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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Lockout Files - What Could’ve Been

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season and you and yours are safe and healthy.  Hopefully 2022 will be a better year for all of us.

With that out of the way I thought I might kill a little time with a “What Could’ve Been” team from my lifetime.  What I’m talking about should become clear fairly quickly;

1B - Nick Esasky - We start with a twofer.  What if the Sox kept big Nick and what if he stayed healthy.  With all due respect to Carlos Quintana (and who didn’t love Q) imagine the 1990/1991 Sox with Esasky in the middle of that lineup.  The dominoes fall beyond that.  Presumably no disastrous Jack Clark deal (and maybe Andre Dawson too).  Maybe Esasky gives the Sox a little bump and they don’t have to trade for Larry Andersen in August, 1990.  Hey if nothing else maybe Esasky is a bit better than Q’s 0 for 13 in the ALCS that year.

2B - Mookie Betts - The Sox knew they had to put Mookie somewhere with Dustin Pedroia in the way but a world of Mookie at second base isn’t that difficult to imagine.  Can you see the Sox moving the aging Pedroia to third and putting Mookie at second?  No Pablo Sandoval deal? Maybe even no Hanley Ramirez deal?  OK I’ll admit the Sox don’t have a ton of “what ifs” at second base but this is one that I thought would be fun to consider.

3B - Jeff Bagwell - Obviously he became a star as a first baseman but he was in the system on the other side of the diamond when the Astros chose him over Scott Cooper.  Letting Boggs walk wouldn’t have been quite so onerous had it been the future Hall of Famer replacing the future Hall of Famer rather than Scott “he made TWO all star teams?” Cooper.

SS - Nomar Garciaparra - Well yeah.  Obviously I wouldn’t trade 2004 for anything but there will always be a small part of me that wishes the Sox had won in 2003.  Seeing Nomar be a part of that would have been great and imagine the roars on Opening Day 2004 when World Champions like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez are welcomed back?  Really with Nomar it stems back to him getting hit on the wrist at the end of the 1999 season.  I wonder how his career might have played out had that not happened.  I don’t think a Hall of Fame career is an unreasonable thought.  It’s hard to remember but there was a time when he was the Mookie Betts of his era.  Maybe not as good Mookie but the dynamism, the fan engagement, his arrival was something else.

LF - Joe Rudi - The Sox eventually got their man just a couple of years too late.  Acquired in a controversial, and eventually negated, trade in 1976 Rudi could have been a massive difference maker.  Rudi would have given impressive depth to offset injuries to guys like Lynn and Dwight Evans and I’m just going to go out on a limb and say he would have had a hell of a lot better chance against Rich Gossage than Bob Bailey.  Of course if Rudi had been on the team that game probably never gets played as he fills in for the injured Evans in the second half and the Sox survive the Yankee push.

CF - Fred Lynn - “Jose, who was your first favorite player?”  Answer: see left.  I don’t know who got hurt worse, the Sox losing Lynn or Lynn losing a Hall of Fame career.  Few players have ever been more suited to a ballpark than Lynn was to Fenway.  His swing was absolute perfection and he played centerfield like a cartographer plotting out every square inch.  Like Esasky you have to wonder what Lynn’s impact would have been beyond just the performance.  If Lynn is a Red Sox then Tony Armas probably never is.  The Sox then either can keep Carney Lansford at first base (or Boggs to first base like they did with Youkilis) and don’t have to deal for Buckner or they can trade Lansford for someone who was actually good.

RF - Sammy Sosa - You forgot this one didn’t you? One of the great losses of the 1994/1995 work stoppage was Dan Duqette’s spending spree.  Sosa, John Wetteland and Kevin Appier were all coming to Boston after that off-season.  Say what you want about Slammin’ Sammy but he was Manny Ramirez before Manny Ramirez.  Not only was he an absolute stud at the plate but he was an incredibly popular player who electrified fans at Wrigley and likely would have had the same impact at Fenway.

