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Grade Theo Epstein


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Poll: Grade Theo Epstein (214 member(s) have cast votes)

Free Agent Signings

  1. A+ (13 votes [6.07%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.07%

  2. A (30 votes [14.02%])

    Percentage of vote: 14.02%

  3. A- (30 votes [14.02%])

    Percentage of vote: 14.02%

  4. B+ (40 votes [18.69%])

    Percentage of vote: 18.69%

  5. B (51 votes [23.83%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.83%

  6. B- (28 votes [13.08%])

    Percentage of vote: 13.08%

  7. C+ (11 votes [5.14%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.14%

  8. C (9 votes [4.21%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.21%

  9. C- (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  10. D+ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  11. D (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  12. D- (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  13. F (2 votes [0.93%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.93%

Trades

  1. A+ (23 votes [10.75%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.75%

  2. A (49 votes [22.90%])

    Percentage of vote: 22.90%

  3. A- (61 votes [28.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 28.50%

  4. B+ (47 votes [21.96%])

    Percentage of vote: 21.96%

  5. B (26 votes [12.15%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.15%

  6. B- (5 votes [2.34%])

    Percentage of vote: 2.34%

  7. C+ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  8. C (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  9. C- (1 votes [0.47%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.47%

  10. D+ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  11. D (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  12. D- (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  13. F (2 votes [0.93%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.93%

Drafts

  1. A+ (32 votes [14.95%])

    Percentage of vote: 14.95%

  2. A (91 votes [42.52%])

    Percentage of vote: 42.52%

  3. A- (52 votes [24.30%])

    Percentage of vote: 24.30%

  4. B+ (26 votes [12.15%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.15%

  5. B (9 votes [4.21%])

    Percentage of vote: 4.21%

  6. B- (1 votes [0.47%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.47%

  7. C+ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  8. C (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  9. C- (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  10. D+ (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  11. D (1 votes [0.47%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.47%

  12. D- (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  13. F (2 votes [0.93%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.93%

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#1 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 03 January 2011 - 02:56 PM

Theo Epstein has been the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox since 2002, so we've had about nine years (not including the 2005 sabbatical) of information to see how well he's done. With two World Championships and six post season appearances in those eight years it would seem that he's done very well. One could even argue that he's the most successful Sox GM of all time.

However, when we break down his main public-facing job duty (acquiring players) how does he rate? I would say that his drafting skills are excellent, his trading skills are better than good (Kevin Towers seemed to have his number though) while his free agents don't always pan out.

Our software only allows us to ask three questions per post, so I tried to make it as generic (and specific at the same time) as possible. So I did leave some questions out, but the grading is standard. How would you grade Theo Epstein during his tenure?*

*BTW, this question s going to be subjective, I suppose. If the bottom line is World Series wins, then he gets at least an A for each question. But, if we look at each question a bit deeper and say that he's good at certain areas and he needs a bit more help in other ares, that would make for a more entertaining thread. And don't be afraid to tell folks what you think and use examples to back up your grades. For example, if you say that he gets an A in acquiring free agents and use Carl Crawford or David Ortiz
as examples, don't be surprised if Matt Clement and Edgar Renteria are used as counter-examples.

Have at it, gang.

Edit: I gave him:

C+ for free agent signings
B for trades
A- for drafting

#2 glennhoffmania


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Posted 03 January 2011 - 03:15 PM

FA- B: some great/really good ones like Beltre, Ortiz and Drew, some awful ones like Renteria, and some overpays even if they aren't busts like Lackey and Crawford.

Trades- B+: great ones like Gonzalez and Martinez, but I can never forget Gagne.

Draft- A-: the crop of home grown guys and guys in the system who are getting close is impressive.

#3 ookami7m

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 05:37 PM

FA: B- hit gold with Ortiz, Mueller, Beltre, Drew, and others. The SS revolving door was the main thing keeping this from coming in higher. Concerned about Lackey and some of the other long term deals.

Trades: B - when it seemed appropriate Theo has made the deal happen (see Nomar, Manny, A Gonzalez) without overpaying and by creatively leveraging third teams where possible. The Mirabelli trade(s) and Gagne are really the only black marks here. Having a great set of prospects helps a ton.

Draft: A - 100 Million Dollar Player Development Machine indeed sir. The strength here has allowed for the success of the other two facets. Having good prospects in the pipe means not feeling forced to overpay for a big FA to fill a hole (see Lester and [I am an Idiot] or Bard or Pedroia) as well as having depth to trade from to get pieces when available (see Adrian Gonzalez, Schilling(yes not all his prospects) etc).

#4 maufman


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Posted 03 January 2011 - 06:46 PM

The discussion below assumes Theo was fully in the loop during his 2005-06 sabbatical, without knowing if that was actually the case.

Free Agents: B

Most of the "bad" contracts Theo has handed out were to guys who played key roles on the 2004 and 2007 clubs (Foulke, Lugo, Dice-K, Varitek), so I'm not inclined to judge those harshly. (Yes, the two rings affect my analysis.) If you accept that rationale, and you believe (as I do) that Matt Clement was bad luck*, then Theo has only handed out two big, bad contracts: Renteria and Lowell.

Theo has also done a nice job showing guys the door when it was the right move-- among top-tier free agents who've left Boston in Theo's tenure, only Derek Lowe worked out well for the club who signed him, and it's far from clear D-Lowe would have blossomed as he did if he hadn't left Boston.

This would be an "A-" except for the early returns on the Lackey and Beckett deals.


*-Clement wasn't a high-risk guy; he had some durability concerns, but those were reflected in the contract he got.. He didn't have the red flags Carl Pavano did, and he got 40% less total dollars than Pavano. If you fault Theo for not re-signing Lowe, then I guess you can hold Clement against him (because he shouldn't have been in the market for an SP at all), but I don't think you can assume Lowe would have pitched as well for the Sox as he did for the Dodgers.


Trades: A

The key question for me is this: would you do the Hanley Ramirez deal again? I would, because we don't win in 2007 without Beckett and (to a lesser extent) Lowell.

If you don't hold Hanley Ramirez against him, the best player Theo has traded away in a regrettable deal is Bronson Arroyo. Meanwhile, he sold high on Casey Fossum, Anibal Sanchez and Brandon Moss, and I don't think the name Nick Hagadone will ever elicit groans from Sox fans either.

Theo's finest hour may have been prying Jason Bay away from Pittsburgh at the 2008 deadline when everybody knew Theo had to move Manny.

Draft: A

Yes, the Sox have drafted well under Theo. The "A" grade is cinched, however, by Theo's savvy decisions on which players to move quickly* to extend long-term (Pedroia, Lester) and which ones to go year-to-year with (Papelbon, Ellsbury). The organization evaluates young talent well-- when it comes to the draft, to trades, and to long-term deals. Because of the fixation of much of the baseball press on the FO's sabermetric bent, the organization's strongest attribute often gets overlooked.

I'm more impressed by the current system's depth than by any particular prospects. A year ago, however, people made the same complaint about the Royals, who are now widely considered to have the game's best collection of prospects.


*-The Ortiz, Beckett and Youkilis extensions have also worked out well, but those guys were veterans when the FO signed them long term; they are therefore more akin to free-agent signings than to drafting/scouting/player development decisions.

#5 amarshal2

  • 2622 posts

Posted 03 January 2011 - 07:36 PM

I realize that these are the 3 primary buckets and it makes sense to grade him in this manner, but it does not capture the larger picture. If there was a blanket bucket that said, "achieves team mission of balancing current success with future needs to keep the team highly competitive every year," then I would give him an A to an A+ as one of the best if not the best GM in the game in this regard. But yeah, his open market free agents haven't all been pretty. (Who's have been, though?) It's sort of analogous to when you take those 2-3 part standardized tests and score 85% on math and 88% on verbal and end up with a 94% overall score.

