Friday, November 6, 2009

Improving the 2010 Red Sox: 1B/3B

Now that I'm done with my exam and my grant proposal I can do the things that are really important, like make wild speculation about the Red Sox.

Although the Red Sox got about average production out of their third basemen and slightly above average production out of their first basemen, neither Youkilis nor Lowell are true mashers. Also, Lowell's defense has declined dramatically since he signed his 3 year, $37.5 million contract, with his UZR/150 dropping to worse than -10. That represents a win that was lost by Lowell's defense over the course of the season. Based on watching him play, Lowell's range to his left has really been limited by his injury. Whether or not he'll recover some of that range with a full offseason of rest and strengthening is unclear.

With this post I'll take a look at 4 free agent options, but won't address the most common name you'll hear floated as a solution - Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is really good (.958 OPS last year), even better when you consider his mammoth home park (1.045 OPS on the road), is only 27, and is under team control until 2011 for $10.35 million for the two seasons COMBINED. Needless to say, his addition would be massive, but expensive for the farm system.

Adrian Beltre just finished up his much maligned five year, $64 million contract with the Mariners. Despite all the negative publicity surrounding it, according to Fangraphs he earned his salary in the first 4 years of the deal. The large ballpark kept his offensive numbers down, but Beltre played spectacular defense throughout the contract. Thanks to injuries (hopefully he's learned to wear a cup at 3B) and a decline in offense, Beltre didn't earn his $12 million salary this year, but because of that he might be willing to sign for relatively cheap. Beltre is also a midrange free agent; similar players were hammered last year by the salary belt tightening across the league. Beltre would likely put up slightly worse offensive numbers than Lowell, but the massive upgrade in defense would represent a nice improvement for the Sox.

Mark DeRosa is another name that you'll likely hear a lot about, although I don't think he fits well with the Red Sox. He's either a spectacular super utility guy, a good second basemen, or a mediocre 3B. Although the Red Sox love flexibility, between his age (35) and the fact that he's coming off surgery for a wrist injury I think the Sox would be wise to pass, unless he signs for a very short term deal.

One name that caught my eye when he was cut was Chad Tracy. Unlike Beltre or DeRosa, signing Tracy wouldn't necessitate a move involving Lowell. In some ways Tracy shares some similarities with Hermida; he put up some eye popping numbers early in his career, including a .914 OPS at age 25 and a three year stretch of .800 OPS between 2005 and 2007. He has also been of limited use since then, posting average defense and below average offense, even without any kind of positional adjustments, in 2008 and 2009. Tracy does play average defense, but is mostly a 1B now. If hte Red Sox feel he could overcome his injury issues and recapture his swing from 2005 to 2007 he could be a very interesting player. I'm not sure how much room the Red Sox have for him though, given their desire to put Victor Martinez at first base semi-regularly. The Red Sox seem to value positional flexibility, and signing him would give Tito have a preposterous number of combinations to fill out 1B and 3B (7, if I'm counting correctly).


  1. what do you make of Casey Kotchman? He obviously doesn't fit "masher" profile, but when he was with the Angels he seemed to be good for a good average and a little bit of power. As Lowell continues to fade, don't we just see more of Kotchman at first and Youk at third, particularly against right handers?

  2. My take on Kotchman is that he is basically Mientkiewicz with upside. (FYI- only off by two letters when spelling Mientkiewicz, that has to be some sort of record). Kotchman is an excellent defender at 1B, can hit righties OK, and has (had?) a fair amount of potential as a hitter. That said, with Youk at 1B, Kotchman is fairly limited in his value for the Sox.

  3. I don't really think Kotchman is a solution for the Red Sox at all. He fits the team fairly well as a backup first baseman with a good glove, but if the Red Sox are ever in a long term situation where their best 1B/3B combination is Kotchman/Youkilis they're in a lot of trouble. Kotchman posted below average OPS in both of the last two seasons, which is brutal for a 1B. In fact, he's only been an above average offensive player once in his career. His stats against right handers are good enough to be a short term solution, if you could find a platoon partner for him. His glove does mean he has some value, but he'd be replacing Youkilis, who is already am excellent defender.