The Napoli saga continues, with the Sox recently expressing hope for a resolution in the wake of the Adam LaRoche signing. I do think ultimately Napoli will be the Sox 1B in 2013, but that makes for very boring message board discussion.
Post: Sox finally sign Napoli!
Reply: Yay or nay! Depending on whether or not I am EnchiladaT.
So in the interests of discussion not related to Richard Nixon, partisan politics and pike fights, I am still proposing actual baseball talk related to the Sox and 1B. I have given minimal thought to more exciting alternatives, and proposing the following players as trade bait.
Ryan Lavarnway. The Sox really do not need Lavarnway with Saltalamacchia in the mix, and he is ever closing to age himself out of prospect status. His MLB experience is minimal and largely unsuccessful, save one game in 2011 against Baltimore. Still, he is young and plays catcher, and has some minor league success with both the bat and the glove.
Jose Iglesias. While I have advocated for him as the starting shortstop two off-seasons running, his fit into the future plans is largely questionable, and really, his future as a player is probably somewhere along the lines of Cesar Izturis. He certainly has some skills other teams will want, but lacks other complimentary skills that make him a desirable commodity. With Stephen Drew in the lineup in 2014, and Xander Bogaerts remaining as a shortstop, Iglesias might find himself in Prospect Limbo.
Felix Doubront. Doubront is an easily tradable commodity as a young LHSP with 5 years of control left. He will probably top out as a middle of the rotation starter, and has less potential than many of the prospects below him. Short term, the Sox might be wiser to deal Doubront and use a chunk of the Napoli money for Shaun Marcum, who is a much better overall pitcher. Jair Jurrjens is another option to take over for Doubront, although his future is a little more questionable. He was an All Star in 2011, but has since been derailed by a knee injury. Still, by opening day, that injury will be nearly 20 months in the past, and he might be ready to resume his top form.
Bullpen arms. Assuming the rotation is set, the Sox have 10 pitchers (Hanrahan, Bailey, Aceves, Morales, Miller, Uehara, Tazawa, Breslow, Bard, and Mortenson) fighting for (likely) 7 spots. Even with Mortenson and Bard having options remaining, there is a logjam.
The targets, in no particular order
Ike Davis. Davis has been off and on the block this offseason, with the Mets only interested in moving him in the right deal. He has struggled with diseases and injuries the past 2 seasons, but has shown he can be a very successful MLB hitter. For Davis, I easily surrender Doubront, but the Mets probably balk. As the Mets are desperate for SP and OF help, I would certainly be willing to include Bryce Brentz, however, this might still not be enough. If it was, I would pull that trigger somewhere in between Wilpon saying “O” and “K”.
Justin Smoak / Mike Carp. Smoak is a huge roll of the dice. His MLB success is minimal, but he also ahs one of the lowest BABIP in all of baseball over that stretch. So far, his career is littered with obscenely good mini-teams dispersed among large periods of “0 for” games. Carp is a similar hitter with some injury struggles and spent most of 9 seasons in the minors. Still Carp has the much better MLB track record, which is hardly an honor in this case. Both players could be very successful if they can stay healthy, but the likelihood is not significantly high. I would not deal Doubront for either, but I would gamble with Lavarnway. The upgrade, however is minimal and better deals can be found elsewhere.
Matt Adams. St. Louis is unlikely to displace Allen Craig at 1B, given his success in 2012, and unlikely to move him anywhere else, given the ease with which he can injure himself. This leaves 24yo Matt Adams blocked and relegated to AAA with the occasional injury call up. Adams is a big boy, with corresponding Big Boy Power from the left side. He also has Big Boy Range around first base, meaning most of his mobility comes from the Earth rotating underneath him. He has posted an OPS over .900 every year in the minors, except his lone A-ball season in 2010, where he “struggled” with a career low .896. The concerns from Adams are that his .minor league OBP, which is over .360, is heavily dependent on his batting average, which is over .300, and his defensive skills, which are somewhere between “almost acceptable” and “abysmal.” Still 1B defense is really more of a bonus rather than a requirement. I would be hesitant to deal Doubront for Adams, but Iglesias would certainly be worth sending. The Cardinals have one season remaining for oft-injured Rafael Furcal at shortstop, and then they have only Pete Kozma on the depth charts. If they are not remarkably high on Kozma, they might be amenable to this deal.
Tyler Moore. Lost in the Morse / LaRoche situation is that Moore was already expendable. He hits with solid right handed power, homering once every 17 PA last year for the Nationals. The needs of the Nationals are probably more in the minors, as they have solid MLB players everywhere else. They would definitely take Doubront for him, althought the price might not get much lower. Moore could easily fail, as his hardly known for anything beyond power, and a pairing of Doubront and Napoli is flat out better than Marcum and Moore. Morse is in play, although the price will go up with all the names involved. Morse figures to have a large appeal and is a fit for every team in the AL East, plus a few others. (Yet strangely, the equally priced and better Kubel is not. Go figure.)
Logan Morrison. I supposed every Marlin not named Stanton or Nolasco is available to some degree. Morrison has shown plenty of flashes of potential, but never really established himself as the player everyone thought he should be. He has all the skills, however. He also has repeatedly annoyed Marlins upper management with his Twitter account and reportedly expects superstar treatment without first providing superstar performance. The Marlins might accept Doubront in return, if for no other reason than he does not tweet,, and the Sox might find this amenable. I have enough faith in Morrison that I pull the trigger and then go get Marcum.
