POWER OUTAGE IN BOSTON
The Red Sox wanted Mark Teixeira for a variety of reasons: he's young (29); he's a Gold Glove winning first baseman; he hits for both power and average; he's a switch hitter; and he conducts himself professionally both on and off the field.
While all of these qualities are appealing, the one that attracted the Sox above all else is Teixeira's offensive ability. The truth is, the Sox didn't just want Teixeira – they needed him.
Much has been made of the Sox' desire (or need) to upgrade offensively this offseason. The loss of Manny Ramirez, and his customary 35 homers and 120 RBI, was a deficit the team needed to overcome this winter.
However, the Sox did acquire Jason Bay in the Manny trade, and Bay is no slouch.
Over his five full seasons in the majors, Bay has averaged 29 homers and 95 RBI. On the other hand, over the same period, Ramirez averaged 36 homers and 117 RBI. Obviously, Manny's stats are better and that 22 RBI differential needs to be made up elsewhere.
Bay's greatest advantages are that he is younger, less expensive, and more predictable. Jason being Jason isn't associated with any bizarre or selfish behaviors. His athleticism, relative speed, and defensive abilities are also assets. And, as noted, the guy can hit.
Here's a look at the active outfielders under 32 years old with the highest OPS:
Player - Opening Day Age - OPS
Adam Dunn - 29 - .900
Jason Bay - 30 - .891
Grady Siemore - 26 - .861
Carlos Beltran - 31 - .853
Despite Bay's productivity, there is a widespread belief that the Red Sox need to bolster their offense to remain competitive in the ever more challenging AL East.
The problem is, there isn't whole lot of juice elsewhere in the Sox lineup. There isn't genuine power at catcher, second, short, center, or right. And who knows what to expect from Mike Lowell and David Ortiz?
And assuming Ortiz regains his full health and power stroke, just who exactly will protect him in the batting order? Though Kevin Youkilis led the Sox with 29 homers last season, his previous high was 16 in 2007. Which is more likely this year?
Earlier this offseason, even Ortiz weighed in on the idea of the Red Sox acquiring another power bat. "You definitely need to find another guy who can produce here," the big DH said.
Ortiz was drawing attention to an obvious need; the Red Sox were 12th of 30 teams, with 173 home runs in 2008. Just one homer separated them from the middle-of-the-pack. Another power hitter would certainly improve the 2009 team.
The Sox finished third in baseball with 845 runs last year. But as a team long renowned for its power hitting, they played small ball, using their speed to manufacture runs with base hits, bunts, sacrifices, and steals.
That's the good news, and it may lead some to contend that all the concerns about not upgrading the lineup this winter are overstated.
However, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (9) and JD Drew (19) combined for just 28 home runs last year. Thank goodness the Sox have Bay; without him, the outfield would be plainly impotent. It's an issue that management needs to address. Even the addition of Rocco Baldelli won't change this. When healthy, he's a good hitter but not a power hitter; at his best in 2006, he hit a home run in every 23 at bats.
It's not just Ellsbury and Drew; one of the Sox' primary problems is a lack of power throughout their lineup. Despite improving on their 2007 home run total (166) last year, the Sox have otherwise been in a power decline for the past six years.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Sox gave up on Trot Nixon because of his declining health and offense. JD Drew was supposed to be the high priced answer, a guy who could bat fifth and add some needed pop to the lineup.
But Drew is on the wrong side of 30 and has a long history of injuries. He's a fragile as your grandmother's fine china – and a lot more expensive. After two years in Boston, the right fielder has been an utter disappointment.
Believe it or not, Drew is the highest paid player on the team. And until MVP Dustin Pedroia got his six-year deal last month, Drew also had the longest contract of any position-player on the team.
When the Sox signed Drew to a highly controversial five-year, $70 million contract after the 2006 season, it raised eyebrows for a variety of reasons:
Firstly, Drew had hit 30 homers just once, and had driven in 100 runs just once -- in different seasons. And after two years in Boston, that hasn't changed. Drew has notched a total of 30 homers and 128 RBI (64 both years) during his tenure with the Red Sox.
Secondly, before Drew signed, no Sox player had been given a contract of longer than four years by the current ownership.
And lastly, Drew's career has been marred by a tendency to injury, resulting in repeated stints on the disabled list. Unfortunately, Drew has lived up to his fragile reputation while with the Red Sox, playing in only 109 games last year. And over the course of his 10-year career, Drew has averaged just 120 games per season.
After starting strongly last year, and earning his first All Star selection, Drew cooled considerably and hit a mere .211 in 90 at-bats following the All Star break.
From the beginning, many people, myself included, believed that signing Drew was a very expensive mistake. Apparently, we were right. The Sox are stuck with Drew for an additional three years, and we'll be watching what I've termed "the most overpaid, underachieving player" for the duration.
As a $14 million-a-year corner outfielder, Drew should be expected to hit 30 homers and drive in at least 100 runs per season; that's not too much to ask. If that were the case, Manny's bat would not be missed. However, such an expectation is nothing more than a pipe dream.
Drew is an enigma, hailed for his "perfect swing" and for allegedly being a five tool player. The truth is, he's a good fielder, throws well, and runs well. But he's never stolen more than 19 bases in any season, and that was 10 years ago.
His offense, however, is grossly over-rated. And it's not just the total absence of power either: Drew is a career .284 hitter; has never hit as many as 35 doubles in a season; never totaled 300 total bases (never even 200 w/Sox); has drawn 100 walks just once; and has struck out at least 100 times in four seasons.
Over ten full seasons, Drew has averaged 19 HR and 62 RBI. Apparently, he hits a lot of solo shots. Despite this, he is one of the highest paid outfielders in the game. And it was all predicated on a pretty slim resume.
Let's face it -- he just isn't a great player. One thing's for certain; Drew has always been over-rated, and he's certainly overpaid. Simply put, it's time to stop talking about his potential.
He's been in the majors for a decade and he's now 33 years old. The Red Sox have invested superstar money in a player who clearly isn't a superstar, and never will be. At this point he is what he is; an average player with an out-sized, bloated contract.
So, the Red Sox and their fans are stuck with mediocrity for the next few years. That is, of course, unless the Red Sox are willing to eat some of his hefty salary after convincing some other team to give him more "time to develop."
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.
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