Welcome to the second weekly edition of Red Sox Hot Stove Rumors. From here on out, we’ll be synthesizing everything Red Sox hot-stove related into one, nice, neat , steaming pile of crap for you to smell every week. We’ll mildly speculate, grandstand, posture and pose for your pleasure and enjoyment. Enjoy the drinks but please, be careful not to break the things on our wall.
So without further adieu, we bring you the no-man’s land, Turkey stuffed edition of Red Sox hot stove rumors. Grab out the forks and gobble it down, kids.
It looks like at this point that of the trio of catchers the Red Sox have at their disposal, that Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be the most likely to be jettisoned to another team. On the surface, it makes sense. His power would be appealing to a number of teams and he’s easily the most expensive of Boston’s stockpile of MLB catching talent. You’d be trading him, his salary and opening up a clear pathway for Ryan Lavarnway to hopefully blossom into Boston’s catcher of the future.
However, I wouldn’t totally rule out Lavarnway turning into potential trade bait in the right transaction. Scouts are said to have serious concerns as to whether Lavarnway will ever be a suitable backstop at the Major League level even with his recent improvements. The Red Sox may find it advantageous to include him in a trade package for the right talent while his name still generates a little buzz.
Either way, expect the Red Sox to tread carefully with trading either guy. They’ll only deal Lavarnway in the right deal. If Salty’s the one to go, they’ll want the right return. There’s certainly no rush to get a deal done for the sake of it. Saltalamacchia could even be potential 1B material if the Red Sox become more convinced of his approach at the plate. Everyone seems resigned to something happening, I just wouldn’t bet on it happening quickly.
Mike Napoli seemed to be the player the Red Sox were beginning to focus in on as the week progressed, but signing him could provide a whole swath of unique challenges in the short term.
This first is how they’ll handle the catching situation – both from a roster management standpoint and financially. Napoli has expressed his preference for catching, and before David Ross was signed, that was an appealing aspect of his overall makeup. However, with Ross now in the fold and the Red Sox finding themselves with a significant catching surplus, it’s going to be hard to imagine a scenario where Napoli spends much time behind the plate given the current makeup of the roster. While this isn’t a deal breaker by any means, it could mean the Red Sox end up throwing a little extra cash his way to close the deal. He could start getting plain ole’ expensive if they run into competition who have a catching void. The bad news for the Sox is that by all accounts – the Yankees appear to be taking a look at Napoli as a solution at catcher. I like Napoli, but he’s not worth a bidding war – especially with the Yankees.
The Adam LaRoche market went from very loud and noisy to oddly quiet this past week. LaRoche continues to negotiate with the Washington Nationals, but progress is reported to be slow. There seems to be an impasse, where LaRoche wants a three-year deal so he can guarantee a more certain future for his children. The Nationals seem deeply reluctant to go that far and I can’t imagine the Red Sox would go much further, either. LaRoche has every right to look for that kind of a deal given his past season, but it’s a hard sell given that it was such an outlier compared to the rest of his career.
To be totally honest – I like LaRoche better than anyone on the 1B market. In terms of cost, projectability and all around usefulness (he’s a pretty nifty fielder, too) he’s probably the best fit here. But three years is way too much. Expect the Sox to keep tabs, but if he doesn’t move off his three-year asking price, don’t expect him to be here.
Speaking of keeping tabs, the Red Sox checked in with Kevin Youkilis’ agent last week, but it was seen as nothing more than due diligence. With his body breaking down and a total inability to catch up to fastballs, it seems like Youkilis’ best days are clearly behind him. I’d say any checking in here is nothing more than that.
The Red Sox are planning on reaching out to Dustin Pedroia in hopes of negotiating a contract extension. One would have to think that Ian Kinsler’s five year, $75 million deal from last year is probably a starting point, with his overall value likely landing in the $90-$100 million territory. If he hits that number, it’d make him the highest paid 2B ever.
The Red Sox have reportedly shown interest in Cleveland Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera. My reaction to it is somewhat mixed. On one hand, I love the bat and the power potential in Fenway. He has two years left on his deal, which will pay him $6.5 million this season, and then $10 million in 2014, thus making him a decent deal in so far as Shortstops are concerned. All that is good.
