Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cause for Concern for the Red Sox Future?

Over the last few years, the Red Sox have reaped the benefits of a strong minor league system that was initially developed by Theo Epstein, then strengthened by Ben Cherington.  This system has produced Major League All Stars like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. as well as impact players like Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, and Matt Barnes.  But, over the last year, a number of things have happened that have me concerned about this continuing into the future.  Here, I would like to look at those events that have happened and examine their potential impacts.

1.  THE KIMBREL TRADE
Last year, Dave Dombrowski became Boston's President of Baseball Operations.  Dombrowski has helped build good teams in the past, but has never been shy about giving up prospects.  He arrived as advertized and made a big trade in the offseason for Craig Kimbrel to become Boston's closer.  The price was heavy though: four prospects, two of whom were among Boston's top 10 and two developing into strong prospects.

Manuel Margot was a top young outfielder that could break through this year.  He was blocked in the Majors and Andrew Benintendi was likely to surpass him as a prospect.  Javier Guerra was a middle infielder with power.  Carlos Asuaje was a similar player.  Logan Allen was a pitching prospect that had just been drafted in 2015.  The prevailing opinion is that Boston overpaid for Kimbrel.  None of the prospects are devastating losses, but Boston should have been able to make the trade without giving up all four of them.  They did not give up any of their top four prospects, but they just gave up too many for what they received.

2.  2016 DRAFT
On one hand, this year's draft was a success.  It is not often that a team that does not get to pick until #12 is able to pick up a talent like Jason Groome.  Groome was once considered a possibility to go first overall in the draft but dropped due to signability concerns and some other issues.  However, due to the top-heavy draft class for Boston, most of their other draftees were uninspiring or risky.  They were not able to sign many of their lottery picks and only signed one player after Round 10 for more than $100,000.00.   There is likely only one impact player drafted by Boston this year, though that one could be very good.

3.  INTERNATIONAL SIGNING PENALTY
Boston was singled out for some violations of international free agent signing rules earlier this year.  It was determined that in order for Boston to get around signing restrictions, they made package deals between prospects.  Lesser-rated prospects would sign for the maximum allotted, but part of their bonus would go to higher-rated prospects.  It is important to note that Boston is not the only team to have engaged in these tactics, but they were perhaps a little more blatant about it.  MLB investigated and then handed down a penalty.  Five player contracts were voided and Boston was banned for signing anyone in the 2016-2017 international signing period.  The timing was planned and the penalty came down the day before the signing period began.  Meaning Boston had no time to appeal the ruling or fight the penalty and still be able to be active in the signing period.  The players Boston lost were Albert Guimaro, Simon Muzziotti, Antonio Pineiro, Eduardo Torrealba, and Cesar Gonzalez.  The first two were highly-rated prospects.  So in addition to losing two top international signings, the team is not able to sign any international free agents for a year.

4.  MINOR TRADES
Boston made a couple of trades to improve their depth within the last couple of weeks.  The first was to send Aaron Wilkerson and Wendell Rijo to Milwaukee for Aaron Hill.  The second brought Brad Ziegler from Arizona for Jorge Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe.  Wilkerson looked to be ready to be called to the Majors to join the starting rotation.  Basabe has emerged as a quality prospect over the last few months.  Rijo had been a decent prospect in the past.  Almonte was Boston's top international free agent in the 2012-2013 signing period.  None of these losses were devastating either, in fact, none of the players were even as painful as the players lost in the Kimbrel trade, but yet again, four mid-range prospects were removed from the system.

5.  THE POMERANZ TRADE
This is probably the best devastating individual event and occurred just recently.  Boston sent top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz.  Pomeranz is having a decent season and is under team control through the 2018 season.  But in order to pick him up, Boston gave up their top pitching prospect since Jon Lester.  Sure he is just 18 years old, but Boston's biggest problem has been the inability to develop good pitching.  That problem just continues to be an issue when the team moves its best pitching prospect.

