Darkman and Gagne and Paps, oh my

August 2nd, 2007 → 10:18 am @ // 12 Comments

Despite the blatherings of some folks on sundry Yankee boards, Eric Gagne did not, as the entire world now knows, end up in the Bronx; instead, he now makes up a third of the best back-end bullpen in baseball. Lord knows we all love Papelbon, but there’ll definitely be days when it’ll be better for everyone to have Hideki “Darkman” Okajima or Eric “I can once again break Hefty trash bags with my fastball” Gagne on the mound. (Despite his recent disappearance, even Mike Timlin has been pitching well — much to my surprise.)

Plenty of ink has already been spilled about this deal, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief. To wit:

* Unlike many folks, I wasn’t overjoyed about this deal when I first heard it. Trading prospects for half-season rentals oftentimes doesn’t work out — the team giving up the young guns is more likely to be on the Bagwell-to-Houston side of things than the Tek-and-Lowe to Boston one. But — and this is a big, big, but — the Sox are going to get two compensatory draft picks if Gagne goes somewhere else in ’08 (and you can bet your ass Boras will make sure he closes in ’08 and beyond) b/c EG is a Type A free agent. (If that was all gibberish to you, here’s an explanation.)+ The Red Sox have developed among the best, if not the best, group of talent evaluators in baseball, and I’m 100 percent confident those two picks will be put to good use.

* Most crucially — to me, anyway — is the fact that this deal is a clear indication that Theo, Jed, John, Larry, and the rest of the Sox’s front office fully believes this team is good enough to win a championship. At last year’s trade deadline, the absence of any moves was justified, unconvincingly, by Theo crying poverty. He said that because there was no way he could go public with the truth: the ’06 Sox weren’t ever serious contenders and it didn’t make any sense whatsoever to sacrifice prospects (or cash) for a half-season rental just to appease some instant-gratification addicted fans. Gagne’s contract isn’t prohibitive, but Gabbard and Murphy are two legit prospects, the kind it’s only worth dealing if there’s a clear and obvious reason for the person coming over in return. The Sox shelled out a lot of money this offseason, and they’re still adding players. The last time we saw this kind of outlay? Before the ’04 season, when Theo & Co went all out to get Schill and Foulke on board.

* Another crucial aspect of this deal is the protection it gives to Red Sox arms. Tito has been excellent in his bullpen use this year; that said, Okajima has been in a lot of games and there have been times when Papelbon hasn’t been in enough games. (This is two sides of the same coin: the Sox are understandably worried about JP’s arm and want to keep him available whenever he might be needed, which has resulted in both other reliable guys getting thrown out there a lot and Papelbon not getting as much tune-up work as he would ideally have.) One more ace will make it a lot easier to mix and match in the 8th and 9th.

* Gabbard, as we all saw over the last month, has a chance to be a good major league pitcher, and lefty starters don’t grow on trees. That said, the Red Sox still have the best collection of young pitchers/rising prospects in the game: Papelbon, Lester, Delcarmen, David Pauley, Clay Buccholz (who some members of the Sox FO think is the best of them all). (Yes, Craig Hansen, he of 4.47 Pawtucket ERA, is not included on this list.) Likewise, Murphy will likely have a healthy major league career…but in addition to the still under-market salaries of Youk and Pedroia, the Sox had Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss, and Jacob Ellsbury, a trio of promising (and occasionally mouth watering) 23-year-olds. This is the best example of the ruling philosophy I wrote about in Feeding the Monster (available from Amazon for $10.20 – cheap!): the Sox want to hoard prospects not only so they can develop their own talent, but also so they a) can control high impact players before they hit the open market precisely so they can afford to shell out big bucks to difference maker free agents, b) will have a deep enough reservoir of minor league talent to have available trade chips when they have a chance to land a crucial piece of the puzzle.

* The season, obviously, is still not over and there remain, obviously, some holes — most noticeably in right field. That said, if everything starts clicking at once, the ’07 Sox will be scary good. A fully healthy rotation of Beckett-Dice K-Schill-Wakefield-Lester and a back-end bullpen of Okie-Gagne-Paps has to be terrifying. (To put it another way, a starting five consisting of a fastballer with a 10-6 curve, someone who combines mid-90s heat with three other plus pitches (including a nasty change), a control and split-finger specialist, a knuckler, and a lefty…and a pen with a soft-throwing lefty with a baffling delivery, the man with the best change up of the last decade, and the original Baby Faced Assassin. That’s nasty.)

* At the beginning of the year, a member of the Sox FO told me he felt the team had had more difficulty putting together a bullpen than anything else. They finally seem to have figured it out, and now they look like geniuses. But they’re not — or at least they’re not because of the bullpen — and they weren’t morons because the pen didn’t work out in the past. Relievers, more than anyone else, are hard to predict. Obviously no one knew Okajima would be the Sox’s equivalent of K-Rod in ’02; if he, along with Joel “Wild Eyes” Pineiro, had both sucked ass, a lot of things would be different right now.

+ As Keith Law pointed out, we won’t know until the year if Gagne’s going to be a Type A FA, so the Sox actually aren’t guaranteed to two picks…but he’d need to pretty awful for that to happen.


