Maybe it will be okay. Maybe . . .
From the start of this offseason, I’ve been preaching that the Sox needed offense. That they needed to bring back Jason Bay AND trade for Adrian Gonzalez.
Instead, they’ve swapped a proven defensive stud in Alex Gonzalez for Marco Scutaro – a career mediocre player who had a “breakout” year last year as he approached his mid-30s (fluke anyone?); they’ve lost Jason Bay; Adrian Gonzalez has been taken off the market; and they’ve added the Mike “The Human Strikeout Machine” Cameron.
Sure, they’ve added an ace pitcher in John Lackey. But can anyone who endured the frustration of last year’s offensive woes really feel good about this team as it stands right now?
As much as I’ve felt sick about the direction this team’s offense has been headed this offseason, I’ve been trying to convince myself otherwise. As it stands now, next year’s Opening Day lineup could look something like this:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Victor Martinez
4. David Ortiz
5. Kevin Youkilus
6. J.D. Drew
7. Mike Lowell
8. Marco Scutaro
9. Mike Cameron
Forgetting for a moment about last year, that lineup doesn’t look so bad, even without Jason Bay. Sure, there are major question marks. David Ortiz almost certainly looks to be on the decline. Same can be said for Mike Lowell as he looks like he is physically breaking down. Of course, you can’t talk about physical breakdowns without mentioning J.D. Drew. Still, even with those question marks, it is a solid lineup. And one that I’d put up against almost team not named “the Yankees.”
Given that, it almost makes you wonder: What really happened to that offense last year even when they had Jason Bay in the middle of it? It should have been so much better. Maybe it was just an anomoly. Maybe 9 times out of 10 it would have performed much better.
Absent of the Sox landing Adrian Gonzalez, it seems the Sox brass are thinking the same thing. That, most likely, that offense will be more potent in 2010. It had to be a fluke, right?
I hope so. But I’d prefer to add an Adrian Gonzalez just to be safe.
Reports are the Padres are seeking both Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez. The inclusion of both Ellsbury and Buchholz in a deal is sure to make many Sox fans cringe, but it’s a deal worth doing.
Often in baseball it does seem a team can get something for nothing, especially when one rich team can acquire a star player from a poor team for little more than cash. It is only money, after all. However, in the real world, to get something of real value, you have to give up something of real value. And that’s the situation the Sox are in chasing Adrian Gonzalez.
The past three season, Sox fans have enjoyed watching Ellsbury — from his amazing speed on the basepaths to his fearless, wall-crashing defense. He’s an excellent ballplayer, and may someday be a great leadoff hitter. But Ellsbury will never give a team as much as Adrian Gonzalez does. And, although it hurts to give him and Buchholz up, it’s worth it.
If the deal does happen, the question is what will Boston’s outfield look like? In all likelihood, newly-acquired Mike Cameron would move into centerfield. That would open up leftfield for a free-agent addition like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, although at this time both look unlikely. Perhaps more likely would be the Sox sticking with Jeremy Hermidia in leftfield, possibly platooning him with another addition.
Hermidia is a very interesting player. He came up to the majors in Florida about four seasons ago with a ton of hype. Unfortunately, he has never lived up to that hype. The thing is, he’s still only 25. He’s still two years away from the magic age of 27 — the well-documented age at which many major league ballplayers breakout. Hermidia is much too young and talented to be written off — even though many people already have. Maybe he’ll never be that superstar. But it’s still just as likely that we may someday look back and say Theo got the steal of this offseason.
It looks like Mike Lowell is headed to the Texas Rangers. Multiple reports have him headed to the Rangers for minor league catcher Max Ramirez, while it appears the Sox might be getting close to signing free-agent third-baseman Adrian Beltre.
While I’ve advocated getting rid of Lowell this offseason, that doesn’t mean I’m not a fan. Lowell has been a great contributor to this team since 2006. Considering this guy was a throw-in in the Beckett deal, and looked so bad his first spring training some Boston baseball media geniuses thought he’d be cut, what he has done for the Sox must be applauded. He might be slower than geology, but he’s given us a solid bat, excellent defense before his injury, and a top-notch clubhouse presence. He will be remembered fondly by Sox Nation.
Meanwhile, I am cringing at the thought of signing Adrian Beltre. Outside of his highly-suspicious 2004 season — a contract year, mind you — this one-time uber-prospect’s career has been a colossal disappointment. He might not command the sizeable contract he got in 2005, but the Sox will still be overpaying for what he brings to Boston. And considering the Sox just signed a shortstop (Scutaro) who has also had a questionable career, I have real concerns with this team going forward.
But perhaps my biggest concern with signing Beltre is it leaves no room to make a deal for that power-hitting bat the Sox so desperately need. Understand, adding Beltre’s .260 average and 23 homers is no answer to this team’s offensive problems. Should the Sox resign Bay, or bring in Matt Holliday, in left, then have Beltre at third and Scutaro at short, they will only have a marginally better offense then they had last year — not good enough to bring home a championship.
Now, the catcher situation might be interesting. The minor leaguer the Sox are getting from the Rangers, Max Ramirez, might be ready for primetime (although his defense reportedly needs work). Are the Sox bringing him in as insurance in case Tek gets injured this year? Or insurance that they don’t resign Victor Martinez? Or insurance in case Tek just can’t perform anymore? The Sox might be thinking they’ll give Tek a chance through May, and if he can’t perform, expect a press conference where they regret to announce they have to cut him, and thank him for his service.
At this point, I’m beginning to like the Sox chances of re-signing Bay. With the Yankees landing Curtis Granderson, I doubt they will make a play for Bay, thereby taking the biggest financial competitor out of the way. I doubt Anaheim or Seattle will outbid for him.
