The Pros & Cons of the Boston Red Sox Trading for Cole Hamels

There have been rumors this week that the Red Sox are thinking about making a trade for Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels to protect themselves against a potential loss of Jon Lester on the free agent market. While some might be excited that the Red Sox are willing to go that far to stay in contention and build a strong rotation, there should be more that question the logic behind such a trade. Given the current circumstances the team finds itself in, there is absolutely no reason to trade for Cole Hamels.

What would the Red Sox actually be getting in Cole Hamels? The easy answer is a very good starting pitcher. In 17 starts to this point in 2014, Hamels has put up 9.05 K/9 and 2.99 BB/9 with a 48.5% Groundball rate, 78.1% strand rate, 2.83 ERA and 3.14 FIP. Hamels also has a pretty impressive postseason record: in 81.2 innings across 13 playoff starts, Hamels sports a 3.09 ERA with 77 strikeouts, just 21 walks, a 1.05 WHIP and .218 average against. There could be some concern that Hamels’s numbers might look a little better because he has spent his whole career in the National League, but that is counteracted by the fact that his home ballpark (Citizens Bank Park) is widely considered to be one of the better hitters’ parks in the game. So there is a lot to like about Hamels as a player, and any team would do well to have him at the top of their rotation. The problem this causes for the Red Sox is that the better the player, the better the return required in a trade for him.

Now this is where logic starts to exit the building in these rumors. The reports referenced above agree that it would take at least three top prospects to convince the Phillies to move Hamels, and rightly so. However, Hamels is also signed to a long, expensive contract that pays him $24 million a year AAV. The Red Sox have what is considered one of the deepest, most high-impact farm systems in baseball, so losing three top prospects might not hurt them as much as it would other teams, but three top prospects is a steep price to pay for any player, never mind that they are already earning one of the highest salaries at their position. Money is also not a problem for the Red Sox, as they are one of the highest-revenue teams in baseball and have as much payroll flexibility as any team in the game. However, current circumstances leave them in a position where they would not have to give in on both fronts.

The Cole Hamels trade is being billed as a potential Plan B for Jon Lester’s possible defection, however there is no reason why it should come to that point. If the choice is between paying Jon Lester or to letting him walk and trading for Cole Hamels, there should be no second thoughts; pay Jon Lester. For one thing, Lester is actually a better pitcher than Hamels (not to mention he has pitched his whole career in Boston, so he is a proven success here), and for another he has gone on the record as saying he would be willing to take a discount to stay in Boston. You could probably get Lester signed for a deal resembling the one Hamels signed, right around $24 million/season and be able to bring back your homegrown ace without touching your farm system. Instead, the choice would be to have to pay the same premium price on Hamels’s deal, while also giving up prime assets from the farm system. The Red Sox have to face the reality of their situation at this point. They are going to have to pay a steep price (in $$) to keep Lester, but there is absolutely no reason they should pay heavily in both dollars and prospects to acquire Hamels.

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Jenny Dell & Will Middlebrooks to Get Married

Congratulations to NESN host and former Red Sox sideline reporter Jenny Dell on her engagement to current Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The pair’s relationship became public knowledge early in the year and they have been capturing Red Sox Nation’s collective attention ever since. While she no longer works on the field during live Red Sox broadcasts, Dell remains a fan favorite throughout Red Sox Nation due to her light-hearted, fun, and open personality. Middlebrooks has been through a roller coaster season, with injury after injury completely derailing his chance for a breakout year. He is currently rehabbing in Pawtucket with the hope of a quick recovery and a successful return to Fenway Park. Red Sox Nation wishes them nothing but health and happiness in the years to come.

Red Sox Report: 2014 Second Half Preview

Last season at this time the Red Sox were 19 games over .500 and heading into the All Star break with a division lead. Fast forward to this year and the Sox are on the opposite end of the spectrum with not many highlights this season. The offense has been a major problem, not coming up with key hits with runners in scoring position, which last year’s team did so well time and time again.

The topic at the forefront of Sox right now is Jon Lester and will the team extend him in season? Lester, has had arguable is best season with the Sox this year, a season in which is ERA is under 3.00 for the first time at 2.65. Max Scherzer last offseason turned down a deal for 6 years and $144 million, Lester will be pitching tonight in the All Star game figuring to get in the second inning, Scherzer is also on the American League roster. Cole Hamels is comparable to Lester as they are both lefties, and both have lead their respective teams to World Series titles. Hamels signed an extension with the Phillies two years ago with the exact figures Scherzer got offered. If Jon Lester’s starting point in negotiations is that figure who could blame him?

