Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sox Sign Two, Get Raped By Media

It appears that Manny is staying, and Drew and Lugo are coming on board, and essentially the Sox are spending a boatload of money. Really, there should be no surprises here. They've looked at trading Manny for the past three years, and it hasn't happened, and their demands have escalated if anything, due to the absurd free agent costs in the current market. The reports on Drew and Lugo have positioned the Sox as the front-runners for weeks now. They had the biggest needs, the wherewithal, and they pulled the trigger.

First off, let me say that I haved mixed feelings about these signings but no doubt everyone does. What I am comfortable accepting is that given today's market these are not only fair, but probably good contracts. Before we start going berserk about Drew's injury history or Lugo's LA stint, which we can certainly do, we have to start with the new baseline: the contracts of Soriano and Lee.

Soriano signed an 8-year, $136 million contract. This contract is staggering, of course. Lee, who was signed to a simply terrible contract, will get $100 million for 6 years in Houston. Taking a WARP average of the last five years, those guys are getting paid roughly $2.5 Mil (Soriano) and $3.7 Mil (Lee) per WARP, or Win Above Replacement Player.

I am guessing that the average AAR per WARP at somewhere in the vicinity of $2.2 Mil, for this offseason, but I will research further. The Soriano deal makes some sense from this perspective, in that he was one of the best available players - it's really just the number of years that scare you. The Lee contract is ridiculous no matter how you slice it (and reportedly he turned down a fatter offer from SF because they completely and utterly suck). He hits. That's it.

Now, on to the Sox signings. Drew first. Drew is getting the same AAR as Soriano per WARP at $2.5 Mil per - again, using an average of his last five years. Here's the thing there - Drew's productivity was greatly hampered by injury. Taking an average of his three healthy years, he's only getting about $2.1 Mil per WARP. So, and this has also been discussed ad nauseam, if healthy Drew is a good signing, even looking at the big numbers in the contract, according to the current market cycle. Thanks to all the negative press, people are conveniently ignoring the fact that he is the closest thing to a 5-tool player to hit the market in years. If it weren't for the injury history, he simply couldn't be had. We're taking the risk. End of story.

So. The knocks on Drew of course are that he is injury-prone (which he is), and that he doesn't play with "passion". The first is a semi-legitimate beef, since he has missed a lot of time over the years. However, he's had two fluke bone breaks, and has also received praise from former managers for playing while hurt. I tend to think this is just bad luck for the most part. I mean, he's no Nomar, that's for goddamn sure. The second is just garbage. Sure, everybody loves Trot Nixon's dirty style of play (and media presence) but you'd be arguing pretty hard to convince me Manny's been "playing with passion" the past years. All we should concern ourselves with is the production. Their personalities are their own.

As an aside, the biggest complainers about Drew's lack of passion are the Dodger fans, who hail from Los Angeles, the most spiritually abject place on the planet. I mean, please. It's getting to the point where we should remove the word "irony" from the dictionary.

The Lugo signing, and I will be the first to point out that I was for keeping Gonzalez on the cheap when it was still an option, and before Soriano had destroyed the marketplace, may turn out to be a steal. He's only getting $1.9 Mil AAR per WARP, and by all accounts he will perform at a higher level in Fenway, and in this lineup, than he has historically. I don't know - I liked Gonzalez's glove a lot, but Lugo brings a lot of different facets to the team. We'll see, but again, based on his historical performance, and compared to the current market rates, he'll be underpaid! Insane.

Now, let me be clear: I've gone through this exercise just to make Sox fans feel better. Really, the Sox simply needed to sign both players since Manny was not going to bring their replacements back. We needed a right-fielder with some power and defensive ability. We needed a #5 hitter. We needed a SS. We're a big market team and we went out and bought the best we could find. That is all.

What we're seeing now in the media, and within the fanbase IMO, is a significant backlash due to the Matsuzaka posting outcome being followed by the Manny trade circus (and anti-climax) and the two big FA signings. Right now the Sox are the 800-lb. gorillas in the room at the winter meetings. The Yanks already have a massive lineup they could hardly expect to improve upon, and just needed to quietly acquire a couple of arms. Notice that the $26 Mil they shelled out to talk to future #4/#5 starter Igawa didn't cause even a ripple in the media. They'll probably sign Pettitte on a one-year deal to finish his career, and he'll be a key piece to what is looking on paper like a championship-caliber team. And nobody is saying anything because the Sox are stomping around the offseason table like Godzilla. Oh, and also, the stomping makes for good copy.

The position many of us will find ourselves in - even moreso than we do already - is that of Second Bully. For years we've defined ourselves as the Galahad of the baseball world: cursed, ever questing for the Holy Grail of a Series title while battling the Dragon from New York. Well, the grail is ours as of 2004, and with this offseason, the Sox have officially begun breathing fire in the eyes of the rest of baseball. This of course does not change our situation one bit - we are still chasing the biggest payroll in American sports in the toughest division in MLB, and we'll do what we have to do. When all is said and done, there's just one requirement: win. However, it's clear the days of sympathetic fans from other cities are long gone.

PLUGGIN'!

If you are at all interested in the future of the Red Sox roster, take a trip to the Sox Prospects Wiki: http://soxprospects.wikispaces.com/. One stop shopping.

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