Low Risk Acquisitions Guarantee High Success
John Smoltz, Rocco Baldelli and Mark Kotsay
ProBaseball-fans.com Boston Red Sox Correspondent Elizabeth Dreeson brings us her latest update on Red Sox Nation.
The Red Sox recently acquired veteran pitcher John Smoltz, who had played with the Braves for his entire twenty-year career. He has a career record of 210-147, 3,011 strikeouts, and a 3.26 ERA. He is just coming off surgery, but Braves manager Bobby Cox says that Smoltz looks “incredible” pitching. However, because of this surgery, Smoltz will not be pitching until at least June 1 st. When he does return, he will most likely be moved into the starting rotation, and either Brad Penny or Justin Masterson will be moved to the bullpen. His situation is very similar to that of Curt Schilling’s last year. The Red Sox’s starting rotation for 2009 will be something along the lines of Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and either Brad Penny, Justin Masterson or Clay Buchholz.
The Red Sox also acquired Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli. Rocco Baldelli had a great start to his career with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2003, when he came in third in the Rookie of the Year voting batting .289 with 184 hits. He was considered by some to be the next Joe Dimaggio. However, he was soon plagued with constant injuries that either drastically shortened, or cancelled his entire season. Initially, he was diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder, which causes excessive fatigue and is untreatable. However, he was recently re-diagnosed and found to have channelopathy, a highly treatable ailment! Baldelli will serve as the fourth outfielder that the Red Sox have been looking for. He is aware of the fact that he can’t play everyday because of his disorder, but he will add a lot of depth to the Red Sox bench.
The Red Sox also re-signed back up first baseman Mark Kotsay, who was acquired from the Braves later in the 2008 season and started all seven games of the American League Championship Series. He is a great defensive first baseman, and is a pretty solid hitter, despite his 2008 season in which his numbers dropped. This adds even more depth to the Red Sox’s bench because when Mike Lowell has the day off, Kevin Youkilis can move across the diamond and play third, while Kotsay plays first.
Another Red Sox signing in the past week includes relief pitcher Takashi Saito from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Saito has been in the league for three years and has pitched 189.7 innings with an incredible 1.95 ERA. The Red Sox really struggled with their bullpen last season; it was probably one of their weakest areas besides the constant threat of injuries. General Manager Theo Epstein has fixed this problem by trading for Ramon Ramirez from the Kansas City Royals, signing Takashi Saito, having incredible arms in the farm system like Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden as well as some of the veterans like Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon.
With all of these new acquisitions it seems like somewhat of a possibility that Theo Epstein will try and work out a trade for some catching depth. One possible rumor could be Jacoby Ellsbury, but this could not happen simply because Rocco Baldelli can’t play everyday, and Epstein himself has called Jacoby the “future center fielder of the Red Sox”. Now that the Red Sox have all this pitching, Epstein could try and work out a trade with Texas for some backup catching like Jarrod Saltalmacchia and no longer have the need for Jason Varitek. However, this would not work because the deals with Smoltz and Penny are only for one year, and Buchholz, Bowden and Masterson will be needed to step up the next year.
It will be interesting to see where Justin Masterson pitches in 2009. He has proven that he is capable of both starting and relief pitching. It is possible that he could compete for a starting spot during Spring Training and then move to the bullpen when John Smoltz is ready; however, it seems more likely that Brad Penny would be in that position. Justin Masterson was such a force in the bullpen last season—especially when it came to the playoffs that he should stay there. He’s the type of guy that’s going to give you at least two or three innings.
With these recent acquisitions, the only thing that is still uncertain is the catching situation. The Red Sox have added a lot of depth, which will be huge when the inevitable injuries start happening. A lot of the Red Sox’s success though, will depend on how people like Mike Lowell and David Ortiz recover from their injuries from last season. It is still very possible that Jason Varitek will sign with the Red Sox, but that means dealing with the power agent Scott Boras, a man who is on bad terms right now with the Red Sox due to the Teixeira deal.
By Elizabeth Dreeson
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