As covered in my last post, Josh Beckett needs to go. With Texas the most likely destination, it’s conceivable that working for the Texas legend Nolan Ryan could bring out the best in the big righty. Perhaps going back to his Texas roots and being with some new teammates will help him find his mojo, which he has lost. A change of scenery has helped Youkillis so it could help Beckett. Two other top pitchers on the market are Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke. Beckett should be more attractive to Nolan Ryan because Hamels & Greinke are short term rentals and Josh Beckett has two more years remaining on his contract. This is all conjecture of course, but the Sox should be able to get at least one top prospect from the Rangers’ deep farm system and possibly more. With his veto rights, Beckett can make it harder for Boston to play one team against another in the trading war games.
If by some miracle Beckett gets traded, the situation for Sox GM Ben Cherington can become quite fluid and ironic. He can go from lusting after Cubs Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza to getting permission( from his old boss Theo Epstein about bringing them to Boston. These two Cubbies are the best available options from the top of the rotation pitchers currently on the market. Theo, would no doubt prefer to acquire Red Sox prospects he knows rather than other teams prospects. Dempster, would be as positive a clubhouse influence as Beckett has been negative. Dempster has recently recovered from a tight lat muscle injury, making his health a little questionable and less than solid for trading purposes. However, he just pitched 5 scoreless innings, so maybe health is not really an issue. Garza, on the other hand, is an innings horse with a mid 90′s fastball and a big breaking curveball. Although temperamental, he is not a guy to screw up the clubhouse. The kill shot would be for Cherington to get both pitchers. The Red Sox will have competition from other teams. Maybe going for a twofer gives them an edge. Can you see the chagrin on the face of the Yankees GM if his old nemesis get two top flight pitchers? This sight is reserved exclusively for Yankee haters.
A glove fit for the Red Sox but a total long shot is Jake Peavy. He is a top of the rotation bulldog who finally is healthy. He can provide the type of strong leadership that could inject some purpose into a seemingly disjointed clubhouse. His 2.85 ERA and .99 WHIP have only netted the White Sox 7 wins in 17 starts. In his last start he notched his first victory since May 26. The White Sox are not giving him any run support so maybe they could be talked into trading him. They might see swapping Peavy for another starter as worth doing if the pot is sweet enough. Perhaps Aaron Cook and a prospect might entice them. The rumor mill has the White Sox looking for a veteran reliever. For sure, Daniel Bard would get their attention. Lastly, King Felix Hernandez is another long shot to land. However, acquiring him would take more quality prospects than Cherington would even like to think about giving up. The Red Sox front office needs to get bold if they want to stay relevant. Only time will tell if they have the stomach to do this.
The Red Sox need to make a trade if they are to truly compete for the World Series. They need a very specific type of player to become that team. That specific player needs to be a staff ace with a healthy arm that can handle intense media pressure. He must be on the trade market and not be a prima donna. Acquiring this rare form of life becomes more complicated by their need to also juggle a hefty payroll. That’s why the first move they should make is to contact Nolan Ryan about trading Josh Beckett to the rotation needy Rangers. This may look like a backwards move but it really is about the Red Sox moving forward. The Boston big three: Beckett, Lester, and Bucholz have lost their mojo. They have been fighting inconsistency and injuries this season. These inconsistencies could be symptomatic of deeper issues. The 2011 collapse hangs over this team like a large dark cloud. I suspect the reason Beckett and Lachey were so creepy indulgent during games last year, was jealousy about Gonzo and Crawford making more money than they did. Every MLB team has a pecking order and money plays a very big part in that order. Beckett possibly felt he lost his top dog status after those acquisitions. Maybe, he wanted to show he still had big time juice in the clubhouse by flaunting the rules. After a dominating August, when it looked like the Red Sox could coast into the playoffs, did Pandora’s Box get opened and jealousies manifest themselves into the fried chicken and beer brigade taking place in the Sox bullpen?
Beckett has been big brother to Lester and Bucholz. The Sox fans rightfully blame Becket more than anyone else for the September nightmare of 2011. For that reason he is hated by many fans. Its not hard to imagine that Lester and Bucholz feeling the hatred toward their mentor has also played hell with the self-confidence of these younger pitchers. Add to this mix their own guilt over this dark episode and their mojo has gone bye bye. Beckett’s smug, defiant, defensive presence on the team is a constant reminder of last September. Regardless of exactly why the collapse happened, it’s quite reasonable to believe he is weighing down the Red Sox. He and his big contract need to leave Boston and I have just the place for him to go to. Texas needs a starter. Nolan Ryan is tempted to get Cole Hamels from the Phillies but is reluctant to give up too many prospects for a short term rental. Beckett, in spite of his inconsistencies, still has lots of talent and two more years on his contract. He fits the profile of the type of pitcher that Ryan is willing to give up prospects for. Josh Beckett cannot be traded without his permission. That’s why you want to trade him to a team like the Rangers with a legit shot to win it all.
My next post will get into trade suggestions about getting a stopper to replace Beckett and cover more details about trading him to Texas.
By now most Red Sox fans seem resigned to having Bard go back to the bullpen, when he returns to the majors. Hopefully, he will once again become a premier set up man. Some might envision him as a lock down closer, while some still believe he has a future as a starter. However, this does not need to be a guessing game. There is a relatively simple way to determine what Bard’s best role is with the Red Sox or perhaps another team. The scouting report on Bard is that he has four pitches: a four and two seam fastball, a slider and a change-up. The straight forward baseball way to determine his role is based on how many major league quality pitches he can effectively throw. Ironically, on the day Bard went crazy wild with his fastballs walking six and hitting two guys, he also was throwing his slider for strikes with relative ease. The four seamer is the straightest and fastest of the two fastball pitches. The two seamer is used to create sideways movement. Bard has a history of wildness, so it’s obvious he has more problems controlling his two seamer than his four seamer. His change-up, from my standpoint, is nothing more than a get me over pitch he hopes the hitter doesn’t clobber. In his last two starts I saw one of his change-ups get nailed for a home run. The point of all this is, he really is a two pitch pitcher which means he is actually a reliever at the major league level. Apparently, Bobby Valentine gets this because Bobby wanted to keep him in the bullpen. Management wanted him to be a starter but it was for the wrong reason. They couldn’t afford to get a quality pitcher this off season. The team is strapped financially from so many contracts to players that are not producing on the field.
The main reason for a team to want a previously dominant pitcher like Bard to be a starter is in a season a healthy starter gives a team 200 plus innings. A reliever at most goes 60-70 innings. Getting another 130-140 innings from a dominant pitcher is a major boost for any team fighting in a close pennant race. Now Bard, like most pitchers wants desperately to succeed as a starter. This is exactly what management needed to hear to give him the job. However, Daniel went into this new role without enough weapons in his arsenal. Apparently he decided in order to get through a good 6-7 innings per start he would not throw his fastball as hard each time as he did as a reliever. Presumably, this is why this year his fastball rarely if ever got into the 96-98 mph range. However, if he had more than two major league pitches he could consistently throw for strikes, he could then pace himself by throwing more off speed pitches. That would enable him to cut loose with his fastballs like he had done in past seasons.
If I was making the call as what to do with Daniel Bard, after all that has happened up to this point, the logical move while he is learning to gain control of at least one if not both of his fastballs in the minors, is to have him learn another pitch. By the time he gets his fastball on track and if he acquires another mlb quality pitch, then I would certainly give him another shot at starting. Should he not minimally accomplish this, then its the bullpen. Its really as simple as that.