C - Carlton Fisk - Oooh boy, thanks Haywood.  Anyway, the Sox blew it with The True Pudge and he’s another one who could have made a huge impact.  Among other things more than a few people have noted over the years that Fisk behind the plate in 1986 might have been a difference maker.  That may be a bit unfair to Rich Gedman who had a nice career but he wasn’t Pudge Fisk.  Fisk was the New Hampshire Yankee through and through and he, Lynn and Rice had a World Series title in them.  Fisk and Lynn had been gone over five years in 1986 but they were still better that year than their replacements were.

DH - Ryan Westmoreland - OK a little off the beaten path.  Will Middlebrooks said on Twitter this weekend that if he could see one guy be healthy for his entire MLB career it would have been Westmoreland.  How good could he have been?  Baseball America vaulted the 2008 fifth rounder to #21 in their top 100 rankings prior to 2010 (Baseball Prospectus had him at #14).  Imagine Westmoreland partnering with Bogaerts as the next wave of stars came through?

SP - Roger Clemens - “Jose, who was your second favorite player?” Answer: see left.  I freakin’ LOVE Roger Clemens.  I know I know (and I was chanting “Where is Roger” at Fenway in 1999) but I loved watching Roger do his thing.  I will freely admit I understood the decision to let him go at the time, Duquette was dumb to say it publicly but no one really thought he was going to be THAT good after leaving.  Still, a world where Roger Clemens is a lifelong Red Sox pitcher…sign me up.

SP - Bruce Hurst - 1989: John Dopson, Eric Hetzel, Wes Gardner. That was your non-Clemens/Boddicker rotation that year.  1991: Mike Gardiner, Tom Bolton, Matt Young, Danny Darwin.  That was your non-Clemens rotation that year.  1989 probably would have been a bridge too far but a 1991 team with Bruce Hurst definitely could have won the division and Clemens/Boddicker/Hurst against the A’s would have at least been interesting.

RP - Rollie Fingers - When you saw the left fielder you knew who the reliever was didn’t you?  With all due respect to Bill Campbell this would have worked out better.  A relief combination of Fingers and Bob Stanley in the late 70s would have been dominant with the Sox locking games down much the way the Yankees of Gossage and Ron Davis did a few years later.

Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: December 28, 2021 at 09:37 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Bad Fish Posted: January 01, 2022 at 07:23 PM (#6059288)
Clemens was looking like a pitcher who was starting a typical age related decline, letting him walk isn't unconscionable. Who would have guessed he would go to Toronto and discover a devastating splitter and a little, ahem, mid-career magic.

Nomar, bless him, was offered 4/$60m and turned it down, the writing was on the wall there.

Fisk was also getting long in the tooth and Gedman was behind him. You can't bet on a catcher being productive into their 40's....well, I guess you can, once.

The Lynn trade was stupid.

Losing Jed Lowrie bummed me out but it was a good trade for Melancon and Hanrahan, but we blew it by giving up on Melancon - I guess we got Holt out of it, but gave two superior talents in the process.

Bronson Arroyo for wily mo?

Also, Travis Shaw hit 30 home runs while the guy we got never was a productive player and we had to pay $18M to watch Pablo Sandoval attempts at playing professional baseball.


   2. villageidiom Posted: January 02, 2022 at 08:44 AM (#6059328)
Losing Jed Lowrie bummed me out but it was a good trade for Melancon and Hanrahan, but we blew it by giving up on Melancon - I guess we got Holt out of it, but gave two superior talents in the process.
On a WAR basis, Boston won both Melancon trades. But they wouldn't have had either trade if they hadn't drafted Lowrie, which wouldn't have happened if they hadn't traded for Orlando Cabrera. What I'm basically saying is that if the Red Sox had kept Nomar they wouldn't have eventually acquired Brock Holt.
   3. Nasty Nate Posted: January 03, 2022 at 09:46 AM (#6059411)
What about The Blade? Sure he reverse-blossomed into the worst pitcher in the National League, but maybe he would have thrived if he stayed under the tutelage of Dave Wallace.

