The decision to let Victor Martinez sign elsewhere for $50 million over 4 years has understandably been a point of contention among fans and media alike. Let’s take a quick look at the track record of the Theo Epstein regime under similar circumstances.
Note: this analysis doesn’t include Billy Wagner, due to the fact that he wanted to return to closing duties in 2010, which pretty much disqualified the Sox from retaining his services.
Red fields indicate years in which the player outperformed his salary, and blue fields indicate years where the player fell short of expectations. Let’s take a look:
- Jason Bay still has three years remaining on his contract, but it certainly looks like the Sox made the right decision here.
- Letting Pedro sign with the Mets was also the right move, all sentimentality aside.
- With Johnny Damon, it looks like things are about neutral, but remember that he was mostly a LF/DH after leaving the Red Sox, and the Sox enjoyed superstar-quality production from both of those positions during much of Damon’s tenure with the Yankees. The Sox knew that Damon’s future was as a left-fielder, and thus there was no reason to open the vault for him.
- Letting Derek Lowe go was a mistake. Starting pitching has never been much of a weakness, but if you replace the likes of Brad Penny / John Smoltz / Wade Miller / insert #5 starter here with Lowe, the Red Sox probably win a few more games in 2005-2009. Here’s a funny thought: if Lowe wasn’t used as a reliever from 1998 through 2001, he probably would have had a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame. Crazy, but true.
- Last but not least is the biggest mistake of Theo Esptein’s career, letting Orlando Cabera go for relatively small dollars. This one really hurt, not because Orlando is necessarily a great player, but because the SS position turned into a giant sinkhole where Epstein dumped tens of millions of dollars for players who turned out to be massive disappointments (aside from small exceptions – Alex Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro). Sure, there were rumors of some off the field nonsense with Cabrera, but looking at this with 20/20 hindsight, he would have to pull an O.J. Simpson to justify not bringing him back.
I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that Victor Martiez is more similar to Bay and Damon than he is to Lowe and Cabrera, and maybe the front office is more astute at evaluating DH types than they are infielders and pitchers. As always, we’ll have to let this one play out a year or two before we begin to determine whether or not it was a mistake.
I guess my conclusion is: the Mets suck.
Update 2:00 pm – a reader brings up a great point that the value of draft picks should also be considered when discussing Type A and B free agents. It makes the Lowe and Cabrera decisions a bit more palatable, especially since a few of those picks have turned out quite well.