Thinking about the Red Sox while skipping rocks before the water freezes …
* If you’re keeping track of such things, the Red Sox could be in the market for a catcher, corner infielder, designated hitter, outfielder, and bullpen help this offseason. The Red Sox will have ample money to spend – somewhere in the neighborhood of $40-$50 million – and the free agent market looks relatively thin. Trades are always a possibility, but the Red Sox’ best trading chips may be on their big league roster.
As a result, of David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre – the Red Sox have an option on Ortiz while the other two are free agents - the Sox seem to be in a position where they must keep at least two players. Offering Martinez a two-year deal was, at best, a half-hearted effort, and it will be interesting to see whether the Red Sox were merely dipping their toes in the water on Martinez or trying to get him for a song.
For what it’s worth, entering last night’s game, the Red Sox’ ERA this season was 4.21 with Martinez behind the plate, 4.13 with anyone else. Not much of a difference there. It may be nothing more than a coincidence, but the younger pitchers on the Red Sox staff – Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard, for instance – all have excelled while some of the more veteran pitchers (Josh Beckett, John Lackey, even Jonathan Papelbon) have struggled.
In Beckett’s case, his ERA before Martinez arrived last season was 3.27. Since that time, his ERA is 5.27. In Papelbon’s case, his ERA has jumped from 2.00 to 3.28. If that sounds like a criticism of Martinez, it isn’t. Rather, it raises the question of whether some of the Red Sox veterans are giving more resistance to their catcher.
* Speaking of Buchholz, he has induced 23 double plays this season, fifth-best in the league entering last night’s games and nine more than he had in his entire career entering this season. His ground-to-fly ratio also ranked in the top 10 in the American League. As Jim Palmer noted earlier this season, the key to Buchholz’ success has been his ability to get quicker outs by keeping the ball on the ground, something that also has allowed him to more effectively work out of jams.
Given how much Buchholz still throws to first base, is he really calmer with runners on base? Or has his two-seam fastball just given him the out pitch he desperately needed in key situations?
* The Red Sox’ medical staff has come under a fair amount of heat this season, but let’s be fair here. The Jacoby Ellsbury diagnosis was a mistake, to be sure. But does anyone believe that Dustin Pedroia came back against his will? Or that the Red Sox discouraged it? For certain, Pedroia and Red Sox officials all had input in deciding whether to bring him back when they did. Pedroia is a terrific competitor, as we all know. He tried. It failed. Let’s not go blaming the doctors for everything.
After all, Martinez came back quickly from a broken thumb and had no problems, right? Do the doctors get credit for that?
* Forgot to add shortstop to the list of potential needs. If you’re not worried about that position, you should be. Marco Scutaro has a rotator cuff injury, which raises questions. Will Scutaro be able to throw next year? And if so, can he still play shortstop? Beckett won the Red Sox a World Series in 2007, but the Red Sox are missing Hanley Ramirez more and more every day.
* Of those Red Sox players who stayed healthy, J.D. Drew was one of the bigger disappointments this season, but all signs point to a big year in 2011. In his career, Drew effectively has had two contracts years – 2004 and 2006 – and he performed quite well. In '04 with Atlanta, Drew batted .305 with 31 home runs, 93 RBI and 118 runs, the last of which marks the only time in his career when he scored 100 or more. In '06, after which he opted of his deal with the Dodgers to sign with the Red Sox, he batted .283 with 20 home runs, 84 runs and 100 RBI, the only time in his career he has knocked in 100 or more.
Oh, and in those two years, Drew played 145 and 146 games, respectively, the highest totals of his career.
* Since the trading deadline, the Yankees are 26-22, the Rays are 25-22 and the Red Sox are 24-23. If the Sox had known that the Rays and Yankees would essentially tread water down the stretch, might Red Sox officials have invested a little more in this club in the way of a real in-season acquisition or two?
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