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Red Sox gear up for 85 wins with Shane Victorino in right field

Dec 4, 2012, 5:45 PM EDT

Shane Victorino AP

In looking at Shane Victorino’s future last night, I concluded that he wasn’t a bad bet to last as a quality regular for a few more years, in spite of his down 2012 season.

Still, I wouldn’t have recommended wagering $39 million on it.

That’s the gamble the Red Sox took today in committing to Victorino for his age 32-34 seasons. At $13 million per year, it’s hard to imagine him being any sort of bargain. The best-case scenario would seem to have him being worth just what the Red Sox paid for him.

On the other hand, the Red Sox may well have been able to sign B.J. Upton for $16 million per year for his age 28-32 seasons. That comes with some risk as well, but at least Upton has several prime years left and has shown tantalizing glimpses of superstar potential. Victorino’s slide last year suggested that he may be just one or two years away from becoming a fourth outfielder.

So, no, I don’t get this deal. The Red Sox won 69 games last year behind three 90-win clubs in the AL East and a Toronto team that has taken a huge step forward this winter. They’re not a slightly above average right fielder and a quality first baseman away from returning to the postseason. It would have been worth rolling the dice with Upton or maybe even Josh Hamilton if his market didn’t play out as hoped, but barring that, they could have given Ryan Kalish a try and then reevaluated the position next winter.

In the last month, the Red Sox have committed multiyear deals to Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross to the tune of $34 million per season. They’re probably going to spend another $12 million or so per season on a starting pitcher from the Ryan Dempster genre. That they’re making the team better is a given. That they’re making it better enough to actually go anywhere in 2013 seems pretty unlikely.

  1. crispybasil - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    Yeah, it’s a terrible deal all around. Over-pay in terms of length and dollars. Blocks the team from finding out what they might have in a younger, cost-controlled, and potentially more talented player. I’d also much rather have Upton at 5/75 than Victorino at 3/39.

    • dcfan4life - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      I dont think a single Red Sox contract this offseason so far has been close to a bargain. No key players, no big splashes, no steals, and a lot of questions and risk. Sox nation may become cellar dwellers with moves like these and the divisions competition.

    • jayquintana - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      After the beer and fried chicken fiasco, the Red Sox have to sign players who give 100% all the time. While talent and age are questions regarding their free agent signings, there’s no question about their commitment to the game.

  2. weaselpuppy - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    good analysis

  3. paperlions - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    I would have gone with “Red Sox to take a run at .500 season with Victorino in Right Field”.

    • proudlycanadian - Dec 4, 2012 at 9:11 PM

      85 wins? I will take the under.

  4. vanmorrissey - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    13 mill a year for Victorino. Desperation in a weak market and throwing money around to appear relevant. Bad deals, bad dollars, don’t these guys ever learn? Sheesh, give me the GM salary and I can run it into the ground as well as these chumps.

  5. tfbuckfutter - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    I think Ben Cherington is under the impression that the Dodgers will take all the bad contracts the Red Sox don’t want in the future too.

  6. theskinsman - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Keep Upton, he’s carl Crawford in disguise. I’m sick to death of potential. These days,it’s not an outrageous contract. If Shane stays healthy, he’ll be fine. I LOVE how the predictable ( this signing isn’t going to win the division crap) gets trotted out with every signing. Long, long way to go.Pitching will tell the tale. Not position players.

  7. echech88 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    This current free agency market is ridiculous in terms of dollars being shelled out.

    That national TV revenue bump each team got certainly has re-calibrated what a fair contract looks like.

  8. xpensivewinos - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Weren’t the Red Sox predicted to win with Adrian and Crawford and Lackey and the rest of those big name guys? How did all that work out?

    It’s the first week of December. Let’s see how the team fills out and what they look like on opening day before we start proclaiming how many games they might win or lose. Seems a bit ridiculous to start predicting that four months before the season starts.

    • paperlions - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      The team still only gets 25 roster spots….pretty much all the spots for position players are full….and those guys don’t fit together particularly well when you consider their defensive capabilities and their offensive potential. The staff is a mess that remains to be addressed….but the offense and fielding? Eww.

