Wednesday, February 15, 2006
• On some talk shows, the topic of a contract extension for Terry Francona has been discussed. As much as I like Tito, the Sox should not $how him the $. Unlike GMs, Managers are not hot commodities in the baseball market. It appears that they are seen as fungible resources. The other Tito hot topic is his in-game strategy. In most situations, I try not to second guess the Manager since he has more information than I. But after two seasons, it appears that Tito’s strength is his unwillingness to give up outs by trying to steal bases and bunt, and his weakness is his reluctance to get relievers up early enough. Both may have had more to do with his personnel, which would demonstrate his ability to adapt, rather than his own philosophy.
• Another hot topic is Keith Foulke’s comeback. Back in January 2004, Joe Sheehan on Foulke’s said that…Collectively, relievers who are dominant in their 20s do decline in their early 30s. Much of that risk is in the form of injury, rather than performance deterioration. The real break for the guys on the field seems to occur between 31 and 33, where the pitchers who had formerly been dominant step back to being just good... Foulke would seem to have a shot at being a solid reliever like Mike Timlin in 2006, although PECOTA never thought he could be better than that even before factoring in the horrible 2005 season. PECOTA’s new 2006 projection has Foulke looking more like Chad Bradford than Timlin. Thankfully, the Sox have a series of in-house options. The pen should be improved this season. As for a 2007 Foulke experience, it rests on the shoulders of the man himself. If he regains form, he will most likely finish 53 or more games that would trigger a 2007 option for $7.75M. If the option does not vest, the Sox are highly unlikely to exercise their $7.5M club option, so Foulke would decide to take either his player option at $3.75M or become a free agent.
• In my preview of the non-contenders (I should be getting back on track next week), I neglected to mention how KC could enhance the Sox roster. Matt Stairs, the southpaw lumbering power-patient 1B/DH, should be available and could assist the Sox if Lowell fails (Youkilis would move back across the diamond part-time). After Baird signed Minky and Sanders, it left little room for Stairs. E. Brown, at least for now, will start in one OF corner with Sanders. Minky will play first with Sweeney DHing. In case anyone gets hurt (I am looking at you Sweeney) or becomes ineffective (Brown), Huber can step in. He is ready after hitting 343/432/570 in AA and 274/374/531 in AAA last year. For the Sox, Stairs and Youkilis would start against RHP and Lowell and Youk versus lefties. Stairs is a defensive liability, but his bat makes up for it like the younger Millar. The southpaw is making only $1.35 million, which should not put a dent into the Sox budget. Stairs would be a nice addition right now as insurance on Lowell.