Theo Epstein is the best- Evan Brunell, Part III
This is the third part of Evan Brunell's guest column on why Theo Epstein is the best of the best.
Boston: Announced that third base coach Mike Cubbage would not return for 2004.
Boston: Claimed C Michel Hernandez off waivers from New York (AL).
Boston: Named Lynn Jones first base coach, Dave Wallace pitching coach, and Brad Mills bench coach.
Boston: Signed free agent LHP Nick Bierbrodt to a one-year contract.
Boston: Re-signed RHP Scott Williamson to a one-year contract.
Boston: Signed free agent OF Terry Shumpert to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Boston: Re-signed RHP Byung-Hyun Kim and OF Trot Nixon to one-year contracts.
Boston: Signed free agent SS Tony Womack to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Boston: Claimed LHP Reynaldo Garcia off waivers from Texas.
Boston: Re-signed 1B David Ortiz to a one-year contract. Named Dale Sveum third base coach.
Boston: Signed free agent DH Ellis Burks to a one-year contract.
Boston: Re-signed OF Trot Nixon to a three-year contract. Signed LHP Ed Yarnall, RHP Paul Rigdon, and SS Jesus Medrano to minor-league contracts and invited them to spring training. Invited Cs Jeff Bailey and Kelly Shoppach to spring training.
Boston: Announced the resignation of director of media relations Kevin Shea.
Boston: Optioned RHP Bryan Hebson to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned LHP Ed Yarnall, RHP Paul Rigdon, C Jeff Bailey, and SS Jesus Medrano to minor-league camp.
Boston: Returned RHP Colter Bean to New York (AL). Claimed LHP Frank Brooks off waivers from Oakland.
Boston: Optioned LHP Phil Seibel, RHP Edwin Almonte, and 3B Kevin Youkilis to AAA-Pawtucket. Optioned RHP Jerome Gamble to AA-Portland. Outrighted LHP Nick Bierbrodt to Pawtucket. Re-assigned C Kelly Shoppach and OF Jeremy Owens to minor-league camp.
We know why resigning Scott Williamson was a great move. He only gave us a ridiculous 1.26 ERA, 3.45 H/9, 0.00 HR/9, and a 1.01 WHIP in 28.2 IP.
But not only that, Byung-Hyun Kim was resigned to $12 million over two years. That's been covered, I'm not covering it again. I want to talk about Trot Nixon. Resigning him to 3-years at 19.5 million was a good deal, for he had just come off a .306/.396/.578 (28 HR and 87 RBI, all with missing September!) season. He showed up at Spring Training with a back injury because he drove all the way from his home to Florida for Spring Training. After experiencing trouble with his quad also, he finished with 149 AB, at .315/.377/.510 and was a strong contributor in the playoffs.
Not only do we have him now for this year and next year, but it locked up one of the Big Free Agents that were going to become free agents after the season, a group that included David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe ... not only did it take one of the people away from contract negotiation headaches, it sent a signal to the team that they believed in Trot Nixon and were going to sign people they wanted to keep and who wanted to stay to very fair contracts. Nixon is the longest tenured Red Sox player in the organization, and many view him as the "original" 'Dirt Dog' of a team comprised of Dirt Dogs.
David Ortiz was also resigned to a contract and later would be inked to a two-year contract (with an option for a third) worth a total of $19.25 million over three years. In other words. David Ortiz, the best hitter on the team a) resigned for lower guaranteed years and total cash less than Trot Nixon and b) signed a total contract less than what Manny Ramirez makes in a year. Wow.
