Who’s on first?
The 2013 Boston Red Sox

Originally this was going to be a quick and easy and fun little essay about the Boston Red Sox, based around the signing of Mike Napoli. In it, I intended to explore if the team really was moving into the future properly.

See… I happen to like Napoli. I think bringing him to the roster, in general, is a good thing. But from the beginning, I was concerned. Why?

Maybe not why you would think… though the title of this essay does give it away. See it isn’t the money, the questions about 2012 and production, or his ability to play first base.

Instead, I don’t understand how you can say “Mike Napoli” and “catcher” together in any context… in any sentence… in any thought… and explain solving the first base issue for the team. To me, that just doesn’t work.

Either you’ve signed a first baseman or you haven’t.

Once you start noting things like having Napoli work out with the pitching staff during spring training, you’ve lost me. (I’m not going to source that because you can do the searches and I saw it in multiple places. Heck… coming up I’m going to refer to Cot’s, and they have him listed in their records as catcher – first base. Besides… in a moment I am going to swing away from this story because my article does as well. It’s just a part of the foundation and deserves a note. So… back to it…)

First of all… doesn’t this roster currently have Jarrod Saltalamacchia on it? …David Ross on it? …Ryan Lavarnway on it?

Sure it does. (Oh… I get it -- Saltalamacchia is going to be traded. You think that’s what I’m missing. Ok. Fine. He’s traded. I personally think he should actually be traded to win your point there instead of saying he will be traded. But I’ll play the game that way… we continue…)

Second of all… who is playing first base when Napoli catches?

(Ah-ha… didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

If Napoli is only going to catch a handful of game -- 1, 2, 5 or such -- that’s just fine and dandy. But that’s emergency catcher type stuff. That’s interleague play and David Ortiz to first base stuff.

To me though, when you start saying Napoli and catcher together in any fashion, you are thinking he will catch 15-20 games. More than 10 games. Seem about right? Ok… well, catching 20 while serving as the primary first baseman probably means sitting 20 games as well.

I know, that 1 game catching to 1 game resting ratio isn’t perfect for a full-time catcher. But Napoli isn’t a catcher. He’s the first baseman.

Ultimately, if I pursued the argument, developing it and explaining it **abracadabra** Mike Napoli… full-time first baseman and occasional catcher… is suddenly your three-quarter-time first baseman.

Yup. 75% first baseman.

120 games at first… 20 catching… 20 resting. That my friends -- a three-quarter-time position player -- is something completely different than solving your first base opening.

As I said though, something else happened along the way to finishing that original plan of an article.

First up… no need to recap it, you’ve heard Napoli isn’t signed yet. The combination primary first baseman and catcher is already a disabled list threat. Wonderfuil.

Secondly… as I write this it sounds like Napoli and the Red Sox have begun dancing and posturing, and a signing may not be a given after all.

And yet, all of that (and more) gets swiped to the side by this tidbit… are you aware of how much money Boston has locked up in 2013 payroll right now?

Here’s the Boston page at the industry leader in baseball salaries… Cot’s Baseball Contracts. If you click on the link for “2013-18 payroll obligations” a spreadsheet will open up. And that spreadsheet is fairly up to date folks.

Napoli is on there.

Joel Hanrahan is listed on the roster too.

Ahh… Hanrahan doesn’t have a salary listed.

Hmm… no salary for Saltalamacchia either, since that needs to be determined.

No salary for Jacoby Ellsbury. None for Andrew Bailey. Geez… there are a few players with no dollar amounts next to their names.

In fact, this spreadsheet only contains salaries for 13 of the 35 players listed. And, as I said, it’s pretty much up to date.

And yet, without paying Ellsbury (the starting centerfielder), Hanrahan (the quickly announced closer)… you see where I’m going, these are significant numbers to be added and not league minimums… the salary for those 13 is…

Are you sitting down?

$125 million.

Is it me? Doesn’t that seem like quite a lot?

I mean, really, for a team that is transitioning and still has an identity to create, and also supposedly had lots of money off the books to free up moves in the future, and has yet to agree to numbers with several players -- isn’t $125 million high?

Want a comparison? Ok… remember it’s very early and these numbers are changing.

How much do you think the California Angels are committed to right now?

Right. $114 million.

(I wish I was kidding. Here’s Cot’s for the Angels. Same deal… use the 2013-18 spreadsheet link on that page.)

They only have ten players signed. But monster deals for Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols and the anchor of Vernon Wells are part of that number. Mike Trout… compared to some of those Boston has yet to sign for deals in 2013… will be playing for pennies once his number gets set on this total.

Let’s put this in easy to understand terms folks…

Boston is approaching 2013, and hopes are they might improve enough that if Baltimore falters then they won’t be in the basement again. Boston is looking at 2013 and trying to wave a wand, distract the audience, and make the fans believe that they could get above 80-wins.

California is approaching 2013 as the favorite in the AL West and a legitimate World Series contender, with championship aspirations.

And, as I write this, the Angels have committed $10 million less to their season than the Red Sox… the Angels have low-cost players contributing right now at high levels.

I know. I know.

Things are going to change. The Angels will likely spend more than the Red Sox. The stories of the Rays and the A’s and what they are doing with their payroll will eventually be much more compelling concepts in such a “how was the money spent” investigation.

For now though… I just find it worth putting out there for consideration. I hope I’m wrong. Boston sure seems like a rudderless ship though -- still looking for a direction.

Originally I was going to try and make that case by wondering if their actions really had brought on resolutions. Instead, with the actions still not settled, I found a different piece of information… where the financial flexibility is being spent, though I have no clue on what.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com