Even though the hot stove has turned luke warm around the rest of the league, it’s still piping hot in Boston.  To keep you up to date on all of the latest news and information, I’ve put together another piece where I touch upon the most pertinent issues of the day.

The Starting Pitching Watch:  Roy Oswalt and Gavin Floyd

As Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reported earlier today, the Red Sox are still aggressively pursuing Roy Oswalt and have made him an offer.  If they don’t succeed in landing the former Astro and Phillie (which seems increasingly likely), the front office will likely turn their attention toward trying to swing a trade with White Sox for right-handed starting pitcher Gavin Floyd.

Earlier in the offseason, Ben Cherington checked in with Kenny Williams regarding Floyd, only to find the price was too expensive.  Since that time, the White Sox have lost Mark Buehrle to the Marlins via free agency; traded Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin to the Blue Jays and Padres, respectively; and watched the Tigers, their primary divison rival, add Prince Fielder to their already talented (yet defensively challenged) roster.  As a result, it’s probably safe to say that the White Sox will look to go into full rebuilding mode; thereby lowering the price on Floyd.  Also, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal stated, the Red Sox will need to clear a spot or two on the 40-man roster soon, so a trade would probably be the best way to alleviate the roster pinch.

After coming up through the Phillies system, many scouts and baseball insiders labeled Floyd as a future ace.  After having some success in a limited 28 inning major league stint in 2004, he began to struggle; eventually playing his way out of Philadelphia’s long-term plans.  Prior to the 2007 season, Floyd was traded to the White Sox as part of the package for Freddy Garcia.  He continued to have difficulty pitching to major league hitters in 2007, but patience paid off when he finally put together a solid 2.5 fWAR season in 2008.  Since then, he’s been one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers, producing a 3.50-3.75 FIP with a strikeout rate between 18-20%, a ground ball rate around 45%, and a 6-7% walk rate every season.

According to Texas Leaguers, Floyd has a five pitch repertoire that includes a four-seamer, two-seamer, curve, change-up, and cutter.  His four-seamer is his primary pitch.  He gets good velocity (91.2 average), and tends to throw it early or when he’s behind in the count.   While he throws the four-seamer for strikes (64.8%), he doesn’t generate a lot of swings (44.6%) or whiffs (4.6%) with it.  He does a good job mixing in a cutter that bores in the hands of lefties, and a 12-6 curve that freezes hitters.  Both the cutter and curve induce whiffs at an above average rate (14.6% and 11.9%), and likely contribute his ground ball and pop-fly tendencies.  He also throws a two-seamer and a change-up, although they appear to be mostly show pitches.  His change-up is used almost exclusively to neutralize lefties.

Floyd does have a few flaws.  He’s had a tendency to be homer prone over the course of his career, although much of that can be attributed to pitching home games in two of the most hostile pitching environments in baseball.  Pitching in Fenway is yet another hostile environment, but it’s more of a doubles haven than a home run hitters park.  With an outfield that will prominently feature Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ryan Sweeney, there’s a good chance Floyd will be spared many of the adverse affects that come from pitching in Boston.

In terms of the luxury tax, Floyd seems like a great fit.  With a four year $15.5M contract that expires at the end of 2012, he’ll only cost the Red Sox $3.875M against this year’s luxury tax.  If the Red Sox choose to pick up his $9.5M option for 2013, the average annual of his contract will increase to $5M.  Unlike the hidden costs I discussed on Wednesday with regards to Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre‘s contracts, those rules won’t apply with Floyd since the 2013 option is a club option and not a player or conditional option.  Therefore, Floyd’s tax hit will be $5M if the 2013 option is exercised. 

Moving On:  Edwin Jackson

Speaking of starting pitching, Jim Bowden reported on Wednesday that the Red Sox have also made a one year offer to Edwin Jackson and may prefer him to Oswalt.  If the front office does prefer Jackson to Oswalt, it’s likely due to reasons of health and age.  On a one year deal (or even two), Jackson is a palatable signing at the right price.  As I’ve mentioned recently, Jackson is a supremely talented pitcher that suffers from the occasional bouts of inconsistency.  He’s never really put it all together for a full season, and he’s young enough that one could optimistically project him to finally do it.