  9. whatthehellisansky - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    I have the same feeling now that i had last year when the sawx hired Bobby V – like they were screwing themselves out of any chance to contend by making moves that just dont fit.

    Victorino for $13M/yr?? Wow. Wouldn’t you rather put that $$ towards Swisher or even Hamilton?

    I have a feeling Ellsbury’s gettin traded for a SP now -I just dont see how else this makes sense otherwise

    • paperlions - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      Does Ellsbury have any value right now? He’s had 2 injury filled and unproductive seasons sandwiched around a fantastic one….health is a real issue with him.

  10. mpic92 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    Why are people so against these signings? I see fans trashing Cherington and the Sox everywhere on Twitter, blogs, etc. If Napoli and Victorino are halfway between their 11-12 numbers, they will be solid productive players for us. Did they each sign for a few more million per year than they truly deserved? Of course, but tell me how that hurts us at all on a short term deal? We still have a bunch of cash expendable, and they aren’t going to clog the future in the slightest. Gomes was also far more productive in 2012 than anyone seems to realize, and him along with Napoli are built for Fenway better than any other park. Also, the clubhouse effect has been mentioned a ton as if it’s the only good reason behind these signings. They are all terrific guys who will make a difference behind the scenes, but I’m positive about them all just for performance-reasons alone. Victorino can save 10+ runs in RF and steal 30+ bases, and bang out triples like it’s nothing. Gomes, Napoli, and DRoss take their pitches as well as anyone and will give the OBP’s we need. Don’t rag on the fluctuating batting averages and strikeout rates as if that means the players are bum status.

    • hockeyflow33 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:24 PM

      How about we just go with the eye test. Who among these signings gives us hope of anything better than 3rd in the AL East? These would be alright signings if they were bench guys but for starting roles?

    • hackerjay - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:35 PM

      The issue isn’t whether or not these guys are going to be solid regulars. At least for next year, I’m sure Victorino, Napoli, Gomes and Ross will all be fine in their roles.

      The problem is that the Red Sox needed more then a few solid regulars to be a good bet to compete for the postseason.

    • paint771 - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      You’re not wrong – I actually mostly agree with your analysis of each player, save I would be pretty nervous about big dropoffs from either/both Napoli/Victorino. But either way, all of these are perfectly defensible signings (although Victorino’s mostly when you take future payroll expansions into account), and I don’t think anybody is saying the Sox made bad moves here, per se.

      But I think the larger question is – what, precisely, is the Red Sox plan here? They’re not making their team any younger (and it’s not like they have a Royals/Blue Jays/Rangers farm system they can just hold the fort and wait on). But they’re also not going out there and overpaying players to get immediate impact. They’re not really saving payroll to make a FA splash, but nor are they hanging back and picking up team-friendly contract guys with high upside in the hopes of building a contending core.

      It just seems like they’re kind of spinning their wheels here. And as Matthew points out, why would you spin your wheels driving a sub-70 win team?

      Why make the Dodgers trade if your intent isn’t to shed payroll, get young, and enter a rebuilding phase? Likewise, why sign Victorino or Napoli to these kinds of deals if it is?

      To me, it seems like the Sox are trying to paper over holes (and try to sell the fanbase on them putting a quality product on the field) while avoiding any kinds of the hard decisions that would make them ready to contend. Or, they’re just trying to buy time until they they can make a big payroll push in 2014-2016. But either way I think Matthew is right.

      I say all that, but I also believe that, if the chips fall perfect, this has the makings of a dangerous and underrated team.

      But I certainly don’t have enough confidence in that, were I management, to bet on it.

  11. uyf1950 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Matthew, I’m not exactly sure how these 4 signings have made the Red Sox better. For one Napoli is replacing a guy who played 123 games for the Sox in 2012 (Gonzalez). Victorino is replacing Cody Ross who say what you want about him did very very well in Boston. Plus the fact Victorino is being asked to play right field a position he hasn’t played any significant time in since 2007. Gomes is replacing who? and does it really matter he’s going to platoon with someone anyway. Lastly there is David Ross, from what I read a good defensive catcher but the Sox already had 2 catchers on the active roster. How many games can 3 catchers still time at. I just don’t see any of the 4 signing as moving the needle much for the Sox. OK so say they go from 69 wins to 75 wins, big deal. They still have issues with what was their biggest Achilles’ heel starting pitching, a closer and a short stop. At least that’s my opinion.