In more recent "news," the Sox ZiPS projections are up at fangraphs: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2022-zips-projections-boston-red-sox/
   4. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 03, 2022 at 10:09 AM (#6059414)
Awwww, Casey Fossum. Always liked that guy.

I tweeted Dan and he ran the projections with Whitlock as a starter; 4.15 ERA, 113 ERA+, 2.6 WAR.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: January 03, 2022 at 11:11 AM (#6059418)
The guy on the ZIPS who jumped out at me was David Hamilton, with more projected WAR than Dalbec, Casas, Arroyo, Duran, and JBJ. I didn't know who he was, but apparently he came over in the Milwaukee trade. He is a walk-taking base-stealing middle infielder.
   6. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 03, 2022 at 11:28 AM (#6059420)
Sale's top comp is Dutch Leonard. I'll assume there aren't many guys whose top comp has been out of baseball for 70 years.
   7. Darren Posted: January 03, 2022 at 01:32 PM (#6059445)
Clemens was looking like a pitcher who was starting a typical age related decline, letting him walk isn't unconscionable. Who would have guessed he would go to Toronto and discover a devastating splitter and a little, ahem, mid-career magic.


Now hold it together, Darren. Stay calm and explain your points rationa.... CLEMENS WAS THROWING THE SPLITTER IN 1990! ... Okay, just one little slip, but now you've got it under con... LOOKING LIKE HE WAS DECLINING? CLEMENS PUT UP 6.8 fWAR (LED THE AL) AND 7.7 bWAR (2ND IN AL) IN 1996.... Alright then, it's all fine, we're just talking about some baseball stats from 25 years ago, it's not life and dea.... AHEM WHAT? CLEMENS PUT UP ONE OF THE MOST DOMINANT SEASONS IN HISTORY IN 1997, THE YEAR BEFORE HE IS ACCUSED OF USING STEROIDS....
   8. Darren Posted: January 03, 2022 at 01:48 PM (#6059449)
Fun topic. You mentioned Quintana at 1B and he might be a good What if? In 1991 he put up 2.9 WAR as a 25 year old. Then broke his leg in a car accident (I think?) and missed all of 1992. Came back at 27 in 1993 and put up -1.6 WAR. Was never the same. He may also have prevented the Andre Dawson signing, shifting Vaughn to DH.

Another option for 1B: Cecil Cooper doesn't get dealt for Scott and Carbo after 1976. It's not hard to imagine Cooper taking advantage of Fenway for the next decade and putting up borderline HOF numbers. Replacing George Scott in 1978 is enough to give the Sox the AL East that year. Of course, if he's entrenched at 1B, there's no place for Boggs to get his chance in 1982, so that's not great.
   9. Darren Posted: January 03, 2022 at 10:52 PM (#6059523)
About the ZIPS numbers, the left side of the infield is a really mixed bag. The team's two biggest stars are projected to be really good players, but.... They are both lousy defensively and neither is good enough that you'd feel confident locking them up long term. So what do you do? Any offer that values them based on ZIPS will pale in comparison to other star players. Letting them walk or trading them will anger your fans immensely.
   10. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 04, 2022 at 08:22 AM (#6059545)
Why wouldn't you feel confident locking up X and Devers? They're both great players, both young enough that decline isn't any kind of concern and both are good enough with the bat that they can shift on the defensive spectrum and still be fine. In 5 years a set up of Mayer-SS, Bogaerts-3B, Devers-DH is just fine.
   11. Darren Posted: January 04, 2022 at 09:43 AM (#6059551)
Because if you believe ZIPS, they are not great players, they're merely good players. What would you offer them for long-term deals?
   12. Darren Posted: January 04, 2022 at 10:33 AM (#6059563)
To elaborate a bit more:

Devers is young enough that he could continue to improve. With his current projection of 3.7 but looks like he'll top out at something like a 4 to 4.5 WAR player. A 10 year deal for him, valuing him this way, would come in at around 10 years/$250 mil. ($7.5mil/win now, 3 percent inflation, $11 mil and $16 mil for his two arb years)

Bogaerts, contrary to what you say above, is actually old enough where a decline is a concern. In fact, it's likely coming very soon, give his age. Based on the same assumptions above and him starting as a 3.6 WAR player, a long term deal including 2022 (at $20 mil) would be something like 7 years/$120 mil.