The bad is his glove. He’s logged a -35.8 FLD since 2009, which pretty much suggests he’s not really a SS anymore. For a reference point, that’s almost twice as bad as Derek Jeter’s been over that period.
Still he’s worth considering, especially when you take into account his staggering similarities to Marco Scutaro, who experienced as much success here in Boston as any SS since Nomar Garciaparra. Over the same 2009 sample until now, Scutaro has posted a wOBA of .336 to Cabrera’s .335. He’s posted 12.2 fWAR to Cabrera’s 10.7 Obviously, there are park effects and a whole other mess of factors to consider, but as a rough profile, it’s an interesting point of reference.
Also in the mix is Stephen Drew, who seems like a more cost-friendly alternative. Drew’s a significantly better fielder than Cabrera and isn’t THAT much of an offensive downgrade. He’s also coming off a pretty atrocious season, so the likelihood the Red Sox could nab him on short-term, low money deal is pretty high.
The decision will likely come down to whether the Red Sox see Cabrera’s upside as being good enough to warrant dropping a prospect or two in order to get him – as opposed to simply paying for a year or two of Drew. My hunch would be – if we’re looking at one of these two as a bridge to Xander Bogaerts – that the Sox would err towards Drew. Mind you, that’s my assumption only.
Josh Hamilton’s name popped up a lot this week and the rumors were more or less all over the place. Jon Heyman ran a piece where he had an anonymous MLB exec who said his club expected the Red Sox to be major players for Hamilton. This more or less jived with reports from the previous week that the Red Sox had him on their radar. The bubble was deflated a little bit over the weekend however, when Rob Bradford at WEEI insisted the interest was ‘overblown’.
I’ll be getting into Hamilton more during my Tuesday piece – but he might be a better fit here than people assume on the surface. Many people involved in the debate this week assumed the Red Sox might be able to get him on a rich, but shorter-term deal – like say for three years and $90 million or 4 years, and $110 million. Considering the relative lack of action in the Hamilton market, that doesn’t appear to be altogether unrealistic.
Regardless of who jumps in and when, most teams seem to be in a staring contest right now to see who’ll be the first to jump into public bidding. I say give it a little while. If his price is somewhat reasonable, it could turn into a feeding frenzy quick – even with all the risk associated with signing him. His price might be low enough that teams ditch the ‘wait and see’ posture and embrace the risk –reward he offers.
The Red Sox have also checked in on Cody Ross again, but the Phillies and Mariners seem interested as well. Ross wants 3 years and as much as $25 million. I can’t see the Red Sox buckling and signing him to that kind of a deal. The Phillies might if they don’t land some of their big-ticket targets like B.J. Upton, but the Mariners could be quiet contenders. With some significant offensive needs and no apparent help on the way from their farm system, I would expect the Mariners to be surprise spenders this offseason. Guys like Ross would be right up their alley.
Jason Bay got a call from the Red Sox, but I can’t imagine a scenario where he ends up here on anything more than a ST invite. Not only has he proven to be insanely injury prone, but his production the past few years has taken a nose-dive. He’s barely worth a flier at this point. A non-contender like the Royals or Rockies might find him interesting, but I can’t imagine a contender or a big spender giving him what he’s looking for.
Some names fell off the board this week, most notably Melky Cabrera and Torii Hunter. Cabrera seemed like a trendy buy-low pick for a lot of Saber-nerds, but I have substantial worries about the kind of media-frenzy he’d create here in Boston. Not that it’s something you necessarily want to make a talent evaluation based on, but with a team in desperate need of any kind of PR help they can get, you’d think Cabrera is exactly the kind of guy they’d avoid altogether.
Hunter is a bit of a disappointment, but once the Tigers entered the fray, it seemed inevitable he’d end up there. The Tigers are built to win now and with a well-capitalized owner and the need & motivation to go the extra mile to add that last piece or two – it’s no surprise that they went the extra year and up to $26 million. Some might not be thrilled with that deal, but I think it’s OK considering the situation. His raw value was probably in the 2 year, $20 million range. To a team with a deeper need – probably closer to $22-23 million. For a team with a need and motivation, $26 seems about right.
That’s all for now! Be sure to check back next week for all the latest Red Sox hot stove related rumblings!