None of these events individually create problems, but combined together and added to the fact that Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada are knocking on the Major League door means that Boston may be suffering organizationally in a few years with a lack of prospects.  There are still good prospects in the system now that won't be quite ready in a couple of years: Jason Groome, Michael Kopech, Josh Ockimey, and Roniel Raudes come to mind.  I am just concerned how the last year's events may cause the organization to suffer somewhat.    

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Red Sox Solo All Stars

Growing up in the early 1990's, the Boston Red Sox were not real great, so the All Star Game was one of my favorite events of the season.  It was a chance to see some of my favorite players on a national stage.  I am not as thrilled by the All Star Game as I used to be, but I still enjoy watching it.

One of the rules that I always thought was interesting was the rule that said every team had to be represented.  I am not sure if all All Star Games have that rule, but it has always been an aspect that I have enjoyed.  I think it is important so that all fans have someone they can watch.  But it has lead to some bizarre choices at times.  Players like Mark Redman, Derrick Turnbow, Mike Williams, and others have been their teams only representatives and were odd, to say the least.  But not all sole representatives have been that regrettable.  Some have been superstars that have been an All Star many times.  Some have been players having great seasons for bad teams.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the Red Sox players who have been the only All Star for the team that game (some years there were two All Star Games).  I have created four categories for the solo All Star: Superstars who have been frequent All Stars, fan favorites, players having one fantastic season, and players who did not deserve to be All Stars.

SUPERSTARS
These are players who were terrific players and it is not embarrassing at all for them to be the sole Red Sox representative.
David Ortiz (2012)
2012 was a bad year for the Red Sox, as most seasons in which Boston had only one All Star were.  But 2012 was especially bad.  A number of high profile players were not producing, but Ortiz was.  Ortiz of course was one of the best hitters in the game and has been an All Star ten times.  He was on the verge of a terrific season, unfortunately he went down with an injury quickly in the second half.
Manny Ramirez (2001)
Manny came over to the Red Sox as a very high profile free agent prior to the 2001 season.  He had been an All Star with Cleveland four times already.  He would go to eight All Star Games with the Red Sox.  He was really their only choice as Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez both went down with injuries for most of the year and Jason Varitek broke his elbow the month before, or he might have gone.
Nomar Garciaparra (1997)
It was Nomar's rookie season, but what a rookie season it was.  Nomar had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time, leading the league in hits and triples while hitting over .300, blasting 30 home runs, and stealing 22 bases.  And all of this from the leadoff spot.  It may have been his rookie year, but it was clear Nomar was a star.  He would picked for five All Star games with the Red Sox, and one with the Dodgers.  Mo Vaughn was injured for a big chunk of the 1997 season and Nomar was the only real choice.
Mo Vaughn (1996)
It is mostly forgotten now, but Mo Vaughn was a huge star at the time.  He was coming off of an MVP season in 1995, and he was possibly even better in 1996, hitting more than 40 home runs for the first time and hitting well over .300.  Vaughn was an All Star three times for Boston, but may have gone to more had first base not been such a loaded position in the American League at the time.

FAN FAVORITES
These are players that are good, occasionally great, but always favorites of the fans.  These players are also not embarrassing.
Dwight Evans (1981)
I believe Evans belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Even so, Evans was not really a superstar, particularly at this point in time, and he was only an All Star three times.  The big Red Sox stars were Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice.  Evans was en route to tying for the league lead in home runs and walks.  He was always a good player and was known to hit 20 home runs and win the Gold Glove.  Evans was Boston's best choice that season, but Carney Lansford should have gone, as he was on his way to winning the batting title.
Pete Runnels (1962)
Runnels won the batting title in 1960 and was on his way to winning it in 1962 as well.  He was Boston's sole representative in the second All Star Game of the 1962 season.  The early 1960's were bleak times for Boston.  Ted Williams had already retired and Carl Yastrzemski had not fully developed into a star at the time.  There were not really any better options that season.  Runnels would be an All Star three times as well for Boston.
Bill Monbouquette (1962)
The first All Star game in 1962 did not go much better for Boston as only Monbo was picked.  Monbouquette top starting pitcher in the early 1960's and went to three games for the Red Sox himself.  1962 was not his best year, but he did end up winning 15 games with a 3.33 ERA and pitched a no hitter.  He also lost 13 but that can be more attributed to how bad the team was, rather than an indictment of Monbouquette.
Rick Ferrell (1933-1934)
Yes, Ferrell is in the Hall of Fame, but I will still not go so far as to suggest that he was a superstar player.  Ferrell had been one of the first major acquisitions by Tom Yawkey after taking over the team.  He was picked up during the season from the Browns and was Boston's first All Star, and their only representative in the first two games.  Boston had been very bad for a long time and had no other real choices in 1933.  Billy Werber or brother Wes Ferrell could have joined him in 1934 though.  Ferrell was an All Star four times with the Red Sox and twice with the Senators.

