To those of you who read Nick Cafardo regularly, this will come as no surprise to you. Mr. Cafardo has a giant non-sexual man crush on Bobby Valentine. Just huge. Massive. At times, the gushing is unbarable to the point of being a bit embarrassing. Still, Cafardo seems like a nice enough guy, so I won’t be too hard on him. I really can’t say too much about the Cafardo-Valentine man crush because my man crush for Cafardo has me hiding in his bushes, stealing his mail, and answering his baseball questions. Such is life.

Now, on to the bag!

While I agree that the Red Sox are in apparent need of a strong manager, I like the idea of possibly finding that next great manager. In your thoughts, what are the downsides to hiring a manager without major league managing experience like a Torey Lovullo as opposed to someone you’ve documented your support for, Bobby Valentine? Also, where is Mike Stanley these days? I always thought he would make a good manager. Love your Sunday baseball column!

Let me start out by saying that I really enjoy Nick’s Sunday baseball column. If you’re not reading it, you should. I don’t agree with everything he says, but the reporting is top notch.

The primary downside to hiring a manager without major league experience is he’s completely untested. A candidate can come across seasoned and well prepared during an interview, yet react very differently during tense in-game situations. With an experienced manager, you have a known quantity. There’s a large sample of outcomes from which you can determine his likelihood of success. Going by win-loss record isn’t usually sufficient enough because some managers (like Manny Acta, for instance) are decent managers that have been cursed with crappy teams. As a result, it’s best to look at his behaviors in specific situations.

The Red Sox, save for Gene Lamont, seem to be going in the direction of hiring a “no name” manager. To be fair, with the exception of Bobby V who doesn’t fit the organizational philosophy, there’s not much out there in terms of big names. Leyland, Madden, and Scioscia are locked up with their current teams; Torre seems happy with his job in the Commissioner’s office; Pinella and LaRussa recently retired; and Francona recently parted ways with the club. The Red Sox have no choice, but to interview no name candidates.

Dale Sveum will have his second interview on Wednesday, and Cherington may or may not call back a second candidate. If they do, my bet is it’s Mackanin or Lovullo. I’m hoping Mackanin gets hired, but I’m naming Sveum as the odds on favorite to win the job.

Hello Nick, what do you think about the Red Sox trading Jacoby Ellsbury and another prospect (Jed Lowrie?) to the Giants for Tim Lincecum? I think it would be a huge deal for both teams as the Red Sox would have an amazing rotation and the Giants would get a great offensive center fielder they desperate need, plus the shortstop they also need. I would do it if I were Ben Cherington. Would you?

I would make a joke about Jed Lowrie being included, but a few Giants fans I’m e-migos with like the idea of Lowrie in a Giants uniform. At the very least, it’d be a change of pace for the Giants to have someone under-30 manning shortstop for them. I don’t think this trade suggestion is bad per se. It’s certainly a jumping off point. Still, I don’t see the Giants moving Tim Lincecum only a week after they traded Jonathan Sanchez to the Royals.

As it stands, the Giants rotation is Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito. The top three is unbelievable, but the four and five spots are question marks. Vogelsong came out of nowhere last year to pitch like an All-Star. Can he retain his command, and repeat his performance? Maybe, but it’s not a guarantee. Zito was a replacement level pitcher last season, and seems to be declining fast. If the Giants traded Lincecum, everyone would move up a spot, and Erik Surkamp who has a fastball in the upper 80s, would be forced to step in. Right off the bat, we’re talking about a loss of 3-4 wins in the rotation. For a team with a chronically weak offense, that’s huge.

Lastly, Ellsbury’s addition would seem to be a redundancy given Cabrera’s presence on the roster. Clearly, Ellsbury is superior in every way (especially offensively), but I don’t see Sabean adding him to the roster.

Who do you see as a better fit to play right field, Carlos Beltran or Grady Sizemore?

This is a GREAT question, so thank you for asking. Both players are oft-injured, but Beltran is the better fit at the moment. After missing considerable time over the previous two seasons, Beltran returned action healthy and produced a 5-win season. Sizemore has been chronically injured for three straight seasons. At this point, he’s almost like the position player version of Mark Prior. Great talent, but can’t stay on the field.

In terms of pure value and upside, Sizemore is the better choice. He’s young, supremely talented, and should be pretty cheap this winter. If he can stay healthy in 2012, he has enough talent that he could have a huge year. Beltran, on the other hand, is a known quantity that will be looking for a 2-3 year deal worth $15M per season. It really depends on what you’re looking for. Upside or consistency?

Hi Nick: I am puzzled that the Red Sox did not sign Jonathan Papelbon.They are quite inconsistent. They posted $50 million to have the right to sign Daisuke Matzusaka. They gave J.D. Drew a contract of $70 million. They gave John Lackey [$82.5 million]. Papelbon is young and has been the best relief pitcher for the Red Sox ever. Now they are going to give David Ortiz, who is old, slow, and one-dimensional a two-year deal of at least $20 million.They also gave Carl Crawford $142 million..You have to be an outsider to get millions from tha Red Sox. How can you explain that? We will lose Ellsbury very soon.

