Saturday, August 1

August 1st, the Day After

Geez Louise this week did a number on the nerves if you're a Sox fan. Now the dust has cleared, we're not 7 games back on the Yankees, and Victor Martinez is in the lineup batting third tonight against the Orioles. Quite a week.

They say in modern baseball you're either rooting for the laundry or the front office, but not the players. Theo showed again this weekend why we can feel pretty safe on that proposition, especially now that we don't have to look Julio Lugo in the face every night. Saturday afternoon and the national media has generally deemed the Phillies and the Sox the big trade deadline winners. Without seeing the new-look Sox in action yet, it's hard to disagree.

The big move, of course, was the Victor Martinez trade. The Sox gave up Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, Brian Pryce - which means they did not give up Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, or Junichi Tazawa.

Justin Masterson was beloved, but with the emergence of Daniel Bard, his worktime has gone down. He likely projects as a third or fourth starter, and with Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Buchholz, and Bowden / Tazawa / et al, it was going to be tough for him to earn a long-term spot in the rotation. So while it's tough to see a kid go (even if he's returning to the homestead, an Ohio native), Masterson looked like one of the more expendable pieces in the organization.

Hagadone and Pryce were first round compensation picks (for the depatures of Alex Gonzalez and Eric Gagne). Both were high-risk picks, and neither has proven much in their short tenures. Hagadone was a hard-throwing lefty until he got Tommy John surgery - the rehab from which is only now under way. Pryce had one good college season at Rice and skyrocketed up the draft charts out of nowhere. Since joining the Sox, he has been slammed in the minors and has not been rated highly within the organization. There are some in the Sox who think that if Victor decides to bolt Boston after next year, the Sox would essentially look at it as draft pick mulligans - another shot at a couple of compensation picks.

Which brings us to Victor Martinez. First off, gotta note the versatility he brings in. He switch hits, and could play at catcher, first base, or hit DH. He generally hits for a high average with average power. He has had an abysmal two month stretch, but has been consistent over his career, and has over-performed in Fenway. Martinez projects to hit third in the Sox lineup nightly, and will give the Sox a lot of looks against different pitchers. Presumably, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz will alternate off nights now that he's here. Papi's heating up, but still struggles mightily against lefties. And anyone who watched Lowell come off the field last night after getting thrown out at first will know, no matter how hard he's hitting the ball, he's going to be grateful for a few more off nights. All in all, Martinez has big potential in Fenway, is under a reasonable club option next year, and certainly adds a bit of intimidation to the Sox new lineups.

The less foreseen move of the day - Adam LaRoche going back to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman. Kotchman has put together a decent season at the plate, but is generally considered a stellar defensive first baseman. The potential is there, though - as recently as 2007, Kotchman hit .296, with an .839 OPS for the Angels. The Sox inquired about him that year, and Theo apparently kept him on the radar. He'll likely be used as a late-game defensive replacement, but could provide quality help pinch-hitting and taking starts at first.

All in all, a couple of strong moves, and it essentially cost the Sox Masterson. The other mid-level prospects can be made up for in compensation depending on contract negotiations and designations for Kotchman and Martinez. Not at all a bad haul for a team that was seen to have (and still have) a glut of pitching.

Even more important, perhaps - the Yanks and and Rays did nothing. The Yankees wanted Washburn but didn't go out and get him. The Rays wanted Victor Martinez, and in many ways, that was a big motivation for the Sox. Dioner Navarro is suffering, and the Rays would have loved, loved, to add the big Indians catcher. Instead, they had to stand pat.

So it's Saturday. The Sox were about four games out a few days ago, they hadn't scored 5 runs in a game in about two weeks, Papi broke our hearts just a little, and Clay Buchholz was seen as all but gone. Now all of a sudden we're taking a deep breath, looking at the Yankees from 1.5 back (with AJ Burnett getting pounded at the time of writing by the newly surging White Sox), looking forward to a pretty potent-looking lineup on the night, getting ready for another Buchholz start tomorrow, and remembering what a long, long season it is.

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