David Ortiz only hit .301/.380/.603 with 139 RBI and 41 HR to go along with 47 RBI. Manny's year was worse. Trot Nixon was out for most of the year. That tells you how much David Ortiz likes this team and how much he values loyalty. Ortiz is another one of those sunny guys that helped transform the clubhouse and after he finally became a starter in May of 2003 (following the Hillenbrand trade) started mashing home runs and showing his true genial self. Ortiz is truly one of the good men in baseball and his offense sure doesn't hurt. His defense is also quite underrated. The Baseball Musings Fielding Charts help tell the story, as David Ortiz's charts show that Ortiz actually fielded MORE ground balls than he should have. The only thing he lacks in was line drives, but was better in grounders and the same in bunts and fly balls. Plus, he threw out Jeff Suppan at third in the World Series. (That was tongue-in-cheek.)
Claiming, and signing, David Ortiz was one of, and possibly the most, brilliant move by Theo Epstein.
Ellis Burks was signed and was hurt most of the year, and ended up with 33 AB. However, Burks remained in the clubhouse and was a great veteran presence who helped keep the clubhouse together and give advice. He came back to Boston to end his career, from whence he had started. In late September, he returned and got a pinch-hit to raucous cheers and then was paid homage at the final regular season game at Fenway Park for 2004. This was another low-risk, high-reward signing by Theo, and while Burks didn't turn out as expected offensively, he was very valuable in the clubhouse. Thus, yet another good move.
St. Louis: Acquired minor-league SS Tony Womack from Boston for minor-league RHP Matt Duff.
Philadelphia: Designated LHP Bud Smith for assignment. Claimed C Michel Hernandez off waivers from Boston.
Boston: Optioned RHP Anastacio Martinez and C Andy Dominique to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned 2B Carlos Febles to minor-league camp.
Boston: Optioned LHP Mark Malaska to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed SS Nomar Garciaparra on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26, with a sore right Achilles tendon. Placed RHP Byung-Hyun Kim on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26, with a strained right shoulder. Placed OF Trot Nixon on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26, with a mild disk herniation. Placed RHP Reynaldo Garcia on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26, with a right elbow injury. Returned LHP Frank Brooks to Pittsburgh. Released minor-league 2B Terry Shumpert.
Boston: Outrighted RHP Bryan Hebson to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed RHP Jason Shiell on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26. Optioned LHP Tim Hamulack to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned OF Adam Hyzdu to minor-league camp. Purchased the contracts of 1Bs Brian Daubach and Dave McCarty and 2B Cesar Crespo from Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed LHP Lenny Dinardo on the 15-day DL with a strained left shoulder. Purchased the contract of LHP Bobby Jones from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Transferred RHP Reynaldo Garcia from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Claimed RHP John Stephens off waivers from Baltimore and optioned him to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed RHP Ramiro Mendoza on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. Recalled LHP Mark Malaska from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Designated 1B Brian Daubach for assignment. Purchased the contract of RHP Frank Castillo from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Outrighted LHP Bobby Jones and 1B Brian Daubach to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Recalled LHP Phil Seibel from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Acquired minor-league RHP Scott Cassidy from Toronto for a player to be named.
Philadelphia: Acquired minor-league LHP Ed Yarnall from Boston for a player to be named.
Boston: Outrighted RHP Frank Castillo to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated LHP Lenny Dinardo from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Acquired LHP Brad Thomas from Minnesota for a player to be named.
Boston: Placed LHP Brad Thomas on the 15-day DL with a strained left elbow.
Boston: Placed OF Ellis Burks on the 15-day DL with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee.
Boston: Purchased the contract of 1B Brian Daubach from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Optioned LHP Phil Seibel to AA-Portland. Activated RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Optioned RHP Byung-Hyun Kim to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Recalled RHP Jamie Brown from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Optioned LHP Mark Malaska to AAA-Pawtucket. Recalled 3B Kevin Youkilis from Pawtucket. Transferred OF Henri Stanley from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Acquired OF Henri Stanley from San Diego for a player to be named and optioned him to Pawtucket.
