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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Miguel Cabrera may be available

Peter Gammons of ESPN mentions that the third base market may be improving quite a bit, as sources say that the Marlins are looking to trade big bat Miguel Cabrera this offseason.

Miguel Cabrera at the batOne look at Cabrera and you’ll see that his bat is not the only thing that’s big: the guy has put on a ton of weight since entering the league. That could mean that his days of playing third base are numbered. The Fielding Bible, newly released for 2007, agrees, as he was rated the worst defensive third baseman in the majors over the past three seasons. He’s really a better fit in left field or first base going forward. Still, he is one of the major league’s most talented hitters at just 24 years old, hitting .313/.388/.542 and averaging 31 HR in 5 big league seasons (162 game average).

The native Venezuelan earned $7.5 million this past year, and the Marlins will be stretched as tight as Miguel’s pants if they keep him for 2008 because of salary arbitration (he’s got two more years before free agency). They are looking for a top pitching prospect as part of a package in return for the third baseman. The Yankees have an option here, as they are facing starting Wilson Betemit or Robinson Cano at third this year, if they can’t pry Mike Lowell away from the Red Sox. It would likely cost them lefty Philip Hughes, which Brian Cashman can’t be enthusiastic about.

As far as the Red Sox are concerned, acquiring Cabrera would likely cost Clay Buchholz and another top prospect. You could think of Cabrera as an eventual replacement for Manny Ramirez; maybe he could man first base, and Kevin Youkilis could slide back over to third base for the time being. A very tough call, as no one wants to see Buchholz go, and this would mean losing Youk’s glove over at first AND Lowell’s glove at third in the same offseason. Because Cabrera is so young, however, this is a deal worth considering.