Playing nine innings while begrudgingly admiring Brian Cashman's stealth approach to major signings and trades ...
1. Oh, yeah, of course we have serious trade envy. That rascal Cashman did it again. The Yankees' stunning acquisition of soon-to-be 23-year-old Michael Pineda from the Mariners Saturday was a crusher to Red Sox fans who have spent the winter wondering how Ben Cherington will fill out the rest of the rotation beyond Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. Pineda, a 6-foot-7-inch fireballer who turns 23 tomorrow, looks like what Jose Contreras must have looked like in the early '70s and, at his electric best, features a repertoire that makes you wonder if he's a relative of Pedro and Ramon Martinez. While no young pitcher is a sure thing, Pineda, who has uncommonly consistent command for a young, lanky hurler, seems to be a pretty secure bet, and it's frustrating to see the Yankees revitalize their rotation in one swift move. There's of course a chance that the deal turns out to favor Seattle -- some young hitters are sure things, and Jesus Montero appears to be one cut from that rare mold. But in an offseason in which the Red Sox notebooks have been filled with names like Aaron Cook and Carlos Silva and -- woo-hoo! -- Vincente Padilla, it's going to be difficult to see Pineda in pinstripes that first time and not mutter "damn Yankees" a time or three.
2. Hey, but at least they didn't get King Felix, right?
3. Obviously from that first item, I do get Red Sox fans' frustration that the Yankees were able to swing the Pineda deal. But the suggestion that Cherington could have trumped the package the Mariners received is a myopic one. To trade a pitcher like Pineda, the Mariners had to get back an elite bat, and by all accounts Montero will be just that. He may not catch long-term, but as arguably the best pure hitting prospect in baseball, one who has been the Yankees' top prospect for three years running according to Baseball America and who tore the cover off the ball with the Yankees in September (.996 OPS in 69 at-bats), he's exactly what the feeble Mariners need. It requires very little hyperbole to envision him as their next Edgar Martinez. Yes, Ryan Lavarnway is a promising power hitter. But he's more than two years older, less experienced, and not nearly as well-rounded at the plate. There's no comparison right now. Think a young Mike Napoli compared to a young Miguel Cabrera.
4. I'm confident in saying that Cherington, like Theo Epstein before him, won't be the reactionary sort when it comes to constructing a roster. Chasing what the Yankees do is the pathway to regrettable transactions. What I hope is that their interest in Roy Oswalt has been genuine from the beginning and that luxury tax be damned, they find a way to come to terms with him in the next couple of days. It's a smart move and the right one, independent of what the Yankees have or haven't done.
5. I'll admit, I'm still somewhat reluctant to expect Clay Buchholz to be everything he was in 2010, when he went 17-7 and battled King Felix right down to the finish for the ERA title. He's just 27 and obviously an outstanding pitcher when healthy, but "when healthy" is also the caveat. He hasn't thrown a pitch with meaning since June, has never thrown more than 173 innings in a season, and there has to be some concern about a prime-of-career pitcher who is in excellent shape having an injury as odd as a stress fracture in his back.
6. It seemed nonsensical to me at first, like they were pandering to the element of the fan base that wants Jason Varitek on the Red Sox roster even if he hits .221 and throws out 14 percent of base-stealers . . . which is exactly what he did last year. But I think I get why the Red Sox have apparently given him an open-ended invitation to spring training as a non-roster player. It gives them some depth and insurance should Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Kelly Shoppach suffer an injury, and should it appear he's not going to make the team, there's the possibility to give him a proper sendoff similar to the one the Patriots gave Tedy Bruschi before the 2009 season when he retired at the end of camp. Varitek could then ease in to a job in the organization, though the hunch here is that he ends up with the Orioles if he's adamant about playing another year.
7. I was initially intrigued by the Aaron Cook signing -- he was an All-Star not so long ago!. At least, right up until I took more than a cursory glance at his statistics. His K/BB rate is abysmal (below 2/1 each of the past three years), his career WHIP is slightly below 1.50 lifetime and trending ominously downward, and even during his All-Star season in
2006 2008 he led the league in hits allowed (237 in 211.1 innings). Getting out of Colorado probably won't matter -- his home/road splits are pretty much identical. He's nothing more than an extra arm. Maybe he can rent Kevin Millwood's old place in Pawtucket.
8. One of the fun sidebars from the 2012 season will be watching the Cubs from afar, not only to see how deftly Theo Epstein gets out from the bad contracts he inherited (there is no way the Red Sox should be interested in Marlon Byrd) or what he gets in return for his most appealing trade chip, Red Sox nuisance Matt Garza. Whenever Epstein makes a transaction for the Cubs -- signing David DeJesus, trading for Ian Stewart and Anthony Rizzo -- I find myself still looking at it through the prism of whether he'd pursue some of the same players if he were still in Boston. When he re-signed Kerry Wood last week, I couldn't help but think he finally got him, two years too late.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Maybe this Kendrick Perkins will become familiar to Boston sports fans in a few years, though he's a long drive away right now. The other Perk -- the one already familiar and beloved -- returns to the Garden tonight, and I'm looking forward to his reaction to the rousing ovation he deserves.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.