Reports are that the top free-agent pitcher on the market — and longtime Sox nemesis — John Lackey took a physical with the Red Sox this morning, which could be a precursor to a deal.
If true, it’s an interesting move, and honestly one that I didn’t see coming. Given the depth of the Sox rotation, I didn’t believe they’d spend money on a big free agent pitcher this offseason, preferring instead to tweak their offense and save money for next offseason, when the team has some big decisions to make.
Signing Lackey will give the Sox an amazing starting rotation, with the front four being Beckett, Lackey, Lester and Matsuzaka — who, if he is anything like how he finished this past season, could next year be that amazing pitcher we’ve all been waiting for.
But this move could also set off an interesting chain of events. One of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard is that bringing in Lackey could give the Sox the flexibility to move Clay Bucholz, thereby possibly making a deal possible with San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez.
Another thing is what will now happen with Roy Halliday. Toronto NEEDS to move him this offseason. With the Sox out of the running, does that mean Halliday is headed to the Bronx, or – if they lose Lackey – will the Angels make an aggressive push to land him? Should be interesting . . .
In the words of Mark McGwuire: “I’m not here to talk about the past.”
Let’s, for a moment, forget that ALDS with the Angels ever happened. Instead, let’s bring hope back to Red Sox Nation and talk about the future . . . unless the Sox fail to bring back Jason Bay. Then forget about hope and save yourselves, cuz this ship is sinking. So, let’s take a look at issues the Sox face this winter.
JASON BAY – The Red Sox absolutely, positively NEED to bring back Jason Bay. Rarely will I say the Sox “need” anybody. But the fact is the team’s weakest link this year was its offense. If the Sox lose their best offensive player (Bay), they likely won’t be able to make the offensive upgrades they need next season. The free agent market for bats this season is especially thin (forget Matt Holliday, the most overrated bat out there). And if the Sox land a good bat in a trade – like Adrian Gonzalez – but lose Bay, they’ll be swapping bats rather than making a significant offensive improvement next year (which would be keeping Bay and getting a Gonzalez). What scares me to death is there is no reason the Yankees won’t let Johnny Damon walk and instead throw a ton of money at Bay – which improves the Yankees offense AND hurts the Red Sox. This scares me.
JONATHON PAPELBON – I’ve been shocked at the number of people clammering to trade Paps since his blown save the other day. Sox Nation needs to get a grip. As I’ve said before, every great closer has blown big games (Rivera, Eck, Hoffman, Gossage). What makes them great is their ability to brush it off and come back. Papelbon has shown he can do it. Why would you mess with that? Did we learn nothing from the Closer By Committee fiasco that started the Theo administration in early 2003? It takes a certain type of mentality (or craziness) to be a closer, and Paps has that. Bard has great stuff, but we don’t know if he has the mental toughness to be a closer. He could instead be the next Billy Koch. That being said, the promise of Bard does give the Sox flexibility should it take dealing a Papelbon to bring a bigtime bat like Adrian Gonzalez in return.
ADRIAN GONZALEZ – In case you haven’t yet noticed, I want the Sox to back the truck up to land San Diego firstbaseman Adrian Gonzalez. He is a young, dynamic bat that could help this offense. And San Diego will be hiring a new GM (Jed Hoyer?) soon who will likely be looking to stock up on young talent. Slot A-Gonz into first, move Youk to third and . . .
MIKE LOWELL – He’s been a great player for the Sox for these past few seasons, but his best years are well-behind him. Injuries make him unreliable and limit his mobility in the field. If the Sox can find a better bat, they need to move on. The only way I see Lowell staying in that situation is if he was a platoon DH with . . .
DAVID ORTIZ – Undoubtedly my favorite baseball player of all-time. So it pains me to say this. I know he came back big in the second-half, and had impressive numbers as a result. Still, how many meaningful times did Papi come through this year against good pitching. Not many. He wasn’t a factor in the playoffs, and didn’t look like there was any hope he could be. Papi will never again be the great hitter he once was, and I’d say it was time for the Sox to move on, EXCEPT . . . tell me where the Sox are going to get another DH to replace him given how weak the free-agent market is. Assuming they keep Bay, the Sox are going to need to find a home for a new bat, and that will be in either Lowell’s or Ortiz’s slot. Given Lowell’s health issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if they dump Lowell, keep Ortiz at DH this year, and then try to replace him after next season.
JASON VARITEK – It’s hard to watch cornerstones of the 2004 championship team like Papi and Tek age and have their skills diminish. At this point, everyone has to accept that Tek is done. Even, probably, Tek. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him retire this offseason (but in some way that keeps that $3 mill option). At this point, I’m not sure the Sox offense can afford to have him as the backup catcher.
I don’t even know where to begin. Actually, as I think about it, I realize I’m still not in a good place; not in any state where I feel okay talking about it. I still want to pretend it didn’t happen and that baseball doesn’t exist. The more I think about it, the more I want to throw up.
How do you explain baseball sometimes? On paper, this Red Sox team was stacked. But all year long there just seemed to be something missing; some spark of life. That certainly was the case in the playoffs.
The only thing I feel comfortable enough to say right now is this: This series loss isn’t on Papelbon. Every great closer has blown playoff saves — Eck, Rivera, Gossage, Hoffman, the list goes on. The blame should fall on the offense. One run in the first two games is inexcusable no matter who is on the mound.