Lester has long said he would love to stay in Boston, but the longer the Red Sox the wait to make him an adequate offer, the closer he gets to free agency. Teams need pitching and free agent pitchers like Lester rarely hit the open market. Would Lester walk to the first team that threw big money at him, or would he come back to the Sox giving them a chance to match? Ben Cherington has a job to do by the end of this season and that is to make sure Lester does not reach free agency.

Clay Buchholz has looked strong since his return for the disabled list. This past Sunday he pitched a complete game shutout against the Astros in Houston, allowing only three hits. Buchholz, can hardly be counted on when it comes to the top of the rotation, as every year he seems to be really on at points, and really off at others. The Sox would like to see some consistency from him in the second half of this season, and hope to build off that into next season. If Lester does not return Buchhloz or John Lackey would be elevated to the number one starter, which I feel neither are at that level this point in their respective careers.

If the Sox want to get back in contention this season, it should be by letting their young players lead the charge. 9.5 games behind the first place Orioles seems like a stretch at this point in the season with this offense, they are 8 games back for the second wild card which Seattle would claim if the season ended today. No one in the division has really jumped out and taken charge while each team has been hit by the injury bug. Most recently the Blue Jays saw home run leader Edwin Encarnacion go down with a quad injury and the Yankees only consistent starter, Masahiro Tanaka came down with the ever popular elbow soreness.

Last week the Sox cut off one of their veterans in A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski was designated for assignment and thrown under the bus upon his exit. He was only a one year stop gap player, but he seemed to wear out his welcome, while not having a good command of the pitching staff and swinging at too many first pitches. The next veteran figuring to be on his way out could be pitcher Jake Peavy who has been involved in trade rumors with both the Cardinals and Braves. Peavy, who is only three years older than Lester is also a free agent at the end of the season, and his spot in the rotation could easily be filled by Brandon Workman.

Will the Red Sox sell off any of their other veterans who figure not to be a part of next year’s team? Only time will tell. The trade deadline is only two weeks from Thursday and thinking two weeks of good play against the Royals, Blue Jays and Rays can turn things around and make them buyers is way too naïve. Teams have come back from large division deficits at the All Star break before, but this Red Sox team has not proven they canscore runs on a consistent basis all season. The Sox are 25th in runs scored, 26th in home runs, and 22nd in batting average as a team. When was the last time the Red Sox offense was this bad? Not many can remember.

The Sox are not mathematically eliminated, but they do have the 3rd worst record in the American League. Ben Cherington has not given a definitive answer on whether the team will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, but it would be irresponsible trading high potential prospects for veterans, in hopes of just making noise in the postseason race. It is time to start focusing on 2015, and hopefully that is with Jon Lester still anchoring the staff.

C.C. Sabathia Calms New York Yankees’ Worries With Solid Second Outing

New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia had somewhat of a bounce back start on Sunday afternoon in a 6-4 win against the Toronto Blue Jays after getting roughed up in his Opening Day start. The big lefty had six strikeouts and gave up four earned runs in six innings; however Sabathia’s performance was much better than what his numbers say.

After giving up a solo shot to Melky Cabrera in the first at bat of the bottom of the first inning, it seemed Sabathia was in for another rough day at the office after giving up six runs to the Houston Astros in his first appearance of the season. Conversely, Sabathia was able to settle down and go 4.2 scoreless innings before a series of unfortunate hits hampered his quality performance.

Sabathia retired 14-of-15 batters before Jose Bautista reached first on a bloop single between center and left. Edwin Encarnacion singled next, moving Bautista to just second. That is when Sabathia ran into a bit of bad luck. Dioner Navarro hit a liner down the third base side which hit off of Yangervis Solarte‘s glove and rolled into left field for a double scoring Bautista. Eric Kratz grounded one up the middle in the next at bat, and it just slipped under the glove of a diving Brian Roberts, who was playing to the left of second base in a shift, and two more runs scored.

Neither batted ball for an RBI was hit out of the infield and could have easily ended the inning. Instead, Sabathia was credited with four earned runs and did not come out for the seventh inning after he got Brett Lawrie to fly out to end the sixth. As the saying goes, that’s baseball. Sabathia did bounce back after giving up the three runs in the sixth to deliver a 92 MPH fastball to Lawrie, which is a rarity due to his recent weight loss.