In both cases, we're assuming that these guys are going to somewhat seamlessly transition to new positions. I guess there's a chance that Devers would be interested in 10/250, but I doubt it. It seems pretty certain that Bogaerts and the Boston fan base would would see 7/120 as an insult/low ball, on par with the Lester offer (and worse than the Mookie one).

   13. Darren Posted: January 04, 2022 at 12:20 PM (#6059585)
Getting back to What Ifs?

The Red Sox, after managing to hold onto Fred Lynn, and hoping to finally improve their pitching, decide to trade.... .... JIM RICE! What could they have gotten? Blyleven was dealt around this time. Seaver? Steve Rogers plus a prospect like, I don't know, Tim Raines?
   14. Darren Posted: January 10, 2022 at 01:37 PM (#6060444)
ZIPS has some weird ideas about Tristan Casas. it projects him at .252 /.325/.436, 0.7 WAR in 433 PA. That's pretty good for a 22 year old, so maybe just about right for good prospect who projects to be an above average player, right? But here's what's weird: his #1 comp is Chris Pritchett--yes, the guy who starred as Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball. No, actually not that guy. Chris Pritchett was a second round pick out of UCLA, who at age 21 hit a respectable .267 .381 .435 in low-A. He made it to the Majors at age 26, putting up a 52 OPS+ and -1.7 WAR in 158 career PA.

How is that guy in any way similar to Casas, who hit a combined .279/.394/.484 at AA/AAA at age 21? The only thing I could find was that they're both listed at 6'4, but then Casas is 252 pounds to Pritchett's 185, so hardly the same body type.

I looked back to last year and again, it's another weird one. Of course, things are going to be a little weird because there was no 2020 season, but still, this one is hard to fathom. In 2019, at age 19, Casas hit .254 .349 .472 at A ball before the lost season. His #1 comp is Kevin Burns, who at age 19 hit .250 .309 .360 in rookie ball; then at age 20 in A-, hit .264 .307 .480. Casas doesn't exactly blow him away, but these are very different hitters. (Burns is listed a 6'5, 221, so size I guess is about right?)

Go back 3 years and you get Greg Blosser, so at least we have one of the all-time great Red Sox prospects, according to the Peter Gammons articles I recall from the time. :)

   15. villageidiom Posted: January 11, 2022 at 10:53 AM (#6060596)
Top comparables for minor leaguers in ZiPS are, AFAICT, a frivolity. If I recall every minor leaguer is comparable to a ton of other minor leaguers, with very little daylight between comp N and N+1 (or for that matter N+1000).
   16. Darren Posted: January 11, 2022 at 01:34 PM (#6060629)
Here's a fun Fred Lynn what-if trade from Chad Finn/Gammo:
https://twitter.com/GlobeChadFinn/status/1480635463518019591?t=HYtjC5xjh9vtkcX-FSl9RA&s=19
   17. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 12, 2022 at 09:36 AM (#6060754)
Here's a topical one - what if the Sox had signed Lester to the Chicago contract in 2015? Let's assume the '14 trade still happens, so they've got Cespedes on the roster, with a projected rotation of Lester/Buccholz/Rodriguez/Kelly/De La Rosa.

So many options here - do you assume the Sandoval/Ramirez signings still happen with Cespedes no longer needing to be traded for Porcello? Assume those two signings happen, Porcello is still acquired, and De La Rosa is not traded for Wade Miley?