Additionally, there's no bucket for how he handles internal contract negotiations, i.e., arb eligible players (e.g.,Papelbon), extensions (e.g., Youkilis, Lester), old farts ending their contracts (e.g., Pedro, 'Tek, Damon), etc. I bet most are including this in the Free Agent bucket but that expression makes me think "julio lugo" more than it makes me think "kevin youkilis".

Free Agents: B (I never liked the strategy of putting so much FA money into starters instead of bats, which are just a safer bet -- seems to have rectified it this year)
Internal Free Agents: A (As someone said, outside of DLowe --and I'll add Lowell-- he's absolutely nailed it with some outstanding contracts and non-contracts.)
Trades: A/A- (Which major trade should he not have done at the time? I was all for the Beckett deal. How awesome was the Bay trade? Which trade hampered the club in the future?)
Draft: A- (I'll give him an A for draft strategy and use of resources -- when it comes to who did he pick and how they have panned out, it's harder to judge. For instance, I think Ryan Westmoreland was the best pick of his tenure and that's a pretty tough one to grade/back-up with evidence.)
Overall: A/A+

#6 wutang112878


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Posted 03 January 2011 - 11:06 PM

FAs - B : There have been some great signings and some significant misses as well. Not a complete disaster but its never a good thing to pay for a player to go away and he has done that a few times. Having said that, this has been his weakest area and a lot of other big market GMs have done much, much worse.

Trades - A- : He has made some good complimentary moves, the Nomar trade took a lot of guts, intelligence and deal making, the Schilling trade was awesome, and his mistakes really havent been franchise killers considering who he gave up. Also, there isnt a warranty with Gonzo, but with that trade he has shown he will make big moves with top tier prospects as well. Considering the pressure he is constantly under to win now at all costs from the media and Larry, and he hasnt sold away most of the farm this is very, very impressive IMO.

Draft: - A : His goal was to add 1 or 2 ML ready players to the roster every year, and considering our payroll has always been in the top 5 or so thats an ambitious task and he has come pretty close. Considering he could make the Gonzo deal and we still have some great propsects at multiple levels, and when he got here the farm was pretty empty, thats the best indication that he is doing a great job in this area.

#7 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 02:10 PM

Most of the "bad" contracts Theo has handed out were to guys who played key roles on the 2004 and 2007 clubs (Foulke, Lugo, Dice-K, Varitek), so I'm not inclined to judge those harshly. (Yes, the two rings affect my analysis.) If you accept that rationale, and you believe (as I do) that Matt Clement was bad luck*, then Theo has only handed out two big, bad contracts: Renteria and Lowell.


I don't see how you can say that Foulke or Varitek were "bad" contracts. These two were key contributors to the 2004 (without Foulke, Boston doesn't win). And while Foulke slipped badly in 05 and 06, one could argue that the use that he got in the 04 post season was among the reasons for that fall. Up until two years ago, Varitek was a solid catcher. While he was no longer a star, he wasn't a complete waste.

Maybe I'm hanging on too long Matsuzaka, but I don't think that he was a complete bust either. Maybe a C/C- signing.

But Lugo was a terrible signing. Did he have his moments? Of course, but his contract was an albatross the moment he signed it. Epstein paid way too much for him and when it was time to cut bait with him, it made it virtually impossible. Clement was a disaster waiting to happen and for some reason the FO was obsessed with him, they almost traded Lowe for him at the 2004 trade deadline.

For the folks who gave Epstein an A+ in his free agent signings, care to give some reasons?

#8 donutogre

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 02:40 PM

Clement was a disaster waiting to happen and for some reason the FO was obsessed with him, they almost traded Lowe for him at the 2004 trade deadline.


Quick (honest, non-snarky) question for you - what makes Clement a "disaster waiting to happen?" At the end of the 2004, there was clearly a need for some new pitchers on the Sox, and while it turned out Clement's arm was completely shot, I'm guessing he passed the physicals and didn't have any major red flags. Am I forgetting something - did he have previous injury trouble identifying him as a major risk for an arm injury? Because looking at his stats it looks like he was pretty much a durable innings eater who had put together 3 pretty solid seasons before he got to Boston.

More generally, while I wouldn't give Epstein an A+ on free agent signings, I am trying to think of a GM who has done demonstrably better over recent years. Lugo and Renteria were nightmare signings almost from the get-go (and Lugo's even before he played really)...time will tell on Crawford, Lackey and Beckett...Lowell was a mis-step, Dice-K was probably a mis-step though he did contribute well to the 2007 and 2008 teams for most of the season.

Cashman might have had less full out busts than Epstein, but he has over-payed on probably almost every single FA he has signed in recent years.

Long story short - who is a GM who we think would want Theo to learn from in terms of signings free agents?

Edited by donutogre, 04 January 2011 - 02:41 PM.


#9 Red(s)HawksFan

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 02:55 PM

Clement was a disaster waiting to happen and for some reason the FO was obsessed with him, they almost traded Lowe for him at the 2004 trade deadline.

I'm curious why Clement was a "disaster waiting to happen"? Another poster referenced him as having "durability issues". I won't argue that he was at best a mediocre pitcher prior to coming to Boston, but was the shoulder injury that ultimately ended his career something that threw up red flags prior to his signing? I don't recall it being an issue. In his six full seasons in the big leagues (1999-2004), he averaged 32 starts and 190 innings a season. In his three years in Chicago, it was 31 starts and 196 innings per year with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.

Theo signed him for his age 30-32 seasons to a reasonable contract (3/26) for a free agent expected to be a #2/3 starter. It was hardly a crippling deal if he stayed healthy. He was a ~3.0 WAR pitcher his previous three years, and roughly a 3.0 WAR pitcher in his first in Boston (3.1 bWar, 3.8 fWar). The contract paid him like a 3.0 WAR pitcher. The fact that his shoulder imploded is the only thing that prevented him fulfilling it.

I have a really hard time holding a free agent contract against a GM when a player suffers a catastrophic injury in the midst of it, especially if the contract looked good up until the injury. I'd put the Lowell contract in a similar category, only Lowell was older and the contract was bigger when it was signed. There was more reason for concern about Lowell than Clement, IMO, unless you believe every pitcher isn't likely to fulfill a long term deal regardless of history and/or age.

I think the only absolutely indefensible contract Theo has given is Lugo's. The rest I think one can at least argue why he did it even if the results weren't necessarily equal to expectations. I don't think it's a coincidence that the deals viewed as the worst are always the most expensive. The premium paid due to free agency raises expectations and it takes superhuman efforts to meet them. The perfect case in point is Drew. Because of the price-tag, everyone wants him to be a 40 HR, middle of the order guy from the first day to the last. So no matter whether or not he fulfills the team's actual expectations (i.e. the real reasons he was targeted and signed), he is viewed as a bust.

So I guess I'm judging Theo as much on the process by which he acquires free agents as on the final results of those signings, some of which is unpredictable and hard to pin on Theo.

#10 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 03:14 PM

Maybe I exaggerated a little (ok, a lot) when I said that Clement was "a disaster waiting to happen" especially when I checked out his numbers, which aren't really that bad. I guess my point was that Clement and Wells were signed to (essentially) take the place of Pedro and Lowe in the rotation; to become the second and third starters. Unfortunately, with Schilling's injury they were bumped up to first and second starters.

