Links 6-16-2010: Scutaro’s condition, Doubront debut, looking ahead, Lowell makes sense for Twins

Marco Scutaro was given a nerve root injection in his neck the other day to dull pain in his left arm. Turns out he’s been playing through a pinched nerve and herniated disc in his back all year. His numbers aren’t all that bad, in that light.

With two main starters out of the rotation, the Red Sox have chosen to give prospect Felix Doubront the ball Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Fenway. The 22-year old lefty, currently 2-1 with a 1.08 ERA at Pawtucket, will make his Major League debut against Manny Ramirez and friends. Best of luck, Doubie.

After all of the reasons for optimism I gave yesterday, Patrick Sullivan balances that out with some things that could turn sour for the Red Sox this year. David Golebiewski also throws some water on the idea that Clay Buchholz is having his breakout season.

Aaron Gleeman takes a detailed look at Mike Lowell and cautiously approves of him as a trade target. He suggests a prospect in their top 30 or so in return for Lowell.

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Hot Stove 2010: Lackey on board, Cameron next?

With the surprise signing of John Lackey today, the Sox may have decided to freeze out Matt Holliday and agent Scott Boras altogether. A signing of that magnitude would suggest no room to add someone with Holliday’s salary requirements. Ken Rosenthal now says that the Sox are in serious talks with CF Mike Cameron about a two-year deal. The power-hitting Cameron has maintained that he wants a full-time job in centerfield, and UZR suggests that he would be a huge upgrade (+10.0 runs in 2009) over Jacoby Ellsbury (-18.6 runs in 2009) there, even at age 37. Ellsbury would certainly be a dazzling defender in left field, and his limitations with judging balls would be minimized there.

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Hot Stove 2010: Options for a 1B/3B

If the trade of Mike Lowell goes through, the Sox could stand to add a corner infielder. With Max Ramirez added to a slew of players to fill the C/1B/3B/DH roles, the Sox don’t NEED to make a move, yet they probably should. My logic goes like this: Ramirez is labeled as a catcher, but is he our catcher of the future? No. He’s poor defensively. Victor Martinez can catch maybe 60-70% of our games, but we need a good defensive guy to complement him. Do we see Ramirez as our future 1B or DH? Possibly, but at 5-11, 180 his ceiling might not be what we’re looking for. He looks like a trading chip to me.

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Hot Stove 2010: But what about Miguel Cabrera?

Judging from the popularity of certain posts in recent days, it seems that a lot of people are interested in acquiring Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers are desperate to trim payroll, and they’re poking around to gauge interest in case they want to dump one or two of a number of young and still productive players, including Edwin Jackson, Curtis Granderson, and now Cabrera. And who wouldn’t want to add a right-handed, 26-year old 30-HR hitter with a .311/.383/.542 resume? My suggestion to you is to read this great article by Matt Klaassen at FanGraphs.

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Links: Some more Papi reading and trade rumors analysis

The David Ortiz conundrum is reaching national status. His eyes checked out, so there’s not many reasons left for his decline. Either he’s way older than we thought, or there’s something wrong with his head. Last night’s long homer and the seven game hitting streak notwithstanding, we still have to have some doubt as to when and how much Papi will rebound. Here’s one exit strategy, given by Craig Calcaterra at THT.

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How do you replace David Ortiz?

David Ortiz continues to struggle, even though it seems as if he is hitting some balls harder recently. I don’t think he is done done, but he is certainly hurting the team. Now that we are two months in, it is time to seriously start considering trade options and what they might cost. Unless Papi goes on the DL for 60 days, I think we should look at a right-handed platoon mate for Ortiz, or else a left-handed outfielder who can slot into left and allow the defensively challenged Jason Bay to DH. Here’s a quick rundown of candidates that have been mentioned and what they might cost:

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23-14: Sox take 3 of 4 in Detroit

The Red Sox kept the momentum going from the sweep of Tampa, and really took it to Detroit this series. We are beginning to put some distance between us and the rest of the Division. Whoa, deja vu. The Tigers have an elite offense when healthy, but it sure doesn’t look healthy to me. Gary Sheffield and Miguel Cabrera are nursing injuries; that and an underperforming pitching staff has ensured their poor start.

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5-5: Sox outslug Detroit, 12-6

Yesterday was Japanese Day at Fenway. The AP writes that two ninjas sparred as part of the festivities. Uh, that looks more like kendo to me. A 10-second trip to Wikipedia could have avoided that cultural faux pas

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4-4: Dice-K slams the door on the Tigers, 5-0

Buckner throws out the first pitchFirst off, hats off to the Sox front office for giving the Fenway Opening Day first pitch to Bill Buckner. Few people have been so undeservingly maligned by a whole geographic region for 22 years, and it was clearly a powerful emotional moment for him as well as Red Sox Nation. The guy was a great player and trooper for Boston, and doesn’t deserve all the blame he got for 1986.

The Red Sox received their long-awaited bling for 2007, then proceeded to shut out the Detroit Tigers for their first home game of 2008.

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Time to explore other options at third base

Now that he’s officially a free agent, Mike Lowell has been offered a number of four-year deals, at least one of which falls in the $55-60M range. It is thought that the Yankees, Cardinals, Braves and Angels have all come calling. The Red Sox have not extended a better offer than their initial 3 years and $36M, and this all but ensures that Lowell will play with a new team in 2008.

It is very sad that we will be without Lowell’s leadership next season, but it’s not all bad. For Boston, this means that:

1) They will receive a first-round pick from the signing team and a sandwich pick for Lowell, who is a type-A free agent. You almost can’t blame Theo for choosing this route, given how well the Red Sox have drafted in recent years. Adding another Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz to the organization would soften the loss of Lowell, yes.

2) We need to explore the free agent market or a trade to fill that hole at third. Here are three possible ways we could choose to fly:

Economy Class
There are a number of options the front office could employ to just plug the hole with what we already have. The Red Sox do not have anyone in their farm system ready to fill this hole. Jed Lowrie, a middle infielder, could be a possibility; but starting a rookie with zero experience AND moving positions on him? Oakland or Minnesota, sure. But I don’t see the Sox taking a risk like that.

The next best option would be to put Kevin Youkilis back at third base, and have Chris Carter and Brandon Moss compete for the first base job. This could work out, but it could also end up flopping big time. I don’t see a World Championship team with our payroll settling for this, either.

There are some third basemen available, but not good fits for our club. Among free agents, there is Mike Lamb (offensive option) and Pedro Feliz (defensive option). Lamb has the stick, but is just barely average at third, and hasn’t played there full-time since being a rookie in 2000. Feliz is a defensive genius and a right-handed batter with some pop, but his lifetime .288 OBP won’t fly in this organization.

Business Class
In a strange free agent year, there are realy no middle-class options at third this offseason, which means that Boston will have to look to trade. With the availability of a lot of big free agents in centerfield this offseason, it may take teams some time to realize that they aren’t going to be able to afford a Torii Hunter or an Andruw Jones. That makes Coco Crisp some mighty tasty trade bait, and he might fetch us one of these middle-of-class guys in return.

Scott Rolen was a perennial All-Star until injury severely limited two of his last three seasons. He’s got 3 years left on his contract at $12M/year (coincidence that this is exactly what the Sox offered Lowell?), which makes him scary to most teams, but not the Red Sox. The Cards are said to be averse to eating any money from his contract, and Theo would oblige if they lower the asking price just a bit. I like Rolen as a good match; he’s a right-handed veteran power bat who plays excellent defense. He’s a bit of a risk, but his lifetime .372 OBP is a nice fit, and he’s actually one year younger than Lowell. The Cardinals want starting pitching in return; would St. Louis take some package including Julian Tavarez, who is locked in for less than $4M, or would we consider dealing Jon Lester?

Some have suggested that Garrett Atkins might be available. While the 28-year old slugger poses an interesting option, at least two writers say that the Rox are not going to trade him this offseason (standard disclaimer here about being blown away by an offer).

The Chicago White Sox have two players who can play third in Joe Crede and Josh Fields, and Crede’s name has come up in trade talks already this offseason. The 30-year old righty plays excellent defense, and has demonstrated some power, though he missed most of last season with an injury. His career .259/.305/.446 line is not that encouraging, but he did have a great 2006 and the White Sox could be interested in Crisp. Crede made about $5M in 2007, is arbitration eligible and under control of Chicago.

Yet another player that has been mentioned is Texas’ Hank Blalock. The Rangers are seeking a good return on the 27-year old, who has one year left on his contract at $6M, and a $6.2M option for 2009. Blalock has a .273/.337/.462 career line and has been about league average on defense the past three years. Texas is another team that has shown a lot of interest in Coco.

First Class
Then there are the big names, the ones who will cost us, either now or in the future.

Alex Rodriguez needs no introduction. The guy has said so many things about what he wants and who he wants to play for that I don’t care what he says anymore. The only thing that hasn’t changed is his egomaniacal need to become the highest paid athlete ever. First the Yankees wouldn’t touch him, but then neither would anyone else at $350M, so the Yanks have come crawling back on their hands and knees. Word is he’s nearly ready to sign a new 10-year, $275M deal with a lot of incentives to stay in pinstripes. If the price had come down to 8 years and $225M or so, I think the Sox should have got him. But, I’m also kind of relieved he won’t be playing here.

Then there’s Miguel Cabrera, the 25-year old phenom who hits everything and eats everything in sight. He’s got two more years under control (at about $11M and $15M), and then would become a free agent. The Marlins are asking for four premium prospects in return for Cabrera, and they’re likely to get two and a half or three from either the Angels or the Dodgers. Cabrera is a butcher at third, and would play at first base if he came to Boston. However, with the Fish asking for Buchholz, Ellsbury AND Lester, I am not optimistic.

Outside the box
If the Sox choose, they could pursue first basemen with the idea of shifting Youk to third. This opens up a huge realm of possibilities, including Richie Sexson, Carlos Pena, Conor Jackson and some old Epstein favorites, including Todd Helton and Ryan Shealy.

UPDATE: Could Lowell come back?
Multiple reports have surfaced suggesting that all those four-year offers never really were offered, and with the Yankees ready to re-sign A-Rod, Lowell could indeed come back to Boston. The Yankees say that they would consider putting Lowell at first base if they sign him, but I don’t see why they want him that badly. I think they are just trying to up the price for the Red Sox.

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