October 21, 2008

Epstein Discusses Off-Season Plans

Theo Epstein held a wide-ranging press conference at Fenway Park yesterday, noting the Red Sox would be a "selective shopper" on the free agent market.

The biggest roster issue for 2009 -- by far -- is catcher Jason Varitek, who will be a free agent. He had the worst season of his career at the plate (.220/.313/.359; his 74 OPS+ was worse than Julio Lugo (80) and not much better than Kevin Cash (68)). He turns 37 on April 11.

Epstein:
What we like to do is be league average at every position, and then be way above league average at as many positions as we can. We try to have no weak links and be at least league average at every position. It's well-documented that there's not a lot of elite catching out there, but we'll figure it out.
The pitching staff seems stable and unlikely to change in any significant way. In addition to the main starters, Clay Buchholz is doing well in the Arizona Fall League and the team will have to decide if it wishes to keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen.

Epstein said he is unconcerned about Josh Beckett.
The number one prescription for a torn oblique is six weeks of rest. We just couldn't afford that at the time. He just needs to rest and have himself a good offseason, [and do] what he always does and build up his shoulder strength for the coming season.
Epstein also called the surgery on Mike Lowell's right hip
a complete success. ... They finally got a look in there. They didn't see anything they didn't expect. They were actually pleasantly surprised. ... He should be ready to go for Spring Training or shortly thereafter.
David Ortiz will not have surgery on his right wrist.

Elsewhere in the infield, there is the question of what to do with the Julio Lugo/Jed Lowrie situation at shortstop. In some ways it is similar to the dilemma the team faced last April with outfielders Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury. Epstein said Lugo would have been considered for the World Series roster if Boston had won Sunday night.
I think [Lugo's] got a lot to offer. I think he's also got a lot to prove. I think he and Lowrie can also complement each other very well.
Mike Timlin, Paul Byrd, Alex Cora, Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay are all eligible for free agency.

39 comments:

redsock said...

I don't have anything to say, but figured I should put up something.

Pic swiped from SoSH.

tcp said...

Varitek is too important behind the plate to let go. Sure he had an abnormally dismal year batting, but he makes up for that with his defensive genius and ability to control a pitching staff. He is a must sign in the offseason.

Jake of All Trades said...

The number one prescription for a torn oblique is six weeks of rest.

Does this confirm that the oblique actually was "torn" and not just "strained" as previously reported?

redsock said...

torn

Interesting. That went right by me.

but he makes up for that with his defensive genius

He's decent behind the plate. Not very adept at throwing guys out, but he doesn't embarrass himself (usually). And if he was truly a genius, he could re-learn to catch a knuckleball.

and ability to control a pitching staff

If he gets praise when pitchers do well, shouldn't he also be criticized when they suck? That's what the media people who rave about Tek's rep with the pitchers always forget. They are content with a one-sided (i.e., false) view.

I'd offer him a one-year deal at $6-8 with an option for a second year if he hits at league average. (Note: I say that without knowing exactly who I would have catch, by the way!)

I can't see Tek accepting that -- just like Lowell would not have accepted my two-year deal. On the other hand, we may be stuck with him because the alternatives are no better. (Could Ross hit or at least get on base like he did in Cincinnati?)

Remember that the front office did NOT want to give him four years after 2004, but they went against their usual MO and factored emotion into the process and buckled. I do not expect them to do that again.

thatdietcokegirl said...

I'd rather see Lowrie as our SS.

I can't imagine the Red Sox w/o Tek. But whatever is best for the team...

ish said...

I'm not sure what to expect with Varitek this off-season. He's terrific at handling a pitching staff, and the pitchers trust him, but you can see the time is wearing on him and his bat.

Begs the question as to a.) what is league average for a catcher nowadays... b.) is 'Tek league average... c.) Who else would catch?

There are rumbling that the Dodgers could make Russell Martin available, a young catcher who is still learning how to handle a pitching staff, but he has the ability to be similar to Varitek behind the plate. And he's got a good bat. But he will cost a lot.