While Clement started out like gangbusters (in terms of wins and losses), I think that his final numbers showed what he really was: 99 ERA+, 1.36 WHIP, second highest BB/IP after Wade Miller in the starting rotation (3.2) but had the highest K/IP of the starting five (6.9). His WAR (3.1) was the lowest in four years. Basically, he was a thoroughly mediocre mixed bag. And to make matters worse, in the first game of the 2005 Playoffs, he got lit up like a Christmas tree. The following year he was absolutely dreadful and hurt. He never pitched again after June 2006.

I think that Epstein has made far better signings than Matt Clement.

#11 The Gray Eagle


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 04:02 PM

If your worst free agent signing in 9 years is $9 million a year for a starting SS on a World Series champion, then you've done a great job. There haven't been any Zitos or Mike Hampton contracts yet, nothing even close. If you're gauging Epstein against other GMs in the real world, rather than against abstract perfection, he should get an A for free agency.

Also, these categories aren't equal in my view. If a GM is on the job for a decade or so, then drafting and developing players is by far the most important factor of the three. the better you do at that long term, the fewer trades and signings you need to make, and the better positioned you are to make them. And Theo should get an A in that category. So it's hard for me to imagine him getting less than A grades in any of these, and if they are weighted properly, no way does he get an overall grade of less than an A.

#12 mikeot

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 04:03 PM

"Maybe I'm hanging on too long Matsuzaka, but I don't think that he was a complete bust either."


Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Dice-K signing as much about marketing the Red Sox to Japan as much as it was a tactical baseball move? If that was the case it's more ado about the rest of the team's management than Theo acting on his own. So I wouldn't judge him too harshly for that one.

Edited by mikeot, 04 January 2011 - 04:04 PM.


#13 bankshot1


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 04:58 PM

While you can nitpick between grades, (ie B+, B or a B-), judging his work in totality I would think Theo has to rank high among his peers. Yes he has a lot of money to play with, and can make mistakes (he does have his fair share of E-6s) that most others can't,
But, I'd give him:

FA B (wasn't Schilling a FA?)
Trades B+
Draft A-
total B+

I'd be inclined to boost the aggregate grade to A-, as the team looks well positioned to compete at high levels for the nexrt several years.

Edited by bankshot1, 04 January 2011 - 05:00 PM.


#14 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 06:11 PM

I graded him as follows:

Free Agent Signings: B-
Theo has seemed to rely too heavily on bounce-back candidates when making necessary, rather than depth, signings (Mendoza, Wells, Lugo, Penny). That's been mostly balanced out by some significant successes in finding value signings by churning through massive amounts of waiver claims and one-year low-risk contracts. But Theo has had more money than all but one team in baseball, and except for two off-seasons (after 2006 and this one), he hasn't used that to the team's advantage particularly well. I can't overlook the misses, therefore, even if finding Ortiz in the scrap-heap was pure gold.

Trade Acquisitions: A-
I give Theo a pass for Beckett/Lowell, Marte, and the Crisp/Bard trades, because he was on hiatus or just coming back. So this would be a solid A except for the Sauerbeck, Suppan, Pena, Mirabelli, and Gagne trades. His acquisitions of Kim, and Williamson helped fuel the amazing run of 2003. The 2004 WS needed Schilling, Bellhorn, and of course the amazingly ballsy trade of Nomar. He even got a good haul for Roberts, as Payton and Vasquez were subsequently flipped for Bradford and Cora. Getting Jason Bay when the world knew he had to get rid of Manny was masterful. The Martinez and Gonzalez trades show that Theo gets that you have to trade value to get value. Really, only having five real stinkers, 2 of which happened his first on the job, is pretty amazing.

Amateur FA's/Draft: B
Theo has only been GM since the 2003 draft; he's been getting better at rebuilding the system since he began, and since 2005 really has started to use the financial resources of the Red Sox to the organization's advantage, in paying over-slot money to tough signs. My feeling is if a team can get three credible major-league players in each draft, it's pretty good.

2003 - Murphy, Murton, Papelbon.
2004 - Pedroia, Meredith
2005 - Ellsbury, Buchholz, Lowrie, Bowden (?), P. Alvarez (did not sign)
2006 - Bard, Masterson, Kalish (?), Reddick (?), Anderson (?), Belt (did not sign), LaPorta (did not sign)

The Sox have drafted some very good players, especially in recent years. But there are a lot of head-scratchers at the top (A. Alvarez, Hall, Place, Dent, etc.). Still, to get one All-Star caliber player out of each of his first four years is an excellent run, even if the organization started out slow. We'll see where the farm goes from here, but although this grade seems low, it's also the category most likely to see improvement, as more of the prospects hit the higher levels of pro ball.

#15 JMDurron

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 06:56 PM

While you can nitpick between grades, (ie B+, B or a B-), judging his work in totality I would think Theo has to rank high among his peers. Yes he has a lot of money to play with, and can make mistakes (he does have his fair share of E-6s) that most others can't,
But, I'd give him:

FA B (wasn't Schilling a FA?)
Trades B+
Draft A-
total B+

I'd be inclined to boost the aggregate grade to A-, as the team looks well positioned to compete at high levels for the nexrt several years.


Schilling was acquired via trade. Courtesy of baseball reference - November 28, 2003: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Boston Red Sox for Michael Goss (minors), Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and Jorge de la Rosa. I believe he spent some time beforehand on some website on the intertubes somewhere.

#16 ngruz25


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 07:20 PM

In evaluating Theo's drafts you have to keep in mind that the highest he has ever drafted was 17th overall (David Murphy). That was in his first draft and one of his goals was to re-stock a depleted farm system, which he certainly did.

It's hard to give his drafts/international FA anything lower than the "A" range when you consider not only the impact players he drafted/signed but also the guys who were deemed valuable enough for other teams to trade big pieces for. There are really two goals in acquiring prospects: getting guys that will contribute at the major league level and getting guys that will be trade pieces. So, not only should he get credit for drafting Justin Masterson, a major league player, he should also get credit for drafting three guys who could fetch Victor Martinez. Theo's drafting grade shouldn't change at all if Kelly, Rizzo, and Fuentes all wash out of baseball this season. They already did their job for the organization.

Edited by ngruz25, 04 January 2011 - 07:56 PM.


#17 smastroyin


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 07:53 PM

I gave a B- for FA. One of the things you have to consider is what he has chosen not to do. I'm not talking about Mark Teixeira that's a bigger decision than Theo's and I'm not Tony Mazz. But things like being happy with his rotation going into 2005 which we all tried to convince ourselves was going to work out but clearly never was. You could I suppose say something similar about 2009 though I think Buchholz needing an extra year hurt their plan more than anything else there. Too many failed bullpen experiments. We don't know the details of the budget but there have been a lot of pound wise and penny foolish signings and non-signings. And among what he did do, Renteria and Lugo combine for such an epic level of crap that I have a hard time forgiving them, and I liked those players well enough before they came to Boston. Are re-signings included here?

Trades B+. Generally he fills needs which is what I am looking for here. What I hate is when people always want to make a big score and that's the only way to "win" a trade. Theo at least doesn't do that. But, I was never particularly impressed with the requirement of adding the catcher swap to the Coco Crisp trade and the subsequent "holy crap we need a guy who can catch the knuckleball" fiasco just made it worse. Some of the trades he has made haven't seemed to jibe with the way Francona ran the team before and afterward. On the plus side, he got good value for Manny when everyone in the league knew the Sox were up against the wall with him. Ditto Garciaparra of course.

