New CBA will benefit fans
What can you buy with $11.5 million?
Pitching? A middle-of-the order bat? Depth?
Thanks to baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we should soon find out. The agreement was signed this week, and means the sport will roll on without a work stoppage for at least five more years.
Most importantly for the Red Sox was the increase in the total payroll allowed without a luxury tax. Last year, that total was $136.5 million. In 2007, the total is $148 million. This increase does not affect many teams. The Yankees are already over it, and few other teams are near it. The Red Sox (and a couple of other big-market clubs) spend close to that amount but try not to go past it.
Now, the Sox can spend another $11.5 million dollars without paying a tax. That's a little breathing room.
To be sure, that's no spending spree in today's game. No extreme makeover. But every little bit helps, and it's enough to add a couple of very useful parts. As we approach the free agent season, it's good to have a little more spending money.
The players and owners deserve a major tip of the cap for getting this done. While most of the world was watching the dirt on Kenny Rogers' left hand (which, of course, is a far cry from the blood on Curt Schilling's sock), Major League Baseball quietly announced the new deal. A work stoppage -- or the mere talk of a lockout or strike -- could have been a terrible blow to a sport that has climbed back into the psyche of the country (despite what the World Series ratings might say.)
Another key change in the CBA is the rule saying a team must sign its free agents by Dec. 7 (or Jan. 8 with the offer of salary arbitration) or forfeit that right until May 1. Now, a team can treat its free agents like any other free agents out there. This will allow players to continue negotiating with their club through the offseason. Often, a player thinks there will be a market for his services, only to find out there is little interest. By then, it's too late to return to his prior club. Now, players can test the market and return if they so choose. Teams may also look elsewhere for free agent help, only to return to that player when other free agents have signed elsewhere.
This is good for teams, and good for players. It's even good for fans, who may see popular players return to teams when they would've had to sign elsewhere in the past.
Baseball has often been accused of forgetting its fans, but this time the game got it right.
Let's open up the e-mailbag...
Tom I couldn't help noticing that many of the great young Tiger pitchersBonderman, Verlander, and Zumaya, to name threeare on average younger than the Sox contingent of Papelbon, Hansen, and Delcarmen. Doesn't it undermine the Sox "build for the future" approach when the Tiger guys are shutting down great lineups in the postseason while a lot of the Sox pitchers were considered too young and inexperienced to handle mop-up duty vs. the like of the Kansas City Royals? i.e.: Shouldn't Sox fans be questioning the competence of the Sox staff in evaluating young talent?
Kasey, Lebanon, NH
A: No. What we should be questioning is whether or not fans are prepared for that infamous "step back." The Tigers reached this point after 12 straight losing seasons! It took them a long time to draft and build these young arms. Verlander and Zumaya are rookies, but let's not forget that Bonderman was one game over .500 last season after two straight losing seasons. In fact, Bonderman was 6-19 in 2003, when the Tigers lost 119 games! Are we ready to suffer through a few seasons like that to get to where the Tigers are now?
It's not a rhetorical question. In fact, it's at the very crux of what the Red Sox must decide to do. Do they take their lumps and ride through the highs and lows you get with a young team, or do you turn some of those assets over for veteran stars that can help you now? Make no mistake, the Tigers paid their dues to get to this World Series.
Do you think that its the Fox anchors and video graphics are turning people off from the playoffs? They are tough to watch in my opinion. Maybe muted.
Jonathan, South Boston
A: You are clearly suffering from RemDawg Syndrome, a malady that often overtakes New England in October. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: we don't realize how good we have it with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy until we're forced to watch games without them. The best I can tell you is that Red Sox Classics is still airing on NESN. Check your listings.
I continue to have the same concern, since the Red Sox traded away a number of major league ready prospects this past season, they will be forced to sign free agents in order to compete. The problem as I see it is, the front office is unwilling to offer long term contracts. The best of this years free agents will receive 4-5 year offers, why sign with the Sox for 2 or 3 years?
Tom Mattarocchia, Pahrump, Nev.
A: While the Sox try to limit their long-term deals, they have softened on that stance recently. Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, Coco Crisp, and Josh Beckett were all signed to deals or extensions that extended beyond three years. I think the Sox look at contract length on a case-by-case basis, so I don't see that as a hindrance in signing free agents this off-season.