One thing I like is how relatively little money is currently on the books for the Red Sox. Adding up all of their returning players, the current payroll is around $94 million for 2009. Add a catcher, and they still have a considerable amount of money at their disposal to reach 2008's payroll level. Could put them in better standing to sign a guy like Sabathia or Teixiera. But where does Tex fit? There's something about C.C. Sabathia being given a 6+ year contract in the American League east that doesn't sit too well with me. But I'm sure he'll land in the AL East one way or another.

Hmm.

ish said...

Remember how we'd start hearing about different injuries as the days went by?

Jed Lowrie will have an MRI on his wrist after playing through soreness for most of the season.

ish said...

Terry Francona will also be having surgery, on his back this off-season.

Pokerwolf said...

The Sox are stuck between a rock and a hard place with 'Tek. They don't want to keep him long term, but they don't have a lot of options on the market either.

I don't see him taking a one-year deal, for sure. So, we'd have Cash and maybe someone from the minors if that happens? Who would they sign at catcher out of the FA pool?

Amy said...

On Tek: I would love to see him stay in the organization in some way. What other team would want him with that BA and age? Does he really have much leverage in negotiating? Perhaps he will be interested in a deal that gives him some long term role in the organization as a pitching coach at some point?

I am just talking through my hat since I have no idea how these things work, but yeah, emotions run deep for me. Doesn't mean I want to see him batting 220 again, but I do believe that the pitchers believe in him, whether Allan does or not!

9casey said...

redsock said...
If he gets praise when pitchers do well, shouldn't he also be criticized when they suck? That's what the media people who rave about Tek's rep with the pitchers always forget. They are content with a one-sided (i.e., false) view.




You always bring this up, and when you did earlier this year I constantly watch Tek and the pitcher, shake offs , spots missed and when a pitcher misses a spot it usally gets hit..., You say the media raves about Tek, why do you still listen to them, Listen to the pitching staff and his teamates, that should be enough for you, He's invaluable and it has nothing to do with the media......

L-girl said...

Listen to the pitching staff and his teamates, that should be enough for you, He's invaluable and it has nothing to do with the media......

You don't ask teammates and pitching staff how to construct a team. They're never going to say anything but compliments. No RS pitcher is going to publically say, Varitek is a liability, let him go. Pitching staff and teammates opinions are irrelevant.

How can someone who hits 220 be invaluable? No one else can call a game as well as Varitek? That's hard to believe.

I understand that many fans love Tek and will miss him when he's gone. But how on earth can anyone justify having him on the team anymore?

Amy said...

I can easily justify having him on the team if the pitching staff truly believes that he is the guy they have faith in to know the hitters and how to pitch to them. It seems our pitching was what won many of our games this year with our offense somewhat diminished. I give the pitchers most of the credit, but I give some to Tek as well. If he can somehow learn not to swing at the high stuff, I think his BA will go up. Not to over 300, but perhaps to 250.

Plus as many have noted, what catcher out there will replace him? I would keep him another year or so while waiting for someone else to take his place.

9casey said...

L-girl said...
You don't ask teammates and pitching staff how to construct a team. They're never going to say anything but compliments. No RS pitcher is going to publically say, Varitek is a liability, let him go. Pitching staff and teammates opinions are irrelevant.



Theo asked them about Manny.....No pitcher may say Varitek is a liability but they all go out their way to say how great he is....

redsock said...

.250 with a few more walks and more power than this year would be fine. I'm just not sure if we'll get that. I would say bye to Cash and try Kottaras and Brown (and Ross) next spring as a back-up. Both have been catching Zink's knuckleball in Pawtucket. There is also the possibility of a trade.

I think Tek staying will depend on him accepting fewer years (and maybe less $ per year) than he might be expecting (though he has been tight-lipped about the whole thing).

He won't get anything close to a Posada deal -- from anyone, but a few million more for a couple of years would not kill the club.

I'm sure that Curt and Beckett and Dice are being completely honest when they talk about Tek's prep and how much they are helped by him.