I gave an A- for draft. I would get into some reasons but I do think some of the focus lagged the needs of the major league club and while it is hard to project from draft - major leagues they allowed some spots in the organization to become extremely weak for too long while continuing to draft in positions of strength.

#18 Seven Chinese Bros.

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 08:06 PM

It would help to know whether people are grading on a curve or straight up -- in other words, whether these grades reflect comparisons to other general managers. If you are giving Theo Epstein a "B" for something, do you mean there are lots of general managers who do it better? (Who are they?) Or do you mean that perhaps nobody out there is better than a "B"? (But isn't that like saying there are no great hitters -- no "A" hitters -- because they all make outs a majority of the time?) These are very different claims.

I'm grading on a curve: the best general manager in the game should get an A overall, even if he makes a number of mistakes. I think Theo Epstein probably fits that description, and apparently many of his peers agree. Since I have trouble coming up with examples of GMs who have done (on net) a better job than he has across these three dimensions of the job (and who I would rather have making decisions about each of those things on any given day), I gave him A-range grades across the board.

Edited by Seven Chinese Bros., 04 January 2011 - 08:13 PM.


#19 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 04 January 2011 - 10:38 PM

It would help to know whether people are grading on a curve or straight up -- in other words, whether these grades reflect comparisons to other general managers. If you are giving Theo Epstein a "B" for something, do you mean there are lots of general managers who do it better? (Who are they?) Or do you mean that perhaps nobody out there is better than a "B"? (But isn't that like saying there are no great hitters -- no "A" hitters -- because they all make outs a majority of the time?) These are very different claims.

I'm grading on a curve: the best general manager in the game should get an A overall, even if he makes a number of mistakes. I think Theo Epstein probably fits that description, and apparently many of his peers agree. Since I have trouble coming up with examples of GMs who have done (on net) a better job than he has across these three dimensions of the job (and who I would rather have making decisions about each of those things on any given day), I gave him A-range grades across the board.


Ugh. What is with this grade inflation. No, B means that Theo has been successful, but not so much better than other GMs that he clearly excels at a particular aspect of running the club. The players themselves also have to perform, but that is of secondary importance to the rationale leading to a a particular course of action.

#20 Hee-Seop's Fable

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 10:58 PM

Buzzkill Pauley wrote:

Free Agent Signings: B-
Theo has seemed to rely too heavily on bounce-back candidates when making necessary, rather than depth, signings (Mendoza, Wells, Lugo, Penny). That's been mostly balanced out by some significant successes in finding value signings by churning through massive amounts of waiver claims and one-year low-risk contracts. But Theo has had more money than all but one team in baseball, and except for two off-seasons (after 2006 and this one), he hasn't used that to the team's advantage particularly well. I can't overlook the misses, therefore, even if finding Ortiz in the scrap-heap was pure gold.


Smastroyin wrote:

I gave a B- for FA. One of the things you have to consider is what he has chosen not to do. I'm not talking about Mark Teixeira that's a bigger decision than Theo's and I'm not Tony Mazz. But things like being happy with his rotation going into 2005 which we all tried to convince ourselves was going to work out but clearly never was. You could I suppose say something similar about 2009 though I think Buchholz needing an extra year hurt their plan more than anything else there. Too many failed bullpen experiments. We don't know the details of the budget but there have been a lot of pound wise and penny foolish signings and non-signings. And among what he did do, Renteria and Lugo combine for such an epic level of crap that I have a hard time forgiving them, and I liked those players well enough before they came to Boston.


The success of his tenure comes down largely to his having inherited some really good talent and having succeeded more often than not wrt trades and development. Judging his other two elements of his job, signing free agents and knowing when to let talent go before it goes rotten are a bit harder to judge, particularly the former. The tendency is to judge based on the results and value of the free agent signings, or the pain of watching the ones that get away as they happen. But this is severely problematic. What teams have really excelled at making great free agent signings? Certainly most of the big ticket signings each year generate jealousy at the time, but once most everyone has lost interest, nearly all of them are grotesque disasters. The Yankees do well with FA's, but that's largely the result of being able to absorb the losses at the end of nearly every deal in a way no other team can, and few can even in isolated cases. Theo has blown a number of middle level signings, but those losses have been contained well enough not to cause long term problems, and were necessary because there were holes to be filled that could not be filled any other way - Wells and Clement come to mind. And at worst he has broken even letting guys like Damon go on deals they actually came close to earning because of the success in converting the picks into developmental value.

I'll argue his success wrt to free agent signings is largely due to a concerted plan to minimize dependency on it in the first place, and focusing on using the other two fronts except in emergencies to bridge holes with shorter term signings and fliers. And that is worth a shit ton. Leveraging his financial might means extending his own talent while they are still young, not signing the big names. He could have done better (Renteria, Lugo), but he's limited those failures so well that he has been able to cut bait in about a year when he's failed - much better than getting stuck with albatrosses like Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano, or Mike Hampton. Name a GM that has really excelled in signing free agents, or one that's done markedly better for that matter - I can name a bunch that have failed much worse. I'd only give him a B+ myself, but that's only because there's no way to get an A in that class. I think he's learned and improved over time as well. Crawford's success will answer the question about his luck with FA's as much as anything he's done so far combined.

#21 SoxFanSince57


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 08:03 AM

The Red Sox turned Beltre, Victor Martinez, three prospects and their own first round pick into Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and four draft picks. Beltre and Martinez would have cost them at least $27 million in 2011. Gonzalez and Crawford will get $26.3 million.

http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/

#22 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 08:21 AM

Theo has blown a number of middle level signings, but those losses have been contained well enough not to cause long term problems, and were necessary because there were holes to be filled that could not be filled any other way - Wells and Clement come to mind. And at worst he has broken even letting guys like Damon go on deals they actually came close to earning because of the success in converting the picks into developmental value.


I've said it before, in the 3B thread most recently, but I can't stand this logic -- there are always a myriad of other options. The 2003-04 offseason is a great example of pursuing different options well, while 2004-05 is the opposite. And frankly, although the Wells and Clement signings might have caused no "long term problems" they also were more than anything else directly responsible for the Sox failing to win back-to-back World Series.

The only GM I've been alive for, who gets all "A's" from me, would be John Schuerholz, who worked all those options masterfully in annual competition with the financial powerhouse of the Mets. His targeting of the best pitcher available in FA in 1992 (Maddux) and again in 1996 (Smoltz) allowed the Braves' remarkable run, while he used trades and organizational development to power the offense. In that way, Scheuerholz operated in converse to how Theo has had best results.

Not to say Theo isn't good -- I think he is one of the top three GMs in MLB today. He's getting better at using premier free agent signings to his advantage, too -- targeting Teixeira and Crawford are two examples. Yes, neither player seemed to fit quite right in the immediate short-term, but when you're talking about multi-year FA deals for starting players, ponying up for the best one available is always the best strategy.

#23 twothousandone

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 10:11 AM

Name a GM that has really excelled in signing free agents, or one that's done markedly better for that matter - I can name a bunch that have failed much worse. I'd only give him a B+ myself, but that's only because there's no way to get an A in that class. [/quote] You can expand the members of that class by including agents, who are equally involved in free agency. In that case, I think Boras gets an "A" and he busts the curve for eveyone else, because he is so far ahead of everyone else. If you turn around and measure Epstein head-to-head with Boras, maybe then Epstein can argue for the "A" even if it doesn't fit the curve. He has worked surprisingly well with Boras.

