Instead of signing a big name like Mark Teixeira this offseason, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein went a different direction. He decided (once he was burned by Teixeira) that he'd sign a few guys that were comparatively cheap, but their upsides could be good enough to make a real impact.
Now, with September just a few days away, the strategy seems almost like a complete failure.The three players that fall under the "low risk, high reward" umbrella are as follows: Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Takashi Saito.
Please hold back your laughter -- if you can.
We all know how the Smoltz story went down. He rehabbed and everyone was waiting for "the day" he'd be back to save the Red Sox. He was supposed to be the savior of the Sox. So what did he do?
Smoltz's best start was a five-inning performance against the Royals on July 11. He gave up four hits, one run, one walk and struck out seven. That was the kind of performance the Sox were expecting on a regular basis.
Instead, he gave up five runs or more in six of his eight starts. After giving up eight runs to the Yankees on Aug. 6, Smoltz was finally designated for assignment. He refused a demotion to Pawtucket and was instead traded to the Cardinals.
The Smoltz era in Boston did not last very long. But, by all standards, it was a bust.
Grade: F -- Did not offer the Sox much other than two decent games. Such a promising time for both the Sox and Smoltz turned into something both will want to forget as quickly as possible.
Penny wasn't a complete bust. While he wasn't the best starting pitcher, he had his moments and the Sox benefited from him at least a little -- unlike Smoltz.
Penny made the third most starts out of any Sox starter this season before he requested his own release Wednesday night. He racked up 11 quality starts in 24 games, which I would say is pretty good from a fifth starter.
So while Penny may have been a plus while the season started and went along, recently he just fell off. In four August starts, Penny gave up 20 earned runs in 21.2 innings of work. In his last start against the Yankees, he worked four innings and surrendered eight runs. Seems like the Yankees like to run the Sox's starters out of town, huh?
Grade: C- -- He was at least useful to some extent. The Sox could have done worse for a fifth starter. If it wasn't for his last month of work, the grade might have been higher. Nevertheless, he's gone now.
Finally, a move that has worked out for Theo so far.
We can't forget about Saito. While he isn't working in crucial innings for the most part, he's been a big asset to the best bullpen in baseball. Saito has a 2.80 ERA in 45 innings of work. Opponents are hitting just .226 against the veteran (which is great, but also 4th best in the bullpen -- gotta' love how strong this 'pen is).
In the second half of the season, Saito has been even better. He's surrendered just two runs in 14.1 innings, including a 0.75 WHIP in August.
There was word the Sox were in the market to trade Saito earlier in the season, but that never panned out. Can you blame them, though? Saito could have brought in something valuable for a team that needed a closer. But he's with the club and pitching some of his best baseball of the season.
If the Sox make the playoffs, Saito could come up huge. It's nice to have such a deep bullpen with two proven closers (Saito and Billy Wagner) not even pitching in the 9th inning.
Grade: B+ -- He's been very solid, but he isn't working the toughest of innings either. Still, you can't argue with results, no matter where they are coming in a game.