Ask Nick: How much does Bill James influence Red Sox signings?

I don’t sense a lot of optimism from questions to this week’s mailbag concerning the moves the Red Sox have made or are about to make. Jonny Gomes seemed to get more negative than positive reaction. David Ross was a straight line and the prospect of Mike Napoli is also barely a pulse.

Having said that, all of them are or would be sound moves by the Red Sox.

All I can say is, there are a lot of free agents and trade possibilities left out there. Let it play out. As I wrote in my Sunday Baseball Notes, I think the Red Sox need a splash and I think they believe they do as well. What that will be, I don’t know and they may not know at this point either.

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Given the deals made by the Dodgers-Red Sox and Marlins-Blue Jays, all things are possible. There aren’t many untradeable players, though King Felix seems to be the closest thing.

That’s why I suggested the signing of Josh Hamilton, or trades for Joe Mauer or Troy Tulowitzki. They would be impactful players who would really make a difference. I love NESN pal Tom Caron’s suggestion of Justin Morneau at first base.

One transaction that would be exciting and bold is if the Red Sox executed a Jon Lester-Wil Myers deal, as reported in the Kansas City Star on Monday. Myers, a 6-3, 220-pound outfielder, should be a huge offensive star.

What’s worrisome is the lack of defense that Gomes brings to the outfield and that Napoli would bring at first base, if that’s where he was positioned for most of his Boston tenure.

The Red Sox are doing a good job so far of considering a good fit for this team and ballpark based on the numbers and character which they sorely need. With Ross, they addressed defense at catcher, but Gomes was strictly offense and righthanded power as would Napoli.

So here are your questions and concerns:


So far it seems the Red Sox are looking for character guys who can impact the team on the field and in the clubhouse, but at economical salaries. How much influence does Bill James have in signing players? Jonny Gomes seems like a poor man’s version of Cody Ross. Do you expect them to pull the trigger on a big trade say for a few Minnesota Twins who could help at first and at catcher?
Dan, Charlotte, NC
I don’t think James has anything to do with the “character” aspect of these guys, but he has a lot to do with choosing players who statistically fit the team and the ballpark. I think his fingerprints are all over Gomes and David Ross, as they are on Mike Napoli and Nick Swisher.

With the 2012 finish, would it be justified to lower ticket prices for loyal Red Sox fans?
Bill, West Warwick, RI
Of course. They split it down the middle. They didn’t increase them.

Stocking up on mediocre free agents isn’t going to win many games, so why not just promote from below and grow the young guys in the majors? Maybe it wouldn’t justify the top ticket price in the majors, but then they wouldn’t be paying a lot of money to has-beens.
Bob, Penfield,NY
I think the Red Sox are promoting players who they feel are ready or close to ready. When they promoted Will Middlebrooks, they weren’t completely sure he was ready, but he proved that he was and he took off. I think the feeling is this is a big market and they can’t afford to not have a contending team every year. They found that out in 2012 with 69 wins and little interest in the team except for some of Bobby Valentine’s episodes. When Valentine spouted off, or there was some thing associated with Valentine, it was really the only time anyone paid any attention to this team. They don’t have enough major league ready players to pull off what you’re suggesting. So far, Jonny Gomes and David Ross can’t be classified as “has-beens.” They’re solid role players which you need on any team.


