There is a big difference between spending money and spending money wisely. Fans can’t criticize the Boston Red Sox for not spending money the last eight months.
They spent nearly $200 million to bring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to Fenway. The Sox gave Rusney Castillo $72 million last August. Now they’re reportedly opening their check books one more time for Yoan Moncada– $31.5 million to Moncada and another $31.5 to MLB as a penalty for surpassing the international bonus allotment. Yup, that’s right– John Henry is, essentially, flicking $31.5 million into a burning fireplace. Must be nice, right?
This is the same organization that didn’t want to go the extra mile to sign proven major leaguer, Jon Lester. They were willing to give Castillo, a player they had never seen play in the major leagues, $72 million, yet their initial offer to nine-year veteran and proven post-season stalwart, Jon Lester, in March was four years, $70 million. Despite Henry being willing to burn $31.5 million for Moncada — another player who is unproven — the team was unwilling to pony up the final $15 million it would have cost to secure Lester in November.
But this isn’t about Lester. It’s about the Red Sox new philosophy.
You’ve heard this song before. The Red Sox like to think of themselves as the Bill Belichick of baseball. They like to think they are smarter than everyone else. Remember Larry Lucchino mocking the Yankees for their style of committing to “high-priced, long-term free agents” after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013? The Red Sox were smarter. They won with a roster full of medium-priced, short-term free agents (three years, $39 million was the popular price tag) who were good clubhouse presences. That same formula didn’t work out so good for the Red Sox in 2014 when they finished last in the AL East. So what did the Red Sox do? They reverted back to their big spending ways and signed the two biggest (in size and productivity) hitters on the market.
Oh, wait, but the Red Sox are doing it differently. The Yankees like to spend big money on aging veterans and commit themselves to way too many years. This is true. It’s no secret the Red Sox are reluctant to commit to big contracts on players entering their 30s. Apparently they’d rather spend it on players who aren’t even 20 yet– like Moncada, who is 19. Which is riskier?
If that’s the case, the Sox should give $40 million right now to Henry Owens, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, and Rafael Devers. What makes Moncada more of a can’t-miss than these young prospects? Good thing they didn’t sign Jackie Bradley, Jr. long-term following his phenomenal spring training in 2013. Remember when everyone was worried about service time with Bradley? Now he is, probably, the sixth outfielder on the Boston roster.
Back in 2003, the Red Sox were going to revolutionize the game with a bullpen-by-committee approach. On any given day, it could have been Bobby Howry, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Chad Fox, Brandon Lyon, or Ramiro Mendoza closing out games. The ninth inning was overrated. If the situation called for it, the best bullpen arm should have to come in the eighth, seventh, or even sixth inning.
The experiment failed. The following year the Red Sox went out and got a bona fide closer in Keith Foulke and they won the World Series.
In 2010, the next big thing was “run prevention.” This was the wave of the future and no one knew about it except the Red Sox. They went out and signed veteran Gold-Glover Mike Cameron to patrol center field. They shifted Jacoby Ellsbury to left field. Ellsbury would miss most of the 2010 season after colliding with third baseman Adrian Beltre on a pop up down the left field line. Cameron would go on to hit .259 and drive in 15 runs in 2010.
The result was the Red Sox went on their biggest shopping spree to date to boost their offense. They traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford in December of that year.
That didn’t work out well for them, either. Newly minted GM Ben Cherington unloaded Gonzalez and Crawford on the Dodgers in 2012 and the Red Sox won the World Series a year later.
Now the Red Sox are trying something new, yet again. On the bright side, the Red Sox seem to win World Series shortly after rectifying their mistakes. They did in 2004, 2007, and 2013.
Will Castillo and Moncada go on to become perennial All-Stars? Nobody knows. If they say they do, they’re lying. No one can even agree on what Moncada even looks like. There have been reports that he is anywhere from 5’9″ to 6’4″ and anywhere from 210 pounds to 240 pounds. Some say he is a shortstop. Some say he is a second/third baseman. Some compare him to Robinson Cano, except with better speed. But, again, who knows?
“Experts” can fairly accurately project what kind of statistics Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and, yes, Jon Lester will put up the next two or three seasons. They have track records. It is anyone’s guess what kind of numbers Castillo and Moncada will put up.
Patriots’ fans have gotten accustomed to reciting the mantra, “In Bill, we trust.” Red Sox fans hope they can chant the same about Ben.