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12 Comments → “Darkman and Gagne and Paps, oh my”


  1. jimdoyle

    10 years ago

    I agree completely. They did get a find in Okie. I think being able to draft and develop an almost surplus of prospects is a key to future Championships. The ability to trade some when necessary and bring others up as needed is a great philosophy. And of course, the talent evaluators play a huge role in this scheme.
    Go Sox!

    Reply

  2. bmoskowitz

    10 years ago

    The key to this Gagne trade was selling high on Gabbard. Although he has been effective this year, I really don’t have confidence that he would be able to hold onto a rotation spot with the likes of Lester and the next wave of lurking prospects. Maybe Texas will be a good place for him–I hope so. David Murphy projects to be a good 4th outfielder, but not a star. And Beltre is 17 years old–enough said. The more I think about this trade, the more I like it. If Gagne is a fit and we decide to try to re-sign him, Paps could move back to the rotation next year and we could then afford to spend $8-$9 million per year on a 3-year deal for Gagne.

    Reply

  3. Gee

    10 years ago

    Can I just say, this afternoon couldn’t have been more perfect. Sox won, Gagne made his first appearance…

    … and Clemens gets touched for 8 runs in 1 2/3. Only 3 of them earned, but still. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Reply

  4. Gee

    10 years ago

    Just to add, re: your reference to Hansen — I was totally underwhelmed with what I saw of him on the big club last year. He’s got the heat, but he just seemed like that classic type, the thrower-not-a-pitcher. He was sloppy and almost lazy with mechanics, looked surprised he couldn’t blow it by hitters in the bigs. He’s young, and this could change, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening on schedule.

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  5. rog

    10 years ago

    Hansen should be traded. He seems to have a similar look to Matt Clement when he gives up a base hit. He never has 1-2-3 innings, either, and plenty of teams need a young set-up guy or closer. Gabbard was traded beautifully, waiting until his stock was really high and not over-exposing him so others could see his weaknesses (the Braves do this every year); Murphy was the one outfielder who was expendable because he doesn’t have as much talent as Ellsbury or Moss; Beltre is impossible to guage at his age. I just think this trade was done so masterfully: it was a seller’s market in a league that has increasing amount of parity and Theo traded the most expendable pieces for a huge insurance policy (if Paps were to go down). And if the Great Relieving Triumvirate regulary pitch in the same game, the other team has just 6 innings to score off the starter. That’s good baseball.

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  6. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    After today’s lovely beating, Clemens’ year to date record stands at 3-5, 4.23 ERA. It’s just a pity he escaped the loss he deserved today, 3-6 would really enhance the crappiness. One thing that stands out in his numbers-only 43 K in 69 innings, for a supposed power pitcher. Oh yeah, and he turns 45 on Saturday. Hey Yankees, think maybe y’all overpaid a bit for this old horse? Go ahead and boo him, he’s earned it.

    Reply

  7. PaulZuvella

    10 years ago

    “That said, the Red Sox still have the best collection of young pitchers/rising prospects in the game: Papelbon, Lester, Delcarmen, David Pauley, Clay Buccholz”

    Most prospect “experts” think the Yanks have the best young pitching talent in the league in Joba, Hughes, Kennedy, Horne, Betances, Wang and Marquez, and I’d have to agree. The Sox do have nice young pitching talent though. It seems the rivalry should be strong for the next few years.

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  8. rog

    10 years ago

    The Sox also have Daniel Bard…and Masterson.

    Reply

  9. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    Might as well count Daisuke and Beckett, too, if we’re including Wang for the Yankees and Papelbon for the Sox (an under 27 list, it seems). Essentially the point is that the Sox have good young pitching of both the proven and unproven variety, and the Yankees have some unproven talent and a proven commodity in Wang.

    Reply

  10. rln2433

    10 years ago

    I am really not sure why everyone is so in love with Lester. He does not have command of his stuff which is not that exceptional to begin with and in watching him tonight in Seattle and his last start in Tampa it looks a lot like last year. 100 pitches and out after 5-6 innings, lots of pitches per inning and per batter, pitching behind in the count, leaving stuff over the plate and once someone gets on things go down hill for him. I don’t think he’s matured enough to deserve a spot in the rotation. He’s certainly not going to be more than a 3/4 guy if and when he figures it out though.

    Buchholz and Masterson seem to be the next two blessed with expectations on them. Maybe they will have the killer instinct to make the jump.

    Hansen fell apart mechanically and according to Gammons it has a lot to do with his agent, Boras who has his own coaches telling their clients how to do things. Plus, the kid just doesn’t appear to be all that bright and he doesn’t have the brass set that Papelbon brings to the park. It’s a shame really because he might turn out to be a waste of a 1st round pick.

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  11. rln2433

    10 years ago

    Great work by Timlin tonight…

    Reply
  12. […] The other day I (incorrectly) wrote that if/when Gagne signs with another team next year, the Sox will get two draft picks. That’s not true; Gagne needs to first be classified as a Type A free agent (which he almost certainly will end up being). The Type A/Type B free agent classification is one of those arcane subjects that many of the better informed baseball fans couldn’t explain; thankfully, we have ESPN’s Keith Law, who, by any measure, is in my top 5 baseball writers (Bradford, Neyer, and Posnanski are up there, too). Here’s Law’s quick rundown: […]

    Reply

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