ONE-YEAR WONDER
These players had a terrific season one time, but never again.  Again, this is not an embarrassment.
Don Schwall (1961)
Schwall was the Rookie of the Year in 1961 and was the team's only All Star in the second game of the year.  Schwall would win 15 games that season and have an ERA of 3.22.  Again the early 1960's were kind of a black hole for Boston.  Runnels could have been an All Star again, but there were not really any other choices to join Schwall.

WHAT THE HELL?
These players were only named All Stars because the team needed a representative and the way the roster was constructed led to these players.  It is kind of hard to be excited for these players being your team's All Star.
Brock Holt (2015)
It was some creative thinking that led to Brock Holt being Boston's only All Star in 2015.  Holt is a decent enough player, and I really like him, but he is at his best when he is a utility player.  He is a contact hitter that can play a number of positions.  And that is why he was selected.  Ned Yost, manager of the All Star Game, had to pick a Red Sox player and picked Holt for his versatility.  He ended up playing in the outfield in the game.  David Ortiz would have been a more reasonable selection.
Scott Cooper (1993-1994)
I have said before that Scott Cooper is one of the worst players to be named to the All Star Game multiple times.  Cooper was picked by Cito Gaston to be Boston's sole representative in both seasons and it had more to do with a lack of third base options than anything.  In both seasons Mo Vaughn would have been a better selection.  Boston also had decent seasons from Danny Darwin and John Valentin in those years.  Cooper was no more than an average hitter, hitting around .280 both seasons.  His power picked up a little in 1994 as he hit 13 home runs that season, as opposed to 9 in 1993.
Mike Fornieles (1961)
And finally we have yet another solo All Star from one of two games in the early 1960's.  Mike Fornieles had a terrific season as a reliever in 1960, but he was not nearly as good in 1961.  He saved 15 games but had a record of 9-8 and an ERA that ballooned more than two full runs from what it was the previous season.  Relievers frequently appear as the solo All Star for teams.  This was the only year that that happened to Boston.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hanley

Just a one-card mailday today and it is this jersey relic of Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez has been terrific defensively at first base, but he has not been the offensive force that Boston hoped they were getting when they signed him to a large contract prior to the 2015 season.  Every once in awhile he shows flashes of getting it back.  Hopefully he does in the second half, Boston could use his bat.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Red Sox with No Cards: 1999

1999 saw a handful of players not receive cards.  Only a couple of these players spent a significant amount of time with the Red Sox, but some of them were once well-known players.

KIRK BULLINGER
Despite being drafted in 1992, Bullinger did not make his Major League debut until 1998.  That debut occurred with the Expos who acquired him in a trade back in 1995 for Ken Hill.  Bullinger returned to the Majors with the Red Sox in 1999 but only appeared in four games in relief.  He had a 4.50 ERA and did not strike anyone out.  Bullinger would bounce around a bit for a few more years.  The only year he came close to being a regular was in 2004 with the Astros.  Bullinger does have some minor league cards with the Red Sox.

