The Red Sox are where they are. Six and a half games out of first place, with the division seemingly wrapped up, at least according to the statheads. And I include myself in that group.
No, I haven't given up completely. Not on the division—even though it's a longshot now. But I do know where the Red Sox stand, and that is atop the Wild Card standings.
Sure, they aren't playing well, and sure, good teams are beating them. But it could be much, much worse, you know, like actually being out of the playoffs if they started today.
One can point to one move, or non-move, that is the reason the Red Sox are so far out of the division. And that is the Yankees acquisition, via free agency, of Mark Teixeira. Had the Red Sox, rather than the Yankees, signed him, it could very well have made up the difference. Maybe the two teams are tied right now, rather than six-plus games apart. Tex is currently raking at a clip of .284/.382/.557 and he's stellar with the glove as always. His WAR (wins over a replacement player) is 3.6.
Basically, adding Tex would have given the Red Sox one of the best corner infielders in the game.
But we didn't add Tex. Instead, we decided upon saving tons of money—especially some probable dead money at the back end of Tex's contract. The organization felt it was best to put their stock in the players on the farm like Lars Anderson, rather than expensive veterans like Tex.
So the Yankees ended up with Teixeira and it looks really good in the short term.
But what about in 2011? How will it look then? What if Anderson is a 3-4 WAR player at a small fraction of the price? The short term can be deceiving, my friends.
Of course, there is always the other side of the spectrum. What if Anderson never pans out? What if he ends up a 1 WAR player, defensively challenged, and lacking power? Then the Tex inking will be emphasized even more than it is now.
However, I like to approach talented players like Anderson with optimism.
Since Tex was a "non-move," then it is only fair to address the Red Sox actual moves. None of the Big Leaguers they brought in have done much, but I agree with the signings, even the failures, or sub-par performances, they have brought with them.
John Smoltz was recently designated for assignment. The experiment failed, but the main part of this was that Smoltz was signed to a one-year deal. The money lost kind of stinks, but at least it was only for one year.
If the experiment fails—as it did—then simply move on. Throw another arm into the rotation. Smoltz was signed as depth, became a piece, then became expendable, based on poor performance. He is gone. Move on. At least he won't suck up a roster spot or potentially available funds down the road.
Taking a chance on the future Hall of Famer was worth a shot. It simply did not go as planned.
Brad Penny, on the other hand, has at least contributed positively at times. He hasn't been good, or really even average as a whole, but at least he has been capable of appearing in the major leagues. The National League is better suited for him as he is incredibly fastball happy, and his command can be lacking at times. But as a fifth starter, well, I guess that 4.57 FIP (or Fielding Independent Pitching) could be much worse.
Just as with the Smoltz signing, I completely believed in adding Penny at the time, and still do. Penny was a solid chance worth taking.
Rocco Baldelli is another offseason acquisition made by Epstein that cannot be categorized as a failure.
Rocco Baldelli was brought in as a fourth outfielder to play all three outfield positions when needed. His "fragility" made it unclear how often he could and would play. But having him with many built in days off would only help his situation.
He's played decently enough off the bench, and although currently on the DL, he is valuable by being able to man center field, as well as the corner outfield slots. .261/.322/.441 is far from spectacular. But in only 121 plate appearances, any numbers are sort of suspect.
Again, for one year, Baldelli was well worth the chance taken. And, at only $500,000, rolling the dice on him was well worth it.
The short term—that's all many fans think in. But what the Red Sox have given themselves this season is a chance to win now (a very real chance since they are currently leading the Wild Card race), and a chance to win in the future. Imagine if Lars Anderson does become that 3-4 WAR player, and where that $22 million saved on Teixeira could elsewhere be invested. It can be used to address multiple needs, rather than one short term "luxury" (don't forget already having had Mike Lowell).
It can be used to bring in our future left fielder. It could be used to acquire a starter, a few relievers and maybe even an adequate position player.
Six and a half games behind the Yankees is no fun. Trust me, I know. I have experienced the pain in this four-game set as well as you have. But it isn't about 2009. It is about 2009 through the future.
And last time I checked, this season still looked pretty good. Thanks to Epstein's prudence, future seasons may look even better.