GM for the Day: Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox suffered through an interesting 2011 season.  The biggest collapse in baseball history was a terrible way to end it, but fans looking for big changes aren’t getting them this offseason.  The team doesn’t look to be spending money, as ownership doesn’t want to go over the luxury-tax threshold, causing a patchwork rotation and a Winter of a lack of movement in Free Agency.  The team did make a couple of trades, grabbing some bullpen help from Houston and Oakland, along with their “right fielder of the future(?)” in Ryan Sweeney.  Let’s take a look at their current roster:

2 Catchers: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach

1B: Adrian Gonzalez

2B: Dustin Pedroia

3B: Kevin Youkilis

SS: Marco Scutaro

LF: Carl Crawford

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury

RF: Ryan Sweeney

DH: David Ortiz

Bench: Mike Aviles (INF), Ryan Lavarnway (1B/C/DH), Nick Punto (INF), Darnell McDonald (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Vicente Padilla

Relief Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Bobby Jenks, Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves and Matt Albers

The Red Sox are FINALLY out from under J.D. Drew’s contract, but they’ve invested huge amounts of money into Adrian Gonzalez (so far, so good) and Carl Crawford (huge flop).  They also gambled on John Lackey’s arm and lost, and have dealt with ups, downs and, eventually, injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Due to those monetary issues, the Red Sox find themselves in a tough situation.  If ownership isn’t going to pay the luxury-tax, are they going to be willing to face the backlash from fans who, suddenly, are used to winning?  With Lester, Beckett and Buchholz (if healthy), the Sox have a solid foundation at 1-3 in the rotation, but the rest of it is a nightmare.  The bullpen looked like a total loss, but they dealt Josh Reddick and a couple of prospect for Bailey and Sweeney, then dealt Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to Houston for Mark Melancon.  However, they have Vicente Padilla, Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, Aaron Cook and other fecal matter to fill out their rotation.  You have to wonder if they were hoping the Cubs tossed Matt Garza to them for Theo Epstein because Ben Cherington has really done nothing to address the need for starters.  Signing off the scrap heap isn’t something that the 2004-current Red Sox have done.  There isn’t anything else out there if they aren’t willing to fork over cash for Edwin Jackson.  They can wait for  Matsuzaka to come back in the middle of 2012, he is making his way back from Tommy John surgery, to see if he has anything left in the final year of his deal.  Lackey is out for all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery in November.  The current list of “solid arms” that remain Free Agents would be: Jackson, Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez (he hasn’t “officially” retired), Kevin Millwood, Brad Penny, Scott Kazmir, Rich Harden, and Livan Hernandez.  Not really the “outstanding” group, eh?  For what it’s worth, they could probably get Millwoord, Penny, Harden or Hernandez on a Minor League deal at this point.  Those guys will be looking for a landing spot where they could break camp with the team, and based on Daniel Bard’s September and awful results as a starter in the Minors and Vicente Padilla’s absolutely terrible looking face, any one of them could be better fits, although, they are just more of the scrap heap-types.

The offense is solid.  There is no way that Carl Crawford is as bad as he was in 2011.  Take into account that in 2011 his K-rate was 19.3% (compared to a career 14.7% rate), his BB-rate was 4.3% (compared to a career 5.3% rate), his BABIP was .299 (his career BABIP is .328), a career low OBP (.289), a career worst in steals (18, stole 9 in 63 games in 2002 but it wasn’t a full season), and a suck-factor of “holy crap”, and you know he is going to become an average Carl Crawford in 2012, if not the actual Crawford, who can be an All-Star and change a lineup and game due to his power and speed blend.  Ryan Sweeney could be considered the weak link, as Marco Scutaro is there for his glove but is still a solid on-base guy, but is he that bad?  Sweeney has a .286/.346/.383 slash in 1,051 AB since 2009.  He has a 156/97 K/BB, 62 2B, 8 3B…but just 8 HR.  He has just 8 SB in the same time period, too.  Sweeney has a solid glove and excellent gap power.  He could create a career out of slapping the ball the opposite way off of the Green Monster.  He could also make a living by being on the field, something Drew never could do.  Sox fans shouldn’t dismiss the skills Sweeney has.  He doesn’t have the name and he may not possess the power that Josh Reddick seemed to, but in the world of statistics and an organization that uses them, Sweeney could be very, very valuable.