Let's assume the moves happen chronologically - so Sandoval & Ramirez are signed, Cespdes & De La Rosa are traded, *then* Lester is signed. This gives the Sox a rotation of Lester/Buccholz/Porcello/Miley/Kelly, with Rodriguez a huge backup #6 option. With Henry Owens so far down the depth chart the Owens + Cecchini + Kelly + prospect trade for Cole Hamels happens, giving the Sox a very nice starting pitching group. 2015 is still a down year, as Buccholz missed time and Sandoval just sucked so ####### much, but 2016 things get turned around and the Sox win the first of 3 consecutive world series. And obviously the David Price signing obviously doesn't happen and Betts is still on the team.
   18. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 12, 2022 at 09:55 AM (#6060757)
Yeah, it's a HUGE game changer I think. My hunch is that one of the Porcello/Hamels deals doesn't happen and as you note given the timing of the Porcello trade that makes it likely to be the Hamels trade. Price doesn't happen so you wind up with Sale-Lester-Porcello in 2018 which is OK.

Jokes about three straight World Series aside if they DID win it all in 2016 or 2017 does the aggressive off-season in front of 2018 happen? Let's say they walk off as champions in 2017, I think we've seen they aren't going to be overly aggressive in the wake of a title. So the Sale trade probably doesn't happen and I think there is a good chance the JDM deal doesn't happen either. If anything the big move after the 2017 title is to secure someone to replace an aging Lester. Maybe they seek a lower cost option like an Alex Cobb or a Mike Minor there. If they want a splashier deal maybe they chase Darvish or Arrieta (2017-2018 free agents).
   19. Nasty Nate Posted: January 12, 2022 at 09:59 AM (#6060761)
Here's a topical one
.
.
Let's assume the moves happen chronologically
Ooh, I like this ... but my version would not have that assumption. Maybe I'll go deeper later in the day, but I say they sign Lester, and therefore don't trade Cespedes for Porcello and don't sign Hanley. The swing of those players plus Alex Wilson might be enough to put the 2015 team in the playoffs.
   20. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 12, 2022 at 10:05 AM (#6060763)
Nate - I just spent far too long trying to build the 2020 Red Sox around this whole sequence. Long story short, be prepared to waste a bunch of time once you've started. Holy hell does it get convoluted.
   21. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 12, 2022 at 10:13 AM (#6060764)
Short version;

If Lester stays one of Porcello/Hamels doesn't happen (let's say Hamels for chonological purposes).
Mookie doesn't get traded.
Price deal doesn't happen.
Sale isn't acquired in the wake of a WS title (they've generally been pretty passive after titles*)
No JDM acquisition.

So heading to 2020 they look something like this;

1B - Moreland/Pearce
2B - Moncada
3B - Devers
SS - Bogaerts
LF - Benintendi
CF - JBJ
RF - Mookie
C - Vazquez
DH - Josh Donaldson (2018/19 signing)

Rotaton - Rodriguez, Eovaldi, Perez, Kopech, Zach Wheeler (2019/20 signing)

I do wonder if in this sequence Bogaerts moves either in trade or as an FA after 2019.

* how awesome is it that we get to talk about how they've behaved in the wake of World Series wins, like there's enough for an actual pattern.
   22. Nasty Nate Posted: January 12, 2022 at 10:19 AM (#6060765)
Nate - I just spent far too long trying to build the 2020 Red Sox around this whole sequence. Long story short, be prepared to waste a bunch of time once you've started. Holy hell does it get convoluted.
2020? I'm still on 2016! With no Hanley, they have a big hole at 1B. So maybe instead of spending big on Price, they get free agent Chris Davis, aaaughhh! Or instead, they could make a great move and sign Daniel Murphy w/ the erstwhile Hanley money and move him to 1B (and also still sign Price).
   23. HAL9000 Posted: January 12, 2022 at 10:48 AM (#6060771)
Long story short, be prepared to waste a bunch of time once you've started. Holy hell does it get convoluted.
I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.
   24. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 13, 2022 at 04:33 PM (#6060980)
Here's a what if that occurred to me today;

