The Red Sox in 2013

Considering I’m finding politics so depressing lately, I thought I’d write about something that isn’t as depressing … but its close. The 2013 Red Sox will likely be one of the most interesting teams in the majors considering how the 2012 Red Sox pathetic 93-loss season lead to GM Ben Cherington’s colossal disassembly of the team, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles (along with their quarter-of-a-billion dollar contracts) for prospects (some pretty decent). This leaves the Sox in full rebuild mode, which also means wild speculations about the Sox can abound! Here’s my suggestions to Ben and company (because I know they want to hear it).

First off, what we have now

The Sox have a few potential major league free agents: James Loney, David Ortiz, Cody Ross, Aaron Cook, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Scott Podsednik and Vicente Padilla. So, if we want to examine what the Sox might look like if they did nothing, here is the roster:

Hitters

  • C Jarrod Saltalamacchia / Ryan Lavarnway
  • 1B Mauro Gomez / Jerry Sands
  • 2B Dustin Pedroia
  • SS Jose Iglesias / Mike Aviles / Pedro Ciriaco
  • 3B Will Middlebrooks / Danny Valencia
  • RF Ryan Kalish / Daniel Nava / Jerry Sands
  • CF Jacoby Ellsbury / Ryan Kalish
  • LF Ryan Sweeney / Daniel Nava
  • DH Empty

Pitchers

  • SP Clay Buchholz / Jon Lester / Felix Doubront / John Lackey / Franklin Morales / Zach Stewart / Rubby de la Rosa
  • RP Alfredo Aceves / Junichi Tazawa / Rich Hill / Craig Breslow / Mark Melancon / Andrew Miller / Clay Mortensen/ Scott Atchinson / Pedro Beato / Chris Carpenter (the other one) / Daniel Bard / Andrew Bailey

Not exactly the worldbeaters we are used to coming from Fenway. Now, some of these guys should like be nontendered or moved in one way or another – I’d include Aceves, Sweeney, Aviles, Atchinson (done after TJ surgery), maybe Stewart. In an ideal world where unicorns jump over rainbows, John Lackey is dealt with in a manner befitting a man of this stature. I don’t see any of them in the rebuilding Red Sox. A few more of these guys are great role players, but not anyone you’d loan your car to: Gomez, Ciriaco, Nava*, Valencia. You need players like this around, but they are, well, a dime a dozen. Where does that leave us?

The remaining Sox

  • C: Saltalamacchia / Lavarnway
  • 1B: Sands?
  • 2B: Pedroia
  • 3B: Middlebrooks
  • SS: Iglesias
  • RF: Kalish? / Sands?
  • CF: Ellsbury
  • LF: Empty (so lonely)
  • DH: Still, oh so empty
  • SP: Buchholz, Lester, Doubront, Lackey, Morales/de la Rosa
  • RP: Tazawa, Hill, Breslow, Melancon, Bailey, Mortensen, Bard, Miller, Carpenter, Beato

First, the good: The Sox are set at catcher, second, third and center. I might be in the minority, but I think they can put together a good bullpen merely from the arms on hand (and maybe throw in an Alex Wilson or a Brandon Workman).

The bad: The outfield is weak. Kalish could be good, or he could be Ryan Sweeney. Sands has no track record of MLB success, but at least he has somewhat of a (PCL) bat. Depth in the outfield is non-existant as we saw this year with the likes of Marlon Byrd, Podsednik, Che-Hsuan Lin and Jason Repko graces the pastures. The rotation doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence either – Buchholz, Lester and Doubront could all be solid, but after 2012, it is anyone’s guess. Lackey will be innings fodder while Morales and de la Rosa are interesting, they are also question marks.

The ugly: First is even worse – nobody even close to an MLB firstbaseman in the lot. Where to go from here …

The future Red Sox

Don’t get me wrong – the Sox have a good farm system right now. Its just that most aren’t ready to make that big leap from the minors to starting in the majors just yet. According to Soxprospects.com, the top 5 prospects are:

  1. Xander Bogaerts – SS (in AA)
  2. Matt Barnes – SP (in A)
  3. Jackie Bradley, Jr – OF (in AA)
  4. Allen Webster – SP (in AA)
  5. Rubby de la Rosa – SP (in AAA/majors)

The top 4 there are bonafide … but a ways away from the big club. Rubby is mentioned above. Some other interesting names are Bryce Brentz (OF – AAA), Drake Britton (SP – AA), Stolmy Pimental (SP – AA). Again, no one that can (likely) make an impact at the major league level in 2013 (but you never know).

So, what about free agents?

