One Man's Team

Normally I write a column after the first round of the amateur draft analyzing how well each team did.  However, this year didn't seem like a particularly strong draft class and I just didn't see any stars coming out of it, much less players who will have an impact in the next year or so. 

So instead, I'm going to do something different.

After much consideration, I have decided to abandon my career in baseball and move into show business.  I'm going to write a musical for Broadway based on the movie "Ben Hur".  Hey, it worked with Titanic, why not Ben Hur?  And similar to the way "Mamma Mia" used the music of ABBA to tell the story, I will be using the music of Christopher Cross to tell the story of Judah Ben-Hur with "Sailing" as the theme music for the galley scenes and "Ride Like the Wind" as the musical accompaniment for the chariot race. 

Ok, so maybe I should think about this career change a little more.

Hairston v Roberts

While I'm thinking about it, I'll offer some food for thought.  The Orioles may or may not have a big decision soon regarding whether to trade one of their second basemen.  Either Brian Roberts or Jerry Hairston could be valuable in trade, especially when the O's could get some decent pitching in return.  Speaking of which, there are rumors of a Buddy Groom for Ramon Ortiz trade with Anaheim.  It seems like a good fit as the Angels could use a lefty in the pen and the O's could use a more experienced arm in the rotation.  However, I'm not sure it's going to happen because Ortiz has so much more upside than Groom.  But it's a decent thought.

Anyway, back to Hairston and Roberts.  Last year, I took a cursory look at the Baltimore rotation after Hairston went down with his injury.  I didn't and still don't think Roberts is a bad fielding second baseman.  He's not.  He's actually pretty good.  But Hairston is so spectacular that I wanted to see if their was a significant difference.  The results were striking: they were much better with Hairston at second, in some cases more than a run better.  Here's how the season ultimately played out.

ERA before injury
end of season ERA
WHIP Before
Season WHIP

Just something to think about.

2005 Red Sox

I was in Boston a couple weekends ago and caught a game at Fenway with a very good friend of mine.  Wouldn't you know it, it was the game in which Simon Pond homered and doubled.  But that's neither here nor there.  I asked my friend to play GM of the Red Sox for a day and to tell me what he'd do with their impending free agent exodus and how he would shape the next generation Red Sox.  I don't think he hesitated for more than a second before beginning a bold and detailed plan for his hometown team.  And I was so impressed with the depth and daring of his thoughts, that I got his OK to post his plan here.  And so, without further adieu, I give you GM Greg Kaden's Red Sox:

The first thing on the agenda is to summarily cut off all contact with the representatives for Pedro and Nomar.  See ya.  Bye.  Good luck in your new city.  You're too whiny and with your injury histories, you're just not worth the money you're asking for.  Regarding Nomar absence so far this season, my friend couldn't remember the last time he's seen so many double plays turned at Fenway.  Pokey has been a great glove at short.  The New Red Sox will be built with more emphasis on strong middle defense than an over-abundance of DH types.  Also leaving town will be Gabe Kapler and Bill Mueller.  In both cases, they simply aren't as much of an asset on offense as they are liabilities on defense. 

Also leaving town will be Derek Lowe, who has been comparable to Jesse Jefferson and Dave Lemanczyk at times this year.  He simply isn't as good as he looked two years ago and there's no point in deluding the Red Sox Nation with wishful thinking otherwise.

Johnny Damon appears to have lost several steps in the outfield.  He's never had a good arm, but had made himself adequate by running most everything down.  Physically, it doesn't look like he can do that anymore, so trade him for anything if only to get his salary off the books.

OK, now the rebuilding begins.  Re-sign Varitek.  There just aren't that many good receivers with quality offensive skills floating around.  Likewise, keep Mirabelli as his back-up.  Both guys are old school, no-nonsense type players that the fans in Boston really gravitate to.  And both seem to come up big when the stage and the jackpot is the biggest.

Next, take a large portion of the money set aside for Pedro and Nomar and spend it on a long-term contract for Carlos Beltran.  Spend up to $18 million per year if necessary.  But get him in center field and in front of Ortiz and Manny in the line-up. 