Game 162, 2021. Sox and Nationals are tied at 5 going to the ninth. In the top of the frame the Sox go in order. In the bottom of the inning Nick Pivetta is on and retires Lane Thomas and Alcides Escobar. Two outs, no one on, one out away from extra innings. Except, Juan Soto is coming to the plate. Do the Red Sox walk him? Josh Bell (2 for 3 on the day, 5 for 10 on the weekend) is in the on deck circle. He's no slouch but Soto is Soto. Do you walk him or just work verrrry carefully?
   25. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 14, 2022 at 08:40 AM (#6061027)

Game 162, 2021. Sox and Nationals are tied at 5 going to the ninth. In the top of the frame the Sox go in order. In the bottom of the inning Nick Pivetta is on and retires Lane Thomas and Alcides Escobar. Two outs, no one on, one out away from extra innings. Except, Juan Soto is coming to the plate. Do the Red Sox walk him? Josh Bell (2 for 3 on the day, 5 for 10 on the weekend) is in the on deck circle. He's no slouch but Soto is Soto. Do you walk him or just work verrrry carefully?


What good does working 'verrrrry carefully' do against someone like Soto who excels in taking a walk? I say go after him as you normally would with no one on and try and get the out. Plus, Soto is great and all, but he only had 29 HR's, we are not talking peak Bonds, or even someone like Bryce Harper who seems to sell out more going for the HR.
   26. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 14, 2022 at 09:01 AM (#6061032)
I hate the whole "pitch around a guy" thing in general for just the reason you say. Go after him or don't. But I think it would have been an interesting thing to consider.
   27. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 14, 2022 at 12:57 PM (#6061077)
But I think it would have been an interesting thing to consider.


Oh definitely, and I wouldn't be upset if an intentional walk was called for. Either go after them or throw 4 aggressive breaking balls and hope he chases, dancing around them trying to maybe spot a curve or taking some off your fastball to get it placed just right just seems to lead to bad results.
   28. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 14, 2022 at 02:55 PM (#6061098)
Yeah that's my fundamental issue with the whole pitching around someone. You are starting from a negative, "don't make a mistake." I think you need to approach it affirmatively and if you aren't prepared to do that then issue the IBB and move on.
   29. villageidiom Posted: January 14, 2022 at 05:10 PM (#6061111)
I'm with Jose. If you're not good enough to face him, you're definitely not good enough to get him to swing at stuff he shouldn't swing at. So then it just becomes whether you're good enough not to make a mistake and how far he hits it when you do. If you can pitch to him without making mistakes, just get him out.

In my career I have worked for many managers who, when faced with a difficult decision, chose to waste everyone's time with something that had an incredibly low chance of success and a decent chance of catastrophic failure, only because it carried the pretense that they were trying to succeed. I get the same sense about the "unintentional intentional" walk.
   30. villageidiom Posted: February 08, 2022 at 09:54 AM (#6064195)
Boston signed Roberto Ramos to a minor-league contract, and he is expected to play in Worcester. He played in Korea for the last couple of years, where had an 890 OPS but ended his 2021 season early due to a back injury. He also had a 980 OPS for the Isotopes back in 2019. He plays 1B.

It's pretty easy to see this move as "hey, he might be valuable, we like value, let's get him". But right now they have Dalbec at 1B, with an expectation that Casas will move up during the season, and now Ramos. I'm not sure if Ramos is the new Dalbec, or insurance on Casas, or just being taken off the market to keep the demand for a Dalbec trade high, but it doesn't seem like nobody is getting traded.
   31. Darren Posted: February 09, 2022 at 10:00 AM (#6064406)
It doesn't sound to me like this means any kind of a trade is imminent. More like a minor league depth/low-risk flyer. They should be able to find ABs for him in AAA.

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