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:

Elite (Proven Major League hitters)

Matt Holliday, LF (OAK). My favorite of the “good” options. A proven right-handed power bat, the transition away from Coors and to the AL seems to have gone fine (after a .240/.288/.360 April, anyway). He’s a smart player, a good base runner and plays very good defense, which would push Bay into the DH role. Against lefty starters, you might even see Holliday play in right and Bay in left. Two caveats with this guy: You have to deal with Billy Beane to get him, plus he will be a free agent after this year, and agent Scott Boras will be after the whole kit and kaboodle (there will be almost no chance to extend him, especially with the Yankees in the mix). He’ll only be 30 next year, so the Sox could choose to sign him over Bay unless the money just gets too prohibitive. Even though he’s a “rental”, Beane could easily ask for two top prospects in return for the All-Star (he’s always loved Jon Lester).

Adam Dunn, 1B (WAS). The term “first baseman” is used very loosely with Dunn, as he is one and one thing only – a home run-hitting, three true outcomes machine. Dunn strikes out a ton, but he also walks and gets on base (career .382 OBP), which the Sox like. He got off to a hot start, so don’t be fooled by the current .269/.399/.571 line with 16 homers. What he’d give us is likely significantly less than that level of production. Still, a big left-handed bat to supplant Ortiz in the order is valuable. He’s owed about $16M through the end of 2010, which is not that bad of a contract for a team of Boston’s means. But if we get him, what happens to Papi? There’s no room for TWO left-handed sluggers who can’t play defense!

Victor Martinez, 1B/C/DH (CLE). V-Mart is the “heart and soul” of the Indians, and they really don’t want to trade him. He’s had a fantastic return from an injury-shortened year, and it’s really tempting to think that he could be another option at catcher; however he’s pretty bad defensively, so that’s kind of a pipe dream. He should be considered a 3rd catcher only. He is signed through this year, but has a very reasonable $7M option for 2010 that is a no-brainer, making him much more valuable than a rental. Cleveland is suffering badly from a lack of pitching, so they might accept something on the order of Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson for Martinez.

Lance Berkman, 1B (HOU). An elite switch-hitter who had a rough start on a terrible team. His bat is coming around, however, with a .286/.391/.527 May showing. Is signed through 2010 and is owed about $20M with a $15M option ($2M buyout) for 2011. Short of throwing in Kevin Youkilis and a top prospect, Houston will not trade him. I’d forget about this one.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (SD). The lefty-hitting Gonzalez was banished to PETCO many years ago, never to be heard from again, but he has proven to be a borderline elite hitter, even out there. He’s coming off back to back 30 HR/100 RBI seasons, and he’s already got 22 bombs in 2009. If there was any other real talent on that team, he’d be under consideration for MVP honors. The Red Sox and Padres have matched up on deals before, but considering the sad state of the Pads, they’d need to get a lot in return for one of their few draws to the stadium. Gonzalez is owed only about $6M through 2010, and he’s got a bargain basement price tag of $5.5M for 2011, meaning that San Diego has very little reason to trade him. The Sox would need a king’s ransom to land this guy.

Miguel Cabrera, 1B (DET). Just bringing him up is a joke. This is a pipe dream! Give it up you Boston homers! Detroit is currently in first place, and they wouldn’t dream of trading their best hitter.

Buy-low Candidates (Fill-ins and potential breakouts)

Hank Blalock, 1B (TEX). Blalock is a pretty good hitter when healthy, but he hasn’t managed a full season since 2006. First-place Texas is always looking for pitching, and they have an abundance of corner infielders. This lefty is batting .258/.293/.558 with 12 HR in 163 AB. Blalock is scheduled to make only about $4M more this year, and then he becomes a free agent; that means he’d probably be available for a Manny Delcarmen-type player.

Nick Johnson, 1B (WAS). Oft-injured lefty first baseman with declining power. Johnson is known for his patience at the plate, and for his frequent trips to the DL. As such, I wouldn’t count on him as a starter, but possibly in a bench role. Has had a strong start to the season (.328/.429/.443) and is extraneous on the Nationals’ roster, so could come very cheap. Has already been offered up for Delcarmen (which the Sox rejected). Would accept him for a B-grade prospect.

J.J. Hardy, SS (MIL). A rare shortstop with power, Hardy’s days have been numbered since the Brewers signed Alcides Escobar. He’s not a great, great hitter but he knows how to take a walk and is pretty athletic. Hardy’s right-handed pop and reputation for defense make him appealing to Sox fans suffering from the presence of Julio Lugo. He’s got excellent range and makes for a possible long-term solution for the Sox, who have had a different shortstop every season since the Nomar Garciaparra days. Hardy is still in his arbitration years, so is under control for two more years.