Boston: Signed 1B David Ortiz to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2007. Placed RHP Scott Williamson on the 15-day DL. Recalled RHP Anastacio Martinez from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed 3B Bill Mueller on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 20, with right patella tendinitis. Recalled C Andy Dominique from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Outrighted 1B Brian Daubach to AAA-Pawtucket. Optioned RHP Jamie Brown to Pawtucket. Recalled LHP Mark Malaska from Pawtucket. Activated SS Nomar Garciaparra from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Optioned 1B Andy Dominique to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated RHP Scott Williamson from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Optioned RHP Anastacio Martinez to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated OF Trot Nixon from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Optioned LHP Mark Malaska to AAA-Pawtucket. Signed free agent RHP Curtis Leskanic to a one-year contract.
Kansas City: Acquired minor-league C Raul Casanova from Boston for a player to be named.
Boston: Signed free agent RHP Pedro Astacio to a minor-league contract.
Boston: Acquired RHP Brandon Puffer from San Diego for a player to be named and cash considerations and optioned him to AAA-Pawtucket. Acquired minor-league LHP Jimmy Anderson from Chicago (NL) for minor-league RHP Andrew Shipman and a player to be named. Placed RHP Scott Williamson on the 15-day DL with a radial nerve impingement in his right forearm. Designated 3B Cesar Crespo for assignment. Recalled RHP Anastacio Martinez from Pawtucket. Activated 3B Bill Mueller from the 15-day DL.
Tony Womack was brought in to help compete for the second base job. He wasn't great, and he had injury issues. The Red Sox traded him to the Cardinals for a minor league reliever, and Tony had a career year for the Cardinals. I doubt he can carry it over to 2005, but it's possible. Theo did lose out on this trade, but at the time, did he? No, he didn't. Plus, Womack never would have had a chance to establish himself as the starter, not with Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn. It was a good trade at the time, signing him on the cheap and hoping he could play himself into something. And he did.
Kevin Youkilis was called up when Bill Mueller went onto the DL even though he had been struggling for Pawtucket. All he did was endear himself to his teammates and fans. When he hit a home-run in Toronto for his first major league hit, his teammates did not congratulate him. He came back to the dugout, and with no-one congratulating him, he instead high-fived the air and sat down, at which point all the teammates mobbed him to congratulate him. Youkilis helped give Mueller time off and hit pretty well for a line of .260/.367/.413. He got a bench job this year and will help backup third and first base. Bill Mueller is a free-agent after this year, so Youk might be the starting third baseman in 2006. Either way, Youk helped bring some more personality to the Red Sox and created a deeper bench.
The acquisition of Henri Stanley for such a cheap value (player to be named later) is only highlighted here because of where Henri ended up later and what we got in return. More on that later. Of course, the David Ortiz contract is highlighted here, as is something else - the signing of Curtis Leskanic.
Leskanic had long been a quality reliever for the Rockies and Brewers and was traded to the Royals in 2003 where he pitched well. He suffered through an 8.04 ERA in 15.2 IP for the Royals (thanks to injury) and was released. The Red Sox picked him up and he tossed a 3.58 ERA in 27.2 IP for the Red Sox - numbers that would have been MUCH lower had he not pitched an extended time for us via injury. I really liked Leskanic for some reason and also liked his breaking ball, which was great. Leskanic was only a middling relief pitcher for us, but he became important to us when he pitched in ALCS Game Three - the 19-8 drubbing in which Tim Wakefield also pitched in to take the pressure off other relievers - that helped us win the World Series. Leskanic came back the next game to throw more than an inning to get the win for the Red Sox in Game 4. His arm was hanging by a thread by then, and he has retired because his arm is literally done. Any more pitching and his arm would have fallen off. It takes a lot of guts to do what Leskanic did, and I tip my hat to him - especially for winning ALCS Game 4.