The problem for the Sox are other fronts. No movement yet on Adrian Gonzalez. And, in an interview yesterday, Theo talked about 2010 as a bridge year to the prospects on their way up. While I like the idea of the Sox having super-prospects help the team in the future (provided they become actual, talented major league players — a big “if” with all prospects), it makes me wonder if 2010 will just be a rebuilding here. To be a true contender for a title next year, they need to improve their offense. They also need a new thirdbaseman, as Lowell will not perform well over a full 162-game season. His best days are behind him. Same with Papi.
Add to all that the contracts of Josh Beckett and Victor Martinez are up after next year. This all creates a treacherous time for the Sox, which, hopefully, Theo will navigate with his usual intellect (with the obvious exception of shortstops), To me, it’s beginning to look like next year will be a lost year — they might make the playoffs, but likely won’t have the offense to go far.
Meanwhile, what was Arizona thinking dealing Max Scherzer? Last year they had a terrible year . . . a year in which I picked them to go to the World Series based on the strength of their pitching. Of course, Brandon Webb went down. But, this year they had a chance to have three aces, Webb, Haren and Scherzer – a young, strikeout pitcher with a world of potential ahead of him. The D-back are also poised for the baseball bounceback — the phenomenon you often see where a good team one year vastly underperforms the next, only to dramatically bounce back the third year (see the Indians of 2005-2007). I don’t see how Edwin Jackson – while a good pitcher – is anything but a step back from Scherzer.
A report in yesterday’s Boston Globe said the Red Sox are currently shopping Mike Lowell, and may even be willing to pick up half of his remaining salary. Obviously, this looks like they are laying the groundwork to deal Lowell immediately once they are able to work out a deal with San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez.
But I wonder if the Sox feel so uncomfortable by Lowell’s health issues these last two seasons and by his rapidly vanishing range at third base that they feel they need to replace him at third next year regardless of whether they land Gonzalez or not. I’m certainly leaning that way. It looks like Lowell’s days in Boston are over.
Also, I know I’ve said this before, but with the free-agent frenzy ready to kick into high gear next week I’ll say it again: I have a really bad feeling about this off-season. The most cause for concern is the vision of Jason Bay in pinstripes.
Face it, it makes all the sense in the world for the Yankees to go after Bay. They are at the end of both Damon’s and Matsui’s contracts. Getting Bay would be a huge upgrade for them. Even more, by signing Bay the Yankees would be dealing a CRUSHING blow to their rivals, the Red Sox. I really don’t see how this doesn’t happen.
If this does happen, you can all but kiss next season goodbye. Even with Bay, the Sox needed to upgrade their offense. Should they sign Gonzalez, but lose Bay, they are essentially only breaking even. Not to say that Gonzalez and Bay are equal; they aren’t. Gonzalez is a premier offensive force. But the Sox offense needs both those bats to compete with the Yankees. Signing Matt Holliday to replace him isn’t the answer. The way Boras is talking, he would cost too much. Plus, his Colorado years and his early season slump in Oakland leave a lot of questions as to what kind of hitter he really is.
Should the Sox lose Bay, 2010 is a rebuilding year.
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.
True story. During my recent hiatuses from bogging (before the Rice for the HOF annual bug hit me), I was thinking if I had anything of note to say to the baseball world. I didn’t just want to add to the noise that is the offseason stock taking of how does our line-up compare to the Blue Jays or other team that finished in third place. Through my contemplation, I found this one piece of wisdom … its time to let someone else wear number 5.
Now, of course, I didn’t actually write the column. And, yesterday, the world found out (more importantly) that the Sox had decided this too. It makes sense. Nomar, who I enjoyed watching more than any Sox player ever, very possibly might be done. His career never lived up to its … (dreaded word) … potential. If only, he was more durable, if only a pitch didn’t hit him on his wrist, if only …. (If only he had taken the 4/yr 60 million offer the Sox offered him offseason 2003/2004, he’d be ~$48 million richer right now!). Five is a premium digit too.
Now that the Sox have made the decision, I’m conflicted. Roco? I like the signing and all. But why did they have to give him Nomar’s number? Talk about a guy that doesn’t need another albatross around his neck. Will it be a constant reminder of how the predilection for injury mares potential? In the end though, it’s probably a good move to give the number to an established bench player rather than saddling the next great hitting prospect with it. They Sox also had the good sense to give it several years — unlike their blatant disrespect for Trot Nixon.
As for other numbers, quick thoughts:
14 – retire it. Regardless of the HOF announcement on Monday/
38 – Give it to the next mid-season wavier-wire claim. Preferably a long reliever with a WHIP above 2.50
45 – Keep it in storage. Retire it when Pedro enters the HOF (2015)
and 24? I never wanted Manny to have that number. It should have been retired for Dewy, But now it can never be retired for anyone but Manny. He is one of the greatest hitters of all time. However, his behavior that led to his departure was inexcusable. Thus, I think the Sox need to give the number to the bullpen catcher this year. Maybe someone can reclaim it in the future.
Finally, before I get scooped again, here are a other things I’m thinking about:
· What pitchers of the last 20yrs should be in the HOF? Moose? Schill? Cone? Brownie?
· Jason Bay is woefully under-appreciated as a force in the 2009 Sox line-up
· Stop with all the Texieria nonsense! It’s not going to decide the AL East.
· Why people who think Tim Raines should be in the Hall but not Jim Rice shouldn’t be called “statheads” – they should be called “crackheads”
· And, I’m close to clinching my 2009 fantasy baseball league title (for a fifth time in seven years) even though we are six weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting