Darkman and Gagne and Paps, oh my

August 2nd, 2007 → 10:18 am @

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.

Post Categories: and Mnookins & Denis Leary & Mel Gibson & Mike Timlin & Wrestlemania

We’re like Macho Man and Hulk Hogan (with the Yankees as the Hart Foundation)

August 17th, 2006 → 11:49 pm @

And this time, there won’t be any WrestleMania V. Simmons and I have kissed and made up. (Except we didn’t actually kiss.) We’ve got five games with the Yankees over the next four days. It’s time to focus all of our thin-skinned anger at the real opponent.

Post Categories: Bill Simmons & Wrestlemania