Boston: Optioned RHP Anastacio Martinez to AAA-Pawtucket. Purchased the contract of LHP Jimmy Anderson from Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed LHP Lenny Dinardo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 5, with a blister on his left index finger. Designated LHP Tim Hamulack for assignment. Purchased the contract of RHP Joe Nelson from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Optioned 3B Kevin Youkilis to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated RHP Ramiro Mendoza from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Placed SS Pokey Reese on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 20, with a strained ribcage muscle. Optioned RHP Joe Nelson to AAA-Pawtucket. Recalled LHP Mark Malaska and 3B Kevin Youkilis from Pawtucket. Acquired minor-league 2B Ricky Gutierrez from Chicago (NL) for a player to be named.
Boston: Designated LHP Jimmy Anderson for assignment. Purchased the contract of LHP Abe Alvarez from AA-Portland. Optioned Alvarez to Portland. Transferred OF Ellis Burks from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Purchased the contract of 2B Ricky Gutierrez from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Acquired RHP Terry Adams and cash considerations from Toronto for minor-league 3B John Hattig.
Boston: Placed RHP Curtis Leskanic on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. Placed OF Trot Nixon on the 15-day DL with a strained left quadriceps muscle. Recalled 1B Andy Dominique from AAA-Pawtucket. Transferred LHP Brad Thomas from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Added RHP Terry Adams to the roster.
Nothing really important here, but I did want to note the acquisition of both Ricky Gutierrez and Terry Adams. Gutierrez wasn't exactly good, but we needed him to backup the middle infield, which he did. He helped give people breathers and this was another under the radar deal by Theo that helped the team tremendously, as we were hurting in the backup middle infield position at the time. Terry Adams was a good reliever, but sparingly pitched for us and not so well either, but he also added another bullpen arm that we could use to the bullpen. Not big acquisitions, but they're still ones that helped the Red Sox out little by little. For all the big moves I espouse that helped us win the World Series, it's little moves like these that go just as far.
And now ... for The Trade.
Chicago (NL): Acquired 1B Doug Mientkiewicz from Minnesota for minor-league LHP Justin Jones. Acquired SS Nomar Garciaparra, minor-league OF Matt Murton, and cash considerations from Boston for Mientkiewicz, RHP Francis Beltran, 3B Brendan Harris, and SS Alex Gonzalez.
Boston: Acquired SS Orlando Cabrera from Montreal for RHP Francis Beltran, 3B Brendan Harris, and SS Alex Gonzalez. Acquired OF Dave Roberts from Los Angeles for OF Henri Stanley.
Boston: Optioned 1B Andy Dominique to AAA-Pawtucket. Added SS Orlando Cabrera to the roster.
Boston: Placed 2B Mark Bellhorn on the 15-day DL with a fractured left thumb. Added OF Dave Roberts to the roster.
Boston: Optioned LHP Mark Malaska to AAA-Pawtucket. Designated RHP Jamie Brown for assignment. Acquired LHP Mike Myers from Seattle for a player to be named.
Boston: Placed 1B Dave McCarty on the 15-day DL, retroactive to August 13, with a cyst in his right wrist. Placed 3B Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day DL, retroactive to August 16, with a bruised right ankle. Activated RHP Curtis Leskanic from the 15-day DL. Transferred RHP Scott Williamson from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Purchased the contract of 1B Earl Snyder from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Optioned 1B Earl Snyder to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated 2B Mark Bellhorn from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Acquired minor-league C Sandy Martinez from Cleveland for cash considerations.
Boston: Designated RHP Joe Nelson for assignment. Activated 1B Dave McCarty and 3B Kevin Youkilis from the 15-day DL. Purchased the contract of C Sandy Martinez from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Designated RHP Joe Nelson for assignment. Recalled RHP Brandon Puffer from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Designated RHP Brandon Puffer and 1B Andy Dominique for assignment. Claimed 3B Tim Hummel off waivers from Cincinnati. Purchased the contract of OF Adam Hyzdu from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Transferred LHP Lenny Dinardo from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Purchased the contract of RHP Pedro Astacio from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Activated SS Pokey Reese and OF Trot Nixon from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Designated 1B Earl Snyder for assignment. Activated RHP Scott Williamson from the 60-day DL.
