Take Five

    At the end of this baseball offseason, Theo Epstein was being showered with accolades and Brian Cashman was considered a major disappointment by many. Theo was the hero that acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, leading the press to anoint the Red Sox as title favorites. Cashman was the goat that pissed off Derek Jeter, missed on this off season's big name free agents like Cliff Lee and Crawford and publically objected to signing Rafael Soriano. The Red Sox appeared ready to start the season with an offense for the ages and the Yanks seemed to have gaping holes in their rotation that would be impossible to overcome.

    One month into the season, the reality seems a little bit different. Theo let Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre go and brought in Crawford and Gonzalez instead, in an effort to make the Sox better. Let's look at how these four players are doing:

Gonzalez is hitting .290 with 1 home run, 13 RBIs and 16 strikeouts.
Crawford is hitting .156 with 1 home run, 6 RBIs and 16 strikeouts.
Martinez is hitting .250 with 2 home runs, 9 RBIs and 9 strikeouts.
Beltre is hitting .253 with 7 home runs, 20 RBIs and 10 strikeouts.

    So far Epstein has traded nine home runs, 29 RBIs and 19 Ks for two home runs, 19 RBIs and 32 Ks. Yes, Gonzalez is hitting for average and yes, Martinez isn???t exactly setting the world on fire with his production, but this surely isn't what Red Sox fans were expecting/hoping for. Theo had to trade valuable resources to the Padres to get the privilege of signing Gonzalez and moving Kevin Youkilis to third base. Was this wise? They could have signed Beltre without giving up anything in trade. Yes Gonzalez plays good defense at first, but Beltre delivers the D at third. Beltre's seven home runs are two more than any member of the Red Sox, a team desperately in need of some power hitting. Youkilis is hitting .214 with 23 Ks, is it possible he's responding poorly to changing positions?

    How about Martinez's replacements at catcher? Jarrod Saltalamacchia  is hitting .186 with zero homers. Jason Varitek is hitting .091 with zero home runs. Theo was high enough on his catching core that he also passed on Russell Martin, a catcher picked up by Cashman instead. Martin is hitting .292 with six home runs. Score one for Cashman.

    What about Cashman's other moves? While Epstein was drawing raves for his big moves this offseason, Cashman was getting more attention for the moves he failed to make (see Lee, Cliff.) Despite this perception, Brian had a busy offseason.

    First, unlike Epstein, he resigned his big name free agents: Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Then he picked up some impressive role players: Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez, who are hitting .316 and .348 so far. Yes, but what about the pitching?

    The Cliff Lee thing was a failure, but given the contract the Yankees offered him, it's hard to put too much of the blame on Cashman. Instead, he has gone out and picked up some lesser name veterans that are all showing promise: Bartolo Colon 2.77 ERA, Freddy Garcia 0.69 ERA and Kevin Millwood (2 runs in 14 minor league innings.) The Yankees' rotation is actually starting to look like it might be a strength, rather than the disaster most people have been expecting.

    Sure Cashman was unwilling to completely break the bank for Jeter, but perhaps he understood Derek's best days are over (.262, zero homers.) Further, it looks like the Yanks probably should have taken his advice on Soriano too (7.84 ERA.)

    Baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint of course. These stats may completely turn around in a couple months. For now though, round one definitely goes to Cashman.

April 28, 2011  04:34 PM ET

The comparisons make no sense. Boston didn't need a catcher who wanted a long-term contract and couldn't throw anyone out at second base, and Beltre's past his peak. Gonzo and Crawford are just arriving at their peaks. And how many weeks are we into the season?

If you want to annoint Cashman a genius for failing to get his targeted players, well go for it!

April 28, 2011  04:52 PM ET

I agree that Gonzo and Crawford should make for better long term fits for Boston than Martinez and Beltre, but Boston is also trying to win RIGHT NOW. Given that Beltre hit .321 with 28 homers last year while having easily his 2nd best season, it's hard to say he's clearly past his peak. While Gonzo seems like a sure thing, I'm not sure that Crawford will ever end up justifying his contract. Should your high paid player be an outfielder that hits 7th?

You say that the Sox don't need Martin, but you can't possibly mean that they're all set at catcher? Maybe Martin isn't a perfect fit because Theo has already committed their entire payroll, but they're definitely hurting at catcher.

Cashman isn't a genius for failing to land Lee, but I am impressed with what he's managed to do since missing out on the big names that were on the market.

April 28, 2011  05:05 PM ET

I'm not sure you're remembering the embarassment V-Mart was with runners on base. While not as bad as Tek, he's not that good. Plus... Remember that Beltre and V-Mart wanted (and have a right to get) big, long contracts. Both Boston and New York already are old going on older. Meanwhile these two stars were replaced with younger players that have a very long shelf life - even if a little scetchy in their first few weeks. Speaking of which... remember when the sportswriters wanted to throw Pedroia away for his slow start? He followed that with Rookie of the Year and MVP.

Theo is right to wait for a better catching prospect. You yourself talked about "the marathon" approach. I disagree that Theo is thinking about winning NOW. If he was, he would have played a different hand. Long contracts with Crawford and Gonzo absolutely are not signs of a team desperate to win in the short run. There aren't any great catching prospects out there. The Yanks outmaneuvered Theo on the one decent one. Score one for Cashman. Other than that, I say wait for homegrown or wait to see what Salty will do. If he can learn to manage the pitching staff and hit above the Mendoza line - and he probably can do both - then he'll be good enough until the next Johnny Bench comes along.

Boston will clear a lot of salaries off the payroll next year. That's the time for another incremental move.


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