Earlier today, Dan Connelly of the Baltimore Sun reported that the Orioles are interested in giving Jackson a four year deal.  While Jackson makes sense for the Orioles in the “we’re desperate for pitching and Jackson’s 28, healthy, and talented” sense, I don’t see why Dan Duquette would be willing to give a multi-year deal to a pitcher who’s been relatively ignored all winter.  I suppose that four years would be alright if “the price was right,” but what are the odds of that happening?  Jackson is represented by Scott Boras.  If the best Boras could get him was four years and $32M (after initially requesting 5/$75M based on some reports), do you really think he’d agree to it?  I don’t.  I think he would convince Jackson to take a one year deal to build his value, and then hit the trail again next winter.  As a result, the Orioles would have to severely overpay Jackson when no other bidders are anywhere the vicinity of their offer.  At this point in the winter, it doesn’t make sense.  It makes even less sense if the Orioles aren’t projected to seriously complete for a playoff spot by the time his contract’s up.

The Orioles rumor could just be typical hot stove noise.  If it’s real, the Orioles can have him.  No sense getting into a bidding war over a pitcher that has “feast of famine” written all over him.

I <3 the Luxury Tax

Every day we learn something new about the Red Sox’s luxury tax situation, and today is no different.  Again, the brilliant Alex Speier of WEEI sheds some new light on the situation.

“It had been assumed that John Lackey had given the team a couple million dollars in additional payroll flexibility with the news that Tommy John surgery that will cost him all of the 2012 season. That is because his absence for the season in turn gives the team an option on his services at the major league minimum for the 2015 season, thus seemingly turning his contract from a five-year, $82.5 million ($16.5 million AAV) contract to a six-year, $83 million contract ($13.83 million AAV).

However, that conclusion was based on a premature push of the fast-forward button. Lackey’s contract remains a five-year, $82.5 million deal. There was a conditional club option for the 2015 season that, if he missed an entire year with a preexisting elbow condition, he would pitch in 2015 for the major league minimum. That is now a club option (rather than a conditional one), rather than a guaranteed season. As such, it does not alter how Lackey’s contract impacts the team’s payroll in 2012. He still represents $16.5 million in salary against the luxury tax threshold in 2012.”

I consider myself to be fairly savvy when it comes to the luxury tax.  I’m far from an expert, but I have a better understanding of how tax works–at least in comparison to the average fan.  All along, I (and many, many others) had been working under the impression that Lackey’s 2015 option was a conditional option, which would be considered a “guaranteed season.”  When I did my luxury tax calculations, I always used the $13.83M number because I figured it was a foregone conclusion it’d be exercised.  Unfortunately, the 2015 option is a club option, which means the $2.7M tax relief will only come during that season if the option is exercised.  So much for the dream of Lackey’s injury saving the club some money…

Andrew Bailey Avoids Salary Arbitration

According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Andrew Bailey has agreed to a one year deal worth $3.9M with the Red Sox to avoid arbitration.  When salary figures were exchanged earlier this month, Bailey requested $4.7M, and the Red Sox countered with $3.35M.  Essentially, the two sides split the difference and called it a day.  Ideally, I would have preferred he signed for $3.5M (or less), but this is an outcome I can easily accept.

Cody Ross Deal Official

There’s not really a whole lot to say about Ross’s signing that we already haven’t said other than now, it’s “official.”  In order to clear a spot on the roster for him, the Red Sox have designated Scott Atchison for assignment.  Atchison has been yo-yoed back and forth between AAA Pawtucket and Boston pretty consistently for the past two years.  In a pinch, he performed admirably making spot starts, pitching in long relief, and soaking up mop-up innings.  Now out of options, the front office had no choice but to let him go.  There’s still an outside chance Atchison returns, but he’d have to clear waivers and agree to a minor league deal to do so.  With a glut of fringy relief pitchers already on the roster, I can’t imagine either side would be interested in rekindling their relationship.