Author: Matthew Pouliot

Shane Victorino

Red Sox gear up for 85 wins with Shane Victorino in right field

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In looking at Shane Victorino’s future last night, I concluded that he wasn’t a bad bet to last as a quality regular for a few more years, in spite of his down 2012 season.

Still, I wouldn’t have recommended wagering $39 million on it.

That’s the gamble the Red Sox took today in committing to Victorino for his age 32-34 seasons. At $13 million per year, it’s hard to imagine him being any sort of bargain. The best-case scenario would seem to have him being worth just what the Red Sox paid for him.

On the other hand, the Red Sox may well have been able to sign B.J. Upton for $16 million per year for his age 28-32 seasons. That comes with some risk as well, but at least Upton has several prime years left and has shown tantalizing glimpses of superstar potential. Victorino’s slide last year suggested that he may be just one or two years away from becoming a fourth outfielder.

So, no, I don’t get this deal. The Red Sox won 69 games last year behind three 90-win clubs in the AL East and a Toronto team that has taken a huge step forward this winter. They’re not a slightly above average right fielder and a quality first baseman away from returning to the postseason. It would have been worth rolling the dice with Upton or maybe even Josh Hamilton if his market didn’t play out as hoped, but barring that, they could have given Ryan Kalish a try and then reevaluated the position next winter.

In the last month, the Red Sox have committed multiyear deals to Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross to the tune of $34 million per season. They’re probably going to spend another $12 million or so per season on a starting pitcher from the Ryan Dempster genre. That they’re making the team better is a given. That they’re making it better enough to actually go anywhere in 2013 seems pretty unlikely.

Report: Dodgers willing to part with top youngsters for R.A. Dickey

R.A. Dickey
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John Harper of the New York Daily News reports the Dodgers are willing to send shortstop Dee Gordon and right-hander Zach Lee, their No. 1 pitching prospect, to the Mets for R.A. Dickey.

The Mets appear to be seeking two top young talents in return for their Cy Young Award winner, and Gordon and Lee isn’t such a bad offer. Still, it doesn’t fill the Mets’ needs as well as they’d like. The Mets already have a long-term shortstop in Ruben Tejada, and while one can never have too many top pitching prospects, the Mets would rather add a top young outfielder or a catcher. Or maybe both. As a result, it seems unlikely that they’ll take the Dodgers up on the offer.

Gordon, 24, opened last year as the Dodgers’ shortstop and leadoff hitter, but he struggled and got hurt. He ended up hitting .228/.280/.281 with 32 steals in 303 at-bats. In 2011, he hit .304/.325/.362 with 24 steals in 224 at-bats as a rookie.

Lee, 21, went 6-6 with a 4.39 ERA and a 103/32 K/BB ratio in 121 innings between high-A Rancho Cucamonga (a terrific hitting environment) and Double-A Chattanooga last season. He was the Dodgers’ top pick in the 2010 draft

Mariners interested in Michael Bourn, meeting with Scott Boras

Michael Bourn
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When the Mariners announced after the season that they were bringing in the fences at Safeco, the obvious reaction was that they were trying to help their chances of luring a power hitter this winter, and they have been connected to Justin Upton in trade talks and Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Adam LaRoche in free agency. However, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, it’s not all about power with the Mariners: they’re interested in Michael Bourn and are currently meeting with his agent, Scott Boras.

With B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Denard Span all filling vacancies, the market for center fielders would seem to be dwindling some, so it’d be great news for Bourn if the Mariners stayed involved. They might be his best chance of matching the five-year, $75.25 million deal that B.J. Upton got from the Braves.

If the Mariners do get Bourn, they’d likely seek to trade Franklin Gutierrez, even though he’d bring little in return after all of his injuries. He’d make the team very lefty heavy at the top of the order. The Mariners also have left-handed hitters Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, John Jaso and Michael Saunders as likely starters, and Ackley, Seager and Jaso would likely all occupy top-four spots in the lineup if the season started today.

Maybe the Mets should just keep R.A. Dickey

Phil Niekro, R.A. Dickey
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In making it clear just how much he wanted his Royals to trade for R.A. Dickey, Grantland’s Rany Jazayerli put forth a great case for just how valuable Dickey is, especially in light of his willingness to sign a pretty reasonable two- or three-year extension on top of his $5 million contract for 2013.

Just as Jazayerli says, who cares that Dickey is 38? He’s a knuckleballer who just won a Cy Young Award at 37. Until age 36, he had never topped 175 innings in a season as a pro. He certainly hasn’t racked up the pitch counts of the typical 38-year-old hurler. Anyway, he was anything but typical in the first place, given that he’s missing his UCL (a.k.a. the Tommy John ligament) in his elbow.

If Dickey were the typical 38-year-old, then yeah, the Mets probably should trade him, working under the theory that he probably wouldn’t be part of the next good Mets team anyway. But he’s not. There’s good reason to think he has three, four or maybe even five or six years left of quality pitching in him. In my opinion, he’s a better bet to stay healthy than the typical free agent pitcher five or six years younger than he is.

If the Mets could get Wil Myers and a quality pitching prospect from the Royals for Dickey, that would probably be worth doing. Maybe it’s worth doing for Myers alone; I don’t think he’s any sort of lock to develop into an All-Star, but he definitely has the potential. However, the Mets would be much smarter to give him the extension than to trade him for anything less than a top-10 prospect. He’ll still be a top-of-the-rotation starter if the Mets can come up with enough talent around him to make a run in 2014 or ’15.

Yankees weighing Jeff Keppinger, Kevin Youkilis for third base

Jeff Keppinger
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While the Yankees have at least touched base with free agent Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Keppinger appears to be their primary target at the moment. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that the two sides met yesterday and that the Bombers’ interest in Keppinger is “very strong.”

Keppinger is the more realistic target, given that Youkilis is the top third baseman on the market and is drawing interest from wealthy Dodgers and Phillies teams that have full-time jobs open for him. Keppinger would likely be more open to serving as the stopgap at third base while Alex Rodriguez rehabs from hip surgery and then moving into more of a utility role. Keppinger, though, could command a two-year contract from another team, while the Yankees would much prefer to hand out a one-year deal.

The 32-year-old Keppinger is coming off a great season in which he hit .325/.367/.439 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 385 at-bats for the Rays. He’s a lifetime .288/.337/.396 hitter in 2,459 at-bats. He is much better against left-handers than right-handers, but that’s not such a bad thing in the lefty-heavy Yankee lineup.

Youkilis hit .235/.336/.409 with 19 homers and 60 RBI in 438 at-bats for the Red Sox and White Sox last season.

Update: FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the price for Keppinger is now $8 million for two years. That will give the Yankees pause, considering that their aim is to reduce payroll for 2014.