    • hockeyflow33 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:25 PM

      Don’t forget it’s the most difficult right field in baseball

  12. APBA Guy - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    I mentioned yesterday that I thought Victorino would come in somewhere between Upton and Pagan in terms of salary. So he has. But the Red Sox got some protection in the form of this being a 3 year deal. This deal will be over after his age 34 season. That’s perfectly reasonable given this market readjustment we are seeing so far this year.

    Still, the bigger question Matthew asks: should the RS be pursuing Victorino at all?

    In other words is Victorino the kind of guy who can help the team to the playoffs and beyond?

    As a couple of the other commenters pointed out, the answer is probably no.

    Victorino was a 2.3 WAR player last year, after having been a 5.2 player the year before. The RS are betting he will return to something like a 3.0 WAR player, closer to a .750 OPS guy with a strong OBP and good defense. His dWAR is a positive decimal, and has been for several years now, meaning he’s good, not great in the OF.

    And if he stays at his current sub-.700 OPS level and remains a 2.0 WAR player, the RS have just bought themselves the equivalent of CoCo Crisp at twice the price.

  13. theskinsman - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    Too many posts about the Bosox strength or lack of without anyone having a clue what the roster will be by opening day. Comical how many rant away at signings of solid players…gee,signing ‘superstars’ works out so well… If the Sox get a solid starting pitching staff, they will have something to build on.

  14. xpensivewinos - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    I’m officially calling bullshit on the whole Cody Ross thing once and for all. He seems like an ok guy and all, but WTF were people watching last year? He’s brutal defensively, he strikes out like it’s going out of style, he can’t run, he offers zero versatility and other than one brief hot streak in the middle of the season where he hit a couple of home runs to win a few games, what did he do last year? Would they not have lost 90+ games without him?

    He sucks……….end of story.

  15. greymares - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    other than the Victorino family i’m as big of a fan as there is except when he lalks about the game, lol. and i beleive he just hit the jackpot he probably deserves about 5 mil. a year in this inflated market

  16. dirtyharry1971 - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    85 wins? hey thats 12 more then i got the bluejays down for and boston spent half the cash so good for them.

  17. j0esixpack - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    Wow. So that’s it for the Sox?

    No more offseason moves or trades possible and this is the team they’ve got?

    Damn.

    Seems a little unfair that other teams can still sign and trade players but the Sox starting lineup is set to the point where we can make predictions.

  18. Ari Collins - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    85 wins sound about right to me. Maybe a win or two more if they get another decent pitcher, maybe a win or two less if they don’t. To me, going from an 80-win team to an 85-win team is easily worth $80MM over three, both in terms of dollars-per-win and in terms of giving them an outside shot at a playoff spot.

    The idea that just because this modest spending doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot means it’s wasted money is pretty silly to me. The value to Boston of providing a winning team that will have an outside shot into September is immense. They haven’t hamstrung themselves with these short deals, and they needed above-average regulars at these positions to provide a nice bridge until the group off young players that will arrive in 2014 and establish themselves in 2015 are ready.

    Let me ask you, how would you have spent the $100MM they’ve spent so far (Crawford’s money alone!), while filling 1B, RF, and a couple platoon spots?

  19. boyofzimmer - Dec 4, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    Sox fans sounding a bit defensive… Kind of like they know in their hearts that their team is about to fall into the depths of the AL East for years to come, but they refuse to admit it. Cherington is terrible, Theo was a genius.

  20. doublezero74 - Dec 4, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    You fools all talk like the sox are the royals or cubs or something. They hade a bad year last year, I get it, but they’ve got World Series under their belt since 04 and no other team in the AL can say that. Don’t worry, they’ve got talent coming through the minors and they will spend to be good again and resume kicking ass.

  21. boyofzimmer - Dec 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    You wish the Sox were the Royals or Cubs… Those teams have bright futures, while your club is staring at a decade plus of futility. Enjoy last place, at least until Buck leaves the Orioles and 4th place might become attainable.

    • cinfante54 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Loling hard at this right now

  22. schuch10 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Ahahahahahahaha hindsight

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