But this aspect of his game has been blown up into silly extremes -- not unlike Jeter's ability to cure a couple of fans of cancer during the 7th inning stretch.

You would think no one ever worked with a pitching staff before Tek came along to show the world how it should be done. He's no doubt very good at what he does, but come on!!!

I was a Red Sox fan when Tek was in kindergarden. The team had a catcher back then -- and he was pretty good. We'll have other catchers 10 years from now -- and they will be able to do the job as well.

9casey said...

redsock said...

I was a Red Sox fan when Tek was in kindergarden. The team had a catcher back then -- and he was pretty good. We'll have other catchers 10 years from now -- and they will be able to do the job as well.



Was that catcher part of a battery that won 2 world series that were dominated by remarkable pitching performances?


He's the captain I would be shocked if he wasn't back....

9casey said...

Priceless:


Joba got loaded, heckled at strip club before his arrest



"Some guy yelled out, 'If you played for the Red Sox, you wouldn't be sitting here,'" clubgoer Gary (Bo) Bohaty said.

"That got a rise out of him," said Bohaty, owner of the Beacon Lounge, a bar next to the strip club. "[Joba] turned his head and said, 'What did you say?' and the guy yelled it out again."

As Chamberlain kept shouting back, one of the pitcher's friends got into a shoving match with the heckler, said the club's manager, who asked not to be identified.

Source: New York Daily News

Amy said...

Yeah, I know Tek is replaceable. And no player plays forever. I just think he offers something to the team that is valuable enough to justify keeping him---if the contract terms are appropriate. I was responding to Laura's question about how anyone could justify keeping him.

L-girl said...

Was that catcher part of a battery that won 2 world series that were dominated by remarkable pitching performances?

So he plays forever, no matter how he performs? He plays until he finally embarrasses himself enough and retires?

"He's the captain" is not enough reason to keep a player - unless you're a Yankees fan.

redsock said...

Was that catcher part of a battery that won 2 world series that were dominated by remarkable pitching performances?

He very well might have had his manager been smarter than a turnip.

L-girl said...

You would think no one ever worked with a pitching staff before Tek came along to show the world how it should be done. He's no doubt very good at what he does, but come on!!!

I hadn't read this before. This is basically what I think, too.

I have no doubt Varitek is a very good catcher who works very well with pitchers. But somehow pitchers on other teams manage to work without him. And Red Sox pitchers will eventually manage without him too. IMO, hopefully sooner rather than later, because how many automatic outs does one team need.

9casey said...

L-girl said...

So he plays forever, no matter how he performs? He plays until he finally embarrasses himself enough and retires?


No, I understand that , It's amazing in how many lineups the catcher has become an automatic out.....

accudart said...

Tek is a hard one....his value (becuse of his past will be inflated), so teams will look at him because of his leadership and rings. I would love Boston to re-sign him (and slightly overpay him) to a reduced role...can that happen, only if he takes the Mike Lowell route and really really wants to stay.

phil said...

I hear Wally is having surgery tomorrow to treat impacted anal glands.

Shan-a-Funk said...

Doesn't calling 4 No-hitters (woulda been 5 if Schill didn't shake him off) at least give some credence to the idea that Varitek is damn good behind the plate? Look at some of those pitches that got blasted in the ALCS, it wasn't that they were the wrong pitch to throw, a lot of them were meatballs.

Zenslinger said...

Sure, Tek might hit a little better next year and be the same behind the plate. He won't take one year, so you have to give him two.

Regardless of whether his defensive & pitching staff skills are overrated or not, though, the example of Posada tells the Sox one thing: they need another catcher next year regardless. The vargaries of what kind deal he gets won't prevent Varitek from injury. Even if the Yankees hadn't paid so many years and dollars because of Posada's awesome offensive 2007, they still ended up needing catching help.

An organization as aware of the need for depth as the Sox are will see that. And if Tek won't take two years and $20m for his accomplishments, they'll have to move on to a younger guy as the putative (as well as the potential) starter.

L-girl said...

