Above: New Red Sox pitcher John Smoltz
Unlike many local scribes, I don't have much interest in rehashing the Teixeira saga. If what we are hearing is true, then he just wanted to be a Yankee more than a member of the Red Sox. It's not fun to hear, but it happens. That the Red Sox are left without an alternative to bolster their offense speaks less to their lack of preparation - at what point will people learn that this isn't ever an issue with this front office? - but more to the market. It doesn't make sense for them to sign Dunn or Abreu (or Burrell or Giambi, when they were out there) since their starting outfield is set and none of them could be counted on to play a passable first base. They could try to swing a trade, but (and I'm guessing this is what this Hanley Ramirez business was all about) they're only inclined to deal their high-ceiling prospects for genuine impact players who are under contract, and nobody's making those kinds of deals at the moment. Lest we forget, even with the contributions from Lowell and Ortiz minimized, this team did still come within a couple of innings of a World Series berth last year; bringing back a similar lineup is defensible. Maybe not optimal, but defensible.
What I do want to talk about, though, is the recent spate of acquisitions made post-Teix. I view Josh Bard and Brad Penny as depth moves, and as such, they're pretty good. If Penny can muster even 100 innings at a roughly league-average ERA, he's a plus for the team, particularly for that money. Similarly, I think Bard is being viewed as, essentially, a warm body. If he can recapture his hitting stroke from his first year and a half in San Diego, then, great, but I doubt they're expecting it. Rather, I think he's just there to be the all-purpose second option, someone to get them over in the highly likely event of growing pains from George Kottaras. And for the record, I think that's a great way to go; Kottaras doesn't cost you anything and he can catch a knuckleball if he has to. Let's assume his season at age 26 is somewhere between the age-26 seasons of Varitek and Posada - that's still better than what the team got out of Varitek last year. Though I do wish he had gotten a bit more of an audition last year (ahem.)
Today comes word of two apparent signings. First, Rocco Baldelli comes home. He's going to be popular around here, that's for sure. And he can hit pretty well, and he's pretty good defensively depending on where he's positioned. He also was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder that left him frequently fatigued. In fact, last October, he told the New York Times this:
“Most of the time, in the regular season, if I hit a ground ball, I
wouldn’t run very hard to first base,” said Baldelli, 27. “In the
outfield, I’ll kneel down or sit down during pitching changes, stuff
like that. I do a lot of sitting around. Sometimes I’m not out there
for stretch, running and stuff like that. As bad as this sounds, I do
as little as possible, just to conserve the strength in my legs.”
Yikes! Granted, he's received a new diagnosis and with it, presumably, new treatment that he claims will allow him to play every day. The Red Sox obviously wouldn't sign him without doing their due dilligence as well, so they're probably privy to some information that's helping them feel comfortable with this decision. Also, the Red Sox do consider roster construction and getting value from sports 1-25 more than some other teams, so I have no doubt they'll pick up a few more outfield candidates to hedge their bets. But still: color me skeptical.
As for John Smoltz, he's a low-risk, high-reward signing, and that if he's helpful he could be a huge boost. I'd caution against the team feeling emboldened by his and Penny's presence when evaluating the trade possibilities involving Buchholz and Bowden, but still: Smoltz could be a real contributor to this team, and at a cost that's low to the Red Sox (though perhaps not so low to his previous employers). All that said, I normally don't get sentimental like this, but there's going to be something unsettling - almost upsetting, really - about seeing him with a "B" instead of an "A" on his cap. Smoltz is a guy I remember watching and admiring back when I was still a kid, and I think it's just going to feel somehow wrong to see him anywhere but Atlanta. I know this is the reality of sports, but this is just one of those times I wish things weren't this way. Of course, if he's still pitching strong in October, then I suspect I won't mind so much.