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The Red Sox: small market team?

Feb 9, 2012, 3:39 PM EDT

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The Red Sox obviously haven’t had an active offseason. They got a new manager, picked up a couple of relievers and signed Cody Ross. Not exactly the stuff that an Alpha Team on the Alpha Division is expected to do, I suppose.  Jon Heyman questions this approach and wonders what it all means for the Red Sox:

Bobby Valentine was thrilled to get the job as Red Sox manager. But did he know he might be going to spring training without a starting shortstop and only three set-in-stone starting pitchers? Young, bright Ben Cherington had to be excited to ascend to the Red Sox GM job. But did anyone tell him he’d have to operate like a small-market club? … Boston’s total outlay of cash was less than $10 million (not counting Valentine). Henry hasn’t explained the sudden frugality. But here’s one guess: He overpsent on soccer.

Taking the last part first, I can’t say I know anything about John Henry’s soccer team, but I bet that it’s a net money maker for the Fenway Sports Group, not a drain on the Red Sox.

As for the baseball points, I guess I have to ask what Boston was supposed to have spent so much money on.  They already have a payroll of close to $200 million and will be paying the luxury tax.  They made two gigantic signings just last year in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Their needs this year — shortstop and starting pitching depth — did not match up with any huge-salary free agent out there this year. At least one that made sense for the team.

However bad the last month of the season was, they still won 89 games. Whatever flaws the team has right now, there is no obvious solution to them that simply involves spending more money.  While it’s totally fair game to inquire about the direction of the Boston Red Sox or any other team, I’d like to know what Heyman would have done with John Henry’s money that Ben Cherington hasn’t done.

  1. Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    When someone says, “The Red Sox are operating like a small market team,” what they really mean is, “Boston has a big market payroll, but they are at the limit of their payroll thanks to last offseason’s additions, so they couldn’t make any big purchases this offseason.”

    It looks weird to make few financial outlays this season, but if you actually look into the reasons, it’s not the Red Sox “being cheap” or “thinking they’re a small market team,” or anything like that.

  2. drewzducks - Feb 9, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Unfortunately as they are presently constituted they’re looking more like a small win total team.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      If by small you mean 90-95, then yes.

      • bigharold - Feb 9, 2012 at 9:02 PM

        90-95, really, .. in the AL East?. Aren’t we optimistic!

        I’m not one that is willing to see last September as the real RS. But, they on some level they own that spectacular failure.

        But, for 2012 their rotation is worse than last season’s start. Their pen is worse too. They don’t have their big FA LFer nor do they have anything other than a platoon solution in RF.

        Defensively they threw away their SS, (which I frankly don’t see as a big loss), there are serious questions about Youkilis at 3rd and again the their big money LFer is out until…. and who is playing RF?

        And, .. there’s a new manager ND GM. 90 wins looks like the RS best shot if everything goes well.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 9:48 PM

        Last season’s pre-season team looked like a 100-win team. I’m not measuring this rotation against that one. I’m measuring it against the actual rotation they had last year, which was a shambles after the top two pitchers and still got them (with a little help from their offense) to 90 wins. It’s definitely a better rotation than they ended up with.

        I’m not sure their pen is worse than last year’s start, with Papelbon coming off a worse year than Melancon or Bailey. I’d agree it’s probably worse than last year’s ACTUAL pen, but that was a very good pen, and this one should still be pretty good.

        They can’t be worse than they were in LF. Cody Ross should be better than 2011 Crawford, and if he comes back finally healthy, 2012 Crawford will be even better.

        Sweeney is playing RF, and he (and Ross once Crawford comes back and shifts him over to Right) should be waaaaaay better than what Boston had in 2011, which was the single worst-hitting RF in the American League. Seriously, they won 90 games with the worst right fielders in the league. I’m pretty confident that with an even simply below-average RF they can win more.

        Believe as you will, obviously, and obviously things could go wrong and they could have another ’06 year with 85-ish wins. But things could just as easily go great for Boston, in which case they have the 100-win team they would have had last year had things gone well. The average is somewhere in the 90-95 win range, according to the Marcel projections and the CAIRO projections (both run by a Yankee fan, I might add).