The Drew signing, though defendable, was a little confusing at the time given his injury history. The Dice-K deal was widely considered to be a smart move considering his immense talent and upside. Crawford was/is a 29-year old dynamic player that does everything well. He’s young and talented enough to make a big comeback next year. Lackey…well, I hated the idea of going beyond 3/$40M, so I won’t defend that deal. The front office deserves that black mark.

Yes, Papelbon is relatively young, and has been one fo the best relief pitchers in Red Sox history. Still, it’s not smart to lock down players beyond their prime seasons. That’s precisely what the Phillies have done with Papelbon. I think the Red Sox have learned from their past mistakes, and were trying to avoid falling into the same bad habits. The Red Sox have Daniel Bard waiting in the wings already, so the club already has a capable replacement who’s cheap and ready to step in.

As for Ortiz, I don’t disagree. I think the Red Sox should look to give him a one year deal with a club option for a second. Anything beyond that much, and they’re overpaying what the market will bear.

As for Ellsbury, keep a close eye on the Matt Kemp negotiations (reportedly near agreement on an eight year $160M contract) with the Dodgers.  It could have a major impact on Ellsbury’s asking price once he hits the market after the 2013 season.

Starting pitching: There was a time when Roy Oswalt was one of the best pitchers in the National League. Is the consensus that age and injuries have made him a bad gamble for a team that needs a fourth or fifth starter? If that’s the consensus, is it possible that that will drive his asking price far enough down that the Red Sox wouldn’t have to gamble very much money on him and it would turn into a worthwhile low-stakes signing after all?

Roy Oswalt’s agent claims that his client’s back is full healthy and will not be a problem in the future. Then again, he’s paid to represent his client, and net him the best contract possible. As such, we need to take such information with a grain of salt.

Personally, I have a few concerns about Oswalt. His back has been a recurring problem for the past couple of years. Last season, the pain was so unbearable, he mentioned he was considering retirement after the season. Still, Oswalt’s an excellent pitcher that should fit easily into the number three or four spot of the rotation on most teams. He’s a smart move at 2/$24M, but it’d be preferrable to see him around 1/$10M. With less than optimal payroll flexibility, a weak starting pitchin market, and two gaping holes in the rotation; the Red Sox will certainly kick the tires on a medium-risk, high reward pitcher like Oswalt.

HI Nick. Couple of a questions:

* Could the Sox make Aceves the closer? It seems he would have the arm and attitude to make it work.

*Any truth to what Jim Bowden said about Carl Crawford being traded to the Cubs this year?

*Will Xander Bogaerts stay at SS or move to the outfield? He seems to be coming on very quickly?

To answer your questions:

  1. Sure, they could make Alfredo Aceves the closer, but I’m not sure why they would. Aceves doesn’t strikeout enough batters, and his command is pretty spotty. He seems to work best in the swingman role where he can migrate from spot starter to long reliever.
  2. That was purely speculation. I don’t see how it would happen. The Red Sox would have to take on Alfonso Soriano‘s contract to get it done, and that would be a huge loss for team. Yes, Soriano’s remaining contract is shorter, but Crawford projects to provide considerably greater value. I fully expect Crawford to bounce back to being a 4-5 win player in 2012.
  3. It might be a little too early to make that determination on Bogaerts. He’s only 19, and should spend 2012 between low-A and high-A ball. Much of it depends on how he improves defensively and whether or not Jose Iglesias continues to develop. Given his bat and average speed, he profiles better at third base or a corner outfield spot than center field.

Although Carlos Beltran would be a good fit for RF and the second spot in the lineup, wouldn’t it be better to get a righthanded-hitting platoon player and spend more on pitching? In that regard, they can either go after a starter like Yu Darvish, Mark Buehrle or Edwin Jackson or a reliever like Brad Lidge or Joe Nathan and make Alfredo Aceves or Daniel Bard a starter.

Agreed on the platoon situation. I would love to see someone like Josh Willingham or David DeJesus play right field, even if it’s only in a platoon situation. They’re cheap, and should bring considerable value to the club.

As for the starting pitching, I’m becoming increasingly convinced the price tags on Darvish and Buehrle will be cost prohibitive for the Red Sox at this time. Edwin Jackson could be a great pick-up though. He’s only 28 years old, has ace quality stuff, and is a consistently 3.5 fWAR pitcher. If the Red Sox can get him for 3/$30M, they have to pull the trigger.

Last thing, I love Nathan as a pick up on the cheap. Especially, if he’s a set-up guy.

First, with everything that`s gone on in the last couple of months do you think the team can take a public relations hit like losing Papi and Pap? I mean after what they made last year the money difference won`t be that significant. Second, do you think it’s time to move Kevin Youkilis? Put a package together with him, Lars Anderson (who really has no future here) and one of the kids for a solid starter, and then sign Aramis Ramirez. Just a thought, I really think they need to go after Carlos Beltran, use the money they save on Drew and he’d still come cheaper. Last, change the culture completely around and hire Sandy Alomar as the the manager. OK, looks like I have it all figured out!

