Wednesday, November 12, 2003

It's Started, Part 2.

Picking up where we left off, what's the Pitching Staff look like for the Red Sox in 2004?

Starting Pitchers:
  1. Pedro Martinez: 17.5 Million

  2. Derek Lowe: 5 Million

  3. Tim Wakefield: 4.35 Million

  4. Byung-Hyun Kim: Arbitration Eligible, Probably Around 5 Million

  5. Bronson Arroyo: Under 1 Million

That's basically how things will shake out. While it might make fantastic sense to try to trade Pedro now (see earlier article) it will be tough to do considering his 10-5 status. Lowe and Wake are solid bargains in the middle of the rotation, and it makes good sense to move BK back into the rotation. He doesn't want to close, the Sox have Williamson, and Kim has been a successful starter in the past. In 72 IP in the role last year, BK let up 27 runs, for an ERA of 3.38. That number would have put him 8th in the American League in 2003, and well ahead of free agent targets Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, and Andy Pettitte. Nobody seems to particularly like or trust Kim in any role, perhaps because he continually flips us the bird, but his performance has been better than most realize. With a WHIP of 1.11, he's better than any free agent acquisition Boston could make, so slotting him in the rotation is a wise move. Bringing up the rear you have Bronson Arroyo, who gave reasons for optimism with his performance in Pawtucket and down the stretch in Boston. The chance of him being little more than a .500 pitcher is small, but that's what #5 starters are for. If the Red Sox could find the money, they would probably like to add a front line starter from the group of Colon, Millwood, Pettitte, Vazquez, Schilling etc. - but that will be difficult. With more pressing needs at 2B and in the pen, they will have to trade away some salary before moving on any of these players. But don't think Theo won't try - and possibly succeed.

The Bullpen: Well, we've definitely got Alan Embree and Ramiro Mendoza. 2.75 and 3.6 (ouch) million respectively. Woohoo. Timlin will likely be back at around 2 million himself, and Williamson is arbitration eligible and will probably jump to around 3.5. That's a pretty expensive group of relievers, especially if you don't trust any of them. There has been discussion of adding Guardado or Foulke, which would hinge on finding a desirable deal for Williamson. The problem with that however, is that it makes no sense. Both of those pitchers would cost about twice what Scott does, and I'm not sure either are better. Williamson had his troubles last year, but it was clear once he got comfortable in both the city and his role that he could be dominant. A 27 year-old fireballer with 3 out pitches that can go multiple innings. Less proven than Foulke or Everyday Eddie, but a lot cheaper. Seems like a keeper to me.

The rest of the pen will probably feature Scott Sauerbeck, Brandon Lyon, and whatever Theo adds. Sauerbeck, alas, is also eligible for arbitration and could find his way to the 2 mil range. While he's a much better pitcher than he showed with Boston last year, 2 million is a lot for a left-handed specialist. How eager Theo is to non-tender him and create a "Freddie Sanchez For Absolutely Nothing" trade will be the real question here. Lyon's cheap and good and I refuse to hear otherwise. Without him the Red Sox aren't in playoffs last year, he deserves another chance.

The good news is, look at these names: Tom Gordon, Scott Sullivan, Curtis Leskanic, Arthur Rhodes, LaTroy Hawkins, Ricardo Rincon, Mike Myers, Steve Reed, Paul Quantrill, Terry Adams, and Turk Wendell. All of these players are available, and all of them can pitch. No, we're not talking about a bunch of Geese Gossages, but these guys can get outs. They're reliable arms, and with this many available, some will come cheap. Throw in Guardado and Foulke and you've got over a dozen dependable set-up/closer types that are there for the grabbing. This is very good news indeed.

Realistically, Epstein doesn't have to change all that much. He had the best offense in the league, and a solid crew of starters. The bullpen was a nightmare, but there are plenty of options to fix it. So he'll probably troll for a while looking for trades. Everyone is on the table, but he will probably talk most about Nomar, Manny, Trot, and Johnny Damon. If he can move some salary and get quality return, he'll do so, and put the saved money into a starter. Keep in mind though, Theo is usually very aggressive. While he could certainly grab a 2B, ink a few relievers, work on signing 2 or 3 of the Tek/Lowe/Pedro/Nomar/Mueller group, and call it an offseason - he probably won't. It's simply not his style. You get the feeling he'll try something big - maybe not ARod, but big. He's got chips to play with, and I don't see Theo letting them just walk out of town. It doesn't make good baseball sense, and Epstein does little that doesn't make sense. There is value to be had out of this group, and I think Red Sox Nation has every reason to believe that Theo will maximize it. So stay tuned, because I feel like something big is on the way...