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On Ortiz's contract, Tanaka's potential availability, and Herrera's useful glove

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 18, 2013 08:07 AM

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Playing nine innings while wondering if the Red Sox' acquisition of Jonathan Herrera means the end of Stephen Drew (say it ain't so!) ...

tanakamasahirofinn1218.JPG1. Would it be the craziest development in the baseball world for the Red Sox to jump in as serious bidders on Masahiro Tanaka, the well-regarded and coveted 25-year-old Japanese pitcher who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles? I don't think it would be. By all accounts he has an excellent chance to be a highly successful pitcher stateside, and while the Red Sox have pitching depth and are up against the $189 million luxury tax threshold already, it's a chance to acquire a real asset at a reasonable rate if and when he is posted. Maybe this is just conjecture brought on by the winter doldrums and the stagnation in the hot stove season at the moment, but such a stealth move by Ben Cherington doesn't seem to be out of the realm of possibility to me.

2. OK, about that little trade of the day, the Red Sox' swap of lefty Franklin Morales and minor-league righty Chris Martin to the Rockies for infielder Jonathan Herrera. It's a nice little depth pickup and fulfills Cherington's stated desire to add some infield versatility in the organization. Herrera just turned 29 and is a fine defender all over the infield. Here are a couple of clips from the same game that demonstrate his range:

The downside: He's not much with the bat, putting up a .265/.325/.332 line in a little over 1,100 plate appearances with the Rockies. On the somewhat positive side, there wasn't much of a home/road split. His OPS at Coors Field: .671. And on the road: .645. He's a nice depth piece for the Red Sox.

I'm not sure yet if there's more to it -- meaning that he's your designated late-inning defensive replacement for Xander Bogaerts and Stephen Drew isn't coming back. Here's hoping that's not the case, but Herrera is a worthwhile acquisition nonetheless.

3. As for Morales, it's funny he's headed back to where it all began, because if there's one team other than the Red Sox that knows the frustration of trying to turn his talent into production, it's the Rockies. Morales, who was once the seventh-ranked prospect in the game according to Baseball America, just hasn't been able to harness his stuff for any prolonged length of time. He averaged 5.3 walks per nine innings during his 4-plus seasons with the Rockies. He averaged 5.3 walks per nine innings with the Red Sox last year at age 27. I'll never forget watching him bounce pitch after pitch in the bullpen before coming in and walking in the go-ahead run in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays. In fact, that may be his weird legacy -- he's the one player who was on the Red Sox' roster all of the postseason who didn't contribute at all.

4. To a certain degree, I understand why David Ortiz is chirping about his contract again with one year remaining on his current deal. He's made $112 million in his career, obviously a filthy amount of money by almost any measure. But compared to peers with similar numbers and career paths, he's been fairly well underpaid, never making more than the $14.75 million he made this past season. Consider: His top three statistical comps are Carlos Delgado ($146 million in career earnings), Jason Giambi ($133 million, but just $8.5 million of that coming over the past five years) and Paul Konerko ($127.2 million). Manny Ramirez made more than $80 million more than Ortiz. Hell, Mike Hampton made about $12 million more. That said, while it's unfortunate for him that he never hit free agency at the right time, that doesn't mean the Red Sox are obligated to reward him now when he's 38 years old and already under contract. He's been their relative bargain, and it's their prerogative to keep it that way.

troutmikefinn1218.JPG5. Loved this Baseball Prospectus hypothetical on what various teams would have to give up to get the Angels to consider trading Mike Trout. I'm not sure if this makes me a fanboy or not, but the only deal to me that look at all worthwhile for the Angels was the Red Sox' imaginary offer of Xander Bogaerts, Clay Buchholz, Jackie Bradley Jr., Henry Owens, and a couple of other prospects such as Ruby De La Rosa. Would you give up all of that for Trout, who won't become a free-agent until 2018? I don't think I would. Which is kind of crazy given that Trout is essentially the modern day Mickey Mantle.

6. If you're a Red Sox fan anxious to find out if the team's promising future will as fun as the most recent past, the feel-good story of the winter is this piece by Grantland's Rany Jazayerli on why the defending champions are set up for long-term success -- and more to the point, why the Yankees are not. I'm not close to writing off the Yankees as a contender this year -- Brian McCann gives them an enormous upgrade over the Chris Stewart black hole at catcher, and they will spend to add pitching, probably on Tanaka. But man, that farm system is barren, and McCann and Ellsbury are young players by the current roster's standards.

7. Read this line recently in a write-up of Josh Beckett: "If he took his gift for granted before, he probably won't now." Is that from a story about his progress in resuming his career after July surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which was causing nerve problems in his neck? Nope. It's from the 2001 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, in which he was ranked the Marlins' No. 1 prospect ahead of Miguel Cabrera (a shortstop then) and Adrian Gonzalez ("he has tremendous makeup"). Beckett had experienced shoulder soreness early in his minor league career, and questions were already arising regarding his work ethic. He was a heck of a pitcher at his best. The 2007 Red Sox wouldn't have been champions without him. But given his talent, he might be one of the great underachievers of his time.

8. Just because, here are the players who would be on my Hall of Fame ballot this year if I had a Hall of Fame ballot this year: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Curt Schilling. Wait, that's 11? Wait til next year, Schill. And fix the damn voting rules already so that 14 candidates can get in if 14 candidates are deserving.

9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

crespicreepy12finn.JPG

Jonathan Herrera's top career comp is ol' Creepy Crespi here, who as far as I can tell is no relation to Cesar Crespo. Pretty obvious explanation for that nickname though, huh?

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.

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