Now, you kind of have to wonder. What did they see?
What did the Red Sox notice in poring over the medical records of righthander Josh Beckett that prompted a wee bit of nail biting throughout New England last night, an unwanted Thanksgiving Day dessert for Red Sox Nation? Was Guillermo Mota part of the “Shhh” clause of this deal between the Sox and the yard sale Marlins? Or was this just a matter of Boston taking the opportunity to pick more pieces off a dying tree while it had the chance?
In any case, whatever concerns the Red Sox brass might have about Beckett’s shoulder can’t be extreme, Mike Lowell’s $18 million too steep a price to pay for damaged goods. Should we assume though that there’s something in the history that tweaked them just a bit? Otherwise this exchange might not have taken the better part of three days to announce as official, going down to the wire, right up to the 72-hour window Major League Baseball allows for such deliberation.
Um, Josh Beckett, 25-year-old pitcher. Slam dunk, right?
Nope. This is how we arrive at a seven-player deal now as opposed to the original five, the Red Sox reportedly demanding the Marlins toss in Mota as well because of their concerns over Beckett’s shoulder, even threatening to call off the deal if the terms were not met. In turn, the Sox gave up Harvey we hardly knew thee Garcia, in addition to Hanley Ramirez and Jesus Delgado. Everybody's happy. Tickets on sale soon.
But imagine the Red Sox did see something that led to canceling this trade. I’m sure the reaction out there would have been just dandy, the Nation nodding in unison, “Oh, well, tough break but jolly good try by the boys, wouldn’t you say?”
In a turbulent offseason in which faith in the World Series champs of yesteryear has been shaken, thanks to the Halloween departure of Theo Epstein, confusion as to who is running things on Yawkey Way, and an assembly line of “No, thanks” from potential candidates to fill the open GM slot, the last thing this franchise needs is to tease its fan base, only to let them down because of a lame excuse like blisters. Reaction though can’t be a concern if something serious was indeed spotted in the Beckett report, the long-term health issues and $18 million in salary a much bigger hit to take than a couple of schmoes announcing they’re jumping ship to the Yankees on Sons of Sam Horn.
Concern? Well, when a pitcher hits the DL with more frequency than Rich Garces does the Old Country Buffet, of course there should be some. Beckett though insists his shoulder, which was hampered by tendonitis late this past season, is fine, and we have to assume that since the Red Sox gave the thumbs up on the trade, that they agree with Dr. James Andrews and the like. There is nothing to lose sleep over. If there were, well the team would be incredibly daft to have made the deal then, wouldn’t they? The PR ain’t that bad.
Blisters? Nolan Ryan had blisters early on in his career too. The DL appearances? Remember Pedro Martinez’s annual summer trip there? I’d say those are two pretty darned good hurlers there, no?
So is Josh Beckett. He’s not damaged goods, but the concern is there that he could be at some point. A scary thought, but the upside is far too great to spend too much deliberation on it. And really, even if they weren’t all that concerned, what’s the big deal with playing a little chicken to get Mota thrown in as well? The Marlins were desperate to get this deal done, no longer wanting to be burdened by the Lowell money. What's a little hemming and hawing to sweeten the pot?
Mota is coming off an off year in 2005, a season in which he started the year as the Marlins closer, yet struggled to post just a pair of saves and a 4.70 ERA. The 32-year-old reliever had his best season in 2003 when he posted a 1.97 ERA. But Florida did him no favors, watching his ERA balloon from 2.14 in 52 games with the Dodgers to 4.81 in 26 games with the Marlins. His 2005 ERA was the highest he’s had since 2001 with the Montreal Expos (5.26). In his only appearance against Boston, Mota walked two batters in two innings, but also struck out five along the way. There had been rumblings the Yankees were interested in the reliever as well, Boston beating them to the punch.
Concern? Eh. Maybe instead this was playing the game at its finest. If you liked this deal on Tuesday, you love this deal today.
The Red Sox have just greatly improved their starting staff and bullpen, the two reasons why we’re not ordering “Faith Rewarded, Volume Two” this Black Friday. Lowell might stink, or he might have a rebound in the lyrical bandbox, and he brings a Gold Glove to third base, something that as solid as he was, Bill Mueller never did. OK, Edgar Renteria can boast a Gold Glove too. Point taken. Rumors are sparking that Matt Clement could be headed to Milwaukee in exchange for Lyle Overbay. And the GM meetings aren't even for another week or so. Never mind that the Red Sox don't even have one.
In the end, this was a blockbuster deal that had to be made, concern - or hoodwinking - not withstanding.