Boston: Outrighted 1B Earl Snyder to AAA-Pawtucket. Designated 3B Tim Hummel for assignment. Activated LHP Lenny Dinardo from the 60-day DL.
Boston: Recalled RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Released LHP Phil Seibel. Activated OF Ellis Burks from the 60-day DL.
Doug Mientkiewicz, Orlando Cabrera, and Dave Roberts made their way to Boston for Nomar Garciaparra at the major league level. Mientkiewicz was having an off-season at the plate, but was a former .300+ average hitter, and had great defense. He helped lock down the defense at first base and make it that much better. Nomar left, and it was time for him to leave. That's all I'm saying about him in this space, but you can read my take on the trade here.
Anyways, it also brought us two very important people who changed Red Sox baseball and as I've said ad nauseum, won the World Series for us.
First, Dave Roberts. A very sunny guy, and another good addition to the clubhouse. He helped bring speed and defense to the outfield for the Red Sox and when people look back at the 2004 World Series season, the play they will remember as starting it all will be "The Steal". Roberts hit .256/.330/.442 but Dave Roberts was brought here for speed, he got the stolen base he needed, and that alone makes this a brilliant trade, especially since we gave up Henri Stanley, who we got for next to nothing. This sounds like a broken record, but yet another great trade by Theo Epstein.
Then we have Orlando Cabrera who really jolted the Red Sox clubhouse and woke them up from the stupor they were in. I cannot impress upon you the impact Cabrera had on the clubhouse enough. He woke them up and that's all he needed to do. But he hit as well. He returned to his 2003 Montreal Expo ways, giving us a line of .294/.320/.465 and a couple of game-winning shots. He also provided fluid defense, much better than the horrid defense Nomar gave us and a good arm. While the signing of Edgar Renteria for 2005 is an improvement, Orlando Cabrera was the best person the Red Sox could have gotten out of anyone not named Barry Bonds, Johan Santana, or Albert Pujols - and even then, the clubhouse impact Orlando had leads you to wonder whether these three would have had as much of an impact.
Three things were vital to us winning the World Series. This trade was the first, the trade for Curt Schilling was the second, and Tim Wakefield giving up his ALCS Game 4 start to help the bullpen out in Game 3 was the third. We lost no offense from Nomar to Orlando, and gained three players, all with good defense, two with speed (one with exceptional speed) and two who are some of the best clubhouse guys in the game. This trade and how well it worked out just blows me away.
That's the end of the 2004 transactions, which brought the Red Sox a World Series. Every single one of these moves brought us a World Series. If Theo isn't immediately among the best for doing this in this short period ... somethings wrong with you. It took Theo less than two years what 86 years of managers and general managers could not do.
Boston: Declined to exercise their 2005 option on RHP Curtis Leskanic.
Boston: Exercised their 2005 option on 3B Bill Mueller.
Boston: Claimed LHP Billy Traber off waivers from Cleveland.
Boston: Outrighted RHP Jerome Gamble to AA-Portland. Purchased the contract of C Kelly Shoppach from AAA-Pawtucket. Purchased the contracts of LHP Juan Cedeno, RHPs Manny Delcarmen, Luis Mendoza, and Chris Smith, and SS Hanley Ramirez from Portland. Purchased the contract of RHP Aribal Sanchez from A-Lowell.
Boston: Re-signed free agent C Doug Mirabelli to a two-year contract.
Boston: Claimed RHP Tim Bausher off waivers from Colorado.
Boston: Offered arbitration to LHP Mike Myers, RHPs Pedro Astacio, Derek Lowe, and Pedro Martinez, C Jason Varitek, 1B Dave McCarty, 2B Pokey Reese, SS Orlando Cabrera, and OF Gabe Kapler.
