Today is the first in a three version series on an offseason blueprint the Red Sox should follow. What should their starting lineup and pitching staff look like entering the 2010 season?
I’ll take a look at one possible scenario while Mike and Tim follow up with their own in the next two days. Before I jump in, let me clarify something important: this is not necessarily a prediction of what the Sox will do, nor an endorsement of a particular path. All this is is simply food for thought. What possible scenarios could Boston pursue? Well, this particular one involves three major names being added to the team while losing Clay Buchholz.
BRING BACK JASON VARITEK. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Boston has a $5 million team option for Varitek that is completely unlikely to pick up. After all, Varitek would be the backup catcher — and you don’t pay $5 million for a backup catcher. What Boston should do is sit down with Varitek and tell him how important he remains to the team.
Tell him he would be Josh Beckett’s personal catcher, as well as pick up additional starts here and there when the first- and third-baseman need to be spelled. That would give him around 50 starts behind the dish, a pretty healthy number. If Varitek wants to play more, then there’s not much else you can do. At this point, I would be shocked if any team viewed Varitek as a starter. He would be better off picking up his $3 million player option to return as a backup.
RESIGN JASON BAY.
I personally do not feel that Bay returns to Boston, but that’s for another article. In this scenario, Boston’s brought Jason Bay back to patrol right field. I’ve done this because essentially, Bay is the only legitimate power hitter on the team currently, and the Sox can’t lose that. If they lose Bay, they’re limited to replacing him with Matt Holliday, and I’ve elected to bring Bay back based on three key elements: (1) Bay has proven he can hit in the American League. (2) Bay has proven he can succeed in Boston. (3) Bay likely will cost less than Holliday.
PICK UP ALEX GONZALEZ’S OPTION.
In this scenario, I struggled to find a home for Jonathan Papelbon, either exploring left field, third base, first base and shortstop. I found no realistic options for the former three, and Papelbon for J.J. Hardy or Stephen Drew doesn’t really line up well. Thus, I’ve opted to junk trying to trade Papelbon and bring him back for another year while picking up Alex Gonzalez’s option and worrying about shortstop later.
It will give Boston a chance to further evaluate Jed Lowrie an additional year as well. Papelbon will stay with the Sox not only because there wasn’t a fit to be found, but because I worry about the signal that would be sent by moving Papelbon after his historic collapse in the postseason. That, and Papelbon should still be good for an elite year next year. I’m also harboring hope that said collapse will make him wake up and realize he can’t keep being a fastball guy only.
Boston may not be pleased with Papelbon’s refusal to sign a long-term contract, his monetary demands and his off-the-cuff remarks, but they’re certainly pleased with his production on the field. So, as a result of not trading Papelbon, I’ve made Boston strike hard and fast in the free agent market…
SIGN CHONE FIGGINS.
Yes, this means Mike Lowell will be headed somewhere, but we’ll get to that. I’ve opted to sign Figgins because in my research over the year and in recent days, I’ve found it next to impossible to find a way for Boston to get back to it’s stature of having two sluggers in the heart of the order that strikes fear into opposing teams. The team has been built this way since 2003, but it’s time to transition to a different way of doing things. Boston may have had the second best offense in the majors according to OPS last year, but it was an offense without many teeth. It’s time to transition from molars to incisors.
This is where Figgins comes in. Figgins will not only contribute on defense (last two years: 13.8, 11.8 UZR/150) but his offense will do wonders. No, his .393 slugging percentage isn’t high, but his .395 OBP and 42 stolen bases make him very valuable. If you slot him in leadoff, you can move Ellsbury down in the order to eighth and transition the Sox to an offense more what the Twins and Angels provide. Not because of the Twins and Angels, but because of what the current personnel and options demand.
(I’ll mention here that Figgins is past 30 and will likely get a 4-5 year deal around $10 million annually. That scares me.)
SIGN RICH HARDEN.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Theo has had his eye on Harden for quite a while and I jumped all over this a couple weeks ago. Harden can bring a ton to the mound and can really deepen the Sox staff.
Ah, the whole injury bit, though. We can’t rely on him, which is why the Sox will have to…
PICK UP TIM WAKEFIELD’S OPTION.
Wakefield has communicated he has no interest in retiring. Given he made the All-Star team in 2009, is there really any doubt Boston should bring him back?
If there’s no room in the rotation, he can slide into one of the available slots in the bullpen. Wake’s production and versatility make it a no-brainer that he returns.
TRADE FOR FELIX HERNANDEZ.
At the trading deadline, it came about that the Red Sox had been trying to acquire Felix Hernandez. Understandably, the Mariners wanted a lot for King Felix — but they weren’t opposed to trading him. Why not? Because he may price himself out of Seattle’s range.
Boston needs to really extend its starting pitching depth if the offense is going to take a step back in the power department. What it gains in OBP, speed and defense it will lose with people who can juice the ball — Mike Lowell could juice the ball. In this scenario, I have Mike Lowell, Casey Kotchman and Clay Buchholz as major league pieces headed to Seattle for Hernandez. (I’m not bothering to flush out the full deal … but we would have to give up some significant minor league pieces in this deal as well.)
For Seattle, Buchholz replaces Hernandez. Lowell becomes their third baseman as Adrian Beltre is set to become a free agent. Kotchman slots in as a Gold Glove defender at first, and the Mariners can opt to bring Russ Branyan back regardless as a DH.
From Boston’s perspective, Hernandez protects against Josh Beckett leaving as a free agent after 2010. If he doesn’t, then who’s complaining? A deep pitching staff is what we thought we had in 2009 … might as well make darn sure we have it in 2010 and beyond.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 roster:
3B Chone Figgins
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez (Jason Varitek backup)
1B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
LF Jason Bay
RF J.D. Drew
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (Brian Anderson backup)
SS Alex Gonzalez (Jed Lowrie backup)
SP Josh Beckett
SP Jon Lester
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka
SP Rich Harden
SP/RP Tim Wakefield
RP (Same as 2009)
CL Jonathan Papelbon
What do you guys think about this blueprint? Can it be done? Should it be done?