[quote] I think he's learned and improved over time as well. [/quote] Phily Sox Fan mentioned this several years ago, and I believe each off-season has reinforced it. He learns more over time, and doesn't forget the older lessons. I believe he hasn't forgotten Mendosa or Alfonso of Fossum or Hanley Ramirez, and I suspect he has reviewed moves other teams have made to confirm or adjust he own conclusions (that seemed abundantly clear on middle relief this off-season). I agree with the sentiment that he was enamored by Beltre for a while, but was able to move on after just one year, because he knows the risk of older players under long contracts. He hasn't had to "live" the lesson on an injury-plagued long-term contract (Tim Hudson, Aramis Ramirez, maybe Griffey) but I suspect he knows that risk well-enough to understand it and to be prepared to mitigate it, even without actually living it.

[quote]Ugh. What is with this grade inflation. No, B means that Theo has been successful, but not so much better than other GMs [/quote]
A bell curve isn't grade inflation. Out of 30 clubs (maybe 40 GMs) some should get As. Several have asked who is better at varying aspects, as well as overall.

I'd say that among Free Agents, because avoiding an albatross is so important -- and I don't consider Lowell's final year an albatross, not even when combined with Lugo for this club -- I think one can justify an "A". I think Cashman belongs in that category, too. Whether 5% or 10% get A's can be debated, but bunching can elongate the curve without making it grade inflation.

#24 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 11:45 AM

A bell curve isn't grade inflation. Out of 30 clubs (maybe 40 GMs) some should get As. Several have asked who is better at varying aspects, as well as overall.

I'd say that among Free Agents, because avoiding an albatross is so important -- and I don't consider Lowell's final year an albatross, not even when combined with Lugo for this club -- I think one can justify an "A". I think Cashman belongs in that category, too. Whether 5% or 10% get A's can be debated, but bunching can elongate the curve without making it grade inflation.


Yeah, a bell curve is grade inflation, because it posits that some GM's must be exceptional at any particular point of time. I disagree, because while it's certainly the case that some will always be better than others, it is not necessarily the case that at all times some GM's performance actually warrants a grade-A rating.

That said, these are the GM's who I would consider "straight A" on a historical basis back through the 80's, based on my personal memory:

Free Agents: Gillick, Schuerholz, Michael
MLB Trades: Gillick, Schuerholz, Michael, Beinfest, Shapiro
Amateur Draft: Gillick, Schuerholz, Beinfest, Friedman

Gillick, Schuerholz, and Michael were phenomenal talent evaluators, and therefore tended to build their teams through trades and the draft, using Free Agency to plug gaps and especially targeting the best hitter or pitcher available in any given year to put them over the top (Molitor, Maddux, Smoltz, Boggs, Cone, etc.). The ability to accurately assess talent is what makes them A-level performers, for it keeps them from making potentially-disasterous deals for B-level players, like those given to Hampton, Soriano, Lee, or Werth.

Now, like I said, I see Theo's stock rising, and I look forward to what "his guys" can do on their own.

He inherited a team that Duquette had stacked with premier talents in Pedro/Lowe/Nomar/Manny/Varitek, and only needed someone capable of assessing "value" signings to create a monster. Going hard after Crawford and Teixeira before pursuing more "value" signings gives me a lot of hope that Theo will look to the best players available in the future, but he started out in the hole. Holding the line unreasonably on Pedro in '04 was made inexcusable when it became clear that the Sox were willing to eat tens of millions of dollars for Renteria and Lugo to play for other teams, as was dilly-dallying with Boras on Johnny Damon.

#25 ngruz25


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 12:05 PM

Amateur Draft: Gillick, Schuerholz, Beinfest, Friedman

I know this isn't scientific or anything, and obviously your larger point that Theo still needs a bigger body of work to stack up with the all time greats is quite true, but I think you're being way too hard on Theo for drafting. What has Larry Beinfest done that Theo hasn't? Theo took a barren system and made it a top 10 system within a couple years. He also did this while the major league team was still very competitive, something I think is key. Friedman has had some great picks in the later rounds, but it's hard to give him that much credit when he's drafted in the top 3 picks three times and the top 10 another. Basically I don't see how Beinfest and Friedman have been any better than Theo on the amateur front, and he's done it while fielding a competitive team.

#26 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 12:21 PM

I will say that after reading this thread and the thoughtful comments in it, I believe that I was a bit too hard on Epstein on his free agency grade (I'm sure he's stoked). I originally gave him a C+, but I think that I may bump that up to a B.

Sure there were some real dogs that he signed:

Giambi
Clement
Retneria
Lugo

I have to agree that none of these contracts hamstrung the Sox and eventually the Sox were able to wiggle their way out having them clog their roster.

#27 Hee-Seop's Fable

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 12:30 PM

I've said it before, in the 3B thread most recently, but I can't stand this logic -- there are always a myriad of other options. The 2003-04 offseason is a great example of pursuing different options well, while 2004-05 is the opposite. And frankly, although the Wells and Clement signings might have caused no "long term problems" they also were more than anything else directly responsible for the Sox failing to win back-to-back World Series.

The only GM I've been alive for, who gets all "A's" from me, would be John Schuerholz, who worked all those options masterfully in annual competition with the financial powerhouse of the Mets. His targeting of the best pitcher available in FA in 1992 (Maddux) and again in 1996 (Smoltz) allowed the Braves' remarkable run, while he used trades and organizational development to power the offense. In that way, Scheuerholz operated in converse to how Theo has had best results.

Not to say Theo isn't good -- I think he is one of the top three GMs in MLB today. He's getting better at using premier free agent signings to his advantage, too -- targeting Teixeira and Crawford are two examples. Yes, neither player seemed to fit quite right in the immediate short-term, but when you're talking about multi-year FA deals for starting players, ponying up for the best one available is always the best strategy.

I don't think we are all that far apart here. Schuerhoz came to mind for me too as the only GM in a medium to large market who has successfully minimized dependence on free agency, developed well, _and_ used his over-touted prospects to build and maintain a top organization. But in 27 years with KC and Atlanta, starting when he was 40 years old, he won two titles. Granted he won 15 division titles, but Epstein has just turned 37 and won two titles already.

The opportunities Theo has whiffed on have not closed off later opportunities. What could Ricciardi do to fix signing B.J. Ryan and Alex Rios? I don't think it's an accident that his early failures have been small enough to work around. He's waited to play at the high stakes table until he's more experienced. I'll speculate too that he was reluctant early on in building his developmental machine to use prospects to fill holes in the bullpen and at shortstop, but now that he's had time to build the system underneath him, and has a stable 40 man roster, I think we've seen an adjustment to his approach. And the silent, leak-free front office has allowed him and his staff to acquire the guys they've reached internal consensus on better than before too.

#28 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 12:35 PM

I know this isn't scientific or anything, and obviously your larger point that Theo still needs a bigger body of work to stack up with the all time greats is quite true, but I think you're being way too hard on Theo for drafting. What has Larry Beinfest done that Theo hasn't? Theo took a barren system and made it a top 10 system within a couple years. He also did this while the major league team was still very competitive, something I think is key. Friedman has had some great picks in the later rounds, but it's hard to give him that much credit when he's drafted in the top 3 picks three times and the top 10 another. Basically I don't see how Beinfest and Friedman have been any better than Theo on the amateur front, and he's done it while fielding a competitive team.


For me, it comes down to money. Theo has had some great recent drafts on the basis of being able to shell out a tremendous amount of above-slot bonuses. He's done pretty well, especially in the years since 2006. But again, he started off poorly -- picking Murphy, Murton, Alvarez, Hall, and Vaughn with the team's five picks in the top 100 of the 2003 draft was not IMO a good beginning.

