Boston Red Sox

Early Season Grades for Boston Red Sox's Offseason Acquisitions

Peter PanacyCorrespondent IApril 9, 2014

Early Season Grades for Boston Red Sox's Offseason Acquisitions

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    Grady Sizemore has enjoyed a successful return to baseball after missing the entirety of 2012 and 2013.
    Grady Sizemore has enjoyed a successful return to baseball after missing the entirety of 2012 and 2013.Elise Amendola

    Eight games into the 2014 MLB regular season, the Boston Red Sox find themselves with a 3-5 record—not exactly inspiring when one considers the high expectations placed upon this team following a World Series championship last year.

    Yet the offseason provided its own dynamic changes, which have had a direct effect on the Red Sox.

    Gone are some of the stalwarts who helped Boston reach another championship title.  In came some new faces to hopefully pick up where others left off.

    We could look at the early start of the Red Sox's 2014 season and not be particularly thrilled with their lackluster start.  Hopefully, all of that straightens itself out in the coming weeks and Boston gets back to its winning ways from last season.

    Instead, let us focus on the offseason additions that general manager Ben Cherington brought in to help the Red Sox defend their World Series crown.

    Some of these acquisitions have performed remarkably well.  Look no further than the resurrection of Grady Sizemore so far as a perfect example.

    On the other hand, other acquisitions have not quite worked out.  Yes, it is early, and early season evaluations are a small sample size in comparison to the entire body of work. 

    But it is worth taking a close look at what these new Red Sox have done in just over one week of regular-season action.

    In this slideshow, we will take a look at the six principal offseason acquisitions the Red Sox made and how each has individually performed thus far into the regular season.

    For the sake of clarity and consistency, we shall not take a look at players—such as Jose Mijares and Scott Cousins—who were signed to minor league contracts.  We also will not evaluate infielder Ryan Roberts as he was signed after the regular season started.

    In addition, Mike Napoli will not be evaluated in this slideshow since his re-signing could be viewed as a two-year extension.

    Instead, we will focus on the remaining six acquisitions—picked up either through free agency or via a trade.  This list is courtesy of CBS Sports and is ranked in order of the date of transaction.

    To determine the final grades of each of these players, we will evaluate the players' individual statistics up to this point as well as additional points of interest.  

    For example, a player who is hitting over .300 would typically receive a high grade, but if he is hitting around .200 with runners in scoring position and he is batting around—or just behind—the heart of the lineup, his grade would take a hit.

    Make sense?  Good.

    Let us have ourselves a look.

Burke Badenhop, Right-Handed Pitcher

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    Reliever Burke Badenhop's last outing resulted in a ballooning of his ERA.
    Reliever Burke Badenhop's last outing resulted in a ballooning of his ERA.Winslow Townson

    Burke Badenhop, Right-Handed Pitcher

    How Acquired: Traded from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for LHP Luis Ortega.

    2014 Statistics

     

    With the Red Sox bullpen being a primary strength in 2013, general manager Ben Cherington kicked off his offseason campaign by trading for a veteran reliever on November 22.

    The deal, which sent left-handed pitcher Luis Ortega to the Milwaukee Brewers, brought in righty Burke Badenhop.  

    When used in correct fashion, Badenhop can be very effective, especially against right-handed hitters.  His career .256 batting average against from righties suggests this.  Badenhop's sinker is also something that can induce ground balls when necessary.

    Badenhop was excited about the opportunity to play in Boston—an aspect he revealed via Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com during spring training.

    Now, with three appearances in a Red Sox uniform under his belt, what can we make of his impact so far?

    In his first appearance on April 4 against his former team, Badenhop was everything Cherington and manager John Farrell could have hoped for.

    He tossed two scoreless innings and went up not only against righties, but had to face two lefties—Lyle Overbay and Logan Schafer.  In between, he had to face off against five right-handed hitters per Tim Britton of The Providence Journal.

    After the game, Badenhop reflected on his performance, via Britton:

    They put me in a sweet spot of that lineup to get those five righties.  I’m feeling pretty good.  Obviously it’s cold, but to have that middle of their lineup not hit the ball out of the infield, that makes me feel good knowing I can probably have better stuff.

    Yet we all know that one outing does not represent the whole story.

    Since then, Badenhop has pitched in two games—logging three more innings in which he was tabbed for a total of five runs.

    His roughest outing thus far came in his third appearance on April 8 versus the Texas Rangers, when he gave up four earned runs in 2.1 innings pitched.