  3. uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Actually they still won “90” games not 89. To be fair the Red Sox are doing this off season after their big expenditure in 2010 exactly what the Yankees did the prior year. I wouldn’t read to much into the Red Sox lack of spending this off season. That’s just my opinion.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      I agree with you? WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE REAL UYF.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:08 PM

        My friend, I call them like I see them. Regardless of what some may think.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:31 PM

        I don’t think anyone questions that you’re calling them like you DON’T see them. You just see through pinstriped glasses.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:59 PM

        Ari and maybe you’re seeing them through those rose colored glasses.

      • yankeesfanlen - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:27 PM

        Ari- Leave UYF Alone!

      • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 9:16 PM

        I’m a Red Sox fan, but I’m a baseball fan and fan of analysis first. If the data says Crawford will bounce back, I believe it. If it says he’s probably not the player he was, then I believe that too. If Pineda looks like a great get for the Yankees (and he does!), I don’t start talking about how he’ll fail because of the Big Stage or because he has some platoon issues against lefties (he does, but he should still be very good).

        Right now Boston projects as a 90-93 win team, and New York as a 94-96 win team. That’s not rose-colored glasses. But I’m pretty happy with a team that, in the opposite case of last year’s, can only surprise positively. Should be much more entertaining to watch.

    • yostremski - Feb 9, 2012 at 11:12 PM

      lets not forget, lackey and wakefield is a plus for sox by not pitching,
      and a decent april and a normal sept, should result in over 90 wins , even in the al east
      youk mvp , bucks cy , and crawford will be back,

  4. drewzducks - Feb 9, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    Sorry but planning to replace Pap, Bard and Aceves in the pen with Bailey, Melancon, et al and filling out the rotation with 2 converted relievers and a bunch of castoffs does not seem to be to be a recipe for success, especially in that division.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:07 PM

      Aceves is most likely in the ‘pen.

      They also upgraded in RF by quite a lot.

      It’s a recipe for success when your team already has a floor of 90 wins.

  5. cur68 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    Sox could easily turn around and pull a total Yankees 2011 for 2012. Pitching injuries, Youkalis being just a shadow of who he was previously with hernia troubles, AGon’s shoulder, etc just riddled them last season. That and Crawford looked just overwhelmed by Fenway, the weather, and the expectations. He’ll be a lot better prepared this time around and the other stuff should be better with off season therapy. The rotation is the biggest question, but if the offence can overcome it then some people gonna have to eat a lot of crow.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      My friend, your comment about Crawford and being better this year. Sounds remarkably like what I heard so many times about Lackey after his 1st season with the Red Sox. And we all know how Lackey’s 2nd season with the Red Sox turned out. If I’m a Red Sox fan (and obviously I’m not) I wouldn’t be so sure about a turnaround at least not any significant improvement. But that’s just my opinion.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:09 PM

        And if Crawford destroys his elbow, they’ll be comparable situations.

        Significant improvement is being projected by every projection system and practically every analyst. Regression ain’t always a bad thing.

      • thinman61 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:10 PM

        Unlike Lackey, it’s not like Crawford is exactly a stranger to playing, and playing well, in the AL East.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:19 PM

        thinman, you may be right about him not being a stranger to playing in the AL East. But he is a stranger to playing on grass, he is a stranger to playing in front of the “Green Monster”, he is a stranger to playing in front of large crowds consistently, he is a stranger to the media scrutiny and expectations of not only the media but the fans.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:23 PM

        Ari, I could bit on the elbow as a reason for Lackey’s poor performance the 2nd half of the season. But it’s not like he was good even in the early months (April, May and June).

      • cur68 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:24 PM

        Another big Crawford factor is the cold. From experience I can say that cold weather really hits you hard when you’ve never had to perform in it day to day: everything hurts more, you’re slower, and you have difficulty focusing. Being prepared for that alone will see a regression in Crawford IMO.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:30 PM

        Pretty sure Lackey was hurt the whole year, it just got worse as the year went on and he continued to attempt to pitch through it. And to those who were actually paying attention, he was quite good his first year, when you adjust for Fenway.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:10 PM

        Ari, I’m not sure I understand what you mean when you say his 1st year was pretty good when you adjust for Fenway.

        2010 (Fenway) versus 2009 (Anaheim) – Lackey walks were up, his strike out were down, his ERA+ was down his WHIP was up and finally his WAR # is lower.

        Now I’m not into all that fancy stat stuff, but on the surface that hardly looks like he was even remotely pretty good.

        May be I do look at things through “pinstriped glasses”, but maybe you need to take off those “rose colored glasses” once in a while. That’s just my opinion.

