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The Flyby: Missed Opportunities

Our readers came up with some realistic and interesting ideas. What do you think of them?

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

This past weekend, I asked readers to come up with a single move that they’d have made this offseason (or a single move that they’d undo!), and we received three strong responses from the community. With the Red Sox at 6-11, maybe the Red Sox should take some tips from the community before it’s too late!

Give Me Grandal or Give Me Losing Baseball! - RabidSoxFan

What they said - With Kimbrel and Kelly both likely to be gone, it was obvious the Sox were going to be worse. Despite this, the pen isn’t the biggest concern. It’s the other side of the battery. The farm is barren, Christian Vázquez and Sandy León leave much to be desired, and Blake Swihart is taking forever to develop. Enter: Yasmani Grandal! He signed a low-risk one year deal! The Red Sox can afford that.

Part of me agrees with the statements that RSF comes up with in his response.

I don’t know if the Sox were ever in on him, but since they are likely to blow through the top Luxury Tax threshold (AND THEY ARE RICH), they could have easily afforded Grandal a short term trial or even a longer one.

I don’t recall hearing anything about the Red Sox being interested in Yasmani Grandal, but that’s probably largely because of the top Luxury Tax threshold, as mentioned. My peer, Jake Devereaux, wrote an article about Grandal early in the off-season, but otherwise, there was little noise regarding the Red Sox uniting with this unfortunate free agent, who was unable to secure the multi-year pact he was seeking.

Since the above article has all the statistical information you could really want, I’m going to focus on the Luxury Tax, the primary reason that we’re Grandal-less. Personally, I’m always on team “it’s not my money, I do not care. Spend all the money”. After all, it’s not my money. I shouldn’t care. It costs me nothing in the end, since I’m not the person writing the checks.

Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

But beyond the selfish demands, I have to look at baseball as a business, and what exceeding the luxury tax really means for the Red Sox. This article from MLBTR’s Steve Adams is a good read on this topic. Here’s a small cliff notes version:

Boston’s luxury tax payroll (“actual” payroll, as termed in the CBA) projected at $241,269,197. Those numbers, both the 2019 payroll and the “actual” payroll, are estimates and aren’t exact, but they’re both close approximations that provide a reasonably accurate depiction of what the organization’s expenses currently entail.

At the top threshold of $246 million and above, there’s a 75% tax on every dollar above the Luxury Tax, and a concession of 10 spots in the upcoming MLB Draft. I’m not sure how the dollars would work out (because someone would likely be moved, and it’s not as simple as applying Grandal’s $18 million to the team’s payroll), but assuming Grandal is the only additional move, that would put the Red Sox payroll at approximately $259 million, which is $13 million over the highest threshold. That means there’d be a $9.75 million tax at the highest threshold, as well as a roughly $2 million tax at the second highest threshold, for a total of roughly $11.75 million in taxes on the Grandal contract, making Grandal’s one year deal of $18 million, closer to being a one year deal of $30 million.

The Red Sox print money, so maybe that’s not a problem, but my feeling is they didn’t want to spend 30 million dollars on Grandal, and also didn’t want to lose 10 spots in the MLB Draft. Looking at his start to the season though, it’s fun to wonder what if.

The Answer Was There All Along! - Wait for it...

What they said - Don’t put me in internet jail. León wouldn’t fix most of the issues. In fact, I think we should just move on from him and play Swihart. The problem wasn’t giving up on León, it was when they gave up on León. If everyone knew from the get-go that this was the plan, the pitching staff would have been better prepared and they might not be struggling so much.

This is an interesting idea, because there’s not a lot of statistical analysis we can make from this point. This is about sports psychology, and how a catcher-pitcher tandem functions in unison. León is widely respected by the pitching staff for always having his pitchers backs and continuing this dialogue with his other half.

WEEI’s Nick Friar had a good article on how Leon prepares for a game, and how he calls it for his pitchers.

World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Boston Red Sox - Game One Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

In more general terms, the relationship between a pitcher and catcher comes down to a single, underutilized word: trust. Trust that the catcher knows how to stick to a game plan. Trust that the pitcher will aim true. Trust that if the pitcher misses his spot, the catcher will be able to react. Trust that both pitcher and catcher are on the same page.

I do not know if the Red Sox players knew that León was leaving. I do know that the Red Sox pitchers loved working with León, however, and have significantly less experience working with Swihart. I think I agree with the idea that had León been discarded earlier in the off-season, that the rotation would be in a slightly better place. However, I do not think that it would have had a significant effect on the Red Sox yet, because I’m also of the belief that there would still need to be a trial by fire. And no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We may struggle just the same to start the season, but I believe it would have been better for the Red Sox beyond 2019.

Trust is important in a pitcher-catcher relationship. But trust isn’t forged over a single off-season.

The One That Got Away - Bosoxsince89

What they said - It was quiet. Too quiet... While others may point to the bullpen or the catcher slot as an area of concern, I’ve decided to think outside the box. We needed Domingo Santana. Stop laughing, I’m serious. The Sox do not want to go over the Luxury Tax. We need cheap, but effective options. We don’t have a farm system to make a significant trade. I’m crazy and trust our bullpen. The biggest concern I have is the back of the lineup. What would it cost to get Santana? Durran, Houck, and Brentz? It’s ok, feel free to call me crazy!

I’m not sure about what it would have cost in a trade either, but that ship has effectively sailed, with his strong start to the 2019 season. The Mariners are in a position where making a move makes no sense, so he’s locked there.

Santana was (as far as I can tell) never linked to the Red Sox, largely because there just was never room for him. The Red Sox employ a full outfield of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. They also have J.D. Martinez as a fourth OF and DH. Adding Santana to the mix, you are using 1/5th of your roster on outfielders, which was already the strong point of the team.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
Pictured - Mookie missing a fly ball, something so rare I just had to show it to remind us that he’s still human.
Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Additionally, Santana has never played a position outside of the outfield, so where do you fit him? Bosox’s proposal involves sliding Bradley to the bench and letting him walk, presumably, as a free agent. But I have a different idea. Let’s place Santana in the outfield, as stated, but instead of moving Mookie to center field, and Bradley to the bench, let’s move Mookie to second base, and have Pedroia on standby, splitting time at second base and DH, to better allow him to make it through the regular season. Does this hurt our defensive alignment? For sure Mookie is incredibly valuable in Fenway right field (which is why I may keep Mookie in right during home games). However, this boosts our offensive capabilities, and allows us to also keep Bradley’s phenomenal defense in the game as well.

Additionally, this changes plans on Michael Chavis, potentially, who can now focus entirely on being a first baseman (currently, he’s taking time at first, second, and third base), and just developing his bat to get to Boston quicker, so he can fill in for Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce when their time with the Red Sox is up. There are a lot of options, in any case.

Santana would have represented a lot of things to the 2019 Red Sox, but it is our inaction that speaks louder. He got away, and we only have ourselves to blame.