    Granted, Farrell hung him out to dry a bit, as suggested by Red Sox beat writer Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal, but it is impossible to overlook the fact that this outing ballooned his early season ERA to 9.00.

    It is hard to give bad grades to relievers at the start of a season.  One bad outing from a relief pitcher can take weeks to overcome in terms of what it may reflect on the stat sheet.  Sadly, it looks as if Badenhop is the victim of such circumstance.

    But grades being what they are, we still have to hope for better stuff from Badenhop in coming weeks.  As a result, Badenhop does not score particularly high marks to kick off the season.

     

    Grade: D

     

    Burke Badenhop will not want to look at his ERA for a couple of weeks.

    — Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) April 8, 2014

A.J. Pierzynski, Catcher

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    A.J. Pierzynski's recent aggressiveness has paid off at the plate in recent games.
    A.J. Pierzynski's recent aggressiveness has paid off at the plate in recent games.Elise Amendola

    A.J. Pierzynski, Catcher

    How Acquired: Signed a one-year, $8.25 million deal as a free agent.

    2014 Statistics

     

    Cherington may have signed 37-year-old veteran A.J. Pierzynski more out of an immediate need than anything else.

    With last season's No. 1 catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, gone and Boston catching prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez not yet developed, Pierzynski was brought in on a one-year deal to fill the void.

    The most significant question would be how Pierzynski would handle the rigors of catching considering his advanced age.

    This question may be best answered toward the end of the season, when a catcher's body is most likely going to show signs of wear.  In the meantime, Pierzynski has shown enough of what Cherington and manager John Farrell were hoping for when Boston acquired him.

    In the first five games of the 2014 season, Pierzynski had compiled a mere two hits in 16 at-bats with his new team, per Anthony Gulizia of The Boston Globe.  At the conclusion of that span, Pierzynski was hitting a lowly .125 and had already committed one error behind the plate.

    It is safe to say that Pierzynski had gotten out to a rough slump to start the 2014 season.

    Thankfully, Pierzynski bounced back in the two games since, going 3-for-4 and scoring twice in each of the Red Sox's last two games.

    One of the reasons Pierzynski found his groove was because he changed his approach at the plate.

    Unlike Boston's overall offensive approach last year—taking pitches, being patient and working the count—Pierzynski elected to be more aggressive in the batter's box.

    Entering April 7, Pierzynski had swung at the first pitch in 10 of 16 at-bats, and 14 at-bats had lasted three pitches or fewer, per Gulizia.

    Pierzynski's former hitting coach with the Rangers, Dave Magadan, commented on this type of approach, per Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal, following the game:

    A.J. is a guy that likes to swing the bat.  But he has a knack for squaring up balls—like you saw (Monday) night.  He squares balls up and gets hits.  He’s had a lot of success doing it that way.  His approach is anti-Red Sox as far as taking pitches and walking and stuff like that, but he’ll find ways to help his team win.

    After his recent two-game hot streak, Pierzynski's batting average has jumped up to .333, although he has yet to record an extra-base hit.

    This is a good sign of things to come.  Regardless of how aggressive Pierzynski has been at the plate, the numbers are a positive reflection and Farrell will take it, as he stated via Gulizia.

    “He’s an instinctual player,” Farrell said of Pierzynski.  “We know he’s aggressive and we try to take advantage of that aggression when we can.”

    Pierzynski's early slump knocks his grade down a certain extent, but it is impossible to give him a bad grade at this point considering his most recent body of work.

     

    Grade: B- 

     

    A.J. Pierzynski has compiled six hits in the past two games. Like him or not, hats off to him. That's not easy to do.

    — Patrick Green (@PatrickGreenMLB) April 9, 2014

Edward Mujica, Right-Handed Pitcher

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    Could a lack of velocity be the reason behind Edward Mujica's early struggles this season?
    Could a lack of velocity be the reason behind Edward Mujica's early struggles this season?Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Edward Mujica, Right-Handed Pitcher

    How Acquired: Signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal as a free agent.

    2014 Statistics

     

    One might think that inking a former closer from the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals' roster would be a smart way to bolster an already impressive bullpen.

    At the end of the season, this still may very well be the case.  Up to this point, however, the acquisition of right-handed reliever Edward Mujica has been nothing of the sort.

    His incentive-laden contract was supposed to give the Red Sox some flexibility when it came to the back end of their bullpen.  Given Mujica's ability to close out games, Boston could have the option of placing him in a closer's role if, by chance, incumbent closer Koji Uehara was unable to go.

    Three appearances into 2014 and Mujica is not generating much confidence.

