MLB: Padres vs Dodgers July 26

With respect to both Evan and Mike’s blueprints and analysis preceding me, I chose to take a slightly different direction with the 2010 Red Sox.

I think Theo Epstein and company will be aggressive this off season. No matter what you heard at the end of the season in the “season wrap” press conference from Epstein, I think he’s learned from his mistake last hot stove in letting Mark Teixeira slip through their fingertips.

While I believe that Theo would rather spend his chips and time trying to pry a young, talented and under team control starter to slot in at the top of the rotation with Lester and Beckett (i.e. Felix Hernandez), I don’t believe that will be the route that the Red Sox take given the prohibitive ask that it would take to swing that deal.

Trade Clay Buchholz, Lars Anderson, Manny Delcarmen, and Michael Bowden to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez

Instead, despite reports that the San Diego Padres aren’t looking to shop their star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez this off season, I think that is exactly where Theo and team will level their gaze, rebuilding their team around a player with nearly all the strengths that they missed out on with Mark Teixeira at a fraction the cost.

Gonzalez, who is under contract to make $11.25 million over the next two seasons, has established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game and one that may just be entering his prime. Looking at FanGraphs player value rankings for 1B, only Albert Puljos and Prince Fielder (don’t even consider bringing Fielder to Boston over Gonzalez) ranked higher than Gonzalez in 2009 – not even Mark Teixeira.

What more do you need to know than increasing walk rates, decreasing strike out rates, increasing power stats and wOBA with below average BABIP. A-Gon is A-Monster; and wait…it gets better.

He is nearly twice the hitter away from Petco Park as he was at Petco Park in 2009. Tell me that doesn’t make you drool.

So why would San Diego be willing to part with such a talent?

Simple…his value will never be higher to an organization that is more than just an Adrian Gonzalez away from competing for a World Series title. If they can score a haul headlined by a potential top of the line starter in Buchholz, back of the bullpen reliever in Delcarmen, another future piece in the rotation in Bowden and a replacement for Gonzalez himself down the line in Anderson, haven’t they gotten value for two years of Gonzalez’ service?

Bring in Holliday to replace Jason Bay

Mike did too good a job explaining this yesterday, so I won’t rehash. But I will add this, and this, and this. Notice a consistent presence near the tops of those lists? I do think there is danger in dealing with Scott Boras, but I would be comfortable with five years and $75 to $80 million and I probably would be ok with the Red Sox going as far north as $90 million (half the total investment they would have had to put into Mark Teixeira).

Should negotiations not go the way of the Sox, the fallback position of Bobby Abreu, Jermaine Dye or Johnny Damon bridging the gap to potential 2011 free agents Carl Crawford or Jasyon Werth still seem like better options than investing too many years into Jason Bay (who if his market was closer to three years with a vesting option for a fourth at $14 million per, I would be more willing to consider).

Fill in the gaps

Just because the John Smoltz/Brad Penny experiment didn’t work, doesn’t mean Theo won’t go to that well again in 2010. Like Mike and Evan, I think Rich Harden is destined for Boston and I think Theo will look to bring in another “insurance/potential bust” arm like Ben Sheets to compliment Tim Wakefield at the back of the rotation.

Alex Gonzalez is an expensive $6 million dollars. While you overpay to keep him for one year, it allows you another year to get a read on Jed Lowrie and his potential future at the position instead of investing too much money in a “Marco Scutaro”.

Jason Varitek will pick up his end of the option to be the $3 million dollar Beckett-special.

Neither Billy Wagner nor Takashi Saito will be retained with the Red Sox reaching out to free agents like Kiko Calero or Brandon Lyon to fill in the middle of the pen.

While they may look at dealing Jonathan Papelbon and retaining Billy Wagner this off season, I don’t think you will get the value for Papelbon on the market that you would deem worthy in return. I’ve got a feeling that “Game Three” didn’t settle to well with Paps and he’ll be out for blood in 2010.

The Red Sox will find a trade partner for Mike Lowell to accommodate Youkilis’ move back across the diamond. They won’t ask for much back in return and may have to eat some of Lowell’s salary, but I could see him landing somewhere like Seattle or Los Angeles (Angels) for a middle reliever to replace free agents that may be leaving those rosters.

2010 Starting Roster

C Victor Martinez (Jason Varitek as back up)

1B Adrian Gonzalez

2B Dustin Pedroia

3B Kevin Youkilis

SS Alex Gonzalez (Jed Lowrie backup)

LF Matt Holliday

CF Jacoby Ellsbury

RF JD Drew

DH David Ortiz

SP1 Josh Beckett

SP2 Jon Lester

SP3 Rich Harden

SP4 Daisuke Matsuzaka

SP5 Tim Wakefield

SP6 Ben Sheets

SP7 Junichi Tazawa

BP: Ramon Ramirez

BP: Fernando Cabrera

BP: Kiko Calero

BP: Brandon Lyon

BP: Daniel Bard

BP: Hideki Okajima

CL: Jonathan Papelbon

In total that team would be in the $125 to $130 million dollar range with core group of controlled players, money leaving the books after the 2010 season to extend the likes of Gonzalez and Beckett and some talent remaining in the lower levels of the minor league organization.

Thoughts? Bay vs. Holliday vs. Abreu? Did we give up too much or not enough for Adrian Gonzalez? Is there enough pitching here to make it to the post season?