      • baseballisboring - Feb 9, 2012 at 8:51 PM

        Well think about it. Anaheim is a pretty good pitcher’s park, Fenway a hitter’s park. The superficial numbers like ERA are gonna look a little worse…he had a 3.87 xFIP in 2009 and a 4.15 in 2010. So you’re right about the strikeouts decreasing a bit and the walks increasing. His performance did decline from 2009 to 2010, but his 2010 was still pretty decent. Not great, but good.

      • baseballisboring - Feb 9, 2012 at 8:53 PM

        Not that I’m trying to defend the Lackey contract or anything, even though I didn’t really hate it at the time.

  6. Jonny 5 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    ” I’d like to know what Heyman would have done with John Henry’s money that Ben Cherington hasn’t done.”

    That’s easy. He would have signed Fielder and Madson to long term deals along with every other Boras client looking for work. Duhhh.

    • cur68 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:15 PM

      Ayup. And now you’re blocked by him on twitter. Worth it!

  7. thinman61 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    The soccer team is a canard. Which isn’t to say it won’t be brought up over and over and over again by the likes of CHB and Mazz. It’s right up there with the Mom’s basement dwelling sabermetrician (sorry, ‘stat geek’) on their list of ways to score cheap points.

    • bigleagues - Feb 11, 2012 at 8:01 AM

      Very cheap points.

      And when Mazz attempts to yell he sounds worse than a wailing maimed duck.

  8. mianfr - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Yeah, it’s real shame that there wasn’t someone like a Jose Reyes or a C.J. Wilson (or cheapo Edwin Jackson) out there for those needs at short and pitcher.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:10 PM

      Agreed that the free agency matched up reasonably well with Boston’s needs (except for RF). But they just don’t have the payroll space.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:12 PM

        Oops, and I forgot Beltran. So yeah, they could have had Jackson, Beltran, and Reyes… for something like a $47MM bump in payroll.

      • Jonny 5 - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:28 PM

        I feel last season was Boston going “all in”. When it backfired it was time to regroup. I couldn’t see them forking out any more big contracts this off season.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM

        So yeah, they could have had Jackson, Beltran, and Reyes… for something like a $47MM bump in payroll.

        Rule 76: No excuses, play like a Champion

    • Joe - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:17 PM

      The Red Sox still had Scutaro and Lowrie on the roster at the time Reyes signed with the Marlins, so they didn’t have a need. It was only after Reyes was off the market that Boston decided to trade all of its shortstops.

  9. heynerdlinger - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    What Jon Heyman really means here is: “The Red Sox could have made a push for Prince Fielder, Edwin Jackson, or any number of other Scott Boras clients, but chose to act like they don’t have tons of money to spend. I mean come on! The Tigers had *two* first basemen already and they signed Fielder… I’m sure the Sox could have found a way to move Adrian Gonzalez to third.”

  10. Joe - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    As many have pointed out, the Red Sox aren’t really looking like a small market team right now. That aside, the on-the-ground reality is that if Henry & Co. intend to start acting like a small-market team, they might as well sell right now when they can get top dollar. The Red Sox are a cash machine right now, with wicked high ticket prices and huge revenues through NESN. Sox fans are incredibly loyal and supportive, but if there is an indication that the owners will be content to charge an arm and a leg for seats but not try to put a competitive product on the field, that cash flow will dry up immediately. It makes no sense whatsoever for Henry to draw back the purse strings unless it’s due to premier young talent being on the roster.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:29 PM

      The payroll will be higher than last year. There’s no actual drawing back of purse strings occurring.

  11. 13yrsmlbvet - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Henry is a dork. Cherington is a puppet. Lucchino is running that whole show. The sell out streak will end. See you in 4th place.

  12. Walk - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    They are getting hit with luxury tax and big papi has his arbitration case pending. Couple that with big spendings last year in gonzo and crawford and you may just have a recipe for a hesitant front office. They will be fine, i am certain they will pick up their starting pitching depth after the arbitration hearings.

  13. humanexcrement - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    The more time goes by, the more I suspect Francona and Epstein were just waiting to bail on this organization. This team reminds me of the late-Joe Torre era Yankees. Formerly top-tier team trying to throw money at the holes left by aging and retired players. A roster packed with all-stars who don’t mesh well, resulting in little or no team chemistry. A team that looks better on paper but underperforms on the field. Glad the Yankees got the hint and are trying to build a team rather than just buying one. Might take awhile, but they’re closer than the Red Sox are. Guess the old saying is true–it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there.