BRYCE FLORIE
Acquired at the trading deadline in 1999 from the Tigers for Mike Maroth, Florie was expected to help stabilize the bullpen.  Florie had bounced around from team to team over the previous several seasons and was a serviceable reliever.  He pitched in 14 games down the stretch for the Red Sox, starting two games and relieving in the others.  He finished the season 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA over 30 innings.  The Red Sox would hold onto Florie into 2001.  In 2000, he suffered a career-threatening injury when he was struck in the face by a line drive.  Despite spending parts of three seasons with the Red Sox, Florie has no cards with Boston, or even with any minor league affiliates.

CHAD FONVILLE
Fonville was a speedy middle infielder who never really seemed to be able to put everything together and stick in the Major Leagues.  His best season was his rookie season in 1995 which he split between the Expos and Dodgers and stole 20 bases.  He was given a chance to start the next season, but disappointed and never played in more than a handful of games the rest of his career.  He surfaced in Boston in 1999 and played in three games.  He walked twice but did not register a hit in four plate appearances, though he did steal a base.  It was his last taste of the Major Leagues.  Fonville does have some minor league cards with the Red Sox.

KIP GROSS
Kip Gross is a Nebraska native and fellow former Cornhusker.  Unfortunately, he also has no cards with the Red Sox.  Gross came up with the Reds in the early 1990's and was a decent relief pitcher for them in 1991.  He was traded to the Dodgers the next season in the deal that also sent longtime Reds star Eric Davis to Los Angeles.  He was a little disappointing there and was purchased by the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese league during the 1994 season.  He returned to the U.S. after signing a contract with Boston in 1999.  Gross appeared in 11 games, going 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA.  He pitched for the Astros in 2000 and never again appeared in the Major Leagues.

MARK GUTHRIE
Winning the award for most appearances with the Red Sox without appearing on a piece of cardboard with them in 1999 is this longtime Twins and Dodgers reliever.  Guthrie signed with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the season and appeared in 46 games with the Red Sox, picking up two saves and a 1-1 record.  His ERA was a rather unsightly 5.83.  Guthrie was sent to the Cubs at the August trading deadline along with prospect Cole Liniak in exchange for Rod Beck.  Guthrie pitched a few more years for a number of other teams.

JON NUNNALLY
Once a top prospect with the Royals, Nunnally never quite reached his potential and ended up being a journeyman outfielder.  He had a good rookie season, hitting 14 home runs for Kansas City in 1995.  After a couple of disappointing seasons, he was traded to the Reds, for whom he flourished in 1997, but again disappointed in 1998.  He was traded to the Red Sox prior to the 1999 season for minor leaguer Pat Flury.  He played in just ten games for the Red Sox, hitting .286 with a double and an RBI.  After the season, he was traded to the Mets for Jermaine Allensworth, who never appeared in a Major League game with the Red Sox.  Nunnally does have a couple of minor league cards for Red Sox affiliates.

MARINO SANTANA
Santana is the most obscure player from this post.  His Major League career spanned two seasons and just ten games.  He first appeared in seven games for the Tigers at the age of 26 in 1998, but had an impressive 3.68 ERA.  Boston picked him up prior to the 1999 season and he spent most of the year in the minors.  He pitched in three games for the Red Sox in July but had an alarming 15.75 ERA.  He did strike out four in four innings.  He was out of baseball after 1999.  He does have minor league cards with the Red Sox.

LENNY WEBSTER
Once a highly-regarded catching prospect for the Twins, Webster only once played in more than 100 games.  Webster bounced around a lot, playing for the Twins, Expos (three times), Phillies, Orioles, and Red Sox.  He had his biggest success in 1998 with the Orioles, hitting .285 with 10 home runs in 108 games.  He started the 1999 season with the Orioles, but was released in July and picked up by the Red Sox.  He played in just six games for Boston and never registered a hit in 17 plate appearances.  He returned to the Expos for the third time after the season.

