I suppose we ought to thank the Yankees. Instead of waiting until the week of Christmas, New York extended its middle finger to the Red Sox a little earlier in this holiday season of generosity (Hey, thanks, Detroit).
The Red Sox land Marco Scutaro, who is a nice, if aging, leadoff hitter who should help fill a void at the top of the lineup, where Boston struggled last season. The Yankees counter by pulling off a trade for a guy that fangraphs.com ranks as the 22nd-most valuable trade commodity in Major League Baseball (For the record, Clay Buchholz is No. 36 on that list).
How does that happen? One year after dropping cartoon money bags at the feet of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees made a trade for outfielder Curtis Granderson in which they will receive significant value for dollars invested.
Granderson will make $5.5 million in 2010, which has to be some sort of violation of the luxury tax, right? The Yankees are supposed to spend blindly so that the Twins and Royals can reap some sort of handout. They're not supposed to make shrewd, cost-effective moves by…well, I don't know how exactly they did it. Did Arizona GM Josh Byrnes at least get a back rub out of the deal? Maybe he is just ticked that Theo Epstein may have written a better letter of recommendation for Jed Hoyer.
All right look, from an on-field perspective, this deal does make the Yankees marginally better. Johnny Damon, who may be on his way out, had his best season since 2006 last year, and it's that production that Granderson will have to replace. Give Granderson a few more home runs with the short porch in right, and it's about a wash. Damon hit for a higher average, OPS, and OBP even in his down years, but it remains probable that Granderson will use his new surroundings – and protection in the lineup – to improve on those areas as well.
Where the Yankees have really improved is defensively. No longer will Granderson need to chase down balls hit into the deep recesses of Comerica Park. And the Yankees now have someone who can get the ball past the swirling hot dog wrapper in short left field.
They're better today than they were Sunday. But this isn't Albert Pujols they just picked up.
Of course, at this point I would never rule him out either.
The knee-jerk cliché is "How do the Red Sox react?" As if Epstein needs to go and do something completely stupid like talk about Coco Crisp. Oh. Wait.
One thing about the Epstein regime has been the understanding that it doesn't need to react immediately to something the Yankees did, despite the hue and cry of certain members of the fan base who are now ready to surrender Buchholz, Casey Kelly, and Frank the Peanut Guy to Toronto for Roy Halladay as retaliation. The last time the Sox made a moronic reaction to losing a player, Matt Clement was here for three years. (That's not to say Halladay would be moronic, only the desperation to land him.)
Look at last December when the Yankees beat the Sox to Teixeira for pennies on the dollar, and the Sox reacted merely by sending Mike Lowell a Christmas card signed, "We're cool, right?" Come July, a deal was on the table for catcher Victor Martinez, who now resides as the incumbent game-caller, and one of the team's most dangerous threats. As great as Teixeira is, how many franchise catchers do you normally find on the trade market? If you're better to wait, you wait. It's not about selling tickets at Christmas at Fenway, no matter what Lucchino says.
The Yankees don't and shouldn't dictate Boston's plan, but the longer Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are out there, the more of a possibility we'll have a repeat of last year, when Scott Boras and Co. announced out of nowhere that Teixeira was headed to New York and that the Red Sox were getting coal along with the egg splattered on their faces. The Sox may be in discussions with Bay or Holliday. That doesn't mean there isn't another top-dollar deal already in place in the Bronx.
So, we could very well be in for another fleecing. Although if, as some have opined, the Red Sox really would prefer to rebuild in 2010 without actually calling it a rebuilding year, perhaps we ought to expect the inevitable kick to the groin within the next 16 days.