We should start with first base as it is the awful gaping hole on the Sox infield. It is an underwhelming bunch: mathematician, another kind of mathematician and a statistician. OK, no, but really … Lance Berkman? Aubrey Huff? Carlos Lee? Carlos Pena? Lots of guys with little to nothing left in the tank. There is always Kevin Youkilis and who knows, maybe with Valentine out, we can patch things up, but he looks a lot like toast too. Maybe Eric Chavez can play first? People mention Nick Swisher, but it sounds like he wants more (in both years and $$) than a rebuilding team would want to offer to a guy on the wrong side of 30.

For the outfield issue, the biggest move might be to bring back Cody Ross. He isn’t perfect, but he plays an adequate outfield, seems to like hitting at Fenway and shouldn’t be astronomical in price (unless the Yankees make a play). Upton, Victorino, Hamilton – they will all be too pricy. Jonny Gomes might be an interesting role player, especially if for some reason the Sox can’t resign David Ortiz (see below).

For DH, resign David Ortiz. It is that simple. Sure, you’re going to end up paying for “legacy”, but it is a no brainer on a team with a veteran presence like that beyond Dustin Pedroia.

Adding depth to the rotation via free agency is possible too – maybe Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez or Brandon McCarthy or the like. No big deals, though. Avoid Kyle Lohse at all costs as his magic will disappear outside of St. Louis (see also, Joel Piniero). Shawn Marcum is interesting. Again, not a lot to be giddy about there. As for the pen, if you wanted to add depth via minor league deals. I’ve always like JP Howell and Mark Lowe for no good reason whatsoever.

So, the Sox might need to make some deals, eh? I’m not going to suggest any pie-in-the-sky fleecing (like Felix for Lackey and two free tickets to the USS Constitution), but rather some sensible moves that could help solve some of the aforementioned problems.

  1. Deal Daniel Bard to Seattle for Mike Carp and Hector Noesi: Bard can likely bounce back, but probably not in Boston. Carp can play 1B and OF, maybe as a platoon with Sands and Noesi adds some rotation depth (really, he does).
  2. Deal Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales to Cincinnati for Drew Stubbs and prospect: With Billy Hamilton moving to CF, Stubbs time is near an end in Cincy. He was pretty bad in 2012, but has bounceback potential. Also allows for:
  3. Deal Jacoby Ellsbury to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum. OK, hear me out on this one. Why in the world would this happen? Well, SF needs outfielders and the Sox need a good starter. Tim has been terrible in 2012 and so was Ellsbury – but they’ve both in great (albeit Tim greater). Jacoby has one year of team control left, probably worth ~$9 million. Lincecum has one year left on his deal, worth $22 million*. The Sox can definitely afford to take on that extra money for the year of Lincecum. Heck, I’d throw in a prospect, maybe better one going to SF and less back to Boston. (*Edit: Oops, I thought it was $13 million. What’s $9 million amongst friends.)

Where does that leave the 2013 Red Sox?

Good question! I think they’d definitely be in shape for a run at the wild card(s). The roster would stack up like this:

  • C: Salty/Lavarnway – They will split time and we’ll all be happy with the results.
  • 1B: Eric Chavez – Just pray he doesn’t get hurt. Start praying now.
  • 2B: Pedroia – The rock.
  • 3B: Middlebrooks – Will come back nicely.
  • SS: Iglesias – Sure, he hitting might be a little ugly, but FIELDING.
  • RF: Ross  - He’ll be back
  • CF: Stubbs / Kalish – If Stubbs is terrible, install Kalish for the long haul.
  • LF: Sands / Carp – Might be a steep learning curve for playing the wall, but it happens to everyone.
  • DH: Ortiz – Until he retires.
  • Lineup: 1 Stubbs 2 Sands/Carp 3 Pedroia 4 Ross 5 Ortiz 6 Middlebrooks 7 Chavez 8 Salty/Lavarnway 9 Iglesias
  • SP: Lincecum, Buchholz, Lester, Lackey, Doubront – This rotation could be surprisingly solid and balanced
  • Pen: Bailey (closer), Tazawa and Hill (setup), Miller, Melancon, Breslow, Mortensen
  • Bench: Kalish, Carp/Sands, Lavarnway, Ciriaco

That leaves one great question – who the heck is the manager. As of October 11, we know that the Sox will interview Tim Wallach and Brad Ausmus. The rumours are that the Sox brass loves John Farrell. The media pundits love the idea of Jason Varitek. I think they’re all wrong. Of course, I have no idea who might be the winner here (and trust me, most people would love to manage the Red Sox) – maybe Joe McEwing or Tim Bogar … however, my hunch is it might be someone with no major league managerial experience.

There you have it. Pure speculation, but a 2013 Sox team that looks like that might be better than people expect … and much more likely than not, much better than the 2012 abomination.

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