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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Bruce, Tom and The Unplanned Path

Sometimes life just has a way of working out.  In a perfect world you make your plans, you gather your rosebuds and everything falls into place exactly as planned.  Sometimes though things that look questionable turn out to be winners because as the saying goes “man plans and god laughs.”  I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding J.D. Martinez and today’s comments from Scott Boras that JDM is willing to sit out spring training to wait for a deal and Ken Rosenthal’s note that Martinez is “fed up” with the Red Sox not being more “flexible” (i.e. giving him as much money as he wants) are a bit ominous. 

A look at some local winter sports can give us a good sign that sometimes things work out pretty darned well.  It’s become a somewhat convenient idea that the Patriots were getting fed up with Drew Bledsoe before his injury in 2001 opened the door for Tom Brady.  While there may be a ring of truth to that story I am skeptical that the Pats were ready to bench their then three time Pro Bowl, Super Bowl starting quarterback for a sixth round pick who had completed one (1) NFL pass.  Of course what Brady did was go on to become a legend in every possible way (except maybe to Alex Reimer).  The Pats hadn’t drawn it up that way but as Branch Rickey noted luck is the residue of design and having a competent backup available was good planning and worked brilliantly.

We can see this with the Boston Bruins as well.  The firing of the winningest coach in club history and the mastermind behind two Stanley Cup Final appearances including the 2011 victory was viewed with more than a bit of skepticism from Bruin fans.  Bruce Cassidy came in and steered the Bruin ship into the playoffs but after a first round loss there was still some concern about the direction of the franchise.  Instead the Bruins have been one of the best and most exciting teams in the NHL in 2017-18 with Cassidy at the center of it.  Guiding a mostly young team while making some risky decisions (benching star goalie Tuukka Rask early in the season turned Rask’s season around) he has overseen not just a very good team but a flashy and exciting team.

Are the Red Sox better off if they can get J.D. Martinez’ signature on a contract?  Of course they are.  But there are options.  Hanley Ramirez has a bit of a history of performing his best when he is well motivated and a walk year certainly qualifies. Additionally if the Sox decide to travel a different path with Logan Morrison possibly providing an option that would also come with more flexibility than Martinez.  The Sox have some history in this regard as well.  The 2002-2003 off-season featured the high profile pursuit (and loss of a room deposit due to a broken chair) of Jose Contreras but in the end Contreras wound up being overpriced for what he provided.  Then in the 2003-2004 off-season they made an even higher profile pursuit of Alex Rodriguez, failed to land him and I’d say the following season worked out OK.

Obviously if you can land a high caliber player you are better off.  At the same time target fixation can cause problems.  At some point the Sox need to be smart about what they do.  If JDM wants a $200 million deal I’d rather see the Sox turn and hand that same bucket o’ money to Markus Lynn Betts.  The Sox are still a good team and a negotiation is only a negotiation if you are willing to walk away.  Sometimes the unplanned move turns out to be the best move of all.

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: February 07, 2018 at 11:06 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Bad Fish Posted: February 07, 2018 at 08:27 PM (#5621588)
You know, I once had a house that I wanted to sell for a particular price. I learned that the market doesn't care about your opinion. If JDM is indeed getting irritated at the RS because they fail to realize his thoughts about self-worth, I wonder if the best path is to just move on. I wouldn't enter into a lengthy, expensive relationship with someone when they had already expressed that they are "fed-up" with me. Boston is a hard place for some dudes to play, it's not for everyone. Free agents often don't perform well the first year and we could probably field a pretty decent team of guys who tanked in Fenway in the last 15 years. The media and fan reaction to him would be blistering if he had a so-so year. As Jose notes, there other, probably less expensive and albeit less opportunistic upside, options.
   2. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: February 07, 2018 at 08:54 PM (#5621595)
That’s my concern with him. He’s setting himself up a bit where if he does sign with the Sox and doesn’t start raking right away he’s going to hear it. Big ticket free agents always have some heat if they don’t play well but he’s really putting himself up against it. Of course if he signs, says lots of nice things then hits like he’s capable all will be quickly forgotten.
   3. villageidiom Posted: February 08, 2018 at 01:10 AM (#5621654)
If you want to go into "win now" mode, then you need the bat in the lineup. A case can be made that JDM is the man you want for that role. But I think that would mean the roster must break up in a couple of years. If you want to keep the players they have, then you really can't afford to spend on JDM because keeping the players they have is going to cost a lot.

I have a post going up in a few minutes on this subject.
   4. Morton's Fork Posted: February 08, 2018 at 04:18 AM (#5621658)
It does seem, so far, that the Sox properly estimate their current leverage regarding JDM, and count me also happy with what appears to be their self-imposed price limit. And I think flexibility's key, as you note. There was tittering when I suggested that I was 'elated' about the Mitch Moreland signing, but would you feel quite as sanguine about the unplanned path without his cheap couple of WAR at 1B? I think his presence allows many more options vis-a-vis Hanley up to and including releasement.

In other news, how could the Sox have let Betts go to arbitration? It seems so out of touch, and out of line with their recent history.

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