Three Sunday morning throwaway lines before we get to the mail:
1) Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo are the same age and have had very similar seasons at Pawtucket, but the latter is the only one I can see as a mainstay in the Red Sox rotation three years from now. Webster has a possibly incurable case of the Schiraldi eyes. Good stuff isn't worth a damn if the guy throwing the baseball doesn't trust it.
2) Jon Lester has left the door open to come back. Some of his teammates don't believe they've said their last goodbye. But unless there's a fundamental change in philosophy with the Red Sox or Lester is willing to pitch for 40 percent of what he'd make signing elsewhere, it's just not going to happen.
3) There's no reason why the Red Sox shouldn't use the final one-third of the season to get one more look at Will Middlebrooks, but isn't it about time he did something to seize the opportunity? I realize he's had tough luck with injuries, but this is also a player who lost the job twice last year and was well on the way to doing so again when he got hurt this year. It's time to either establish himself as a keeper or become the fifth player sent to Miami in a blockbuster.
On to the mailbag, which I should note takes a slightly different form this week and this week only. Because I had to abandon the chat Friday, we didn't get to discuss the epilogue to the trading deadline. So this week's three questions are related to that, each offering a differing perspective on Ben Cherington's deadline maneuvers and the state of the Red Sox.
The element that jumps out most to me, at least beyond the painfully obvious stuff, is the distinctiveness of Cherington's resume as a GM to this point. In three seasons, he's won one World Series and has undergone two bold and necessary rebuilds. If he could ever be so candid, there's a hell of a book to be written about the last three seasons alone.
Let's get to it ...
Chad, Cespedes notwithstanding, I'm feeling very cynical about the Sox at this moment. I've always watched the small market teams and wondered how they could get any fan support knowing that the top talent would leave when the time came. Smug in the knowledge that we'd always be one of the haves. Now I'm wondering...are we any different than the Marlins? Are we now going to develop talent for other teams an let them go when we deem them too expensive? And to cut Lester loose! One of Our Guys. Top tier lefty, durable, and the example you want your young pitchers to emulate, etc and the front office is gambling that he'll break down when he's 34/35. It takes veteran stars to win championship and now we aren't in the business of winning titles? If this is the new business model, I'm going to find it hard to enjoy any future success.
Eh, you won't have trouble enjoying future success. Anyone who, in good times, worries about a business model rather than what is taking place on the field has lost their way as a fan. And I don't think that's you, Jeff. This frustration in the moment is just the byproduct of watching a player who was both exceptional and admirable, a player who wanted to stay here at a reasonable price, head elsewhere.
Such frustration is understandable. I wish Lester had been signed for five/$120 mil in April, and it's a bummer that they decided he wasn't the exception to their logical policy. One of their advantages as a big-market team is being able to gamble on an long-term deal for a player who may be past his peak but still has tremendous value. And as I've written multiple times the past few months, Lester is not slipping. He's improving. His velocity hasn't lost a tick, and his command is better than ever. He's Andy Pettitte, maybe a superior version.
But the Red Sox are not becoming the Marlins -- that will be more evident than ever when the moment comes in the next year or two when Jeffrey Loria decides Giancarlo Stanton isn't going to be paid the going-rate for a franchise player. The Red Sox will still pay for prime-of-career talent. And they've habitually been a top-five payroll team since John Henry bought the franchise, and there's nothing to suggest that will change.
Remember, this is not the finished product. This is going to be a transformative winter for the franchise.
The Red Sox traded their top two starters and got a grand total of zero hot prospects. No Oscar Tavares, no Corey Seager, no Joc Pederson. They got a 30 year old outfielder with one year left and a 30 year old first baseman (Napoli??) with a .638 OPS. Is this progress?
I was as surprised as anyone that they got genuine major-league talent back. I figured they'd get at least one prime prospect back to create more organizational depth and redundancy in setting up a blockbuster or two down the road.
But virtually every team -- even the Dodgers -- have smartened up in terms of trading their well-evaluated elite prospects for rentals or players on short-term deals. You'd think the Rays would have received at least one elite, ready-for-prime-time prospect for David Price, but they didn't. That's the way of the world now.
I do like getting Yoenis Cespedes -- righthanded power is a scarcity these days, and his presence makes the Red Sox lineup fit better -- though I'm puzzled by their big-picture plan for him given his contract status.
I'm not that thrilled with the Cardinals deal. St. Louis has a long track record of being disciplined and correct in evaluating its own hitters. Craig was a tremendous run producer for a couple of years -- the guy hit .454 with runners in scoring position last year, which is just insane -- but he's struggled mightily for more than a year now, with just three homers in the second half last year. I worry that the injury has permanently damaged his career.
By the way, I know Pederson is super-talented, but those 121 whiffs in 96 Triple A games this season make me wary.
You gotta admit, Cherington can pull some rabbits. I know Red Sox Nation is in full-up whine mode, but seriously, was this not a lot better than anyone (me included) coulda thunk of?
-- Robert M
Ah, I don't know if the consensus is in whine mode. I think everyone is still processing what happened -- seeing Lester pitch for the A's and Cespedes take his hacks for the Sox yesterday helped with getting closure on that -- while trying to predict what comes next.
Though it's tough to give Cherington any grade other than incomplete at this point for the moves, you do have to appreciate the boldness of it all, not to mention the utter lack of sentimentality for what this team accomplished last year. You want a general manager with the conviction to do what he believes is right and the [word Jonah Keri can use in a lede but I can't] to make moves in the face of conventional wisdom.
I have complete faith in Cherington as a GM, and at the least, he's made this team a hell of a lot more interesting for the season's next two months than it has been for the first four.
The Red Sox hopes of contention this year are, of course, over. But the reshaping of the roster to create that next great Red Sox team has only begun.
Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.