Beinfest hasn't had that same opportunity to spend, but has done a great job in signing Hermida, Johnson, Olsen, Sanchez, and Stanton with limited resources. Friedman has only been GM since the 2006 draft, so it's hard to say how well his choices will pan out. But to this point he's hit gold in his top picks. Both the Rays and Marlins have been very successful in building their teams internally in difficult environments.

It's just my opinion, but I think when he took the GM chair, Theo still needed to develop a better grasp of talent evaluation beyond statistical analysis. To his credit, he's done so on the job, while fielding some great teams. I'm sorry if it sounds overly harsh to put it that way. Maybe I'm just a tough grader...

#29 ngruz25


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 12:59 PM

Theo has had some great recent drafts on the basis of being able to shell out a tremendous amount of above-slot bonuses.

This is a good point and something I have definitely glossed over. Theo has flexed a lot of financial might in drafting. Other teams (like the poor Pirates) have started to follow suit, so maybe he was more of a trailblazer in that regards.

I disagree that David Murphy was a bad pick, though. He's a competent major leaguer who will probably have a decent career as a bad team starter and a good team back-up. And Abe Alvarez, he had uncanny, otherwordly control! Too bad he couldn't break pane of glass with his fastball. Ugh.

#30 JMDurron

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 01:42 PM

Holding the line unreasonably on Pedro in '04 was made inexcusable when it became clear that the Sox were willing to eat tens of millions of dollars for Renteria and Lugo to play for other teams, as was dilly-dallying with Boras on Johnny Damon.


I don't understand your criticisms of Theo with regards to Pedro or Damon. Theo refused to give Pedro the years that he wanted, out of fear that he would break down. After one great year with the Mets (2005), he broke down. It wasn't just a reasonable line to hold logically at the time, it was absolutely, indisputably correct in hindsight. Again, with Damon, he/his understudies didn't give up the extra money and years for an aging player who might not hold his value as a CF, and as it turns out, he was only a full-time CF for his first year in NY, 2006. The substance of your criticism here comes off as a scored fan who is upset that his heroes left, as opposed to someone trying to rationally evaluate either the process, or the results of the actual moves. Letting Pedro and Damon go when he did were two correct moves by Theo in both modes of analysis, IMO. Renteria and Lugo have nothing to do with Pedro and Damon, and the money involved with either one was not comparable. 4/52 for Damon and 4/52 for Pedro are not equal to 4/36 for Renteria, or 4/36 for Lugo.

#31 Philip Jeff Frye


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 01:46 PM

I will say that after reading this thread and the thoughtful comments in it, I believe that I was a bit too hard on Epstein on his free agency grade (I'm sure he's stoked). I originally gave him a C+, but I think that I may bump that up to a B.

Sure there were some real dogs that he signed:

Giambi
Clement
Retneria
Lugo

I have to agree that none of these contracts hamstrung the Sox and eventually the Sox were able to wiggle their way out having them clog their roster.

A quibble, but Giambi was acquired in a trade with the Phillies for Josh Hancock. Also, Baseball-reference.com lists his salary in 2003 as $2 million, which isn't on par with the other contracts listed here.

#32 zenter


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:14 PM

I will say that after reading this thread and the thoughtful comments in it, I believe that I was a bit too hard on Epstein on his free agency grade (I'm sure he's stoked). I originally gave him a C+, but I think that I may bump that up to a B.

Sure there were some real dogs that he signed:

Giambi
Clement
Retneria
Lugo

I have to agree that none of these contracts hamstrung the Sox and eventually the Sox were able to wiggle their way out having them clog their roster.

There are two ways to assess a GM: On one hand, you can base it on prevailing wisdom of the market and analysts at the time of the acquisition without regard for outcomes. OTOH, you base it on the outcomes without regard for how people perceived things at the time. Trying to split the difference between the two here...

  • Giambi was low-risk, low-reward. B: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Also, nothing really lost in this signing.
  • Clement was quite good until he got hit in the face with a liner and his arm broke down after the 1st half of 2005. I don't know about physical assessment programs then or now, but he was seen by many (including here, I believe) as a serviceable younger replacement for DLowe. The problem was that Wells and Wade Miller were expected to replace Pedro. I don't know that any pitcher could have done that, but that's a problem they would have faced replacing Pedro with anyone. C-: Potentially-poor physical assessment, quick player breakdown.
  • Renteria was offensively exactly what he was supposed to be. Defensively, he was atrocious, but given the fact that he was at least good for the rest of the contract, I can't help but think that 2005 was an anomaly. C/C-: Maybe a bad fit in Boston, but hard to say he actually sucked through the contract.
  • Lugo sucked, and wasn't worth 4/36 at any point in his career. F.
Since the average of these four signings is somewhere around the C- range, we're not in bad shape. I mean, Theo also had Papi (A), Mueller (B+), Drew (B-/C+: value somewhat exceeds cost), Beltre (A), Oki (B+). Overall, he probably lives in the B-range when it comes to FA.

Edited by zenter, 05 January 2011 - 02:16 PM.


#33 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:53 PM

I don't think we are all that far apart here. Schuerhoz came to mind for me too as the only GM in a medium to large market who has successfully minimized dependence on free agency, developed well, _and_ used his over-touted prospects to build and maintain a top organization. But in 27 years with KC and Atlanta, starting when he was 40 years old, he won two titles. Granted he won 15 division titles, but Epstein has just turned 37 and won two titles already.


Schuerholz started off in KC with a roster that put up 14.4 WAR total the previous year (per B-Ref). That's pitching, defense, and batting. In total. 1981 was a strike shortened season, but the team still would have had only 22.6 WAR prorated over 162 games. Atlanta was twice as much suck, with the 1990 club putting up a whopping 11.2 WAR, in aggregate.

Theo took took the reins to a club that compiled 49.6 WAR, and which was losing only Cliff Floyd (1.9) and Ugueth Urbina (1.5). To say Theo inherited some talent is to say Cashman's had some financial flexibility to work with.

Again, I'm not saying Theo did a bad job, but aside from acquiring players with an emphasis on OBP and one spectacularly lucky lottery ticket, he had a lot to learn when he took the job. To his credit, he didn't squander the wealth he inherited from Duquette. And, as he keeps improving, he has kept the Sox competitive in the toughest division in baseball.
_______

@ ngruz25 -- I agree the Murphy and Murton picks are both defensible, although I will note that early in his tenure Theo clearly had much more confidence in his assessment of hitters rather than pitchers. And that those two picks demonstrate his (initial) higher level of comfort with stats than scouting. Fortunately, that has evened out to the point that since his first two drafts he seems equally capable of picking good pitchers in comparison to the hitters selected, and shows increased willingness to take upside risk on power arms as opposed to relying on pitchability guys with good stats.
_______

@ JMDurron -- I don't think my analysis of those deals has anything to do with hero-worship or feeling jilted. I think it has to do with using Free Agency effectively, and IMO there are only two ways to do so. The first way is to sign a ton of players to short-term low-money deals, and hope that the surplus sorts itself out. This is the Millar/Mueller/Giambi/Ortiz school of free agency. Sometimes you can strike gold, as with Ortiz.

