Kimbrel is in his baseball-playing prime at 27 years of age. He began his career with the Atlanta Braves and was traded in the winter of 2014-2015 to the San Diego Padres. At that time, the Padres were in win-now mode: that offseason they would sign Kimbrel, along with hard-hitting outfielder Matt Kemp and workhorse starting pitcher James Shields. Now a year removed from that flurry of additions, San Diego is back to rebuilding its base of youthful talent again, and Dave Dombrowski of Boston helped them to that end.
But paying that price is a luxury you can afford when previous GM Ben Cherington stocked your farm with top prospects. Apart from that, Kimbrel is truly a Major League talent. In 6 seasons, he has amassed a 1.63 ERA in 348.1 IP, striking out 563 and featuring a 0.927 WHIP and 14.5 SO/9 rate. What Kimbrel will provide is a young, shut-down closer to replace the aging Koji Uehara. Both Uehara and 7th/8th inning specialist Junichi Tazawa should see increased rest with the presence of Kimbrel.
Kimbrel’s contract keeps him under team control through the 2018 season. At $11MM for 2016 and $13MM for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, his contract is a hit to the books, but it is a lighter one than that of other recent additions like Pablo Sandoval (weight pun entirely intended).
Though his fastball clocks in at a hard 98 MPH, Kimbrel’s heart is soft: he is the Chairman of Players Curing Kids Cancer. Kimbrel donates $100 when he gets a save and $25 every time he strikes out a batter, giving Sox fans just one more reason to stand up and cheer in the 9th inning.
After the horror of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings the city of Boston and its fans try to find a distraction in sporting events for three hours or so. Boston Strong is the way to be and everyone in Boston should be proud of the National Anthem at the Bruins game last night. Sports really are just distractions to the outside world we live in today. We all find comfort in being a part of a capacity crowd at Fenway, The Garden or Gillette and feel part of something big. What happened this week is something bigger than we ever thought would happen to the city of Boston. Boston’s athletes and athletes around the country truly showed how strong Boston is and that they are willing to help in any way they can.
The Red Sox were the first Boston team to play after the Marathon, but on the road in Cleveland against old friend Terry Francona. Francona, who managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, did not want the focus of the series to be on him and it certainly isn’t now. The focus is on something much bigger than he could have ever imagined and certainly never wished for. The Indians and all of Major League Baseball payed tribute to Boston playing songs like “Dirty Water” and “Sweet Caroline” in the ballparks. The rival New York Yankees even had a special banner on their scoreboard combining the logos of the two teams saying “Pray for Boston.” Seeing all of Major League Baseball come together for the city of Boston is a great and when the Red Sox return home on Friday the atmosphere will be similar to The Garden last night. Former Boston athletes have spoken out as well, including Jonathan Papelbon and Josh Reddick. Once an athlete plays in Boston he will always be a part of it.
With the emotions running high the Red Sox took the field on Tuesday night looking for a win. After going down in order in the first the Sox offense came alive and scored seven runs in the second inning. Those runs stood the whole game as the offense went on to strikeout an astounding sixteen times in the game including Daniel Nava having a quarter of those with four of his own in the 7-2 win. The win was not as important as taking the field for the city of Boston but it certainly added to the moment. The personality on this team seems to be a good one amid a horrible tragedy like this, the athletes on the field seem to rally around it. Boston will fight on. Will Middlebrooks a young player on the Red Sox seems to have his head in the right place with quotes like “honored to put on this jersey for this city.” You just feel like the team knows baseball is just a game to the city right now and if they can distract the minds of fans then they are doing their job.
On Wedneday night Alfredo Aceves took the hill and had a typical Aceves outing he looked good for stretches and bad for stretches. He got through the first five innings without allowing a run until the sixth inning where he allowed home runs to Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi. He was pulled and from there the cast of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Andrew Bailey slammed the door for the 6-3 win. Mike Carp in his first start of the season had three hits in as many at bats. The first five hitters in the order all had multiple hit games that being Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia, Napoli, and Nava. Will Middlebrooks continued to struggle going 0-5 and will be on the bench for tonight’s series finale.
Jon Lester takes the mound tonight looking for win number three on the year. Lester had a great outing against the Rays this past Saturday and looks to keep up with a good start to the year. Zack McAllister starts for the Indians who put up two quality starts against the Rays and White Sox respectively. With Terry Francona’s new bunch hosting the Red Sox not getting a lot of media attention you bet his return to Fenway in May for a four game weekend set will be huge. The owners will try to welcome him back in some strange way and he probably won’t want any part of it. His return to Fenway will be a big deal as it is Cleveland’s only visit to Fenway this season.
Friday’s return to Fenway will certainly be a big deal as well. When Clay Buchholz takes the mound in the top of the first you bet the park will be buzzing with “We Love Boston” chants. Boston is a great city and the people are Boston are great people. Remain Boston Strong.
The laundry list of things Alfredo Aceves has done got longer this past weekend with him lobbing balls during batting practice when he was supposed to be giving full effort. Manager John Farrell did not appreciate the stunt Aceves pulled even after pitching coach Juan Nieves said to go full speed. Apparently it has been addressed and the team is ready to move on. Moving on from Aceves could be the next move. No question Aceves is talented, the guy can pitch and is not afraid on the mound of anything. Sometimes that comes back to bite him. Last year he was forced into a new role as closer and for a time he did well after blowing two games in the first weekend.
Aceves, when his head is on straight can be a force on the mound. Before last season he had two loses in his career. The Yankees let him go for what we assume the same reasons the Red Sox met with his agent, the guy has a screw lose. He wears number 91 in honor of Dennis Rodman, whom he idolizes. Is that not a red flag? With the World Baseball Classic this year Aceves, will be away from the Red Sox for two weeks as he represents Team Mexico. During those two weeks the Red Sox can really gauge whether or not to keep Aceves on the team. He is cheap and good pitching never comes cheap but, it is worth the head games from him with a team preaching clubhouse guys and chemistry?
I would not say just cut Aceves loose because he could be a valuable chip for trade. Teams may stay away because of the baggage he brings but if you can pitch, teams will tolerate anything. I do not believe he should be on this team this year. After last year with being upset over not being in a save situation or taking a strange route to the dugout to avoid Bobby Valentine, he wore out his welcome. The team is preaching new identity with a whole new staff. Farrell has said he wants people to be accountable and show up on time. Aceves would seem to give a thrilling interview, I just feel like the staff doesn’t have a handle on him.
John Farrell had an incident last year in Toronto with Yunel Escobar where the shortstop had a homophobic slur on his eye black. This incident was huge in baseball as Escober was suspended and seemingly Farrell did not notice the eye black. I understand players should be accountable for themselves but a manager should not have allowed such things to happen. Farrell is known from his pitching coach days but now he leads the Red Sox team. I fear an incident between him and Aceves is inevitable.
This is the fourth manager in four years for Aceves, to say it is his fault I’d be lying, but maybe he does not take orders well. If his head was on straight Aceves would be wanted by every team. He was the best Red Sox player in the month of September 2011 and most of the 2011 season doing everything for the team. It felt like he pitched in every game in September after each starter could not get out of six innings. Not sure he is a starter but he will be starting for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He is a great long man. He should not be considered as a closer. What will he be this season? Please tell us John Farrell and Ben Cherington.
Since the Red Sox and Mike Napoli informally agreed to terms on a 3 year $39 million contract, the NHL Lockout has been settled, the Patriots are hosting a home playoff game this Sunday and Rajon Rondo has been suspended twice. Now we know why the deal has not been settled. The Red Sox like always, are pushing for either less money or less years for Napoli’s services, whose injury history is well known. The Sox brass seems to be worried about his hip. Neither side has real leverage. Napoli, if sent back to the open market would be seen as damaged goods, if the Red Sox do not finalize an agreement within a few weeks. The Red Sox need a first baseman and do not want to give up a draft pick to sign Adam LaRoche. This relationship is rocky from the start, even with the marriage seeming destined to happen once the season ended.
Napoli, I feel, will finally sign with the Red Sox sometime next week as arbitration hearings on unsigned and controllable players are coming up. Those seem to be settled as every player with get a raise, even Andrew Bailey. Napoli is no defensive wiz at first base but, the Red Sox feel the rest of the infield defense can pick up the slack. Stephen Drew, Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks can carry the weight and help the pitchers out, making the majority of routine plays. Three years and $39 million is vastly overpaying for a guy who didn’t hit above .230 last year. The Red Sox are paying him solely on the fact that he mashes at Fenway Park and is a good clubhouse presence. Almost all of the money saved from the Dodgers blockbuster trade has been spent on five players, if this deal is ever settled.
When Napoli is signed, where will he hit in the order? I feel the way the Red Sox lineup may go has him hitting fifth in the order, which I do not like at all but that is just how the roster is. The batting order I envision would go something like this:
- CF Ellsbury
- 2B Pedroia
- 3B Middlebrooks
- DH Ortiz
- 1B Napoli
- LF Gomes
- RF Victorino
- C Saltalmacchia
- SS Drew
Give or take a few moves the batting order could look like that. The Red Sox no longer have a 40 homer 120 RBI threat. Ortiz cannot reach those numbers anymore. I love Middlebrooks and his potential but he is not a thumper the Red Sox need, at least not yet. Jonny Gomes as a six hitter scares me. He has never started regularly and is making more this year than he has in his eleven year career. I understand contracts in baseball are almost never lived up to. We had our own examples in town last year, but throwing money at empty holes does not solve anything.
As much as the offense will be talked about, last year they did still score runs. The pitching was abysmal. Bring in Ryan Dempster and Joel Hanrahan and all things are solved? Not quite. Dempster is an innings eater but the AL East may change that. He will not be asked to be an ace though. Hanrahan has been announced as the closer already and hopefully that does not get to his head with Andrew Bailey ready to step in if needed. With the acquisition of Hanrahan the trades for relievers last year in Bailey and Melancon (traded for Hanrahan) have been admitted as failures. I still feel the Red Sox need to add some pitching depth possibly some minor league deals to Jair Jurrjens or Jeff Karstens. Alfredo Aceves and Franklin Morales will be the long men but bouncing back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation is not easy for everyone.
With spring training just five weeks away, many key free agents remain unsigned like Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, which the Red Sox figure to stay away from both. Once those players sign, the market for other players I feel will materialize and the Red Sox will add some depth to the rotation. The real question is, what else will happen between now and when the Napoli signing is finalized? With hockey and baseball on the horizon and football playoffs in full swing, it is a good time to be a sports fan.
Scott Podsednick. Daniel Nava. Ryan Sweeney. Darnell McDonald.
If you thought that group of guys would be the Red Sox outfield on June 13, I would call you crazy.
Podsednick was let go by the Phillies and impressed the Red Sox in a quick stint in Pawtucket. Nava was left off the spring training roster and was even in the minor league portion of the media guide and just was called up at the right moment. Ryan Sweeney was the throw-in, in the Andrew Bailey trade. McDonald is only on the roster to hit left handed pitching as he is the only one of the group a true right handed hitter as Nava is a switch hitter. This is also after the Red Sox released Marlon Byrd last Saturday.
Cody Ross. Carl Crawford. Jacoby Ellsbury.
What was thought to be the Red Sox projected outfield of the winter are all on the disabled list. Crawford has been on the DL all year and Ellsbury was hurt in the home opener. Ross was injured most recently is projected to be back next week as he begins a rehab assignment this Friday at Pawtucket.
Soon the Red Sox will have some roster decisions to make. Ellsbury who I believe will not be with the Red Sox beyond next year, has low value right now to be traded as he is injured. Crawford’s contract is unmovable. Ross could help a contender if the Red Sox continue to struggle. Ross being a right handed hitter makes me believe McDonald’s days are numbered. Of course if Kevin Youkilis is moved that opens up another roster spot for an outfielder. Ellsbury has been a slow healer and there is not real projected date as to when he will be back. Crawford just started swinging a bat while he has been facing many setbacks.
Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherrington will definitely have some decisions to make in the upcoming weeks. I feel the Sox outfield when all said and done with be Crawford, Ellsbury, and Sweeney. Ross will be moved. McDonald will be cut. Nava and Podsednick will be left in a battle for the bench spot. Ryan Kalish is also hitting well in AAA which could also spell another move. What we know is changes are coming and seemingly no one is untouchable except Crawford and Ellsbury for the time being.
Next up in our player previews is a player who fans seem to either love or hate, J.D. Drew.
The outfielder approaches his contract year as he nears the end of a 5 year, $70 million deal that he signed prior to the 2007 season. Health has always been J.D. Drew’s biggest downside, but when healthy he is a player who is an extremely patient hitter with above average power, runs the bases well, and plays elite right field defense. Over the first 4 years of Drew’s five year deal he has had two all-star level seasons bookended by two subpar seasons. So which J.D. Drew will we see in 2011?
We will look at his 2010 statistics, his career highs in parenthesis, and his 2011 outlook.
Games: 139 (146, 2006)
Average: .255 (.323, 2001)
On-Base Percentage: .341 (.436, 2004)
Slugging Percentage: .452 (.613, 2001)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .793 (1.027, 2007)
Home Runs: 22 (31, 2004)
Runs Batted In: 68 (100, 2006)
Runs: 69 (118, 2004)
Doubles: 24 (34, 2006)
Walks: 60 (118, 2004)
UZR/150*: +4.9 (+18.5, 2004)
*UZR/150 is a sabermetric number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games. Zero is an average fielder.
When you look J.D. Drew’s career highs and 2010 numbers, two things jump out. The first is that he can be an extremely productive player. He can really be a true 4 tool player, with speed the only tool that is not outstanding though he is a good and smart base runner. However, the other thing that jumps out to you is that he has not put up career best years in any of those categories since he signed his deal with the Red Sox in 2007.
The reason for his poor 2010 can most likely be attributed to two issues that Drew recently spoke about to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. The first that he mentioned was an injured left hamstring that limited him to 139 games in 2010, an injury that Drew said was extremely painful during the end of the year. Drew has actually been more durable since joining the Red Sox, but never in his career has played more than 146 games.
The hamstring issue is supposed to lie in the area at the top of the hamstring. Drew received platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy in December, and from what he says it sounds like he is still working towards getting back to 100% and he will ease back into his baseball activities. Drew told Bradford, “It is a lot stronger than it was during the season, so hopefully that will help overcome some of the issue when I get into camp and we can ease into where things are good and go from there.” Hopefully the treatment this off-season means that Drew can continue to play about 120-130 games this season.
Drew also said he struggled with the strike zone in 2010. Drew’s career walk rate is an outstanding 14% and he is considered to be a master of the strike zone. However, his OBP in 2010 was the lowest it has been since Drew’s rookie year. Drew indicated that he got into his own head and started to swing at pitches he normally would not. Drew told Bradford, “My whole thing is quality at-bats. I had a really tough time with that last year. I had fits trying to have quality at-bats. I think you watched and saw on TV.” 2010 did seem to be the year of the pitcher, and I suppose it is possible that umpires consciously were looser with their strike zones in 2010. However I tend to think that this was just a statistical fluctuation and that Drew should see his walk rate rise from the 11% of 2010, closer to his career mark of 14%. Same is true of his average. His batting average on balls hit in play (babip) was .282 last year, which should regress towards his career average of .314 bringing his batting average north with it.
Paying Drew $70 million over five years may seem like a lot for a guy who has not had a career year in any statistical category since joining the Red Sox and also has not been able to remain healthy. While this does seem like the case, it is Drew’s versatility that makes him so consistently valuable. His ability to contribute with the glove as well as with his eye and bat are what makes him worth his contract. Theo Epstein indicated as much, and it prompted the guys over at Fan Graphs to take a look at it. Their conclusion was that Drew’s contract has paid him perfectly appropriately for the value he has returned, even with the time missed to injury.