OAKLAND, Calif. – The Red Sox acknowledged a massive mistake Tuesday when they reached a settlement on the remaining portion of Bobby Jenks’s two-year, $12 million contract.
The Sox saved $1.5 million on the $6 million they owed Jenks for the reliever to get an early release from his contract.
Jenks was one of the Sox’ biggest busts considering the size of his contract and the 15⅔ innings he gave the team. Add in offseason issues, which included a spring training DUI, and sometimes you just have to cut your losses.
Many of the bad contracts came when Theo Epstein was the Red Sox’ general manager. In a twist, Epstein is now in Chicago trying to get rid of the bad deals his predecessor, Jim Hendry, signed. While Epstein is rebuilding in Chicago, the Sox are staying the course but lopping off unwanted players when possible.
Here are the players they have cut ties with, and some others they may consider doing that with.
1. Kevin Youkilis – They ate about $5.5 million of his deal and moved the 33-year-old to the White Sox and got a power arm (Zach Stewart) and utilityman (Brent Lillibridge) in return. The Sox have committed to rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who they believe is about a year ahead of schedule.
2. Jenks – He was brought in to be a setup man to Jonathan Papelbon and protection in case Papelbon left as a free agent. Jenks was a physical disaster, with one injury after another. His medical and off-field issues never ceased.
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka — He had Tommy John surgery and now has neck issues. With fewer than $5 million remaining on a massive contract with a final outlay of about $103 million, it may be time to part ways with the former Japanese superstar. Is there any reason to keep him around? No team likes to give up pitching depth, and for that reason the Sox likely will play out the string with him. But if there are roster concerns and the team can’t seem to find a suitor (and he has the right to veto any deal) then the Sox may also cut their losses here.
4. John Lackey — He is coming back from Tommy John surgery and may even pitch in September. The Sox signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million deal and there’s an option for a sixth year now because he had surgery. This one is trickier because there’s still almost $40 million remaining on the contract. If Lackey eventually shows he’s healthy, he could be part of a bad-contract-for-bad-contract deal. This signing hasn’t worked at all. Lackey, 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA with the Sox, could return and be the effective starter he was in Anaheim. But the Sox would love to be able to move him.
5. Josh Beckett — The righthander, 4-7 with a 4.06 ERA, still has two years remaining on his lucrative contract extension after this season at $15.75 million per. It would appear with a little swallowing of the contract that the Sox could deal him and begin to change the beer-drinking, chicken-eating culture to a more serious group, led by Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, etc. Beckett still can pitch and it would appear he would have a market if the Sox were serious about dealing him. He could project as an $8 million-$10 million pitcher for someone — with the salary help.
6. Carl Crawford — He signed a seven-year, $142 million deal and his first 1½ years have either been below par or he has been injured. The Sox likely will wait to see how Crawford’s elbow responds when he starts playing fulltime in the majors. He is a terrific guy who has worked hard at getting back to health. Nobody felt worse about his poor 2011 season than he did, and nobody is more committed to turning that around when he’s healthy. However, if it doesn’t work out, Crawford, too becomes another of the monster contracts the Sox should seek to move.
The Red Sox, especially Bobby Valentine, have enjoyed the rise of Daniel Nava. The former Independent League outfielder will be the most direct casualty of Crawford returning. Nava has become a patient hitter and a decent outfielder, but he has no illlusions that he’s going to keep his job.
“I have no right to take Carl Crawford’s job,” he said. “He’s been in the big leagues for 10 years and because he had one down year and he got hurt, he loses his job? I don’t think that’s going to happen and I don’t expect it to happen.”
It doesn’t appear that Nava will lose out all together, as it appears he still will be one of the five outfielders once Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury return.
7. Ellsbury — He is earning $8.02 million this season, and his future earnings should be twice that much per season, if not more. Is this the time to deal Ellsbury, rather than risk handing out another $100 million-plus deal? Sox execs rave about Jackie Bradley, a player who could emerge as an All-Star who doesn’t have quite the speed of an Ellsbury (though he’s not far off) and has twice the arm. He’s also a coveted lefthanded hitter, currently at Double A Portland, who has assaulted pitching at every level. By next season, Bradley should be ready for the majors. The Sox could replenish with young talent by dealing Ellsbury and going with Ryan Kalish now and Bradley in the future.
8. Adrian Gonzalez — He is hitting again, and even though some believe Gonzalez wasn’t worth the seven-year, $156 million outlay, he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. The Sox gave up Anthony Rizzo, who is now in the majors with the Cubs, and pitching prospect Casey Kelly to the Padres for Gonzalez. Still, Gonzalez has the one long-term deal that could end up being worth it.
While this correspondent was a big advocate of re-signing Papelbon, it’s proven to be a good decision to let him go. Papelbon is an All-Star again in Philadelphia, but Alfredo Aceves has done a good job as the Sox’ closer and the injured Andrew Bailey hasn’t even pitched yet.
“You’re going to enjoy Bailey,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. “He has a friendly, outgoing demeanor off the field, but on it he’s very competitive.”
Sox general manager Ben Cherington made a few solid low-cost signings/trades, such as Cody Ross, Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook, which have panned out. It’s proof you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get quality.
Whether the Sox actually will move any more of the players cited above remains to be seen. But the Jenks news made one think that sometimes “addition by subtraction” can be good for a team.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.