Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thrifty Red Sox Finally Land Another Third Baseman

In what can only be described as another brilliant bargain basement signing, the always-frugal Boston Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre to a one year, $9M contract with a $5M player option for 2011. The deal, which also includes a $1M buyout, comfortably lifts the scrappy small town underdogs over the luxury tax threshold.

Beltre apparently came down a bit from his initial contract demands of 5 years and $65M which was analogous to me applying for a job and asking for the corner office, a secretary and a wet bar. He settled for a temp job in a cubicle with easy access to the water cooler. However, what the deal sacrifices in luxury, it attempts to make up for in flexibility. It offers Beltre the chance to redeem himself coming off a miserable year in which he hit .265/.304/.379 and played in only 111 games, missing significant time due to a... um... well... how do I say this... an injury.

The Sox are banking on last year being an anomaly and Beltre's defensive abilities being all they are cracked up to be, which is to say pretty damn impressive. His average UZR/150 over the last 4 years has been 12.3, which makes up for the fact that his on-base percentage over that same time period has been .321.

While Beltre supposedly turned down longer deals worth more money from other teams let's wait and see how it turns out before declaring it a "steal" or anything of the sort like I sarcastically did in the first paragraph. Fire Brand of the American League lists his home/road splits over the last three years to show that his production was suppressed by playing in Seattle:
2007: (H) .264/.319/.426 (R) .288/.320/.538
2008: (H) .230/.303/.400 (R) .292/.349/.512
2009: (H) .250/.283/.364 (R) .279/.324/.393
But do you notice another trend? His slugging percentage has been declining over the past three years regardless of where he was hitting.

Oh, and there's also the small consideration of Mike Lowell's contract which the Sox will either have to eat or exchange him for a player equally as useless/overpaid. They could hold on to him but given that both he and Beltre are right handed, there's no platoon option. I suppose he could be a fall back DH if Ortiz struggles again, but that's a waste of a roster spot.

The signing of Beltre certainly makes the Sox better next year, but how many teams can afford to replace a player that was making $12M this coming season (and who should be able to play come opening day) with a guy who is making $9M?

The spendthrift ways of last season have been jettisoned in favor of big budget acquisitions in Boston this year. Apparently the items on the sale rack weren't all they were cracked up to be.

Happy Trails, Shelley Duncan

(Forearm bash to The Sports Hernia for the picture)

Shelley Duncan elected to become a free agent a while back and he signed a deal with the Indians yesterday, according to Chad Jennings. Jennings also wrote a great feature on him over the summer when he was still working for the Scranton Times-Tribune that you should check out. This is our send-off post to a guy who might have been over-appreciated by Yankee fans, but deserved it.

Shelley Duncan waited a long time to make his Major League debut. Six years and three days after being signed, to be exact. We wasn't much of a prospect of that point, but his big, looping swing produced some huge home runs (and some embarrassing strikeouts) for the big league club and his infectious enthusiasm endeared him to any Yankee fan who was paying attention.

Duncan came up on July 20th, 2007 and did his best Shane Spencer impression, emerging from the AAA and surprising people with bombs into the left field seats. He hit 5 HRs in his first 8 games as a Yankee. Those included two blasts in a 21-4 blowout of the Devil Rays and a pinch hit shot in a 16-3 victory over the White Sox in which seven Yankees went yard but A-Rod, who was stuck on #499, did not. It's not that he put the Yankees on his back by any stretch of the imagination. He just happened to be there when things started going right.

The Bombers were sitting at 49-46 when Duncan made his debut and they promptly began a six game winning streak one game later. Although none of his 5 home runs were game-changing and the league caught up to him after his hot start, he served as a sort of mascot for the revitalization of the Yankees that summer on their way to a Wild Card berth. He showed up at the right time, forearm bashing his way through the dugout with reckless abandon.

Maybe that's why Shelly Duncan attained such a cult following among Yankees fans. Because there isn't any other rational explanation why a fanbase would adore a guy who is pretty much the definition of replacement level.

It's not as unusual for a high school draft pick to spend six years in the minors, but if a college player is going to make it to the Majors, it usually occurs faster than that. Duncan might be the definition of the fabled "AAAA player" - a guy who can mash International League pitching but struggles as MLB learn his tendencies. He might be the perfect example of Yankees fans overrating their prospects. But if you were watching that team in 2007, he surely left an impression on you, and that's not an easy thing for an unheralded minor leaguer to do while wearing pinstripes.

As Jennings explained last night, the only two left fielders on the Indians' depth chart above Duncan have combined for 34 home runs in their minor league careers while Duncan hit 3o last year alone. Progressive Jacobs Field seems like it would be a good home park for Shelley as well, with a tall (19') but fairly close (325'-375') left field wall that might find itself in front of a few of his high fly balls.

Even with the semi-vacancy in left field the Yankees have at the moment, he still wasn't going factor into the equation, despite winning the International League MVP last season. Hopefully he'll get the shot he's earned with the Tribe.

The Indians visit the Bronx for a four game set starting May 28th. Hope to see you there, Shelley.