Bill Mueller and Doug Mirabelli returning were no-brainers.
Boston: Signed free agent RHP Matt Mantei to a one-year contract.
Boston: Signed free agent LHP David Wells to a two-year contract.
Boston: Signed free agent LHP John Halama to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2006.
Boston: Signed free agent SS Edgar Renteria to a four-year contract.
Boston: Declined to tender contracts to LHPs Lenny Dinardo and Billy Traber and C Sandy Martinez. Acquired SS Ramon Vazquez, OF Jay Payton, and minor-league RHP David Pauley from San Diego for OF Dave Roberts.
Boston: Signed free agent RHP Matt Clement to a three-year contract. Re-signed free agent LHP Lenny Dinardo to a one-year contract.
Boston: Signed free agent RHP Wade Miller to a one-year contract.
Boston: Re-signed free agent C Jason Varitek to a four-year contract.
Boston: Named Bill Haselman bullpen coach. Signed free agent RHP Josias Manzanillo to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Boston: Re-signed free agent 1B Dave McCarty to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
New York (NL): Designated 2B Danny Garcia for assignment. Acquired 1B Doug Mientkiewicz and cash considerations from Boston for minor-league 1B Ian Bladergroen.
Boston: Invited Ps Scott Cassidy, Jack Cressend, Jeremi Gonzalez, Jason Kershner, Josias Manzanillo, and Kris Wilson, Cs Jeff Bailey and Shawn Wooten, IFs Dave Berg, Tim Hummel, Dave McCarty, and Kenny Perez, and OFs Chip Ambres, George Lombard, Billy McMillon, and Simon Pond to spring training.
Boston: Signed 1B Roberto Petagine to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Boston: Acquired SS Alejandro Machado from Washington for a player to be named.
Boston: Optioned LHP Abe Alvarez and SS Alejando Machado to AAA-Pawtucket. Optioned RHP Chris Smith to AA-Portland. Optioned LHP Juan Cedeno and RHPs Manny Delcarmen, Luis Mendoza, and Anibal Sanchez to A-Wilmington. Re-assigned IF Kenny Perez and OF Chip Ambres to minor-league camp.
Boston: Optioned C Kelly Shoppach to AAA-Pawtucket. Optioned SS Hanley Ramirez to AA-Portland. Re-assigned RHPs Denney Tomori and Kris Wilson and OFs Dave Berg and Simon Pond to minor-league camp.
Boston: Optioned RHP Tim Bausher to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned RHP Josias Manzanillo to minor-league camp.
Boston: Acquired LHP Mike Myers from the St. Louis Cardinals for minor leaguers Carlos De La Cruz and Kevin Ool.
As I said last week in one of my columns, "... I have grown to really like David Wells. I always despised him the most on the Yankees, him and Andy Pettitte, because they just kept beating us. Ever since Wells and Pettitte have left, I have been fans of them. ... Iâ€™ve always liked Wellsâ€™ fire, his windup, and I think he can be big for us this year."
David Wells for all his injury woes, has been a workhorse over his entire career with a low ERA. I have to say that I like this signing a lot and it gives us a lefty in the starting rotation, a good one, which we have not had for a good long time.
Signing John Halama gives us someone who can start in a pinch, but we signed him mainly because he's such a good reliever. He's been a half-starter half-reliever his entire life. His ERA as a starter is a hair over 5.00, while his ERA as a reliever is around 2.50. Another good move, as Halama is a lefty.
Then we signed Edgar Renteria who now gives the Red Sox three players with 100-RBI seasons. Renteria had an off-year last year, but should benefit from the move to Fenway and the even more powerful offense that the Red Sox have now. Most everyone posts sensational numbers at Fenway. If Renteria doesn't repeat his 2003 year, I'll be very surprised. He also gives us good speed and spectacular defense.
