Editor’s Note: Sorry this post is late, got caught in a central Pennsylvania snowstorm on the way home from Philadelphia last night.
Costello: Well then who’s on first?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow’s name.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The first baseman.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy playing…
Abbott: Who is on first!
Costello: I’m asking YOU who’s on first.
Abbott: That’s the man’s name.
Costello: That’s who’s name?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: Well go ahead and tell me.
Abbott: That’s it.
Costello: That’s who?
Abbott: Yes.

Costello: Look, you gotta first baseman?
Abbott: Certainly.
Costello: Who’s playing first?
Abbott: That’s right.
Costello: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?
Abbott: Every dollar of it.
Costello: All I’m trying to find out is the fellow’s name on first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy that gets…
Abbott: That’s it.
While all of the talk during the Hot Stove season seems to focus on the hot corner, the options facing the local nine on the “other” corner deserve equal consideration. If Mike Lowell does not return to Boston, the Red Sox are faced with a decision that either moves their Gold Glove first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, across the diamond, or trades away their top prospects for a Miguel Cabrera or Scott Rolen type. It would be difficult to see Jacoby Ellsbury or Clay Buchholz leave, especially after their electric performances in Fenway Park this past season. Buchholz’s no hitter and Ellsbury scoring from 2nd on a pass ball are two of the memories of a very memorable 2007 that won’t soon be forgotten.
Assuming the Sox keep the kids and move Youk, what is the answer at 1B? Let’s review some of the options.
Free Agents
Tony Clark, Ryan Klesko, Darin Erstad … move along, nothing to see here … just kidding. The youngest free agent available is Doug Mientkiewicz (34), and the most established is arguably Sean Casey. While I like Casey, who is a Wally Joyner/Mark Grace type hitter, he is a type B free agent. It is unlikely the Red Sox are going to part with any draft picks to fill the position with a player whose role with the team is only temporary.
Tony Clark is creating some buzz around the Hot Stove, especially with Minnesota, and reportedly is seeking a two-year, $4 million dollar deal. He is a professional ballplayer and a clubhouse guy, however it remains to be seen if the front office can forget he was paid $5 million to hit the Mendoza Line (.207) for the Sox in 2002. Arizona also remains in the hunt to resign Clark, so don’t expect to see him wearing the home whites at Fenway Park in 2008.
Some readers here at Fire Brand have mentioned Mientkiewicz coming back and serving the same role he had in 2004. Meintkiewicz actually hit over .300 twice in three years for Minnesota in the early part of the century, but he only hit .215 for Boston in 2004, and averaged .266 with six home-runs per season since. Add in the World Series ball incident, and Mientkiewicz appears to be an unlikely candidate to return.
On the Farm
Lars Anderson is the future at first for the Sox. He turned 20 in September, and hit .292 last year in A ball, including .343 during a 10 game stint at high-level A ball (Lancaster). SoxProspects.com has him as the organization’s sixth best prospect, BaseballAmerica has Anderson rated fifth. Although SoxProspects notes in his profile he strikes out too much, Anderson won the 2007 Minor League Top Quality Plate Appearances award by the Red Sox organization. Unfortunately, he won’t be ready until 2010, so its unlikely to even see him as a September call-up in 2008.
Brandon Moss is the other name floating around, ever since the Sox sent him to 1B for a few games in the Domincan Winter League. Moss played 15 games at the major league level in 2007, splitting time between LF and RF and hitting .280. He hit .285 at AA in 2006, and .282 at AAA in 2007, he has proven he can hit at every level and SoxProspects.com profile notes “he is a fantastic teammate and individual who takes joy in playing the game.” I have been unable to find any fielding data from the Aguilas Cibaenas, but I know Moss has been playing the majority of his games in the OF for the club. It would be interesting to see how he did playing the 1B position, and find out why he was moved back into the OF.
Ben Broussard may be available in Seattle, and even has potential to be non-tendered. Broussard is buried on the Mariners depth chart behind Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro, with neither likely to be traded because of their overcompensating and unattractive contracts. Broussard made only $3.55 million last year, but management in Seattle seems unwilling to pay more than that for a player who is merely a backup on their club.
Broussard projects to be an Adam LaRoche or Nick Johnson type player. In 2006, as a full time player, Broussard hit .285 with 21 home-runs for Cleveland and Seattle. He could be available cheap if he is tendered, and is a name to remember. More will be known about his availability following the arbitration deadline on December 7th, and I wouldn’t anticipate the Sox, or any other team, making a move on Broussard until then.
What other names are available? Very little. Todd Helton, who the Sox almost acquired last off-season, is now off the trading block. Mark Teixiera may become available should Atlanta struggle in the beginning of the year and they feel they will not be able to resign the Scott Boras client to a long-term deal. The Rangers may look to deal Jared Saltalamacchia, the switch hitting catcher they acquired from the Braves in the Tiexiera deal. Salty played 38 games at first last season, and the Rangers have a logjam of young catchers.
On the Roster
Keeping Kevin Youkilis at first seems to make the most sense, given he won a Gold Glove at the position and handled the World Series situation with David Ortiz so professionally. It would be difficult to find another major league player that, having the year Youk was having, would accept a role on the bench for the most important games of the year. Rumors float around about resigning Bobby Kielty and trying him at first, which would work nicely in a platoon role with Brandon Moss or Ben Broussard.
Then of course, there is always Big Papi. The man with the big smile and the balky knee is still serviceable on the field, although I don’t think anyone in the organization would want to risk injury by playing him there for a majority of the season. Looking at the situation theoretically, playing Ortiz would free up the DH position, allowing the Red Sox to sign a DH, Mike Sweeney is a name that comes to mind. Mike Piazza and Barry Bonds are also available, although Piazza desires to play on the West Coast or retire, and Bonds, well, I don’t think he’d quite fit in here.
Who’s on First?
What does all this mean? With Peter Gammons of ESPN reporting that the Yankees have lost interest in Mike Lowell and rescinded their offer, it appears Lowell may return to the Sox after all, although it is unlikely we will know how that situation turns out until after Miguel Cabrera is dealt. It would appear Lowell’s options have been reduced to Boston, Philadelphia, and the two Los Angeles teams. Since Philadelphia GM Pat Gillick has repeated his mantra to spend all available funds on pitching, and one of the two LA teams appear likely to acquire Cabrera, Boston’s three year, $42-45 million dollar offer may gain appeal to World Series MVP Lowell.
My money is on Lowell returning, on the Red Sox terms, and being a serviceable player during his final years here. We will never see another 2007 out of Lowell, but his regression should be counteracted by the progression of Dustin Pedroria, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis. Last week I said on the MVN Radio podcast that Lowell was gone, and Youk would be playing third. Now it appears Lowell may return at third, Youk will stay at first, and the Red Sox Nation will find out if living with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality isn’t such a bad thing after all.