Sabathia gave a solid performance and was able to pitch well enough to get his team a win against a divisional opponent. There is still some chemistry building between Sabathia and his new catcher Brian McCann, which I believe will take a little more time to nail down. For now, the Yankees should be pleased with the progress in Sabathia between his two starts. He is still the team’s ace and he reinforced his status in just his second start of the season.

Michael Pineda Will Win 2014 Comeback Player of the Year With New York Yankees

Pitcher Michael Pineda proved to the New York Yankees why he was worth the wait after a strong outing in his debut for the team Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays. The big righty went six innings with five strikeouts, five hits, one earned run and no walks in Game 2 of the series.

Unfortunately for Pineda, his stellar performance went unrewarded as the Yankees haunted him similarly to his 2011 Seattle Mariners team by giving him no run support as the team fell 4-0 to the Blue Jays. Despite the loss, Pineda showed his high potential and why he will win the 2014 AL Comeback Player of the Year.
Pineda showed everything he was capable of in his first outing. The 25-year-old had a shaky first two innings in which he gave up four of his five total hits. Pineda was able to escape danger in the second after a lead-off double to Adam Lind turned into a run after a sac-bunt moved the runner, and an eventual RBI single from Josh Thole knocked him in. With a little help from his catcher, Francisco Cervelli, Thole was caught stealing to make the second out, but then Pineda gave up another double. Unwavering, Pineda then got Jonathan Diaz to strikeout to end the inning.

From then on, there was complete dominance from the former Rookie of The Year. Pineda mowed down the Toronto batters by retiring eight straight before Diaz doubled in the fifth, only to be followed by a fly out from Melky Cabrera. Pineda would finish his day with a one-two-three sixth inning and leave the game with the one earned run.

Coupled with the performances from Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka, Pineda gave the Yankees more optimism about the back end of the rotation. The young Dominican proved he is ready to be the team’s new workhorse after missing two straight seasons with injury. C.C. Sabathia was roughed up in his first outing and will undoubtedly be pulled earlier than games in the past with all of the innings he has logged over his career. The team will be cautious with Pineda, but after a solid 2013 stint in the minors and a full Spring Training under his belt, his first strong start only increased his trust with the coaching staff. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a high innings total from Pineda when the year is through.

Pineda is primed for a big year and I can see him grabbing 12-to-14 wins with an ERA under 3.50. The Yankees have probably the best four-five tandem of all MLB pitching staffs with Tanaka and Pineda. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both pull in awards when the season ends with the Rookie of the Year in Tanaka and Comeback Player of the Year for Pineda.

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka Will Win Rookie of the Year Award

After months of speculation and hype from all ends of the globe, Masahiro Tanaka finally made his debut for the New York Yankees on Friday night. And if one game can mean anything, it is utterly clear that Tanaka is going to not only become the ace of the Yankees this season, but he will be the undoubted winner of the Rookie of the Year Award.

At the beginning of the game it appeared that Tanaka was going to be overrun by the Toronto Blue Jays, as Melky Cabrera launched a lead-off home run. The 25-year-old was then able to settle things down for the remainder of the inning, but the Blue Jays were again poised to pounce in the bottom of the second inning, as they had men on second and third with one out and a 3-2 lead. This moment in the game could have easily rattled the most veteran of starters, but not Tanaka.

For the remainder of the game it was Tanaka time. The starter only allowed two hits over the next 5.2 innings pitched, and one of these was on a ground ball that Yangervis Solarte really should have brought in. Along the way Tanaka displayed impeccable control on his large arsenal of pitches, a confident demeanor on the mound and really looked to be a man in control. If it wasn’t a perfect beginning of the game, the final portion of the game certainly was, and it was fitting that he was awarded the win at the end of a 7-3 Yankees’ victory.

As the season moves forward it is very obvious that Tanaka will not have his A-game in every start, but he showed on Friday night that he doesn’t always need it in order to be successful. And really, when one has a mid-90s fastball, the best splitter in the world, an above-average slider and a more-than-adequate two-seam fastball, change-up, and curveball one doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. Add in a professional career average of only 1.9 K/9 and it is clear that batters will have their hands full with Tanaka.
Furthermore, this is a guy that has a maturity level that belies the fact that he is only 25 years of age, which will be crucial in handling the raucous New York media, persistent Japanese media and impatient Yankees fans.

It isn’t often that one can make just assessments after only one start, but in this game Tanaka overcame obstacles, displayed his full arsenal of pitches and baffled Toronto batters all at the same time. And it is now safe to say that he will go on to win at least 15 games, win the Rookie of the Year Award and become the Yankees’ ace before 2014 is done with.