Doesn't calling 4 No-hitters (woulda been 5 if Schill didn't shake him off) at least give some credence to the idea that Varitek is damn good behind the plate?

No one is saying he's not good behind the plate. Catching four no-hitters, though, is also down to longevity and coincidence.

At some point, no matter what a player's past value, you must have a younger team in order to move forward. No matter who the player is and how much you love him, you have to face facts. Guys get old, and their effectiveness declines.

Zenslinger sums it up best, I think. It's at least time to start grooming Tek's replacement.

Amy said...

It's at least time to start grooming Tek's replacement.

For sure. Even I have no argument with that. He will be 37 next season, old for any player and certainly for a catcher. That's why I thought that he might be interested in a longer term non-playing role with the organization with a one or two year playing contract. I don't think even Heidi sees Tek catching at age 40.

James said...

Also, we're assuming Tek is going to hit better, or, at the least, the same. A just as likely (or, I'd venture, much more likely) possibility is that he goes the route of other catchers and gets worse.

All five of Tek's top comps on Baseball-Reference did not play past age 35, and we're banking on Tek being able to play at age 37? He hit at just about his 25 percentile PECOTA line... what do you think his projections are going to look like next year?

Unless he's willing to accept a gradual backup role for cheap money, it's time to make a trade with the Rangers.

L-girl said...

Also, we're assuming Tek is going to hit better, or, at the least, the same. A just as likely (or, I'd venture, much more likely) possibility is that he goes the route of other catchers and gets worse.

There's no reason to assume he'll ever hit any better. Age doesn't work that way. (Not just for catchers.)

Amy said...

Not saying this is likely to happen to Tek because I certainly know in general we get weaker physically with age (!), but Posada's best year by a long shot was at age 35 when he batted .338, about 50-60 points higher than his typical BA from when he was in his 20s and early 30s.

Again, I know that is an anomaly, but there is always a chance that Tek will hit better next year. We hope the same is true for Ortiz, who at 33 will also no longer be a kid. I realize it is a long, long shot, but just saying...sometimes with age comes patience and wisdom. (At least I like to think so!)

L-girl said...

Tek sucked at the plate in 2007, too. And he was beginning to suck in 2006.

I think building a team based on magical thinking is not a good idea. But fortunately I think Theo knows that.

Jere said...

I was gonna say what Amy said--about Posada, who I made fun of going into '07, laughing at his steady decline. He was ready to drop off the table, and then he comes out and has a great year. If age makes you worse, it also should be said that the prospect of more money can make you better.

I think Tek knows he's not gonna get much elsewhere, and will just stick around here for (relatively) cheap and even for just two years. The way Theo talks about it, it seems like there's not much else they can do right now. I'd love it if his eventual replacement is ready to go by 2010. (Is it really gonna be 2010? Where are the silver suits??)

And we just gotta hope Tek can pull a Jake Taylor in '09.

sparky said...

Wouldn't it be nice to see Tek calling pitches from the dugout as an "assistant pitching coach" / 'pen catcher / occasional starting catcher as backup to Kottaras? I realize that is somewhat naiive and would NEVER happen due to the likely money expected, but I am thinking of where he adds value to the team. Emotion does play into it, but I keep thinking of the amazingly good run that he had - and that helps some. Unfortunately it's unlikely that he (with Boras doing the negotiating) or the FO comes out looking good in this. Just my opinion.

Jeff

ish said...

Luis Alicea is the only coach not offered a 2009 contract. The other five coaches have been invited back.

ish said...

How did that happen?!?

Somehow the link I provided is of a lobster dinner. That's embarrassing.

Here we go. Let's try that.

ish said...

Are you going to be watching the world series? Sit around drinking a little too much wine, laugh at McCarver's overall stupid... Sounds like a good time to me.

ish said...

If you're not, and if anyone else wants to chat at all about the game or whatever else, my blog is open to comments.

tim said...

This Tek dilemma just furthers the case for having a designated fielder! Well, I guess that's the pitcher. They would have to hit then...see:

Varitek OPS+ likely > Pitcher OPS+