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According to multiple reports, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell is set to join the Toronto Blue Jays as their new manager, replacing the retiring, mustache-wearing Cito Gaston. With the Jays, who feature the league’s most powerful lineup and a plethora of young, lively arms, it would appear that that Farrell is walking into a good situation.
“The Jays are getting a great baseball man and a great person. We were able to keep John as a part of our organization longer than a couple of other teams would have wanted, but it really is time for John to step up to the next level. He will be an effective, excellent manager. I expect him to manage in MLB for as long as he wants to. He’s going to an excellent young team with a strong and smart hierarchy. The Blue Jays are going to be a force in the AL East for some time to come.
I am grateful for the years John Farrell gave to the Red Sox. He will be missed.” – John Henry
Farrell, the architect behind the resurgence of Jon Lester and the development of Clay Buchholz (and part of the reason neither stud pitcher was traded), now gets a whole host of young arms to work with. The Jays feature Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, and the prize of the Roy Halladay deal, prospect Kyle Drabek. With that talent, the Jays have a chance to remain competitive in a the toughest division in baseball, the AL East.
With the lineup, Farrell inherit’s hitters who led the majors in homers (257) and slugging percentage (.454). Power in the Rogers Centre should not be a problem, but consistent hitting (the team only hit .248 in 2010) and the ability to get on base (.312) may become issues in 2011 and beyond.
Fortunately for Farrell, the Blue Jays should rebound in the consistency department next season, with a young and healthy Travis Snider to go with Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, who hit just .237 and .205, respectively. Snider will continue to improve, and Lind and Hill should improve given their 2009 numbers.
The Red Sox now have to fill Farrell’s shoes, which is no easy task. Pitchers have raved about Farrell’s knowledge of the game, and now with his departure, it could negatively affect some of the Red Sox most important arms. Lester and Buchholz could stand to lose the most without their pitching coach, but if anything, their youth and raw talent will carry them through. They both have now fully developed.
Two pitchers that probably wish Farrell was still around are Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, who are coming off the worst seasons of their careers. Beckett, who now has a 4-year, $64 million deal to live up to, may be without his security blanket in Jason Varitek as well, so he could be in trouble. I would imagine Terry Francona and Theo Epstein probably are confident that Becks will return to form with or without Farrell, or else they wouldn’t have signed the righty so early in 2010.
Papelbon, assuming he’s in Boston in 2011 (and I think that’s safe to assume. Would you trade anything valuable for him given his recent track record and what it will cost to hang on to him?), probably could use Farrell the most as he works to rebuild his confidence.
How much does a pitching coach really matter? Can one be replaced very easily? We’ll find out next season.