    Before we go any further, I must once again state that bullpen arms can be subject to inflated and ugly statistics at the start of the season.  One bad outing can have a lasting effect on a reliever's earned run average for a very long time.  

    Still, it is hard to get past Mujica's 15.43 ERA in 2.1 frames.

    In all fairness, Mujica has had really only one bad outing—April 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers—where he gave up four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning pitched.  Mujica took the loss that day.

    But the problem goes beyond just one bad outing.

    Alex Speier of WEEI.com points out that Mujica's problems are largely associated with his decline in velocity.  He writes:

    Mujica's velocity so far this year has represented a departure from his career norms.  Indeed, his two-outing sample suggests that he's been lacking power in a fashion that has been unprecedented for his career.  According to the amazing BrooksBaseball.net, Mujica averaged 90.01 mph with his fastball in his season debut against the Orioles (a scoreless inning in which he punched out a batter) and 90.24 mph on Friday against the Brewers.  Those two marks represent two of the lowest four of his career, with the fact that they've come in back-to-back appearances representing an event without precedent in the 29-year-old's career.

    At 29 years old, Mujica could be entering a phase when power pitching no longer remains his forte.  We have seen various pitchers go through this sort of change.  Look at San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum and his loss of velocity.

    The good pitchers figure out ways to make their adjustments.  If the lack of velocity is indeed a long-standing problem, Mujica will be forced to do the same.

    It is far too early to determine whether or not this is the case and we can only predict how this shapes up over the course of the season.

    Yet Mujica's early season numbers leave a lot to be desired, and as a result he scores low marks thus far.

     

    Grade: D-

     

    Tough to read too much into early-April, but Mujica's 1st two appearances have yielded 2 of worst 4 velos of career http://t.co/cGaAIXQ4Kg

    — Alex Speier (@alexspeier) April 6, 2014

Jonathan Herrera, Utility Infielder

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    Jonathan Herrera has been a more-than-adequate backup for the Red Sox's infield.
    Jonathan Herrera has been a more-than-adequate backup for the Red Sox's infield.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Jonathan Herrera, Utility Infielder

    How Acquired: Traded from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for LHP Franklin Morales.

    2014 Statistics

     

    It is never a bad idea to have a utility infielder on a roster who can spell a number of various positions when called upon.

    Such is the reasoning behind Cherington's decision to trade for former Colorado Rockies infielder Jonathan Herrera during the offseason.

    Herrera was never intended to be a full-time starter in Boston this season.  With the Red Sox's infield all but locked up at the start of 2014, Herrera's job would be to spell the various starters as needed.  Being able to play second, third and shortstop would mean that Herrera would get his at-bats.

    Remember, versatility is always a good thing.

    A lifetime .266 hitter, Herrera offers a decent offensive backup option in addition to his defensive versatility.

    So how has he worked out for the Red Sox thus far?

    Based on the numbers alone, Herrera has worked out nicely.

    From an offensive standpoint, Herrera is batting an even .300 over 10 at-bats.  While not having yet collected an extra-base hit, Herrera does have a .417 on-base percentage thus far—further boosting his value.

    He also has perfect marks in the field so far, as well.

    The recent injury to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks opened up the door for Herrera to receive some more playing time, described further by NESN.com writer Anna Fogel.

    While Boston inked infielder Ryan Roberts to supplement the infield after Middlebrooks went down, we should assume that Herrera will continue to get his chances, especially considering the numbers he has put up thus far.

    Given the nature of his role and the expectations placed upon him during the offseason, Herrera has been more than adequate.

    As a result, he scores high marks on this slideshow.  

     

    Grade: A 

     

    Subbing in at the drop of a hat? No big deal for Jonathan Herrera. That's the job. http://t.co/TofPeOxDyv

    — Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) April 6, 2014

Grady Sizemore, Center Fielder

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    Outfielder Grady Sizemore is off to a hot start after missing all of 2012 and 2013.
    Outfielder Grady Sizemore is off to a hot start after missing all of 2012 and 2013.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Grady Sizemore, Center Fielder

    How Acquired: Signed a one-year, $750,000 deal as a free agent.

    2014 Statistics

     

    This may be the feel-good story for the Boston Red Sox at this early point in the 2014 season.

    Most Boston fans know his story already.  For those who don't, outfielder Grady Sizemore was brought in by the Red Sox to compete with prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. for the center field position during spring training.

    Once a perennial All-Star, injuries have thwarted what was once a promising career for Sizemore.  Before 2014, Sizemore had not played in a major league game since 2011.  Injuries and subsequent recoveries had taken their toll.

