Baseball Roundup

Steve O Speak

Red Sox Agree To Terms with Lackey and Cameron: The Boston Red Sox made two big moves yesterday signing John Lackey, the top starter on the market to a 5-year $85 million deal. After adding another top flight starter, Boston moved quickly to fill their hole in LF by signing OF Mike Cameron to a 2-year $15.5 million deal. I like both moves for the Red Sox and I also liked how they moved quickly to sign these players to fill their needs. Let’s look closer at these deals for a minute, and what it means for the teams involved.

Signing John Lackey was great move for the Red Sox considering their other options for adding a starting pitcher. None of the other top free agent starters were nearly as good as Lackey and all of them are looking at $10 million a year salaries. While I’m not usually a fan of 5-year deals for starting pitchers, Lackey was one of the younger starters on the market and has been reasonably healthy throughout his career. Lackey gives the Red Sox the best rotation in baseball, joining Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice-K, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield.

The signing makes even more sense considering the impending 3 team trade involving Seattle-Philadelphia-Toronto, and includes top pitchers Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Yes Halladay might be a better pitcher, but the Red Sox would have to shell out 3-4 top young players and $20 million a year to keep Halladay in the mix. And While the price for Lee (in prospects), might have been cheaper, extending him (which might not be possible) might have been more years or money. Now the Red Sox can have Buchholz and Lackey instead of just Halladay, and they can use their other prospects (and maybe Buchholz as well) to trade for a big bat. Boston does have to give the Angels their first round pick (the Blue Jays now get their 2nd round pick for Marco Scutaro) 29th overall for signing Lackey, but that’s not a big loss. The Red Sox already received the Braves 1st round pick (2oth) for Billy Wagner, and will get an additional 1st or early 2nd round pick for Jason Bay when he signs. In addition the Red Sox get a supplemental 1st round pick for each Bay and Wagner, meaning they will be pretty set when next year’s draft rolls around.

If signing Lackey wasn’t enough Boston made another smart move yesterday by inking Cameron. While Cameron is getting up there in age (36) he’s still been a fairly productive outfielder, and well worth the 2 year $15.5 million dollar investment. Cameron will shift over to LF, but does give the Red Sox plenty of flexibility having him back up Ellsbury in CF (not to mention maybe giving him a few pointers). Cameron loses a little value in moving to LF, but gives them a top notch defender to play balls off the Green Monster. While Cameron’s skills have declined some, he still routinely posts OPS numbers in the .800’s and has hit 20 or more home runs in each of the last 4 seasons (including 2 in San Diego). While he is no longer a threat on the base paths, he is by no means a base clogger. Cameron still has the wheels to take two bases on a single and steal an occasional base. While he might not have the profile of a Bay or Holliday, he signed for half of what they will make next year and for a third of the years it will take to sign them.

The Red Sox couldn’t afford to bring in both a top pitcher and a top hitter, Cameron now gives them a lot of value in the outfield at a very reasonable price. While the offensive numbers may be lower, defensively Cameron should save a lot of runs in the outfield. With Lackey and Cameron on board, the Red Sox will limit their opponents (the Yankees) chances for getting into a slugfest. The moves also keep the Boston farm system in tact to make a move or two at the trade deadline.

Angels Sign WS MVP Matsui: As the Red Sox made two moves the Yankees watched one of their own stars slip away. What makes it even worse, is that he went to another one of their A.L. rivals. The Angels did well signing Hideki Matsui to a one year $6.5 million deal. Matsui on a multi-year deal is a huge risk, he is injury prone, lacks any defensive value, and will be 36 next season. But Matsui at one season, for half of what he made last year is brilliant. When he’s healthy Matsui is a great DH; he hits both lefties and righties very well, offering moderate power and great plate discipline. The Angels need to just keep him out of the field…where he is awful defensively and is more prone to injury. The only downside to this move is it puts Bobby Abreu back out in the field every day, which comes with its own defensive limitations. But it does give Los Angeles depth and a solid offensive core. Between their outfield, 1B and DH, the Angels have 5 players who have 20+ home run power (Abreu is pushing it) and all capable of an .800 plus OPS. Matsui alone doesn’t make up for the losses of Figgins and Lackey that the Angels have suffered, but it does dull the blow a little bit.  Overall its a good move by Los Angeles as they look to finally overcome the Yankees and Red Sox.

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