Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Beckett trade

The Red Sox made a big trade last week. I like it. There were a lot of people that liked it. But there were also some who didn't. I've gathered a few pieces of commentary here...

"If it's possible to not like a trade for either team, this is that trade."
- Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus

Now I think Joe's a good analyst, but this wasn't a great piece. In the first place, he had a couple of factual errors. One was the handed-ness of Anibal Sanchez, who he thought was a lefty, and said so a couple of times. (The article's been corrected since first posted.) And he's just wrong about something he said about Beckett. "While his peripherals have been solid, he's shown slippage in his strikeout rate and K/BB since 2003..." Well, his strikeout rate has "slipped" slightly over the past couple of years, as his innings have increased. But so have his walk rates, so that his K/BB rate has actually gotten better since 2003, not slipped.

Secondly, he thinks Hanley Ramirez is vastly overrated, and doesn't believe in pitching prospects. Given that, it's tough to think of a reason to hate this trade from Boston's point of view. All upside, since he doesn't think they gave anything up.
The Red Sox will likely win this trade, because they have a very short-term horizon, and Beckett and Mota are more prepared to help than Sanchez and Ramirez would be in 2006 and 2007. However, the expectations that Beckett will be an ace are misguided. Game Six of the 2003 World Series was a fantastic night, but it was one start. Beckett isn't an ace, may never be one, and no radar gun or highlight clip can change that.

That is probably fair, although I still think that there's a good chance that he can be one. There have been comparisons to Matt Clement, but he's 5 years younger, and he's never had a K/BB rate as bad as Clement's best. It's not debatable that he's got "ace stuff." What's unknown is whether he's going to be consistent enough with it to qualify.

"Overall, you have a pitcher who can't stay healthy and whose national elite status is mostly a function of his home environment and the fact that he won the World Series MVP award in 2003. A savior Beckett is not."
- Dayn Perry, Fox Sports

Another bucket of cold water over the heads of Red Sox nation. Again, it's tough to argue the point, that Beckett's not yet been the consistent "Ace" that some people seem to think that he has been. Whether he can become that or not, who knows?

"There are very few pitchers with the stuff and the makeup to be an ace for a postseason team, but Beckett is among those, and he's only 25 years old."
- Buster Olney, ESPN.com
That's the kind of stuff that Red Sox fans want to hear...

My bottom line? This was a team that was good enough to win 95 games and make the play-offs last year. They've added a plus starter, one who's capable of throwing dominant games in the post-season. They've added, presumably (because it depends on Mota's health), an asset in a bullpen that was a significant weakness last year. They added a 3rd baseman who was awful last year, but good-to-very good the two years before that. They gave up a physically gifted 21 year-old who's yet to have a good minor league season, and 3 pitchers, the best of whom is at least two years from the Majors, with all of the potential pitfalls that that situation entails. It may turn out badly, but I think you make that trade if you're the Red Sox - you make it every time...



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