    Alex Speier of WEEI.com describes Sizemore's comeback:

    [After] spending three years facing the limitations of a player who had been reduced to a shell of his former abilities and another season in which he was unable to play at all, the three-time All-Star and former possessor of the title of "best all-around player in the game" recalibrated his sites.  His goal was not simply to return to the field as a contributing baseball player, perhaps a part-timer who would settle into life in new, less taxing roles.  His goal was to return to the field as Grady Sizemore.

    A strong spring earned Sizemore the starting job, relegating Bradley back to the minors—he has since been called back up after fellow outfielder Shane Victorino started the season on the 15-day disabled list.

    Sizemore's return to baseball kicked off with a bang on Opening Day.  He notched two hits in four at-bats—one of which was a solo home run and the only run in Boston's 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

    Since then, Sizemore has continued to rake.  In 22 total at-bats this season, he is hitting a whopping .364 with an impressive .440 on-base percentage.

    With Red Sox leadoff hitters struggling early in the season—a .161 batting average thus far—Sizemore's numbers have given the team an option at the top of the order.

    Entering the season, common thinking would dictate the Red Sox opt to use Victorino as their leadoff hitter.  With Victorino on the disabled list, Boston's hand has been forced and a platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava may not be as adequate in this role.

    Instead, Sizemore has presented a much better option.

    According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Boston was not initially intending to use Sizemore in the leadoff spot.  Four games into the season, the thinking changed.

    If Sizemore can continue to produce at this rate, and barring injury of course, manager John Farrell will have no choice but to keep Sizemore in the 1-slot.

    There are few circumstances that could dictate otherwise.

    Sizemore has met and exceeded all expectations up to this point.  The Red Sox hope this trend continues.  As a result, he scores extremely high on this slideshow.

     

    Grade: A+ 

     

    Mike Carp told me the Grady Sizemore comeback has been awesome to see. Sizemore says it's best he's felt in years @MLBNetworkRadio #RedSox

    — Jen Royle (@Jen_Royle) April 5, 2014

Chris Capuano, Left-Handed Pitcher

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    Chris Capuano has performed admirably in his first season with the Red Sox.
    Chris Capuano has performed admirably in his first season with the Red Sox.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Chris Capuano, Left-Handed Pitcher

    How Acquired: Signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal as a free agent.

    2014 Statistics

     

    The offseason acquisition of left-handed pitcher Chris Capuano makes sense in a number of different ways.

    First, it is always nice to add a player who gets to play for his boyhood team—as Capuano is from Springfield, Mass.  He has stated how awesome it is to be pitching for his local team, per NESN.com.

    More importantly, Capuano brings plenty of versatility to Boston's pitching staff.

    Historically, Capuano has been a starter.  While he was used as a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers for much of the 2010 season, his forte has been starting.

    Yet the Red Sox's incumbent rotation of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz is all but locked in, which left little room for Capuano to compete for a starting job.

    But we all know the importance of solid pitching when it comes to making the playoffs.  Depth is important too.  Buchholz' injury-riddled reputation continues and prospect Brandon Workman's impact is still hard to accurately evaluate.

    Thus, Capuano's role becomes even more important.  He can currently provide medium-to-long relief out of the bullpen.  In addition, he can step up as a spot starter when the occasion presents itself.  That is not a bad option for manager John Farrell to have.

    So far into 2014, Capuano has not been utilized as a starter.  That time may come, however, as Capuano has logged 4.0 innings pitched over three appearances.

    The numbers over that span?

    Zero runs allowed, five strikeouts against zero walks and a 0.750 WHIP.

    Not bad.  In fact, the word outstanding is probably more accurate.

    Farrell touted Capuano's abilities via Ricky Doyle of NESN.com by saying:

    It probably goes back to [Capuano's] veteran status.  He knows what’s needed to get ready to come into a game when he’s not starting.  He’s an extremely intelligent guy and in getting to know him in spring training, he reads swings very well.  His pitch selection has been pretty spot-on in terms of disrupting hitters’ timing.  He’s not just a multi-inning guy, evident by matching up (Monday) night in the eighth inning.

    If Farrell has put complete faith in Capuano, we should as well.  As a result, Capuano receives high grades for his early performances thus far, even if it is still a small sample size.

     

    Grade: A+ 

     

    Chris Capuano Proving To Be Pleasant Surprise For Red Sox (Video) http://t.co/m8yov6Qk8J

    — NESN (@NESN) April 8, 2014

     

    All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.  Contractual information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

     Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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