Okay, with the 2006 playoffs fading off in the distance, I’ve got some things I’d like to see done this offseason (not that my voice counts).
1) Fix the rotation. As it stands, next year’s starters look like this: Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield and… and… yeah, you get the idea. Until we know something more, we can not count on Jon Lester for 2007. I’ve heard that it may take two years to treat his melanoma. I don’t know how realistic it is to say the name Barry Zito, but Jason Schmidt, Brad Radke, Andy Pettite, Adam Eaton, John Smoltz, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Mark Redman and Kip Wells are available.
There has been some talk about converting Papelbon back into a starter, which I’d be in favor of if we could find someone to close. Craig Hansen is not ready yet, and he showed this year that his confidence might be fragile. This year’s free agents with closing experience are not that impressive: Eddie Guardado, Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Dustin Hermanson, Brian Meadows.
2) Bullpen. If we sign at least two decent starting arms, Papelbon can keep closing. Manny DelCarmen and Craig Hansen should be better next year, and Kyle Snyder will make an excellent swingman. Foulke and Tavarez will be around to mopup, but we need one more veteran to be a strong bridgeman to replace Mike Timlin.
3) Let Loretta walk. Dustin Pedroia is ready, and as I said before, it’s worth it to keep Alex Gonzalez around. This means next year’s infield is set with Youkilis, Pedroia, Gonzalez and Lowell. Hinske will backup the corners and come off the bench as a pinch hitter, and Cora should continue to fill in the middle.
4) Do the outfield shuffle. First, let Trot go. As much as I love and respect this guy, his best days are behind him, and he’ll be too pricey to keep around. That leaves Manny, Pena and Crisp in the outfield. I haven’t given up on Crisp’s bat yet, but perhaps he’s better suited to play left in the majors. We don’t have room for this guy on this team. I’d like to see him traded for a bona fide centerfielder. Alternatively, we could acquire a big right field bat and play Pena in center.
I think the offense and defense are fine. They produced and kept us in the hunt for most of the season. But we are an old and injury-prone team, especially the pitchers. If we shore up our staff, we might be able to contend in 2007.