Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Friday, February 26, 2016

Evolution of Strategy

     It's late February, and that can only mean one thing: Spring training's beginning. That also means something: the Red Sox are now favored to win a wide open AL East after spending way too much money on one or multiple players during the offseason. After slowly becoming more and more like the Yankees since their World Series victory in 2004 by treating free agency like a monkey throwing whatever he can get his hands on at a dartboard, they need to face the reality. And that reality is the fact that their strategy doesn't work.
     In 2015 the Sox underperformed, going 78-84 after signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez the previous winter for a combined $183 million. I hate to sound like a jerk here, but the moves made no sense. They already had a shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, and Sandoval couldn't play anywhere but third, so they had to move Hanley to left field; we all know how that worked out. Two years earlier, in 2013, they won the World Series. The previous offseason, the only moves they made were smaller, but filled a specific need: aquiring Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino Koji Uehara. The two years before, they missed the playoffs, despite having signed Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. My point is, the Red Sox have proven that they know how to win, and it's the opposite of what they've been doing lately.
     Compare the Red Sox to the Giants. Being in San Francisco, you can't call the Giants "small market", but they're run like one. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all home-grown talent. The players they didn't draft all have relatively small contracts and filled a hole on the team, like Hunter Pence or Tim Hudson. And that strategy's worked for them, winning three World Series this decade.
     In fact, the Red Sox are one of the few teams who have stuck with the strategy of handing out big contracts as their primary manner of business. Look at the most recent World Series winners. The Royals, aforementioned Giants and Red Sox and Cardinals were all built from the ground up.
     Even the Yankees, once considered the epitome of big spending have slowly begun to ease up on the contracts. Since 2010, they've only signed four guys to contracts longer than four years, a C.C. Sabathia extension in 2012, a seven year deal to Jacoby Ellsbury, seven years for Masahiro Tanaka and a five year contract to Mr. God's Gift to Baseball Brian McCann all in the offseason of 2014. In the past two years, they've been gradually getting younger. Dellin Betances has done terrifically since his rookie season in 2014, and Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird both made their debuts in 2015. By 2018, New York will only have three undesirable contracts on the books. They'll be getting more fiscally responsible, younger and reliant on their farm system, much like the rest of the league.

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