Planning for the future


Coming off of a pretty successful 2007 and stocked with minor league talent, the Red Sox have a lot of options going forward. This is the first post in series designed to look at the Sox and the issues they need to address this offseason.

Red Sox potential free agents

Eric Gagne, 31 yo RP. Any client of Scott Boras knows that free agency is your payday, and Gagne will hit the market, guaranteed. He’ll find a taker for 3/27 somewhere.

Mike Lowell, 33 yo 3B. Lowell has been professional, a great clubhouse presence and a team leader on and off the field, but he is getting up there in years. What happens to him depends on the course the front office chooses to take with the team’s future. It’s thought that he will command at least a 3/40 contract.

Curt Schilling, 40 yo SP. Schilling has offered to stay one more year at $13 million (twice), but Theo’s not returning his messages. With Lester and Buchholz looking like they’ve already arrived, Schil could be the odd man out next season.

Royce Clayton, 37 yo SS. Clayton is reaching the end of his career, but might be able to land a job with a small market team.

Matt Clement, 33 yo SP. Clement will get a shot somewhere, probably a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with a club in dire need of pitching.

Eric Hinske, 30 yo 1B/LF/RF. Hinske will be too expensive to retain in a utility role, and he deserves a chance to play every day. Look for him to sign a multi-year contract for $2-4 million a year.

Bobby Kielty, 31 yo OF. Would be a wonderful fourth outfielder, but I’d be incredibly surprised if he didn’t want to go for a starting job somewhere. Could work out a 3/12 or 3/15 deal in a small or mid-size market.

Doug Mirabelli, 36 yo C. I’ve been asking for him to be replaced the last two seasons, and it looks like it might finally happen. We might already have his replacement in Kevin Cash.

Julian Tavarez, 34 yo SP/RP. Despite a bad start, Tavarez has been a team player and endeared himself as a kooky teammate. That still won’t be enough for us to re-sign him, however. Will probably sign a 1-year deal in the NL.

Tim Wakefield, 41 yo SP. This is just a formality. The Red Sox have Wakefield on a perpetual $4 million mutual option, and there’s no reason to end the agreement after the year he’s had.

Brendan Donnelly, 35 yo RP. Donnelly’s one year deal runs out, but I don’t see the Sox re-signing him at his age, right after reconstructive surgery on his arm.

Mike Timlin, 41 yo RP. Timlin signed a one-year deal, and this could be the end for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he retired after this year. The Sox could extend him one year to see if he can come back healthy for one last hurrah.

Needs

The Red Sox are pretty set at the starting positions, even with the departure of several of the above players, but the reserves will be in a bit of disarray, checking the depth chart:

C Jason Varitek/(?)
1B Kevin Youkilis/(Chris Carter?)
2B Dustin Pedroia/Alex Cora
SS Julio Lugo/Alex Cora
3B (Mike Lowell)/(?)
RF J.D. Drew/(Jacoby Ellsbury or Brandon Moss?)
CF Coco Crisp/(Jacoby Ellsbury or Brandon Moss?)
LF Manny Ramirez/(Jacoby Ellsbury or Brandon Moss?)

SP Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz
RP Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Kyle Snyder, (Craig Hansen?)
CL Jonathan Papelbon

There are a number of concerns that need to be addressed this offseason, which I would enumerate this way:

1. Upgrade the offense.
Everyone has been disappointed with the performance of the Red Sox offense this season. Two of their big acquisitions, Drew and Lugo, failed to live up to their career numbers, let alone expectations in Beantown, and David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were uncharacteristically less productive in 2007.

It’s reasonable to think that most of these players will rebound in 2008, but it is by no means a certainty. Especially if Lowell leaves, the Sox will have to address the lineup with one more big bat. It’s nice that Youkilis could slide back over to third base, as big boppers are easier to find over at first base. We do have to start thinking about how to replace Manny’s production, whose contract runs out after 2009 (though we do hold two options on him for 2010 and 2011). Either the lineup has to get more balanced, or we need to target a premium young bat in the next couple of offseasons.

2. Acquire the successor to Varitek.
I’ve been calling for Theo to do this since late 2006. Jason Varitek is signed only through 2008, and at 36 years old his body is quickly wearing out. We need an understudy to get in here and learn the ropes, learn the staff before it’s too late. George Kottaras is just not cutting it in the minor leagues, unfortunately, so there’s no one in the system who will be ready for several years.

3. Improve the pitching depth.
As good as our rotation can potentially be, I wouldn’t mind having Schilling around for one more season, so that he can cover the transition of Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester into the rotation full time. Should one of them struggle or need more time to develop, we need some insurance. If both of them do arrive on schedule in 2008, we can always move Schilling later on.

The bullpen could also use one more quality arm to provide depth and continue the excellent results from this season. There are some interesting names on the potential free agents list. It is also possible that the Sox could find this person from within the system, as there are a lot of guys starting to run out of options at Pawtucket.

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3 Responses to Planning for the future

  1. Pat says:

    Why Cash over Mirabelli? Is Kevin younger? Does he have better defense?

    I hope part of our offensive upgrade comes from Manny having a contract year, and Lugo and Drew being more comfortable.

    I like your idea of what Shill can offer. He is pretty expensive for what he could preform in the regular season, I think. But if we can’t land a different veteran starter, I agree that it would be good to re-sign him.

    I’d like Tavarez back if we could get him. He’s good for a lot of innings (plus a few laughs). I also wouldn’t mind Timlin if he isn’t that cheap.

    I haven’t even heard anyone mentioning someone who might be able to take Tek’s job. Any ideas?

  2. oldskool138 says:

    RE: Is Kevin younger? Does he have better defense?

    Yes, 6 years younger.

    Cash has is about the same defensively as Dougie.

  3. redsoxtalk says:

    It’s generally held that Cash (29yo) is a slightly better defensive catcher than Mirabelli (36yo). He’s not going to give you much at the plate, but he works well with pitchers, blocks the plate well, etc. Mirabelli’s biggest asset has been his working relationship with Tim Wakefield. He’s about as comfortable as you can get catching a knuckleball (which is not that comfortable). But Cash filled admirably in September when Dougie went down with an injury, so he’s not a terrible option going forward.

    The Sox are definitely going to have to go out and acquire Tek’s eventual successor. Since Texas already got Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the top catching prospects would include Jeff Clement (SEA) and Chris Ianetta (COL). Those clubs have Kenji Johjima and Yorvit Torrealba, so those guys could be expendable for the right price. The Diamondbacks also could have an extra catcher, with Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero both vying for time there. You’d think that the Rangers could give up Gerald Laird, with Salty there.

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