Red Sox Make It Rain

When I sat down to research this piece I did so with the intention of listing and grading the largest free agent contracts given out by the current Red Sox management. However, my focus quickly changed after making a frightening discovery. First, here’s the chart:

Player Contract AAV
Adrian Gonzalez* 7/$154 (12-18) $22
Carl Crawford 7/$142 (11-17) $20.30
Daisuke Matsuzaka** 6/$103 (07-12) $17.20
John Lackey 5/$82.2 (10-14) $16.50
J.D. Drew 5/$70 (07-11) $14


*Gonzalez was not a free-agent, he was acquired via trade, but the trade would never have happened without the agreement that a deal would be worked out.

**Posting fee included.

Now onto what I realized after seeing this chart: the Red Sox panic when they have a bad season and spend money. The Red Sox made the playoffs from 2003-2005. They would miss the playoffs in 2006 while winning only 86 games. In response to their disappointing season they went out and spent $70M on J.D. Drew and $103M on Daisuke Matsuzaka. Drew was an often injured star on the wrong side of 30 and Daisuke was an unproven pitcher from Japan. Both questionable investments but they paid off with a World Series in 2007.

The Red Sox took the Rays to 7 games in the 2oo8 ALCS and made the playoffs again in 2009 but were unceremoniously dispatched in just 3 games by the Angels in the ALDS. Coming off the disappointing end to that season the owners once again opened their check books and spent $82.2M on John Lackey, a declining ace on the wrong side of thirty. Investing long-term in starting pitchers over the age of 30 is a sabermetric cardinal sin but the Red Sox did not stop with Lackey. At the beginning of the 2010 season they signed Josh Beckett to a 4-year/$68M contract.

Spending big after 2006 got them another World Series but they were not so lucky in 2010 and the team finished with only 89 wins and missed the playoffs. So, following their game plan they opened the check books again and sign Carl Crawford (7/$142M) and traded for and signed Adrian Gonzalez ($7/154). The Gonzalez deal was right up their sabermetric ally: good defense, gets on base, and hits for power. The Crawford deal still boggles my mind. He was a great player but the Red Sox have always shied away from the “fast and exciting” players and already had one (Ellsbury) under contract.

The Red Sox payroll has ballooned from around $128 million (04-09) to $169 million (10-12) but their wins per year (94 to 90) and World Series victories (2 to 0) have not followed suit. Their pattern of poor investments has hamstrung them and could be part of the reason they are not playing well in the 2012. Lackey, Crawford, and Daisuke have not seen the field this season but account for over $50M in salary. I could think of a lot of better ways to spend that money.

On a side not, I Googled “make it rain” to find a picture for the blog and this came up:

Scrooge McDuck was making it rain when Fat Joe was just “Joe” and Lil Wayne was still Dwayne.


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