The second way is to target only the best hitters or pitchers available, use a full-court press to get them, and then eat the contract if it doesn't work out. In 2004-05, Pedro was the best FA pitcher available, regardless that he was an injury risk. In 2005-06, Damon was the best FA hitter available, factoring in baserunning and defense -- of course, with the gorilla suit and Pearl Jam and all that, that particular offseason was all messed up. The Sox went and got Crisp in trade after failing in the Damon negotiation, which was cool by me. But the 2004 line-in-the-sand approach didn't make much sense then or now, considering that Wells' max incentives would have bumped his contract up to $13MM, only $0.25MM less than Pedro ended up getting in AAV from the Mets. And certainly not after the Sox decided it was preferable to eat $11MM of Renteria's contract.

OTOH, the quick-strike signings of Lackey (best FA pitcher 2009) and Crawford (best FA hitter 2010), and the pursuit of Teixeira (best FA hitter 2009), leads me to believe that Theo's improving here, as well.

#34 jacklamabe65


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Posted 06 January 2011 - 07:37 AM

Theo just tweeted:

Sorry about all the time away from Twitter. We've been very busy. Big moves coming in the coming weeks. Looking for set-up help.

Interesting.

And then this!

Had Crawford over at the house. Man can eat! Hopefully good things will come this year.



#35 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 06 January 2011 - 09:14 AM

Theo just tweeted: Interesting.

And then this!

Do you have a link to this Jack? Theo is just about the last person I'd expect to tweet about something like this. Could be wrong of course.

#36 NDame616


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Posted 06 January 2011 - 09:55 AM

Theo just tweeted: Interesting.

And then this!


I'm very skeptical this is him. Usually "big names" like him have a verified account to prevent people from claiming to be him. Plus, with 264 followers makes it even more unlikely.

#37 NDame616


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Posted 06 January 2011 - 09:56 AM

Do you have a link to this Jack? Theo is just about the last person I'd expect to tweet about something like this. Could be wrong of course.


http://twitter.com/TheoEpGM

#38 Foulkey Reese


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Posted 06 January 2011 - 12:47 PM

Yea there's no way that's Theo.

#39 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 06 January 2011 - 12:58 PM

You don't think it's likely that Theo Epstein hints about big moves that he has coming up, and only follows jose Canseco? Or would identify himself as I am Theo Epstein the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox. Or would use a generic photo of himself? Or would write this?

Evaluating is a 12 month job. Weather its spring training, regular season, or the off-season, decisions need to be made.


:)

#40 BosRedSox5


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Posted 07 January 2011 - 08:08 AM

Mystery solved. That twitter account is suspended now. When grading Theo, are you grading on a curve by comparing him to other GM's? He inherited a team in 2003 with some star power and FOUR All-Stars with expiring contracts after 2004. This was also a team that never seemed to have enough pitching, they were always stacked with hitters and the rotation usually consisted of Pedro and a bunch of retreads. 2003 really set the foundation in my opinion:

2003 Free Agency:
He filled holes at 1B, 3B, and DH with extremely low risk contracts in January/February by getting Mueller, Ortiz and Millar. All those guys turned out to play major roles in the 2004 World Series, and in Ortiz's case he helped us win in 2007 as well. People forget he also got Brandon Lyon in 2003 who was successful as a closer and ended up being a major part of the Schilling trade. Mike Timlin and Bronson Arroyo were signed before the season and Gabe Kapler came as a waiver signing later on in June.

Basically the Sox built a lot of roster depth from nothing. We put the pieces in place to become a complete team whereas under Duquette we were usually one dimensional.

2003 Trades:

The Sox had a huge hole at 2B going into the season as well and Theo traded two warm bodies to Cincy for Todd Walker who was decent during his one season. Josh Hancock was traded for Jeremy Giambi (who didn't pan out, but nothing was really lost in the trade) and we traded Shea Hillenbrand who was a malcontent with no position for BH Kim. Fans in Boston never embraced Kim because of his playoff failures against New York but he was one of the best relief pitchers in the game, and he was one of the main reasons we went to the playoffs in 2003. I never could understand why fans hated the guy. It didn't work out in the long run, but Shea had no position here anyway.

I know I had just said earlier than Lyon was a good signing because he was in the Schilling deal, but I still think the July dealings that year with Pittsburgh were a fiasco. At first Theo traded Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck which would have been a heist. Mike Gonzalez was an outstanding, young lefty worth the price of Lyon and Martinez alone. A week or so later it came out that Lyon had problems with his medicals and the Sox completed another deal with the Pirates in which they gave up Freddy Sanchez and gave back Mike Gonzalez for Lyon, Martinez and Jeff Suppan which was a disaster. This remains Theo's absolute worst trade.

Around the same time he got Scott Williamson for nothing who stunk in 2003 but played a pivotal role in 2004.

2003 Draft:

All in all the 2003 Draft was weak and you could make an argument that Theo picked the two best players in the 1st round from #17 onwards. Murphy didn't provide the Sox much value at all but he the starting LF for the AL Champion Rangers this season. Matt Murton was selected here as well and he was a key piece in the Nomar trade. You might say they missed on Chad Cordero here, but Papelbon was drafted in the 4th round of the 2003 draft.

-----

Free agency was a huge success in 2003, and I think that possibly led to Theo trying to rely too much on low risk signings later on. In trades 2003 was his worst season and he only got better. He got Schilling for nothing, Adrian Gonzalez and others. As far as the drafts goes, we have two starters, a closer, a set up man, a second baseman, a third baseman, and a center fielder who are all high quality players, in some cases All-Star quality players who are all homegrown, and drafted by Theo (except for Youkilis, who was at least cultivated by our improved minor league system and not traded away). I would give him an A for all three personally. Who's done better? Also, maybe there should be a 4th category for how he's changed the culture of the Red Sox into one of winning. He took those one dimensional Duquette teams and through careful planning and team building built the Sox up from being also rans to a major powerhouse that has bested the Yankees on multiple occasions. The culture of inferiority surrounding the Red Sox is gone forever and we're a legitimate threat to win the World Series every single spring.

I don't think there's another executive who would have done a better job of that.

Edited by BosRedSox5, 07 January 2011 - 07:13 PM.


#41 SoxFanSince57


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Posted 07 January 2011 - 08:08 PM

Interesting discussion. Rather than "grading" Theo, I would rather assess his development and learning curve. By my book, he is very capable and is still developing. I see "growth" over his term with the Sox and I have every reason to believe that he will continue to grow professionally. I "grade" his ability and willingness to learn very high.

I would also say that Theo is fortunate to work for and with an executive/ownership group that is also excellent. Theo's effectiveness is positively influenced by the quality of senior people around him.

I love rooting for the laundry when it is guided by an outstanding GM and ownership team.

#42 Eric Van


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Posted 07 January 2011 - 09:04 PM

Maybe I exaggerated a little (ok, a lot) when I said that Clement was "a disaster waiting to happen" especially when I checked out his numbers, which aren't really that bad. I guess my point was that Clement and Wells were signed to (essentially) take the place of Pedro and Lowe in the rotation; to become the second and third starters. Unfortunately, with Schilling's injury they were bumped up to first and second starters.

While Clement started out like gangbusters (in terms of wins and losses), I think that his final numbers showed what he really was: 99 ERA+, 1.36 WHIP, second highest BB/IP after Wade Miller in the starting rotation (3.2) but had the highest K/IP of the starting five (6.9). His WAR (3.1) was the lowest in four years. Basically, he was a thoroughly mediocre mixed bag. And to make matters worse, in the first game of the 2005 Playoffs, he got lit up like a Christmas tree. The following year he was absolutely dreadful and hurt. He never pitched again after June 2006.

Matt Clement with the Red Sox:

First 16 starts, 2.98 True ERA (adjusting for terrible bullpen support)
Next 11 starts, 5.05 True ERA despite taking a line drive off the skull
Final 18 starts, 7.30 ERA.
It's then revealed that, even though he hadn't reported any pain, his shoulder was essentially ruined beyond repair.