Rick Ankiel, OF (STL). Ankiel has fallen out of favor in St. Louis, and has been riding the pine a lot. His lack of playing time and unhappy situation have led him to a woeful .223/.296/.369 start. If it’s left-handed power we’re looking for, he hit 25 HR in just 413 AB last year; his career splits show he’s very serviceable against right-handed pitchers (.264/.334/.480). He’s also a guy who can play all three outfield positions, so he’ll be decent to good in left field. That improvement should more than make up for his lack of batting average and OBP, and I think we could land him for Brad Penny straight up.

Miguel Tejada, SS (HOU). Tejada has been tearing it up this year (.358/.384/.538), but transitioning back to the AL East at the age of 35 (or so he says), I wouldn’t count on him being able to sustain very much of that. The lack of walks is also a troubling sign; chances are that he’s just gotten lucky early on this season. Tejada is a free agent after this year, and so could command type A status; in that case, I might consider him for the right price. Houston would probably ask for one name prospect and one B-grade prospect.

Micah Hoffpauir, 1B/OF (CHC). Big lefty with a line of .290/.347/487 in the minors and a good deal of success in limited play in the bigs (.310/.364/.503 in 187 PA). Hoffpauir can’t get the time of dayin Chicago, which is rife with 1B/OF types. He’s a fairly poor defender, but he can’t be worse than Bay in left, can he? One of my breakout candidates for 2009, if he ever gets some sustained playing time. Jim Hendry can’t ask that much for a guy like this, can he?

Prospects (Highly touted but unproven)

Brandon Wood, 3B (LAA). Wood is a former shortstop with good power from the right side. He’s a strikeout machine, but when he tags the ball, it’s TAGGED. It’s debatable whether the Angels would trade with the Sox, but Wood and his career .284/.354/.540 minor league line is simply wasting away in Los Angeles. He’s seen action in just three games this year, and could be helping a big league club. My guess is that the Halos would want a comparable young player in return, perhaps Michael Bowden or Justin Masterson.

Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF (CLE). The 24-year old LaPorta had a great minor league career (.292/.385/.579 over 3 years), but has been underwhelming so far in very little playing time (.190/.286/.286 with 26.2% Ks). Another righty, there’s no question about his power potential, but there’s no way to know what he will become and when. I think we need help now, not in two years from now.

Jake Fox, OF (CHC). Another older overachiever in the Cubs farm system, this time right-handed. His .322/.383/.659 line at Triple-A just begs for playing time, but there isn’t much right now. Also figures to be pretty cheap to acquire.

Kila Ka’aihue, 1B/DH (KC). Strong as an ox. This Hawaiian just “Kila” the baseball in the minor leagues, and topped .600 SLG last year between two levels of baseball. No fielding to speak of, but it seems like he’s ready for the next challenge.

Internal candidates

Chris Carter, 1B/OF (Pawtucket). Carter has always hit pretty well (career .305/.380/.510 in the minors), but has hit a snag this season. His .265/.316/.374 performance so far at Pawtucket is not begging for a callup. This lefty deserves a chance to play at this level, but he may have to get hot in order to force the front office to give him his shot.

Jeff Bailey, 1B/OF (Pawtucket). With Bailey, you know what you’re getting, a steady, reliable player with below average offense and defense, but with some pop. He won’t give you a huge upgrade anywhere, but he’s right-handed and could complement Papi.

If this were the Kansas City Royals, you’d probably see Lars Anderson or Josh Reddick up here already. But this is Boston, so no chance of that. Who do you like? Please defend your position in the comments!


3 Responses to How do you replace David Ortiz?

  1. redsoxtalk says:

    I should also mention Mark DeRosa, who is being actively shopped by the Tribe. They want Major-League ready pitching in return for the utility infielder, who is an above-average bat and can provide some infield insurance for a contender. Mark Shapiro might ask for Michael Bowden in return for DeRosa, who is in a contract year and figures to be at least a Type B free agent.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Here’s an Indians blog that thinks Bowden for LaPorta makes sense:

    Of course it makes sense for them! But it doesn’t make sense for us! LaPorta is not the right fit, at least right now.

  3. redsoxtalk says:

    After reading this article on Jake Fox, I’ve cooled on him a little bit:

    Apparently he only swings for the fences and is uncoachable on that subject. Leave him to be someone else’s problem.

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