Then sign a solid defensive first baseman to make the infielders look good.  Travis Lee was the name he came up with.  Lee has a great glove and if last season is any indicator, won't be too bad of an option down in the order for some offense.  Follow that signing by getting an offensively-minded second baseman to allow Bellhorn to maximize his usefulness as a utility player.  Kaden's vote was to bring Todd Walker back to Boston.  Given the postseason Walker had last year, I can't blame him.

The last piece of the offense would take the form of a speedy utilityman capable of playing middle infield or outfield competently.  "A Damian Jackson with more consistent defense" were his exact words.  But rather than go for a utility guy with limited offense like Craig Counsel (who'd cost in the neighborhood of $3+ million), if I'm playing assistant GM, I'd opt for a quality starter like Jerry Hairston, who has speed, superb defense and an on base percentage the last two years of .360.  He might also cost a little less. 

Now comes the heavy lifting: revamping the rotation.  With a good infield defense and Fenway being favorable to lefties, big lefties and/or pitchers with extreme groundball tendencies were his primary targets.  His first choices were Mark Buerhle and Odalis Perez.  Buerhle isn't a free agent, but Perez will be.  Jake Westbrook was next on the wish list but Cleveland will be reluctant to part with him.  Jon Lieber was another choice, but I doubt the Yankees are going to let him go.  Two names that didn't come up but that might be intriguing are Mike Hampton and Darren Dreifort.  There would have to be some salary shuffling to get them to Boston as both are owed a collective sum of $25 million next year, but both fit the new Fenway extreme groundballing profile.  Hampton is a lefty, which helps his cause, and Dreifort is a very good strikeout pitcher.  An easier path would be to look at some of the impending free agents, a few of which could make a nice fit here.  Matt Clement, Eric Milton and Matt Morris are probably the best of what's available.  For the sake of argument, I will pick Clement because he's much more of a groundball pitcher than Milton and more of a strikeout pitcher than Morris. 

By not bringing back Pedro ($15 million), Lowe ($5 million), Mueller ($2 million), Damon ($8 million) and Nomar ($15 million), the Red Sox would save around $45 million to spend on Beltran ($18 million), Odalis Perez and Matt Clement ($15-17 million combined), Travis Lee ($500,000) and Todd Walker ($3 million) with enough left over to give Varitek a decent raise and a few million left over for bench and role players.  Hairston's salary probably wouldn't top $3 million

So here are the 2005 Red Sox  (with this year's OPS except where noted due to injury or unusual year):
Catcher - Jason Varitek (.880)
First base - Travis Lee (.807 last year)
Second base - Todd Walker (.808)
Shortstop - Pokey Reese (.667)
Third base - Kevin Youkilis (.829)
Outfield OF - Manny Ramirez (1.097)
                      Carlos Beltran (.875)
                      Trot Nixon (.975 last year)
DH - David Ortiz (.883)

Doug Mirabelli (1.069, career .748)
Kevin Millar (.739, career .847)
Jerry Hairston (.734)
Mark Bellhorn (.817)

Rotation (with current ERA and WHIP except where player is injured)
Curt Schilling  (3.03/1.10) 
Odalis Perez (3.20/1.13)
Matt Clement (3.28/1.12)
Tim Wakefield (3.71/1.31)
Bronson Arroyo (5.01/1.33)

Keith Foulke (1.15/0.80)
Scott Williamson (1.69/1.00)
Mike Timlin (3.45/1.09)
Alan Embree (3.75/1.08)
Ramiro Mendoza (career 4.31/1.36)

The offense wouldn't be quite as deep as last year but it'd still be very good.  The middle-field defense would be brilliant when Hairston was playing second, very solid at other times.  The front four in the rotation would be the best in baseball.  Three of those guys could realistically be expected to shut down an opponent in the playoffs.  With their current bullpen, that is a huge advantage.  And all for pretty much the same money as they're spending now.

Anyone can be a GM with an unlimited budget.  The hard part is building a winner using the given materials and a budget.  Incorporating the on-the-field numbers with what the scouts say and then fitting it together when the dollars are finite is not something everyone can do.  Boston currently has a front office that does a good job with this.  But if they are ever need some fresh talent, they won't have far to look.

If you feel you know how to fix your favorite team, send me an email with your game plan.   Work within the team's current budget and with the contracts they already have.  Limit yourself to one dump trade.  I'll post the good ones here.  Who knows... maybe some enterprising front office will be scouring the net for new ideas and be impressed with your work.