Unlike an elbow tendon, a torn-up rotator cuff is not generally an injury that happens suddenly. There's every reason to believe that he would have become progressively impaired given the injury we know he had and apparently kept pitching through because he had such a high pain threshold. I don't think there's any question that he was hurt in his last 5 starts and playoff start in '05, since he was actually worse than he was in '06. It's unclear that the 5.05 chunk should be blamed on the injury, but even if you don't, he's got a 3.77 true ERA through 27 starts, without significant defensive help (.295 BABIP), pitching in Fenway in the AL East.

All the evidence says that Matt Clement was somewhere between an absolutely terrific and completely fucking brilliant signing that, however, had the same risk that every FA pitching signing has: significant injury. You know they had MRIs of his arm when they signed him, so any criticism of this signing is essentially asking Theo Epstein to be psychic.

#43 HriniakPosterChild

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 01:44 AM

... BH Kim. Fans in Boston never embraced Kim because of his playoff failures against New York but he was one of the best relief pitchers in the game, and he was one of the main reasons we went to the playoffs in 2003. I never could understand why fans hated the guy. It didn't work out in the long run, but Shea had no position here anyway.


BH Kim blew a save in Game 1 of the 2003 Oakland Series. When the series came back to Boston with the Sox down 2-0, Mr. Kim was booed by the Boston fans during the team intro. In response, Mr. Kim flipped them a bird.

So, I understand why so many people hated him.

#44 BosRedSox5


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Posted 08 January 2011 - 07:18 AM

BH Kim blew a save in Game 1 of the 2003 Oakland Series. When the series came back to Boston with the Sox down 2-0, Mr. Kim was booed by the Boston fans during the team intro. In response, Mr. Kim flipped them a bird.

So, I understand why so many people hated him.


It started well before that. Also, it was technically Embree who blew the save... and Lowe got credited with the loss after walking four guys and giving up the winning run. I still believe that Kim had no idea he knew what a faux pas it was to give a crowd the finger. I mean, teammates do it in jest to one another, and he was smiling when he did it.

Bottom line is though, the SECOND the trade for Byung Hyun Kim was completed people's heads exploded. His reputation for blowing two saves against New York in the 2001 World Series made him an instant target in Boston. The fans never embraced him despite the fact that he gave us over 79 high quality innings in 2003 and a 1.109 WHIP. Kim was one of the main reasons we even made the playoffs at all and he never got any credit or respect from Sox fans.

#45 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 08 January 2011 - 09:52 AM

All the evidence says that Matt Clement was somewhere between an absolutely terrific and completely fucking brilliant signing that, however, had the same risk that every FA pitching signing has: significant injury. You know they had MRIs of his arm when they signed him, so any criticism of this signing is essentially asking Theo Epstein to be psychic.


So what you're saying is that if Matt Clement wasn't hurt he'd be really good.

And if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle. If there was no color line, Josh Gibson could have been the greatest baseball player of all times. If Yankee Stadium had a better watering system, Mickey Mantle wouldn't have ripped up his knee.

You can play fantasy with the facts all you want (and seriously, bad bullpen support? That's baseball.), but the bottom line is Clement did get hurt, got absolutely smoked in the last year and a half of his career and was a determent to the Sox.

#46 Red(s)HawksFan

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 10:15 AM

So what you're saying is that if Matt Clement wasn't hurt he'd be really good.

And if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle. If there was no color line, Josh Gibson could have been the greatest baseball player of all times. If Yankee Stadium had a better watering system, Mickey Mantle wouldn't have ripped up his knee.

You can play fantasy with the facts all you want (and seriously, bad bullpen support? That's baseball.), but the bottom line is Clement did get hurt, got absolutely smoked in the last year and a half of his career and was a determent to the Sox.

I can't imagine anyone is arguing that Matt Clement helped more than hurt during his time with the Sox. I think the point here in pointing out Clement's injury is asking how much should you hold it against Theo, and how much of it was just dumb luck that couldn't be predicted? Did Theo screw up by signing him in the first place, or did he make a good signing that turned bad due to bad luck (career ending injury)?

#47 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 08 January 2011 - 01:07 PM

I understand that. But, what happened to Clement is pretty significant part of the free agent signing after the fact when trying to figure out whether this was a good signing or not.

No one thinks that when they sign a guy that he's going to underperform, so discounting bad luck, injuries, poor support from the offense when judging a free agent signing is pretty silly. Put it this way, if you told Theo Epstein on December 21, 2004 that Matt Clement would have a pretty good first half of the first year, have a mediocre second half of that first year and a poor first half of the second year before succumbing to injury that ended his career, do you think that Epstein would have signed him?

Probably not. That, IMHO, constitutes a bad signing.

And it's ok, all GMs have black marks on their record. And Epstein has more check marks in the good-to-great FA signings than he does in the bad-to-terrible side of the ledger.

#48 Worst Trade Evah


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Posted 08 January 2011 - 02:26 PM

I understand that. But, what happened to Clement is pretty significant part of the free agent signing after the fact when trying to figure out whether this was a good signing or not.

No one thinks that when they sign a guy that he's going to underperform, so discounting bad luck, injuries, poor support from the offense when judging a free agent signing is pretty silly.

I disagree with this argument, which subsumes different types of "bad signing" under the same roof. Discounting bad luck, injuries, and poor support from the offense is exactly what should happen when judging a free agent signing. You can't decide the case by letting stuff out anyone's control determine it -- or what's the point? Just add up WAR and done! It may be true that no one thinks that when they sign a guy he's going to under-perform, but OTHER PEOPLE can think he's going to under-perform, based on adjusting for all the relevant conditions. That wasn't the case with Clement, where the reasonable expectations were that there was good value there -- six straight seasons of nearly 200 innings and WAR for the previous 3 years of 4.1, 2.1, and 3.3. In today's market Clement gets 4/56 or better.

Matt Clement was a good signing which just happened not to have worked out. That's a totally different class of contract than Ryan Howard's contract, or Lugo's, for that matter, which seem like bad signings going into them from most perspectives.

Theo is pretty clearly one of the top 3 GMs in baseball; the people handing out B-s, C's or whatever really should be explaining themselves.

Edited by Worst Trade Evah, 08 January 2011 - 02:36 PM.


#49 John Marzano Olympic Hero


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Posted 08 January 2011 - 04:01 PM

Again, I ask this question: Put it this way, if you told Theo Epstein on December 21, 2004 that Matt Clement would have a pretty good first half of the first year, have a mediocre second half of that first year and a poor first half of the second year before succumbing to injury that ended his career, do you think that Epstein would have signed him?

And this isn't knee-jerk reaction, the signing didn't work out. It happens.

#50 Worst Trade Evah


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Posted 08 January 2011 - 06:41 PM

Again, I ask this question: Put it this way, if you told Theo Epstein on December 21, 2004 that Matt Clement would have a pretty good first half of the first year, have a mediocre second half of that first year and a poor first half of the second year before succumbing to injury that ended his career, do you think that Epstein would have signed him?

And this isn't knee-jerk reaction, the signing didn't work out. It happens.

Yes, we all know the signing didn't work out. Every single person has said so. That point is not in dispute and totally uninteresting. The issue is that people are downranking Epstein for making good decisions that happen not to work.

Presumably his grade as a drafter should be marked down also, for wasting a pick on Westmoreland. It's pretty much the same situation, except that Clement was a much lower risk proposition.