In the Dave Roberts trade, the general consensus is that we fleeced San Diego. I'm tempted to agree, but let's focus on who Theo got. A backup middle infielder who can play 2B, SS, and 3B. He has little to no offense (.235/.297/.322) but he should be a steady force in a backup utility role. Jay Payton, who hit 28 HR in 2003 for Colorado, also comes over after a sub par year for the Padres to be the primary outfield backup and starter against lefty pitching - another great move.
Matt Clement, who was brilliant for the Cubs until August and September also comes over. He has looked pretty good in Spring Training, and lauds Jason Varitek for making him even better. He could have a huge year. Even if he repeats last year (3.68 ERA) he should still win 18-22 games with that ERA (hell, Derek Lowe won 14 games with a 5.42 ERA) we'll take it. Run support is the name of the game, and the Cubs just didn't provide Clement with it.
Wade Miller is yet another low-risk, high-reward guy that the Red Sox signed on the cheap. In 15 starts last year for the Astros, Wade had a 3.35 ERA, which is very good. The Red Sox hope to get at least 15 starts out of Miller. If they do, it was a good investment. However, Miller and the organization is saying he can return in early May, pegging him for about 28 starts. If Miller can do that, the Red Sox will be thrilled, especially with the statistics Wade can put up.
The Red Sox have gotten a lot of flak for resigning Varitek to a four-year contract worth $40 million. But who else could the Red Sox have gotten that combines the perfect blend of attitude, defense, arm, pitch-calling, and offense? In my opinion, Varitek is the best all-around catcher in the game. Ivan is the closest, but he just isn't as good in pitch-calling and pitcher relations. Jorge Posada is not exactly a great catcher defensively, either. 'Tek also prepares for games like never before, and pitchers want to come to Boston to pitch for Varitek. You can also add Curt Schilling, a tremendous preparer, to the people that love Varitek. Varitek, who hit .296/.390/.482 last year, also got a late start on catching in the majors so (hopefully) his decline isn't as rapid as most catcher declines are. Either way, we HAD to resign Varitek and the $10 million will be useful for at least the next two years. Hopefully it won't kill us the following two, but it's all worth it.
Doug Mientkiewicz was traded to the New York Mets to clear up a first-base jam. While we lose some defense, it's okay. I was originally a proponent of trading Kevin Millar, but then I realized what Millar brings to the clubhouse is too important, so I decided I didn't care who was traded. Doug got the call and we got a pretty good minor league first-baseman in return who could give us some good statistics assuming he heals from his injuries well.
Because of Jim Bowden's infatuation with toolsy outfielders who aren't putting the statistics up, the Red Sox nabbed Alejandro Machado, who will start in the minor leagues and has great promise to become a pretty good utility man in the major leaguers.
Mike Myers, one of "The Twenty-Five" was reacquired when the Red Sox were not happy with the battle for the final two bullpen spots. They got Mike Myers back, and for two A-ballers who probably won't see the major leagues.
Finally, the transaction log, updated to March 30th, 2004, is finished. Hopefully you learned a bit from this and realized that Theo can be a real genius when it comes to signings and trades. Truly one of the best. But I don't think I've convinced you why he is THE best. That's why I want to talk about about three points. First, Theo Epstein and the bullpen, how his money that he pours into the bullpen (Mendoza, Kim) backfires and why the bullpen always seems to be the weak link. Second, why Theo Epstein is better than Billy Beane, and which directly moves into why Theo Epstein shouldn't be faulted for having a lot of money to work with. Many GMs have money to work with and they fail where Theo doesn't.