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Do you think a trade with Cleveland would be hindered because of the way Terry Francona was treated on his way out of here?
Barbara, Dracut
Not at all. The Red Sox and Indians have a great relationship.
I was always taught if you can hit they will always find a place for you. Could it be a option to have Napoli/Ryan Lavarnway platoon catching and at first base, and perhaps also try Kalish at first?
Mark, Milford, Conn.
I suppose anything is possible. Napoli and Lavarnway are righthanded hitters so not sure if a platoon necessarily works with them. It appears Napoli would be more of as first baseman if they should sign him.
I was watching an interview where you and TC wanted to trade for Mauer, so what would you give up for him? He isn’t as good as he used to be, not worth the contract he’s playing on right now. Also, Iglesias isn’t that good except for defense, Lavarnway isn’t that good on either side, so why not trade those two, with Ryan Kalish, for Upton and prospects. And what are your thoughts of the Sox signing Nick Swisher to play first, Ross to play right?
Mike, Eastport, Maine
Would love to see a pure hitter like Mauer in the lineup. I don’t agree he’s not as good as he used to be. He’s playing in a much tougher ballpark than the Metrodome. I think he’d be terrific at Fenway. The reason you can’t trade Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, and Ryan Kalish for Justin Upton is because the Diamondbacks don’t want any of those players. They want a major league-ready shortstop (who can hit), a third baseman or a starting pitcher. As for Swisher, you could sign him to play first, but he’s a pretty good rightfielder. Having Cody Ross and Swisher would be nice.
So far I don’t see the Sox being any better than a .500 team next year and even then some of the players will have to rebound from sub par years. If they aren’t going to compete next year why don’t they at least trade for a player like Giancarlo Stanton that we can root for? Hopefully the rumors about Josh Hamilton are false.
John, Enfield, Conn.
If they could obtain Giancarlo Stanton they would. I’m sure they’ve tried. As I wrote in my Sunday Notes, the Marlins need to keep someone who can draw fans after their purge. They could trade him for a boatload of prospects and I’m wondering whether the Red Sox would give up Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. to help get him. Don’t know the answer to that, but it would take those two and more to make it plausible. As for Hamilton, I totally disagree. He’s not a 162-game guy, but his numbers are extraordinary. He’ll miss some time because he plays hard. But I’ll take that talent any day of the week.
Given GM Ben Cherington’s reluctance to give long-term deals, would the Sox really give Hamilton $25 million a year for five years? What would it take to get Mauer?
John, Hermon, Maine
If they could get Hamilton for five years, $25 million per year, I’m sure they’d do it. The Twins would have to get a catcher back (Jarrod Saltalamacchia), but they would have to get pitching because that’s what they’re looking for. So you’d have to part with someone like Doubront or one of their pitching prospects.
Why do the Red Sox seem to be on the fourth rung of a ladder picking up these antiquated, worn-out players on the cheap as opposed to going after some front line players not like the batch they bailed out of last summer?
Dan, Augusta, Maine
I think we just have to let it play out. You need the type of players they just signed and I don’t think Gomes and Ross are washed up. I think they’ll do some big things, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Will they sign three guys at huge money? Probably not, but I’m expecting at least one big splash which will involve big money being given out.
Ben Cherington is looking at a number of first basemen, but we haven’t heard of him chasing Kevin Youkilis. Do you think he’d be a good fit?
Frank, Old Saybrook, Conn.
My initial reaction on Kevin Youkilis has been that ship has sailed. I mean they traded him because Middlebrooks beat him out and they thought his body was breaking down and on the other side of his prime. So if they feel that way, why would you go back to him even if it’s for first base, which is where he should be? If other options don’t work out, I can see them coming back, but there appear to be enough teams out there who may sign him before Boston, like Cleveland or Philadelphia.
I am wondering what your thinking is and the general consensus on the Sox trying to acquire Dan Haren or Adam LaRoche?
Marc, Vancouver, BC
I think Dan Haren is very much on their radar and they’ve held talks with his agent. Because of physical concerns with his back, the Red Sox are probably being very cautious on the number of years they’d offer. As for LaRoche, they have made contact but I think the Red Sox want to see how things work out on the Mike Napoli front before going for LaRoche. Obviously, LaRoche is a much better first baseman and better overall hitter. Washington is trying to re-sign him and I think LaRoche would like to stay there if he could.
What are the Red Sox’ plans for Pedro Ciriaco?
Steve, Perth-Andover, New Brunswick
I think he’ll be their super-utility player. He’ll play all over. They’ll try to get his speed in the lineup to make things happen and I’m sure he’ll play some outfield in winter ball and spring training. He’s an interesting player.
Jonny Gomes? After all the money we saved by jettisoning big contracts this past season? Didn’t we learn our lessons by passing on Scutaro for Aviles? How much more would Cody Ross cost?
Cliff, Callahan, Fla.
Well, I don’t believe the Aviles-Scutaro swap impacted the Red Sox negatively. Scutaro had a terrific final couple of month for the Giants, but Aviles didn’t do a bad job for the Sox. The Red Sox are still in the Cody Ross negotiations. I think this was incorrectly framed as because they signed Gomes they won’t resign Ross. Gomes can’t play right field. He’s not a very good outfielder. So Ross is still in play. Ross likes Boston, but his family wants him to look and see what there is free agency. He also lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. And maybe looking to play out West again. It’s not all the Red Sox unable to pull the trigger, there’s some exploring being done by Ross as well.
Is there any chance Ben will trade for a top of the rotation starter? It could be worth giving up some top prospects or even Middlebrooks.
Claudia, Sarasota, Fla.
I lean toward your thinking. I’m not as high on Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz being lead pitchers as the Red Sox are. I’m in your court on this issue. But I don’t think they see it that way. They believe Lester and Buchholz are potential No. 1s and so they’ll proceed with their offseason moves for pitching that way. They do have high hopes for Matt Barnes, but with all prospects, we’ll see. Rubby De La Rosa, acquired from the Dodgers, could also be an interesting starter for them.
Where is Jerry Sands on the Boston radar? He plays first and outfield, and if his AAA numbers translate he seems like he could give you every bit as much as Cody Ross would, and maybe a lot more.
Bart, Newton
The Dodger people tell me he’s a legit power hitter, but hasn’t put it together on the MLB level yet. I think the Red Sox are going into it like they’ll try to obtain a first baseman and if they can’t get the guy they want they may give Sands a shot.

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