    • giselleisasucubus - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      You do realize this team was dominating until they collapsed. They still won 90 games. Write this down- they will be in the playoffs.

      • humanexcrement - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:57 PM

        Yep. They were the best non-playoff team in the game. Only a Red Sox fan could be so cocky over a losing team. I realize your teams have sucked ass (with the exception of the Celts, the one Beantown team I like) for so long that you have no idea how to handle this sudden success. But please, take lesson #1: run your mouth AFTER the fight, not before. Bet you were talking wicked sma’at shit about how the Pats were gonna get revenge on the Giants, weren’t you? Yeah, you’re that guy.

  14. giselleisasucubus - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    Heyman is an annoying, monotone moron. Who should they have signed, Jon? I’ll be laughing when the Red Sox win 97 games this year.

  15. dirtycrumbs - Feb 9, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Yankees have reeled in their spending, too.

    Maybe instead of knocking the Red Sox, Heyman could have put their offseason in the context of the new CBA agreement and it’s onerous luxury tax in place for upcoming seasons.

    That explains the Red Sox actions a good deal more than speculation over soccer.

  16. bigleagues - Feb 9, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    ARGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH why do I fall for John Heyman’s serial knee-jerk baiting every time?!

    That soccer comment is both dumb and disingenuous.

    John Henry made his fortune by inventing a method of mechanical futures investing by which human emotion and standard market fluctuations were eliminated from the trading equation. His system capitalized on something called reverse fluctuation. In a nutshell, the system reduces risk to its absolute minimum.

    When he bought the Red Sox, his personal net worth was somewhere in the half billion range. His original company is valued at, I believe, more than $3B.

    To put it bluntly, John Heyman is an asshat of the highest order.

    His speculative statements often carry the weight of truth because he somehow writes for one of the icons of sports journalism. Lest we forget he wrote for a NYC tabloid previous to that.

    So Craig I’m firmly with you. What would the all knowing, great baseball mind that is AssHat Heyman have done differently?

    Jose Reyes at SS? I love Reyes, but haven’t the Sox had enough oft-injured SS’s in recent memory to last a decade?

    Trade Youkilis? Gotta have a match in a trading partner.

    1B Gonzalez
    2B Pedroia
    SS TBD
    3B Youkilis
    C Salty/Shoppach
    LF Crawford
    CF Ellsbury
    RF Sweeney/Ross/Kalish
    DH Ortiz

    SP Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Bard, Doubrant, Miller, maybe Aceves
    BP Bailey, Bowden, Melancon, Morales, Mortenson, Albers, maybe Aceves

    Non-roster invitees:
    Pitchers: Hill, Padilla, Duckworth, Maine, Atchison, Pena, Silva

    Is Starting Pitching depth still a question mark? YES. But they are better stocked with ML experience then they were a year ago.

    Offensively, they will be as good or better than last year . . . and that’s reallllllly really good.

    Defensively, SS is a hole, but its hard to imagine that they won’t find an answer.

    As for the payroll, depending on the Papi arbitration determination, they will be somewhere in the mid-180M range.

    Bottom line, the Red Sox remain a contender. They return with a roster that won 90 and should have won 100 in their sleep if the leadership example had existed out of the gate. Bobby V will get this squad back on track . . . and when the RIGHT deal presents itself, the Sox will be ready to act.

    Just because they are wading ever so slightly north of the threshold, doesn’t mean a team stocked with 10 All-Star caliber members and 3 MVP caliber players among it’s regulars needs to go charging past $200M just because everyone thinks they should.

  17. izzienutz - Feb 9, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    the luxury tax/revenue sharing penalty is very real. The return on investment for spending more is small, so a smart businessman won’t make it. It’s not like the Red Sox need to win every year to keep being the money printing machine that they are. Anyway, looking at the positives: they let go of a backup catcher who couldn’t hit his weight and they felt obligated to play anyway, let go of a pitcher whose knuckleball on a good night drove hitters crazy with frustration, but on the more frequent bad nights, was like teeball, and they let go of a right fielder who only played 81 games last season and still made his $14 million. They upgraded all of those holes without spending more. Eliminating weak points, for a team that won 90 games, can make the difference to getting to 95 or 98 next season. They also left themselves the flexibility to make a bigger move later if they need to, which contenders nearly always do.

