Red Sox fans have patiently waited this offseason for the team to make the major moves they have become accustomed to in recent years. However, public comments made by team President and CEO Larry Lucchino indicate that a new day may be dawning, putting a damper on expectations that the team will acquire the bigger names so many are hoping for.
Lucchino was a guest on the Dennis & Callahan Show on the WEEI radio station on Thursday. When asked if the Red Sox planned on pursuing major names like Zach Greinke, Josh Hamilton or Joe Mauer, Lucchino responded, “We haven’t ruled anyone out.”
However, as the interview continued, Lucchino seemed to tip his hand that the Red Sox might only be interested in big-name free agents and trade targets if they were able to get them on the cheap.
“We’re not going to get into seven, eight-year deals as we've done before” said Lucchino. “What we have ruled out is the kind of long-term, gigantic commitment to players if at all possible… We are more concerned about years than we are dollars.”
Taking that kind of stance is certain to alienate the Red Sox from the best available players on the market.
According to a tweet by John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus, Hamilton is seeking a seven-year deal worth $175 million.
Perrotto (@jperrotto) November 2, 2012
Perrotto has also tweeted that Greinke is expecting his new contract to be in the neighborhood of six years and $150 million.
Zack Greinke's asking price is six and $150M according to someone who knows these things. #MLB— John Perrotto (@jperrotto) November 7, 2012
Mauer has six years and $138 million remaining on his current contract.
There are no guarantees that Hamilton or Greinke will get what they are looking for, but there is a good chance they will at least approach those figures, and may even possibly exceed them. If Lucchino is being serious about the Red Sox's new-found fiscal responsibility, it would likely take them out of the running for such players, now and in the future.
Can the Red Sox still compete without acquiring one or more big-name, expensive players this offseason?
When asked what he thought about the exorbitant demands Greinke and Hamilton have allegedly made, and the need for teams to capitulate, Lucchino responded:
In certain situations it may be a way to attract someone. I do believe the danger of free agency are the dangers of tying up your financial capacity, making extra-long commitments because of the pressure and competitiveness of free agency, signing someone you might like to sign for maybe three years gets into the free agency market and all of the sudden it’s five or six years. And you have to do it because you don’t know what the other clubs are doing; it’s not an open negotiation. That sometimes leads to long and debilitating contracts.”
If the Red Sox are indeed putting an end to negotiating mega-sized contracts, they have essentially announced to the baseball world that premium free agents and teams shopping pricey veterans might as well look elsewhere. This begs the question if this is a temporary approach or a new long-term strategy for the team.
Lucchino's comments don't match up with recent rumors connected to the team. He may have been overstating his case, but Boston may also be coming to realize that they need to change the way they do business.
Lucchino’s stance on lengthy contracts is especially puzzling given the recent report by ESPNBoston’s Joe McDonald that the Red Sox are interested in exploring an extension for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, despite the fact that he still has three years left on his current deal.
Red Sox inquired on Mauer in Sept., Oct., Nov..."not being traded" response. Period— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) November 28, 2012
If Boston truly is afraid of contracts that have the potential to become albatrosses, handing out an extension to a player like Pedroia with so much time left before his current deal ends makes little sense. Neither does exploring Mauer, who is considered risky because of his injury history.
With next week's winter meetings approaching and two months left in the offseason, there is plenty of time to see what kind of moves the Red Sox will make. However, if Larry Lucchino is to be believed, fans may be disappointed to find out that their team is more interested in bargain shopping instead of making a big splash.
Statistics via BaseballReference