Theo Epstein has a plan, and it seems as if he is willing to adhere to this, especially since he isn’t exactly making any splashes on the free agent market. A while ago I wrote that if the Red Sox and other large market teams go in a certain direction, focusing on the farm first, and making free agent acquisitions when their farm doesn’t produce a player at a needed position, making trades of surplus talent for a need, etc, etc. Then both teams could build a powerhouse organization. Well, Theo has not strayed from doing this, nor should he.
The last season that Theo made a significant move during free agency was before the 2007 season. Epstein needed a right fielder to replace the aging, declining, hometown hero in Trot Nixon. So JD Drew came to town. Theo wanted to add another capable starter, and even though Dice-K isn’t exactly what everyone thought him to be, he is capable. Those were definitely the biggest acquisitions of that off-season, and hype could not surround any one player more than it did with Matsuzaka coming over from Japan.
Something occurred to me today, something that I hadn’t realized. JD Drew was worth more than just money (Well the five year contract wasn’t exactly fitting for his resume, but that is another story). But signing JD Drew, meant not surrendering a draft pick. I actually had not thought of this until today. And it is actually sort of genius, not the signing of Drew, that wasn’t genius. But bringing a quality player in, while not losing a potential quality player down the road. The signing has gained an instant boost in credibility once I realized this, at least more so than I originally thought at the time. So the Red Sox received their high On-Base, patient, defensively adept, and productive when healthy, JD Drew. And they kept the draft pick that they value so much (partly because they have so much success drafting, which not every team can be so confident).
Daisuke was another player, that although was very expensive when one adds in the bidding fee, did not cost the Red Sox a draft pick (although I am not positive of this, where would the draft pick go? 🙂 . So the Red Sox effectively signed TWO effective players, without sacrificing a draft pick. And of course they won a World Series in doing so that same season.
Back to the current situation…Yesterday a coworker said that the Red Sox are idiots for losing out on the Teixeira sweepstakes. Well, first off, maybe I shouldn’t take this to heart. Not everyone understands the value of a cheap prospect that should be a good player. Is “idiocy” the right term for saving nearly $20 million a season? Once again, Teixeira is a known commodity (And Tex WOULD have helped the Red Sox), while Lars Anderson is not a known commodity, somewhat known, but somewhat unknown. But with the success of the Red Sox scouting, drafting, and developing, shouldn’t they be confident when one of their prospects is, not only groomed by them, but playing well under their watch? That money, even with as great as Teixeira is, can be spent elsewhere.
The ultimate plan should be to produce as many players as possible, who are cheap for the organization, and obviously players that are average or better as well. Since the philosophy is to be “average or better at every position,” then having below average players isn’t exactly what Theo and crew are shooting for. Another luxury of a strong farm is actually going to come into play very soon, most likely. The Red Sox have surplus pitching from within, while they need to address the catching position externally. Since they don’t have a catcher that has shown much promise as being the backstop for a good team, then they will probably need to move a pitcher for the rights to a catcher. Without depth down below, it would be even more difficult to do this. Theo may have trouble parting ways with a promising young pitcher, but without other good pitching to back that move up, it would simply be even harder. And a little off topic, I wish they would bring in that catcher as soon as possible.
So if anyone criticizes Theo and Lucchino for not spending money right now, then they should do their research. It is about something bigger, something more dominant down the road. Theo is confident that he can accumulate draft picks, or at least not lose draft picks, while having enough talent on the field to win. And 2009 is no exception. It looks as though Theo will make the right decision, and not pay what is essentially a league average pitcher in Derek Lowe, a lot of money. If they absolutely needed Lowe, then I would not ridicule the decision of signing him (probably wouldn’t ridicule it anyway), same situation for Teixeira. They have Mike Lowell at third, they have Youkilis at first, and of course Anderson in the minors. If their first baseman was Doug Mientkiewicz, and in the minors they had no one with any potential, then it would have been imperative to bring in Tex. But it is about the big picture, not simply a piece torn off of that big picture. Theo won either way. So before one criticizes him, go out, purchase a really big frame, and do your research.
Billy Beane is arguably the best General Manager in the game of baseball. There is no proof that he is the best, for he has never won a World Series, and even then, there would not be definite proof. But I would most likely put him at the top, despite (or is it “in spite?”) of the fact that he never won a ring. He did more with less, and the quality that the teams he built consisted of were truly, really good teams. Maybe they were young, and inexperience was the cause of them falling short every year…maybe not. After all, other young teams have won (2003 Marlins). But other young teams, were not these young teams. When a GM such as Theo Epstein, or any GM, wins a World Series, observers tend to want to say that they may be the best at their job. But it isn’t all about winning a World Series, is it? Well, it is…but not everyone is on the same playing field. Epstein is a good General manager, but he has help. A hefty payroll, loads of talent, more depth than he can use at times. And that depth is attributed to his ability to build it, he and the scouting crew that is assembled that is. But one thing he has, that Beane does not, is the ability to sign veteran players for A LOT of money. Something that Billy Beane has never had. So I don’t necessarily hold it against Beane that he has not brought Oakland to the promise land. Beane could never go out and overpay for a pretty good player (JD Drew). Beane could never afford to pay $50 million, simply for the rights to pay that same guy $50 million more (Daisuke). And although Daisuke is not great, he is a good pitcher, or pretty good at least. Let us watch a few more years of him. But Theo has many more resources available to him. But give him credit, for not pulling the trigger on certain moves and that is what has made him a good GM. And I would assume that it isn’t easy to sit there and watch integral pieces of one’s championship team walk away.
Anyway, the title of the link, which I will be honest, I did not read. I simply skimmed down and glanced enough to remember to add Nick Swisher to this list of names: Swisher, Blanton, Harden, Haren. These are the players that Billy Beane traded to revamp the A’s farm system. My first thought when I saw the title was independent of the words within the article, because I did NOT read it. All I thought was, “They better have “transformed” the system!!!” When that many quality, established veterans are traded, then one must be able to get a good return. But that is not a knock on Beane, not every GM would have the “balls” to do what he does, or did. I mean this was the same guy that would have traded Varitek if he took over the Red Sox front office. I understand that it is hard to calculate the value that one catcher brings over another catcher, in terms of working with the pitching staff, and calling a game, etc. We may overvalue Varitek, not necessarily what he does, but what he does more so than the average catcher. However, we may NOT overavalue that either, but Beane was willing to try and prove that all that “intangible” stuff that Varitek does, is overrated. Again, I don’t know whether it is or not, but we all have varying views of it.
So Beane trades away most of why the A’s had a chance to win approximately 84 games (post Haren). Which is too few, and Beane understood that. And what he did, and has done in the past, is pull the trigger. Beane’s theory, according to Rob Neyer, is that “if you can’t win 90, then you might as well lose 90.” It isn’t completely accurate (See: 2006 Cardinals), but I get what he is saying. And he, unlike many other GM’s in the game, has the ability to do what he believes in, even if the locals don’t like it. He has the ability to view the larger picture. Being in mild contention, with an overachieving team, near the midway point, and being up against teams that clearly have more talent, isn’t worth not pulling the trigger. Beane wants to build a team that can win 90+ games, in multiple years, increasing the odds that they not only get into the postseason, but have multiple chances at doing so, realistically.
And so he did it. He “transformed” the system. Which isn’t a big accomplishment. Trading away good players, while not being an idiot while doing so, can bring back a good amount of talent. But remember, it was Beane and his scouting department that drafted the players, or obtained the players to begin with. So all of the players he acquired were because of he and his staff.
And then there is this…
Billy Beane is a baseball GENIUS.