Tom, how can you gripe about Gonzo's offense at short? He may save 15-20 runs a season with his glove work, and, HE HAD MORE HOME RUNS THAN NIXON!!! (in about the same number of games 111-114). Plus, compared to what other shortstops are making (Jeter-$20.6 mil., Rentaria-$10 mil.,Furcal-$8.7 mil., even Eckstein makes more-$3.3 mil.) he's a steal at $2.6 mil. Comment?
SS, Beaver, Penn.
A: For $2.6 million, I want him back. I just think he'll make more than that. A lot more. I'm concerned that the team will tie up $15 million or more over the next three years for a man who gives unparalleled defense at the position, but lacks offense at the plate. Especially if the Sox are going to try Dustin Pedroia as an everyday second baseman in 2007.
Thanks for your response and I wonder if you guys are still doing on same show from last year with "Red Sox NOW" will be on NESN.
My question: When is offseason for the new show on NESNHD like "Red Sox NOW" start?
Can you give us an announcement as soon as possible?
Jimmy Hui, Quincy
A: Look for a new, revamped off-season Red Sox show to debut in November. It will have a very different look and feel from past winter shows... and will even have a new name. Right now, that's all I can tell you. I've been sworn to secrecy.
Not so much a question as it is a true statement. I read peoples' comments about who should be traded and who should be kept, as well as people complaining about the way things went for the Sox in 2006, how Theo was too stingy when it came to trading prospects at the deadline, things like this. But I urge Sox fans to remember something - before the season prospects were traded to Florida for Josh Beckett. About a month into the season, prospects were sent to the Padres to get Doug Mirabelli back (a
move that people were screaming needed to be done because who could catch Wakefield). In Florida, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez became heroes, ROTY candidates. In San Diego, Josh Bard became a decent hitter and a catcher and Cla Meredith channeled his inner Papelbon.
What I am saying is this - if the Sox had traded more prospects to get help by the trade deadline, there would still be mumblings of how we should have kept so-and-so because look at them now. The grass is always greener on the side of the fence you're not on. And even Theo has admitted that sometimes these things can come back to haunt you. Any thoughts, TC?
A: Michelle, that goes back to my previous answer about the debate. Theo Epstein continues to preach patience, and you can't help but wonder what the future of this team would look like with Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Bard, Cla Meredith, Andy Marte, and even Freddy Garcia on the team.
It's not just a matter of deciding whether or not to trade away prospects. It's even more important deciding which prospects to trade away and which to hold onto. That's clearly a battle the Sox front office is still fighting.
TC, how do you seek Youk fitting into the puzzle? 2006 proved that he's an invaluable piece, particularly with his plate discipline and his salary. But... don't we really want a bit more firepower out of either corner infielder. I see you advocating the pursuit of Carlos Lee, which would give the Sox more of the prototypical 1B. I presume Youk would then move back over to third base. But still, does he have enough power and RBI production for a third baseman in this league?
A: I think there's always room for a young corner infielder with a slick glove and a high OBP. Remember, you simply can't have 25 players making $5 million or more a season. You've got to augment your high-priced stars with young, cost-effective players. Youkilis is definitely one of those players. He gets on base, gets key hits, and handled a new position so well the Sox were able to release J.T. Snow.
I like Lee, and I like the idea of getting him and returning Youkilis to third base... but only if the Sox are getting value in return for Mike Lowell. Lowell's entering the final year of his contract, so in this scenario you'd need to hold on to Youkilis and move the veteran. Otherwise, the Sox would again be leaving the cupboard bare for the future.
Tom - always enjoy your insights online, as I am behind enemy lines and constantly barraged with Yankee propaganda. My question - is the front office going out of its way to aggravate the Nation? Why don't these guys have a straight answer for anything? I feel like Theo is speaking in code. He can't give a straight answer to "is there a contract"?! I'll always be thankful for '04, but listening to these guys is starting to remind me of an Enron conference call circa 2001. Is it just arrogance, or do they somehow these evasive and snarky responses are useful?
Steve Portas, Basking Ridge, NJ
A: It's more like a Bill Belichick conference call circa today. If the Red Sox have learned anything from their counterparts in Foxboro, it's that there is no need to give away information. Any information. Last January, when Theo Epstein returned as GM, he made it clear the team would keep much tighter reigns on any news or information and would not comment on rumors. Since then, the team has done a remarkable job in plugging internal leaks.
Welcome to the New Sox Order. It's only going to get tougher to ferret out info as time goes by.