For the Sox brass looking to make an improvement, look no further than a power-hitting first baseman. To acquire an Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder, they’ll have to do it in a trade. But it can be done. (Then move Youk to third.)
I don’t want to talk about this anymore . . .
Sure, the Red Sox offense looked pathetic last night. Extremely pathetic. But this was a case of the Sox running into a talented pitcher who was as good as he could be. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team.
The reaction to Game 1 results is always overblown, especially in a short series. When the Sox took Game 1 against the Indians in 1998, fans talked of a sweep. Three games later, the Sox were eliminated. Twice this decade the Twins have taken a Game 1 against the Yankees; both times the Yanks easily won the series.
You can’t help but like the Beckett – Weaver matchup tonight. If the Sox take it, they’ve earned a split and gained home field advantage. Then the Angels have to try to win at Fenway — not easy for them. Of course, should the unthinkable happen, then it WILL be time to panic.
Here it is again: the most wonderful time of the year. October playoff baseball is upon us, and our beloved Sox are back in the mix. We almost take that for granted now. But we shouldn’t.
I don’t know why I have such a bad feeling about this series with the Angels. I shouldn’t. The Sox have the edge in almost every aspect of the game, and they man-handled the Angels last month. Still, it’s almost like the Angels are due, which scares me.
Anyway, here are my playoff picks:
Red Sox def. Angels – The Angels will run like crazy, but you can’t steal first. The Sox rotation and bullpen are insanely deep, and their bats are stacked. I’d pick the Sox to sweep, but my heart says in four.
Yankees def. Twins – The Twins have a ton of momentum, but they could sure use Justin Morneau right now. They haven’t won a game in New York since July of 2007, which means they could be due. But I think the Yankees are too much and should sweep them.
Red Sox def. Yankees – Of course. The playoffs usually come down to pitching, and the Sox have a deeper rotation and bullpen. I think they win in six.
Phillies def. Rockies – This is BY FAR the toughest series to call. I went back and forth on this several times. I like the Rockies, and they’ve been so strong in the second half. I also think Ubaldo Jimenez is a great up-and-coming ace. But the Phillies are very well-rounded. Ultimately, I think whoever wins this series wins the National League, and I don’t want to see the Sox and Rockies in the Series again. So I picked the Phils in who knows how many, although I’m leaning toward 4.
Cardinals def. Dodgers – I’m not terribly impressed with either of these teams, and the Dodgers really struggled down the stretch. Cards should win in 4.
Phillies def. Cardinals – I haven’t been a believer in the Cardinals all season, and even though they’ll make it to the NLCS, I still am not a believer. The NL Central was a HORRIBLE division this year. Phils in 5.
Red Sox def. Phillies – Sure, call me a homer. But the fact is the Sox are the most well-rounded team in baseball. And the National League is the junior division. Sox take it in 5 games.
(MVP – Jason Bay)
Early in the season, when teams and players are very hot or very cold, I often say “Wait and see where they are come Memorial Day.” Now here we are, at the end of May, and we can finally take a look at who are real players this year, and who are pretenders. So here are some of my thoughts on the year so far:
–Goodbye, Toronto. Thanks for playing.
–You have to be happy with where the Sox are considering Papi’s woes and that their starting pitching has yet to click.
–I hate to say it, but Papi looks done. Consider that this slump extends well back into last season. This happens a lot in baseball. You just hoped it wouldn’t happen to such a pivotal great in Sox history.
–I don’t know what’s more surprising: That the Devil Rays are four games under .500, or that the Orioles are only four games under .500. Actually, yeah I do. The more surprising one is the Orioles.
–The Tigers are winning the Central. But what’s up with the Indians? They just can’t put it together. Eric Wedge, meet the unemployment line.
–The Rangers are good, but not that good. They benefit from a weak division. And, yeah, I am saying the Angels are weak.
–Stick a fork in Matt Holliday. He’s done.
–Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would own the title of Team Owner I’d Most Like To Hit With A Shovel . . . if Mark Cuban wasn’t so damn annoying.
–The Cardinals won’t be near the top of their division come September.
–Ha ha ha ha. The Cubs are .500 and more than 4 games out! Ha ha ha ha ha . . .
–The Dodgers own the game’s best record by nearly 6 games . . . and they are probably only about the sixth best team in the game. They should send thank-you notes to all those Four-A teams that make up the rest of their division.
With Bobby Abreu signing a one-year deal with the Angels (smart move by Anaheim), and Adam Dunn signing a two-year deal with Washington (that’ll be a long two years), Manny Ramirez seems to be running out of options. It is apparent the only two teams that may sign him are the Dodgers and Giants. And, despite the best attempts by Scott Boras, neither team seems in a rush to get into a bidding war. Fact is, while both teams would like to get Manny take a shot at their weak division this year, neither seems willing to mortgage their future on an aging headcase. Neither team will go more than two years. It’ll be interesting to see how far Manny takes this as Spring Training gets rolling, because these teams are calling his bluff. (Actually, Manny has never been a fan of Spring Training, so don’t be surprised if this saga drags into March.)
Speaking of Manny, he is one of the nominees for the steroid discussion today over at The Great Witch Hunt. Check it out at http://witchhunt.mlblogs.com.