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Monday, November 26, 2012

Baseball Notes for November 26, 2012

More moves and rumors are starting to come in now that the baseball offseason is in full-swing. It’s always interesting to see the jostling that takes place, as teams seek to set their 2013 rosters, while battling other teams for resources. Despite Thanksgiving dominating this past week, there was still a flurry of activity that provided a lot of fuel to the hot stove fires.

***A week after pulling off a stunning trade with the Florida Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays finally named their manager for next season. The fact that it was John Gibbons surprised many. Gibbons managed Toronto for parts of five seasons from 2004 to 2008, before getting fired after finishing with a 305-305 overall record.

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos, who joined the Blue Jays after Gibbons initial termination, cited wanting to hire someone with organizational familiarity as the reason why he chose to recycle his manager. With a number of intriguing managerial candidates currently seeking jobs, including Brad Ausmus, who received rave reviews when interviewing for Boston’s vacancy, it’s perplexing that Toronto wasn’t willing to think more outside the box with such an overhauled team. Re-hiring Gibbons to manage the Jays new squadron of talent is the equivalent of buying an expensive painting and putting it in a frame that had previously held a family photo.

*** The Red Sox made their second free-agent signing of note, inking outfielder Jonny Gomes to a two-year, $10 million deal. Calling Gomes and his career -10.1 dWAR an outfielder is generous, but he can at least mash left-handed pitching, putting up a .284/.382/.512 split for his career. The problem is that he is nearly unplayable against righties, as his split spiral to .223/.307/.425 against them. He has been especially helpless against righties during the past two seasons, batting just a combined .181.

It’s clear that the Sox believe Gomes can help them against the star southpaws like C.C. Sabathia and David Price within their division. However, one has to wonder if his one specialized talent is worth the contract he received. The Red Sox faced just 51 lefty starters last season, and only 29.8 of the team’s total plate appearances came against left-handers. For a player who clearly can’t be a full-time starter or even a regular, the money given to Gomes seems excessive.

***One of the superlatives being hurled around the most in regards to Gomes is his identity as a “great clubhouse guy.” I wish people would quantify exactly what that means. Surely baseball players enjoy teammates who tell great jokes, spring for the occasional dinner and give good hugs, but is that really worth $5 million a season? Personally, I feel “good clubhouse guy” is a label that ranks right up there with “scrappy” and “knows how to win” as clichés that have little actual value.

*** Although Dustin Pedroia is signed to a team-friendly contract that still has two years and $20 million, plus a 2015 club option for $11 million, the Red Sox are reportedly interested in exploring an extension with their second baseman. If this is true, chalk it up to yet another questionable move by GM Ben Cherington. The Sox have zero incentive to extend Pedroia now, other than making him incredibly happy and rich.

The Philadelphia Phillies probably wish they could re-do the five-year, $125 million extension they gave Ryan Howard three years before his contract was up. The Red Sox could very well be in the same boat if they decide to capitulate with Pedroia. 

Assuming Pedroia’s 2015 option is picked up, he will enter the 2016 season as a 33-year-old infielder with 10 major league seasons under his belt. Feeling confident enough to give him a long-term extension three years before that time is utter madness. It is a much sounder financial move for the Red Sox to have Pedroia play out his current deal and start negotiating closer to the time when he will be a free agent, so they can evaluate if he will still have enough value to be worthy of a substantial extension.

***If you’re looking for tangible proof that mediocrity pays, look no further than the three-year, $25 million contract Jeremy Guthrie just received from the Kansas City Royals. Guthrie has pitched exclusively for second division teams during his career, but that only partly accounts for his 55-77 career record and 4.28 ERA.  He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher and allows a lot of home runs, which is a curious combination for the Royals, who are desperately trying to establish a legitimate starting rotation.

The Royals will have to hope that Guthrie can duplicate the results he had with them over the second half of last season after coming over in a trade from the Rockies. He posted a 3.16 ERA in those 14 starts, along with the lowest home run rate of his career. Since he is never going to be an ace, The Royals are paying lot of money for a mid-rotation starter, but it’s reflective of the premium being placed on pitching around baseball.

***In the wake of being part of the epic salary dump trade from the Marlins to the Blue Jays, pitcher Mark Buehrle claimed he was lied to on multiple occasions by Miami. Presumably he is referring to an unofficial no-trade agreement he believed he had with the team. However, as Dan Szymborski pointed out on Twitter, if there was any sort of side-agreement, it would have been a violation of the CBA.

If Buehrle did have an illegal side deal in place, then shame on him, and he needs to stop his grousing. When you sign a $58 million contract like Buehrle did last off-season, you get everything you want on paper, or deal with the consequences. He had no official no-trade clause and shouldn’t be surprised that he has been moved. After all, quoting another of my favorite clichés, it’s just part of baseball.


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