Monday, December 3, 2012

Money for Question Marks

Three basic points on the Red Sox signing Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes:

The Good: The Sox batting order is set to beat the fuck out of unsuspecting Southpaws with the addition of righty hitters like Napoli and Gomes.  Both players do have swings that are suited for Fenway, and perhaps they can combine to hit 50 homers a piece over the next couple of seasons.  And if this whole experiment fails, then it only costs the franchise $49 million over 3 years.  A decent chunk of change, but that is only short term. 

The Bad: I'm extremely worried about the durability of both players.  Last season, Napoli and Gomes combined had merely 631 at-bats.  If you're an OBP freak and want to see walks factored in, fine: They combined for 750 plate appearances and a decent OBP.  So the Red Sox have tied up $18 million over the next two years in two players whose combined plate appearances equal one full time player.  That's a warning flag right there.  

The Sox are expecting both of these guys to play full time, but they haven't -- period.  Napoli has tried to go full time for a couple of seasons, and after finally notching over 500 plate appearances last season, he broke with a hammy injury in August, 2012.  Remember what happened to the Rangers' season after that?  Just like the 2011 Red Sox, the Rangers were flying high at the top of their division only to suffer a massive collapse.  If the second wild card spot hadn't been added last season, all the Rangers would have had over the 2011 Red Sox is a division tie-breaking game 163 -- which they would have lost, and then everyone would compare the great collapses of the 2011 Red Sox and Braves, and the 2012 Rangers.  Mike Napoli's faulty health played a key role in the Rangers collapse, and that's the player the Red Sox just signed to a big deal to replace Adrian Gonzalez, one of the scapegoats of the 2011 collapse.  I'm going to have an aneurysm if I continue to think about this. 

Beyond their questionable offensive stats (Napoli has had only one stand out season, and it certainly wasn't in 2012), the durability of Napoli and Gomes to last through 162 games as full time players is questionable, at best.  Players generally don't jump from being used primarily as part timers to full timers easily.  Napoli breaking down during a key point in the pennant race last season certainly isn't a good sign. 

And the Ugly: How does this increase the Red Sox chances of winning against the Blue Jays and Yankees?  I know the Red Sox haven't address pitching needs yet, but they just replaced a first baseman who gave them 15 homers but raked in RBIs (15 HR and 86 RBI for Gonzo last season) with a player who had 24 HR, but just 56 RBI because he can't hit.  Gonzo batted .300 and Napoli batted just .227, and you can see the difference that average makes in the RBI totals both players amassed.  As for Gomes, if he replaces Cody Ross, then the Sox just swapped a full time player who gave them .267/22 HR/ 81 RBI for a part time player who went .262/18 HR/46 RBI last season.

So how have these moves improved the team in comparison to last season?  The Yankees haven't changed much (ironically, A-Rod's surgery might give them a chance to improve over the first 3 months of the season), and it looks like the Rays are going for a building year next season, but the Blue Jays are vastly improved.  And Baltimore, despite their shitty starting pitchers, has the offense to put up a decent amount of runs and the bullpen to shut most good offenses down in late innings during the regular season.  

If the Red Sox don't start winning, I think fan interest will wane and Boston will become more of a normal baseball town.  You know, one of those cities that doesn't have 30,000+ fans showing up for every single game -- which would place them in the vast majority of Major League cities.  If the revenue stream drops while other teams revenue streams increase, then the Red Sox better hope all of their prospects pan out because signing good veteran talent will be difficult. 

Bottom line, these moves have not improved the offense of the Red Sox in comparison to their 2012 squad.  The starting rotation needs vast improvement if the 2013 squad is going to win any games and compete. 

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