If the Sox don’t get some starting pitching, the least they could do is grab an outfielder.  Darnell McDonald may have been the only player who showed up in the September collapse (.382 AVG, .950 OPS), but he stinks.  He can’t hit lefties, so if they want to platoon Sweeney, who has hit just .240/.316/.312 in 221 AB vs. lefties since 2009, then they need an upgrade at the #4 outfielder spot.  A solid fit, who wouldn’t cost too much (if he’ll accept the little bit of playing time), would be Jonny Gomes.  Gomes has hit .298/.383/.492 in 356 AB vs. lefties since 2009, smashing 23 2B and 14 HR.  He could fill in at DH on occasion, but he may look ugly out in right field.  He made five starts in right last season, but hadn’t played there since 2009 prior to that.  I’m not sure the value that Ryan Lavarnway provides on the current roster.  He could get sent back down to Triple-A to get regular at bats.  They could give Ryan Kalish some time to rot on the bench to start the year, especiallly after Carl Crawford’s wrist surgery that could keep him from starting the season healthy.  I had mentioned trading him in a package to Baltimore to acquire Nick Markakis.  The O’s probably wouldn’t do the deal until they accept that they stink worse than Boston’s current rotation; however, the deal still makes sense.  If ownership will open their purses (satchels?) and spend on the Sox instead of their soccer team, this deal could happen.  Wait until the Red Sox stink and Henry and Co. keep investing in the sport that doesn’t matter to Americans!  You think the blame game on Francona and clubhouse drinking got ugly this past offseason…

I think signing Livan Hernandez in that ballpark would be a joke.  Brad Penny still has, what seems to be, a heavy fastball, so he could do well in Boston on a Minor League deal.  I think ownership is serious about playing the “broke” game, so don’t count on another deal.  Gomes would be a solid platoon partner for Sweeney.  So, making just a couple of simple deals, the roster would change to:

2 Catchers: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach

1B: Adrian Gonzalez

2B: Dustin Pedroia

3B: Kevin Youkilis

SS: Marco Scutaro

LF: Carl Crawford

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury

RF: Ryan Sweeney

DH: David Ortiz

Bench: Mike Aviles (INF), Ryan Kalish (OF), Nick Punto (INF), Jonny Gomes (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Brad Penny and Vicente Padilla

Relief Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Bobby Jenks, Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard

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2 Comments

I think you hit the nail on the head for the most part, but two things have happened since your post…Scutaro is gone, and rumors say that the Sox are ready to make an offer for Oswalt. Your thoughts?

As ugly as Padilla is, that guy has moments of pure genius on the mound. I really hope that’s not the reason the Sox grabbed him. A team that has been dedicated to winning – not to mention a very moody fan base – needs to focus more on (focus, moron! HA!) a solid starter who has consistent moments of pure genius on the mound. Year after year the Sox pull out this starting rotation that 1-3 looks killer, and then I look at the 4 & 5 starters and shake my head. I can only pray at the beginning of each season that I’m proven wrong.

As a final note, it was definitely time for Papelbon to go. He would have taken too much of the team’s money. Do you believe how much the Phils overpaid for him?! On the verge of insanity, in my mind…

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Oswalt’s back is a mess. I think if they sign him, they still need someone else to cover the potential starts that he’ll miss. The name is nice. Scutaro was dealt to free up cash and that is it. Iglesias is ready but he can’t hit. Punto and Aviles can handle short, but it isn’t pretty either. They have apparently signed Cody Ross. He mashes LHP, so platooning him in RF with Sweeney could work out nicely. They need to start hanging onto talent, though. They’re getting old fast.

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