11-9-2011: Other areas of need and available free agents

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.

Name Age IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA WHIP
CJ Wilson 31 182.1 8.2 3.7 0.5 3.42 1.30
Roy Oswalt 34 161.6 7.1 2.4 0.9 3.93 1.30
Erik Bedard 33 64.2 8.7 3.5 1.0 3.94 1.36
Hiroki Kuroda 37 154.8 7.2 2.4 1.0 4.06 1.34
Mark Buehrle 33 189.1 4.9 2.1 0.9 4.10 1.39
Edwin Jackson 28 186.5 7.3 3.3 0.9 4.14 1.45
Freddy Garcia 35 109.2 6.1 2.7 1.0 4.27 1.40
Bartolo Colon 39 93.8 7.0 2.7 1.2 4.28 1.40
Javier Vazquez 35 167.3 8.0 2.7 1.3 4.41 1.33
Jeff Francis 31 123.2 5.6 2.4 0.9 4.58 1.46
Paul Maholm 30 161.2 5.5 3.2 0.9 4.68 1.54
Tim Wakefield 45 118.8 5.8 3.3 1.1 4.92 1.46

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)

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7-23-2010: Lackey finally arrives, Sox acquire Hannahan, not sellers yet

The John Lackey we thought we signed has finally shown up the past few starts. How about those 8 innings of no-hit baseball (albeit against the punchless Mariners)? But perhaps more important, his K/9 rate is up, his BB/9 is down and the HR/9 is also trending down. I get the feeling that we’re about to experience some major run prevention in August.

The Red Sox acquired IF Jack Hannahan yesterday from the Seattle Mariners for a PTBNL or cash considerations. Hannahan is a career .224 hitter, but he’s a premier glove man (not unlike Toronto’s John McDonald), and has Major League experience playing every infield position except catcher. He should provide good depth in the middle infield, something we’ve lacked so far. As Buster Olney is quick to point out, this could spell the end for Jed Lowrie. You could see Theo Epstein spin Lowrie off for a decent reliever. Mike Lowell went 1-5 in his first rehab game, and has announced that he has no plans to retire early; my feeling is that they will try to showcase and unload Lowell, but failing that, Lowrie is a goner.

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17-12: Sox walk-off again, 2-1

I know I said I wouldn’t post, but I couldn’t resist putting down some of my game notes…

Dustin McGowan: Young flamethrower, very nice pitcher to have. I was impressed with more than his heater.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Could still throw more strikes, but you can’t argue with the results. Congrats on finishing seven innings. Told you he’d be pretty darn good this year.

Jason Varitek continues to handle the staff masterfully. That’s a TOTAL of 7 runs allowed in four games. Whew!

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2008 Projections: Julio Lugo

Julio Lugo had a bad year in 2007. Or, more precisely, a very bad first half. It just made it worse that he had just signed a pretty hefty four-year free agent deal, and that he had been advertised as our new leadoff hitter. None of that panned out, unfortunately, and Lugo’s defense looked like merely a pale shadow of Alex Gonzalez in the hole (actually, even his bat paled in comparison to Gonzalez in 2007). So he didn’t do a whole lot to endear himself to Red Sox Nation.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Lugo. As he got more comfortable here, Lugo’s performance improved dramatically. After a dismal .197/.270/.298 first half (yes, you read that correctly), Lugo turned it around after the All-Star Break, hitting a respectable .280/.322/.406/.728 the remainder of the season. And, he hit .286/.350/.395/.745 at Fenway Park. Still not really leadoff hitter stuff, but more than acceptable for a bottom-of-the-order guy. Again, the glove (and arm, especially) won’t dazzle anyone, but it was good enough (BP has him at -13 FRAA for the season, below average). Is there anyone else who looks at Lugo in the box and thinks he looks kind of unhealthy?

Lugo is set to earn $9M in 2008, which is generous for what he can do. I’ll be satisfied if he plays league-average defense and posts a line of .270/.335/.390, which is basically his career average. Look for 35-40 doubles, around 10 HR and far fewer RBI this year. Shortstops in the AL averaged only a .269/.322/.391 line in 2007 (thanks in part to to Lugo and John McDonald), so it won’t take much for him to meet/beat that. The projections all pretty much agree on what he’ll do in 2008.

Projection comps:

Marcels:	.263/.315/.385	9HR	55RBI
Bill James:	.266/.333/.380	9HR	57RBI
CHONE:		.267/.332/.388	8HR	54RBI