not get burned.