11-9-2011: Other areas of need and available free agents
November 10, 2011 1 Comment
Ben Cherington came out yesterday and suggested that the Red Sox were not likely to be big players on the free agent market this offseason. I think he’s being genuine, but even if they were, what good would it do them to come out and say that?
Here are the problem areas as I see them, and some free agent projections (all numbers assume a transition to the AL East).
1. Starting pitching
With so much money already committed to the rotation, I would be surprised if the Red Sox continued to throw money at this problem. Adding C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish would be nice, but can we afford another $100M contract here, while our core players will be earning more and more every season? Signing a big arm to a long-term deal like that might mean saying goodbye to Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz once their current deals expire.
As you can see, bringing back Tim Wakefield really shouldn’t be an option; almost any free agent is likely to be better than him going forward. Erik Bedard has huge injury concerns, and that’s not what this staff needs. Hiroki Kuroda doesn’t seem likely to come out east. I think Roy Oswalt could be a fit if he’s willing to take a two-year deal at good money, and Buehrle would be a solid signing if we can get him for fewer than four years. Edwin Jackson scares me a little bit long-term, so I’d avoid offering him more than three years as well.
2. A closer/setup man (or two)
Our bullpen was very strong last season, and had it not suffered some key injuries and been overtaxed by a terrible rotation, it would have been one of the best in baseball. But Jonathan Papelbon is a free agent, and given the reported $44M deal for Ryan Madson, it might cost about $50M to keep him in Boston red. Given the field, I think I prefer keeping him around, but Paps seems very open to following the money, wherever it leads.
I would prefer the Sox pick up one of these guys to close, then sign two setup men with a little closing experience. I think outside of a guy like Papelbon, you don’t want to spend all your money on one guy, but build depth at the end of your bullpen. Outside of the established closers, I think guys like Jason Frasor and Frank Francisco are interesting options. I would also like to see the Sox add a solid lefty to their bullpen like Darren Oliver or Mike Gonzalez.
3. Right-handed outfielder/right fielder
Say what you want about J.D. Drew, he represented one of the best right-field options in the AL for most of the years he was here. Now that he is gone, we need to come up with someone who can cover some ground in right and not be embarrassing at the plate. Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish may grow into this role, but neither one of them is a certainty at this point, and bringing in a short-term vet might be the right move here.
The guys you might be able to get on short-term contracts are Carlos Beltran and Andruw Jones. Both of them would be adequate (but not great) in the field, and provide some pop in the lower third of the lineup. The problem is that we’re not sure that either of these guys are full-time players any more; Beltran, especially, has had a lot of trouble staying on the field.
A lot of people have mentioned Michael Cuddyer as a fit as a right-handed bat with experience playing in right, third and first. I am cautious about him though, because his fielding in right is poor, and at third he is significantly worse than Kevin Youkilis (whose defense people already complain about). As an added plus, he is actually pretty decent at second base, in case something happens to Dustin Pedroia. He can also DH, so if we get him on a two-year deal, we should be able to find plenty of playing time for him based on matchups.
4. Corner infielder/DH
After posting great numbers in 2011, David Ortiz is a free agent. He is turning 37 and is not likely to repeat that level of production again, but he is still a very valuable DH. The thing is, offering him a multi-year deal may not be the best move, given the fielding and health concerns of Kevin Youkilis at third base. Ortiz is also a player without a position, which can strain the active roster at times when a lot of injuries hit. One solution might be to sign a third baseman and shift Youk into the DH role, at least part-time. Here’s how the 3B/DH free agents stack up:
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||36||368||7||42||0.257||0.318||0.380||0.698|
We had the two best hitters on this list last year, and no question that it will hurt the offense some if Ortiz doesn’t return. But we also had the best run-scoring lineup in the AL last year, so I’d be okay with the Sox saving money there and putting that into acquiring some pitching. To be honest, I’m not sure which of these names I would advocate for us to sign. We could use some certainty on the health front, in addition to overall production, which eliminates maybe half of these guys.
Do we extend the aging Jason Varitek for one more season, despite his horrid performance at the dish in 2011? Are we that sure about Jarrod Saltalamacchia that we can just go into the year with him as our only primary catcher? Ryan Lavarnway should not be the backup catcher for two reasons – one, his defense, while much improved, still needs work; and two, his bat is too valuable to keep out of the lineup at times so that we can be sure to have another catcher available in case of injury to Salty. I think the right move is to sign a stopgap veteran to share the catching duties, until Lavarnway is polished enough to take over as a starter.
Ryan Doumit gives you a lot of flexibility, as he can play first, third and the corner outfield spots as well. However, I’m not sure that his bat is good enough to warrant him starting games anywhere other than catcher. I also don’t want to give him anything more than two years. I think getting a guy like Ramon Hernandez would be great. Not only can he hit a little bit, he’s actually one of the best defensive catchers out there. He doesn’t expect to play 140 games, but has shown that he is willing to split time. Rod Barajas would be a good short-term signing. After that, Kelly Shoppach and Jason Varitek are the next best additions to our roster.