Daric Barton. Barton is a Bill James player all the way. His primary skills are OBP and defense. He has missed significant time the last couple seasons with various injuries, but certainly re-established his trademark plate disciple the last half of 2012 in the minors. Offensively, he has less firepower than the Salvation Army, which might be a drawback if the Sox want a 5-spot hitter at 1B. However, Barton is an ideal 2 spot hitter. This is not really a need for Boston, as they already have one of the best in the league in Pedroia, and still have good options (Drew, Victorino) should they drop Pedroia to third. Still a top three of Ellsbury Barton Pedroia gives a lot to like in front of Ortiz and Middlebrooks. It is tough to gauge what Oakland wants or needs. They had a glaring hole at shortstop, but have since signed Japanese star Hiroyki Nakajima. They have a weakness at catcher, but their in-house solution they already have is basically the higher-ranked version of Lavarnway. And they do not really need another SP with no options left, although Beane is always amenable to dealing from depth for more prospects. While a three-team deal is always possible, to me, that is Beane’s problem and not mine.
Michael Cuddyer. The Rockies do not need Cuddyer, his two remaining years, and his waning versatility, as they have an OF and 1B surplus. His defense in RF is far less than what other Rockies, notably Carlos Gonzalez, are capable of, but Cuddyer is far more comforatable on the right-side of the field, as he is deaf in his left ear and fears not hearing other fielders calling him off. But, hey, 1B is on the right side, so this is not an issue for Boston. Cuddyer is signed for 2 more years, but turns 34 in March, and is simply not the hitter he was in Minnesota. Still, he plays 1B, has some offensive skills, and hits right-handed, an attractive combo for Boston. As Cuddyer is under contract for 2 more years totaling $21mill , acquiring him limits the Sox ability to upgrade at SP without exceeding the Luxury Tax Threshold. I doubt the Sox could get both Cuddyer and Marcum and stay below unless Marcum was amenable to a dirt cheap deal. Not that I would deal Doubront for Cuddyer anyway, as he could possibly be had for a lot less. The appeal of Lavarnway or Iglesias is presumably limited in Colorado, due to their current roster. However, the Rockies might find Aceves or Bailey to be adequate compensation.
Josh Willingham / Jason Kubel. I can lump these two in as one option. If Mike Morse is a valid option with his 1 year / $7mill deal, I do not see how Kubel (1 yr / $7.5mill) and Willingham (2 yrs / $14mill) are not in play. The only drawback to Willingham is he has played all of 3 games at 1B in his career. Kubel has not played many more. Both have very clear offensive track records that cannot be denied, however.
Brett Wallace. Houston needs a lot of things. Wallace appears to be relegated to DH duties with the signing of Carlos Pena and the acquisition of potential Gold Glover Matt Dominguez at 3B. Wallace is the type of target you go for when Justin Smoak is just too exciting. At the MLB level, he has shown little, but he certainly has an impressive minor league resume. He is basically Matt Adams with less power, more plate discipline and better defense. His lackluster MLB career can probably be somewhat attributed to being placed squarely in the middle of an extremely inept Houston lineup, where Wallace might find himself to focus of rival pitching staffs in pregame meetings (with an actual rival meeting transcripted below, and by “actual” I mean fictional. But it could have happened).
“OK, let’s figure out that Astro lineup. How do we stop Chris Johnson from beating us?”
“The Titan’s running back?”
“No, apparently he is their third baseman.”
“Didn’t they trade him to Arizona?”
“Did they? OK I’m lost. How do we stop, oh I don’t know, Brett Lowrie from beating us?”
“Did you mean Brett Wallace, Jed Lowrie, or the Blue Jays third baseman that we are not playing against today?”
“Does it really matter? Just don’t let him beat us. OK?”
“I hear if you hit Brett Lawrie’s wrist with a pitch, you can hear it snap in the upper deck. But what about Jed Wallace?”
So the actual plan when I started this was to find a productive 1B to deal Doubront for, and then open a spot in the rotation for Marcum, who I think is a clear upgrade over Doubront and this situation represents the Sox best chance to upgrade the rotation due to the immobility of other pitchers, namely Lackey and Dempster. And the secondary goal was to make Brett Wallace / Astro lineup jokes. With regards to the former, Cuddyer, Kubel and Willigham are not great options, as all make too much money to squeeze in Marcum. Kubel and especially Willingham should still be on the table until Napoli is resolved, and Willingham’s lack of experience at 1B is a non-factor to me. However, giving up Doubront and not being able to sign Marcum does make no sense for the overall upgrade here. Someone else would have to go in any case.
Smoak is an option under the right cirucmstances, but not in this situation, where he might have to be relied upon offensively. Get a solid MLB 5 spot hitter in LF or C, and that changes the fit for Smoak . Carp (for Lavarnway?) should still be in play for LF, where he stands a chance at displacing Nava. Also the acquisition of Carp would allow me to make more Mike Trout / Carp / Fish jokes, but this consideration is rarely a factor for Cherington, which is a little off-putting. (Although, really, there are like 3 jokes before it gets stale.) Adams is a nice option, but is in the same category as Smoak. Really, getting Adams signifies the rebuild is fully underway and potentially time-consuming.
I would prefer Wallace over either of Smoak or Adams for 2013, and he could be worth surrendering Lavarnway for, but that should be Plan D or lower at best, far behind Napoli. I am not really all that high on the one dimensional Moore and would pass on him altogether. Wallace / Marcum might not really be an upgrade over Napoli / Doubront.
I would deal Doubront for Davis (with Brentz also going), Morrison, or Barton, assuming other teams were willing. Davis is far and away my favorite option. If I need a hitter who, paired with Marcum, represents an upgrade over Napoli and Doubront, I do think all have potential. And I include Barton as an improvement, since the step down from Napoli to Barton is likely to be less than the step up from Doubront to Marcum. I also would have faith in Ortiz, Middlebrooks and Saltalamacchia handling 4 through 6 in the order behind the Ellsbury Barton Pedroia OBP machine.