My belief is that Theo Epstein believes the bullpen is the most overrated aspect of any. With the exception of the closer, he believes that dominant RPs that make millions of money are overrated. Ramiro Mendoza hurt him in this aspect, and so did Kim, although Kim was signed at a starter's salary. So ever since then, and mostly for his tenure, he's tried to get the best deals he can for relievers, signing them for very little money and hoping they work out. If not, it's no skin off Theo's nose because the club can eat $500,000 dollars, and they can go out and get another reliever. Why spend millions on a reliever who puts up a 2.00 ERA when you can give $500,000 dollars to someone with a 3.50 ERA? Whether this is a misguided theory or not, so far it's been working because while we haven't been among the best bullpens in 2002, 2003, and 2004, we continue to win with the bullpen we have. Theo seems to place at a premium first the offense, then starting pitching with defense third and bullpen last (although one could argue he places speed last, I don't think he does, our club does not clog the base paths up). That might be why he signs so many middling relievers to low contracts because he (perhaps Bill James backs this up) just doesn't think bullpens are very important.
You see, I believe Theo Epstein is better than Billy Beane. I want to be clear on this - this is in no way an insult to Billy Beane. To be honest, I think I'm stretching here a bit with that statement, but if I say Theo is the best GM, it means he's better than Billy Beane. And so, in my observations, it seems as if Billy Beane is a little too narrow minded. He plays the game to get the cheapest players available at places he thinks people underrate, whether it be OBP, speed, defense, and the bullpen. He also makes it a point to draft as many college players as possible. I think Billy doesn't focus on everything that Theo does. He doesn't focus on the offense and the different aspects of it (AVG, OBP, SLG, speed, defense) and pitching (ERA, WHIP, starting pitchers, relievers, and the different variety of pitchers). Case in point: The Athletics do not have a good offense. And they didn't even have that great of an OBP last year (9th in MLB, behind Boston, San Francisco, New York (AL), Cleveland, Philadelphia, Colorado, Baltimore, and St. Louis), which tells you Billy has abandoned OBP for the most part as the most underrated statistic and has focused elsewhere. But without a good offense, you don't really get anywhere. Oakland's OPS last year ranked 15th, as well as runs scored.
This year has been about the bullpen. Not the starting pitching which is weaker (for now, the future it could potentially be strong again) but for this coming year, he decreased his offensive output and his starting pitching output. I don't know the A's enough to judge their defense, so I'll say they didn't change the defense much at all, although the addition of Charles Thomas helps. Bottom line is that Billy just doesn't seem to focus on the entire team, just one aspect of the team. I realize Theo does not either, but he creates a much more well-rounded team than Beane has. I could be wrong for all I know, but I'm calling it as I see it.
Lastly, money doesn't make a general manager good. Just because you throw money at people doesn't mean you make very good decisions (Brian Cashman for one, although David Pinto will tell you next week he disagrees with me ... Syd Thrift, the list goes on). You can just throw money at people, but not only does Theo sign more people to cheap contracts than he does expensive contracts (Curt Schilling, Edgar Renteria, and Keith Foulke come to mind) but he has to decide who is worth that money. Does he have it as hard as a small-market club? No, but you can't write him off just because he has the money. What if he gave Jeff Kent and JD Drew the money he gave Edgar Renteria and Curt Schilling? Then he gave Benitez that money instead of Keith Foulke? I'll say we're a much worse team than we are with Schilling, Renteria, and Foulke.
Theo Epstein is young, creative, focuses on all the aspects of the team, makes absolutely brilliant trades and pretty good signings and is constantly improving with a great core of assistants to help him. With what Theo has accomplished in just over two seasons is extremely impressive and considering what he has done, what he has done it with, and where he's done it (Boston, home of the craziest fans, and who used to be all freaked out because we had not had a World Series in 86 years) ... Theo Epstein is the best General Manager in the game.
Editors Note: After completing this article, Theo Epstein has made one more transaction, so Evan has a quick update.
The Red Sox traded Kim to the Colorado Rockies for C Charles Johnson, cash considerations, and minor league left-hander Chris Narveson. A quick note is that the Red Sox made out cashwise with this trade, got rid of Kim, cut Johnson, and gets a potential #4 starter or reliever in Narveson. Win-win all around ... for Boston, that is.