MLB: MAY 03 Red Sox at Rays

As Oakland GM Billy Beane once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “the first two months are finding out what you have, the next two getting what you need, the last two trying to make the playoffs.”
Well, we’ve just passed the two month mark, and we’re already confident there will be changes ahead. Brad Penny has been the most inefficient starting pitcher on the team and with John Smoltz aiming to return June 16 and Clay Buchholz/Michael Bowden in the wings, Penny’s not long for Boston. That is, barring a surprise — and we know how baseball is chock full of them.
Penny won’t fetch an impact player on his own, but if you pair him with Buccholz or Bowden, we could be looking at our new designated hitter.
Yeah, I just said we could have a new DH. Part of the next couple of months will be giving up on David Ortiz, which seems inevitable as I watch him flail at 86-mph fastballs.
I will never boo David Ortiz, and you can never make me. He’s meant too much to me, but at some point, and soon, even I will have to concede that he should be out of the lineup.
That could happen fairly soon. Once Penny can be traded after June 15 (it’s no accident that the potential timetable for Smoltz is June 16), it will be time to explore benching Big Papi. If Theo elects to bring in a significant hitter, Papi can go on the disabled list with a phantom injury (actually, it may not be as phantom as we think… doesn’t something have to be bothering him?) that will knock him out for the rest of the month.
Give him the maximum 30 days rehab time in the minors, and he’s looking at an activation around August 1.
That’s plenty of time to bring in an impact hitter and have Ortiz work out whatever issues he has in the minors. If he can, great. Bring him back from the stretch run and celebrate. If he can’t, then we have to think about the unenviable task of releasing him. Now there’s a decision I don’t want to make.
For all the team’s issues, we’re still hovering around first. The bullpen has been great and aside from Ortiz and the error-prone shortstops (which could change if the Sox acquire Jack Wilson in his walk year), the offense has been great as well.
We won’t be able to last around first if we keep giving at-bats to Ortiz and having those at-bats turn into absolutely nothing. It just can’t happen, and I think everyone’s starting to realize that. We’re past the denial/hopeful period, and now we’re all accepting reality — except for Ortiz (at least I hope).
Let’s look briefly at what we need to address the next two months:

  • Of course, the elephant in the room — designated hitter. This could be filled by Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham, Victor Martinez, Mark DeRosa or any number of other candidates. Whoever the candidate, the choice has to be made soon otherwise we might not be able to dig ourselves out of the hole of over 200 at-bats of futility.
  • Shortstop. Lugo’s doing okay with the bat but his range is extremely limited and I’m not convinced he’s fully over his injury. He says he is… if true, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of his career. Green keeps surprising offensively but the warts are starting to show in his defensive game. Jack Wilson from the Pirates and Cristian Guzman are outside possibilities, but Jed Lowrie might just be the answer to our prayers once he learns how to hit.
  • Of course, the ever elusive future catcher. Jarrod Saltamalacchia, Taylor Teagarden, Max Ramirez, Angel Salome… the future catchers are out there. Question is: can Theo get him? Better question: does he want to? Never know, maybe the club is content to ride Varitek and Kottaras (or another backup catcher_ out until after 2010 when Joe Mauer becomes a free agent. If true, I’d hardly be pleased — with the Twins’ new stadium and tons of other teams eager to throw money at him (like oh, say, the Yankees?)… if we get Mauer, I’ll be thrilled — but also shocked, because I just don’t see it happening as much as we want it to.

With Brad Penny available, the odds we make a trade before the trading deadline is near 100 percent. What about an impact trade, though? I’m not sure on that — even though I think the club could use it. World Series teams don’t have major holes at DH and shortstop (and by shortstop, I mean either hitting or fielding — you can get away with one, but the absence of none is not good). Theo could easily decide to trade Penny for a good Double-A prospect and ride out the rest of the season.
I think that would be a mistake. Do you?