Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 1, 2000
BASEBALL: RAPID RESPONSE TO THE BICHETTE DEAL
Let's take a quick look at this deal. Short term, it's not a terrible move if Bichette is used properly. I know I said that about Mike Lansing and Ed Sprague, but part of the proper use of Bichette is to eat Lansing's playing time with Offerman and Merloni holding down the infield. If he plays at the expense of Trot Nixon or the revived Troy O'Leary, the Sox are in beeeg trouble.
Astonishingly, some people thought Bichette was a "disappointment" in Cincinnati because he didn't hit there the way he did at Coors. That's like being surprised that you are not as tall sitting down as standing up. I was pleasantly surprised that Bichette managed to pull off an on base percentage over .350 and a slugging percentage over .450 in Cincinnati, numbers better than his road stats in recent years. His avg/slg/obp this season is 295/466/353, above the league average but not far above.
Bichette was slightly below average in on base and slugging among NL outfielders, so he can still hit some and can help if he's grabbing at bats from Lansing (195/218/255 the past month) or Brogna (200/333/294 the past month, still not hitting as well with the Sox as Mike Stanley with the A's). Offerman has also been weak lately, but I still think he is a better hitter than that and somebody has to play second. With the Sox twelfth in the league in scoring (producing just 4.5 runs per game since the All-Star break compared to 5.24 before), a guy who's a just-above-league-average hitter, even to DH, can help. The main offensive downside is that Bichette was leading the NL with 18 GIDP. Despite the presence of so many slow, over-30 righthanded hitters on the roster, the Sox had been best in the AL at avoiding double plays (just 96 so far; Bichette would be 20% of the team total), probably because there have been so few baserunners since those guys all arrived. Of course, this assumes that Jimy knows not to try Bichette in the field, where he is at best a stationary object, his feared throwing arm long a thing of the past.
As I've noted with Duquette's earlier deals, what makes this stink is (1) the appearance that Dan Duquette thinks these guys are good ballplayers and (2) the salary, since Bichette brings a fat $6.5 million price tag (he makes as much money as Jeff Bagwell does in 2001) that will drag the Sox budget like Jacob Marley's chains next season, to say nothing of dragging around Bichette himself at age 37. Also, while one of the guys they traded sounds like a stiff, the other one (Chris Reitsma) is reportedly stuck in AA only because he was hurt the last two years; his numbers between A and AA this season (an ERA around 3 and a K/BB ratio of about 3-to-1) suggest a guy who might turn out to be a good pitcher. He's still just 22.
All these guys are pieces, spare parts, that may help the Red Sox get to the playoffs -- but why spend the money on that? Pedro or no Pedro, this is not a World Championship team, not with all these holes and Nixon not ready for his close up. And this was already a team that could get in. For the small benefit of slightly improving the odds of a first-round or maybe ALCS exit, the Sox coughed up a decent pitching prospect and swallowed a big salary. That's a bad deal.