  18. Jack Marshall - Feb 10, 2012 at 1:25 AM

    It’s hilarious that now not having 5 quality starters locked up is seen as a fatal weakness. How many World Series winners over the last 30 years went into spring training without knowing their 4-5 starters? I’d guess most. The ’75 Sox had the immortal Reggie Cleveland as #4, and serached for a #5 (who turned out to be Roger Moret). The team didn’t find a closer until mid-season. The ’86 Sox had three starters and hope–that’s why they got Tom Seaver mid-season. That team also had no reliable closer. The Sox rotation should be better than last season’s if Buchholtz is healthy. If either Bard or Aceves, who have great arms, can make the transition…and I don’t know why everyone assumes they can’t, then the team will find some acceptable #5 combo. Papelbon had a great season last year, but he blew the crucial last game, and he blew his last game in the play-offs too. The bullpen looks strong. It won’t take much to get more production out of left and right field—the offense should be as good as last year or better.

    The Red Sox always do best after collapses and disappointments—’67, ’75, ’86, ’04, ’07. Look it up. It’s when they are favored that they suck.

    They have the AL just where they want it.

    • Jack Marshall - Feb 10, 2012 at 9:56 AM

      And I know people have an all-consuming distrust of Dice-K, but he’s under contract, he is on-track for a June-ish return, and if he’s healthy, he’d be a better-than-average #5 starter by any standards. The Sox need to avoid injuries for a change and get a little lucky with at least three out of the group consisting of Crawford, Kalish, Bard, Aviles, and Lavernway.

  19. edcraw - Feb 10, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    not sure how easy it is too dismiss the spending on the football (soccer) team. they spent £300 million to buy Liverpool and it definetley isn’t a net earner, hardly any teams are. They’ve over paid for players that aren’t doing it on the pitch (£35m for a striker who hardly scores) and are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League which has to be the aim in order to turn any profit.

    • bigleagues - Feb 11, 2012 at 4:50 AM

      Hmmmm, let’s see . . .

      Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool, (near bankruptcy under Tom Hicks’ group) for $476M in Oct 2010 – valued LFC 2011 value at $526M – yet Forbes values LFC at more than $800M.

      Premier League is the highest grossing Football League in the world at approximately 2.5B Euro (about 2B British Pounds) per year, thanks in large part to a 1B annual TV broadcast deal.

      Premier League is the 2nd most profitable Football league in the world (behind Bundesliga).

      No matter which estimate you follow, Liverpool is FC is consistently in the top 3-4 Premier League teams in annual revenue. The final year of Hicks ownership, LFC took a 20M+ British Pounds loss, yet FSG was able to turn a modest profit in their first year of FSG ownership . . . one of only four clubs in BPL to do so.

      But the most obvious fact that John Heyman’s comment makes him an early forerunner for Asshat of the Year (Trademark 2012, JBL Productions, All Rights Reserved) is borne out by a simple fact check . . . since FSG took ownership, LFC has been CUTTING payroll year-over-year as part of its strategy to pay off debts it inherited from Hicks group; but also because of new “Fair Pay” break-evenUEFA rules which go into effect in 2014, designed to reel in the large revenue clubs from escalating payrolls.

      The loss numbers are bit deceiving anyway considering the fact that clubs have and will spend 100% or more of club revenue on ‘wages’ (payroll). For example, Manchester City has spent 107% of revenue in 09-10.

      The accounting trick that makes big losses palatable, even desirable (just ask ManU & Chelsea), is one that is familiar to North American sports franchises as well. It’s why making judgements based solely on annual P/L figures can be completely misleading as to a Club’s true value . . .

      From June 2011 BBC News report, quoting annual Deloitte & Touche review of BPL finances:

      Down the decades, the report observes, there have been many football funding models – investment from the City, then media companies, and now many clubs are owned by wealthy individuals.

      “A ‘trophy asset’ model – requiring ongoing investment in losses and delivering returns only in the form of capital growth on changes of ownership – remains prevalent as competitive pressure to win outweighs any desire to limit wage costs,” it adds.

      All this is a long-winded (yet factually-based) way of confirming that Heyman was once again speaking out of his ass about something he had absolutely no clue about.

      John Henry and FSG most certainly are not reeling in the Red sox purse strings because of ‘overspending’ on Liverpool FC.

      End of discussion.

      John Heyman . . . you may now reinsert your head into thy rectum and continue your charmed life playing sports reporter.

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