The good news for everyone is that the Red Sox front office does what’s best for the club–not what the public wants them to do. In that vein, they can take a public relations hit of losing both Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz. Still, management is pretty savvy, and they realize they have to appease the fans somehow. They’ll find a reasonable solution to replace both players if it comes to it.

Secondly, I don’t understand why everyone’s so eager to trade Youkilis. He’s a great trade piece, so it’s worth considering. Still, I’m a little bothered by him being included in pretty much every trade suggestion. As for Lars Anderson, perhaps Cherington should shop him to Billy Beane. He has a collection of failed first base prospects, and Anderson would complete the set.

Beltran is a nice player, and I’m on record as supporting his acquisition at the right price. Aramis Ramirez, though, not so much. He’s good, but not great. His defense is questionable, and he’s no longer the .385 wOBA hitter he was for many years. Considering his likely salary, I’m passing.

I am surprised that the Sox would even consider going after Carlos Beltran. Yes, he is [a switch-hitter], and may have some pop left in his bat. But his age? There are a couple of players in the Sox system (Kalish, Josh Reddick, even Darnell McDonald) who would be able to play right field. They should use these players and use their money toward pitching. I would also try trading Lowrie. He cannot seem to stay healthy enough to play a full season. I was impressed with him in the beginning but the the last few seasons have been too much. If he can’t be healthy then it’s time to unload.

Kalish and Reddick are likely overrated, and Darnell McDonald doesn’t deserve a spot on the Red Sox 40 man roster. I can see why you’d want to trade Lowrie, but do you think other teams will be interested in obtaining an oft-injured utility infielder? I don’t.

Making a firm respectful offer to Bobby Valentine seems like the obvious choice for the Red Sox. He has the experience, the ‘big market’ temperament, baseball IQ off the charts; he is a great communicator and commands respect. I understand due diligence, but with two other also in the hunt, why not give him the respect he deserves and make him an offer he can not refuse? Most of the other interviewees are minor leaguers compared to Bobby Valentine. Wouldn’t it make sense to let him know that we like him and need him ?

This is what we call Nick-baiting. Very nicely done Dana G. of Los Angeles. I salute you.

What current major league players does Ryan Lavarnway compare to? He seems to resemble a Mike Napoli-type player. Do his projected numbers in the majors support this?

Peter from Alexandria, VA is not my neighbor–at least I don’t think he is. Still, it’s nice someone else sees the resemblence between Napoli and Lavarnway. The great Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal actually made this same comparison last month during the World Series. Very good catch. If Lavarnway becomes a Napoli clone, I’ll be thrilled.

As far as looking for a righthanded hitters for the outfield why can’t the Sox at least look at moving Carl Crawford to right? He has the speed to cover a lot of ground and left feild traditionally requires the least amout of fielding skill. This would open more possiblities for the vacancy.

It’s not a bad idea, but his skills in left field won’t necessarily translate to right field. Yes, he has excellent range, speed, and skill, but he’s essentially learning a new position. Left and right field aren’t any more interchangeable then first base and third base. Plus, Crawford’s arm is pretty weak, which would make him somewhat of a liability (with runners on base) on balls hit to very deep right.

With the search for a replacement manager dragging, why has there been no mention of Don Baylor for the position?

Because the Red Sox front office is smart, and they’re not interested in interviewing a manager that isn’t deserving of such a job. Just because you have previous experience, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified for the job. It also doesn’t mean you should have ever been selected for such a position in the first place.

Nick, I’ve been hearing alot about this Cuban player Yoenis Cespedes. Watched his “infomercial” and looks pretty impressive. What are the chances he could be our right fielder next year? Thanks

Cespedes has mad tools and could be a huge star if he develops as expected. Plus, the guy can leg press 1300 pounds, and is absolutely jacked. The sky is the limit for this kid. If he signed with the Red Sox, I think RSN would be very excited; especially given the lack of super high end talent that’s in the farm system.

Nick, isn’t it ridiculous that the Red Sox won’t issue No. 21? Traitor Clemens is long gone having spurned the Sox twice (remember 2007? He took Yankee $$$$ rather than come back here to help us win a series). And don’t say this is like Jim Rice’s situation, just waiting for the Hall to beckon. If by some miracle Traitor gets in the Hall, he’ll go in as a proud member of the Evil Empire. Enough! Issue No. 21 to some scrub in spring training this year!

Blah, blah, blah. Roger Clemens is one of the three best pitchers to ever wear a Red Sox uniform. (Cy Young and Pedro Martinez are the other two.) Clemens didn’t spurn the Red Sox twice. The Red Sox spurned him after the 1996 season. I’m not going to go into the details, but as a Red Sox fan, you should be aware of this rather famous story. I would like to go on record as saying I hope Clemens makes it into the Hall of Fame. I won’t get into a discussion about steroids because we could argue for days about it, but he deserves the honor. When/if he gets in, it will definitely be as a member of the Red Sox. He can request to go in as a Yankee, but the Hall as the final say. His best and most memorable seasons were with the Red Sox.