BOB WOLCOTT
Bob Wolcott was another formerly highly-touted prospect.  Wolcott was 21 when he made his Major League debut with the Mariners.  Unfortunately he never had an ERA below 4 and the Mariners eventually gave up on him.  He was still young, just 25, when he appeared for the Red Sox but was with his third Major League team.  He appeared in just four games with the Red Sox, with an 8.10 ERA and more walks than strikeouts.  That was it for his Major League career.  Wolcott does have one minor league card with Boston.

Most of the players appearing in this post are somewhat understandable.  Mark Guthrie really should have appeared at some point, and Bryce Florie should have been able to appear once over the course of the three seasons he played for Boston.  But the player I most wanted to appear on a card with the Red Sox is Kip Gross.  Gross was one of just three former Nebraska Cornhuskers to play for Boston, and only one of them (Adam Stern) ever appeared on cardboard with Boston.  Gross was also from Nebraska.  It is disappointing to not be able to get Red Sox cards of a player from my home state.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

One-Year Wonder Pt. 28: Jamie Moyer

Every once in awhile, the Red Sox pick up a veteran player for a year, or just the stretch run that was a star at one point that I become fascinated with. It's a player that is basically only a role player at that point in their career, but may show flashes of their old brilliance. It's so unusual to see them as a member of the Red Sox, that I try to find as many of their cards as possible. This series will be about some of those players.
Jamie Moyer had a career that spanned 25 seasons, an incredibly long time.  He made his Major League debut in 1986 at the age of 23 with the Chicago Cubs.  He appeared for the final time in 2012 with the Rockies at the age of 49.  Very few pitchers were ever able to pitch to that age.  In between, he spent time with the Rangers, Cardinals, Orioles, Red Sox, Mariners, and Phillies.  He enjoyed his most success with the Mariners.  It is often forgotten that he had spent some time with the Red Sox, mostly because it was so brief.

Moyer was signed as a free agent by the Red Sox from the Orioles prior to the 1996 season in order to help stabilize the rotation.  Moyer was a crafty left-hander and was capable of starting and pitching out of the bullpen, and he did perform both roles well with Boston in his short time.  He pitched in 23 games for the Red Sox, starting ten and relieving 13.  He had a terrific record of 7-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 90 innings en route to leading the league in winning percentage that season.  Unfortunately the Red Sox were not doing much by the time the trading deadline came around that season and Moyer was in high demand.  Boston ended up shipping him to Seattle in exchange for young outfielder Darren Bragg.  That ended up being a regrettable trade as Moyer was a very good pitcher for several years for the Mariners, while Bragg was merely a serviceable outfielder.  Meanwhile Boston continued to have a dearth of pitching for several seasons.

Jamie Moyer was a memorable player due to the extreme length of his career.  He had a very brief tenure with the Red Sox, but it was a successful one.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Topps Now: June 23, 2016

I have been pretty busy lately, hence the lack of regular posting.  Here is the latest Topps Now card to grace my mailbox.  Xander Bogaerts hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning against the White Sox.  Of course it was the only game in a four game set that Boston won.  Xander is no longer leading the league in hits and batting average, but he is still having a very good season and was recently voted to start at shortstop in the All Star game.  He is joining five of his teammates.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Topps Now: June 17 and June 19, 2016

Things have been looking grim for Boston of late.  They have been losing a lot, mostly due to problems with their starting rotation, though their offense has not been as impressive lately.  The draft went well for the Red Sox, in particular getting Jason Groome at #12, but to this date they have yet to officially sign him.  Then yesterday came the news that they violated the rules of the international free agency and had five contracts voided and were banned from signing anyone this year.  Tough month.

Thankfully, a couple of Topps Now cards came in to remind me of good things.  Up first is the June 17 card celebrating David Ortiz's 521st home run, which tied him with three legendary Hall of Famers: Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey, and Boston's own Ted Williams.
Then came the Father's Day card.  Teams wore special uniforms to celebrate the day.  I may have to find a Red Sox cap because I love the ice blue coloring.  Mookie Betts appears on this card for the Red Sox after hitting a go-ahead home run in the 7th inning.  Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers and Carlos Santana of the Indians also appeared.
Hopefully Boston will turn things around.