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Red Sox Hot Stove 2009 Preview

Adrian Gonzalez

Five years and two days ago, the Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series drought. Today they are 18 days removed from being swept by the Angels in the ALDS. This will be a big offseason for the Red Sox because they have some glaring holes they need to fill. The team needs to acquire a big bat for the middle of the order, figure out what to do with Jason Bay, and figure out what to do with Jonathan Papelbon. There will be a lot of talk about whether the team should go after John Lackey, Matt Holliday, or Aroldis Chapman because they are the “sexy” options.

It’s true that everyone thinks they can be the world’s greatest general manager and I am no different, so here is my take on what the Red Sox should do this offseason.

Catcher

Offseason Targets: Jason Varitek

The Red Sox will definitely decline Varitek’s $5 million team option in anticipation that Varitek will accept his $3 million player option. How can they be so sure? Varitek is not going to get that kind of money anywhere else because he contributes absolutely nothing offensively and can’t throw a runner out to save his life. He could retire, but there is zero chance Varitek plays on another baseball team in 2010. Consider it my lock of the century.

First Base

Offseason Target: Adrian Gonzalez

This is where the Red Sox could make their big splash. With Jed Hoyer becoming the new GM in San Diego, I expect him and Theo Epstein to strike a deal for slugger Adrian Gonzalez, much like Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale did with Kevin Garnett and Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli did with Matt Cassell.

The move makes sense for both teams because Adrian Gonzalez gives the Red Sox a big power bat in the middle of the lineup and San Diego needs to get good young prospects and continue building for the future. More importantly, this would take the pressure off the organization to sign Jason Bay to a long-term contract. With Gonzalez, the Red Sox won’t need Bay’s offense and can fill the left field spot with a cheaper option (read below). Jed Hoyer most definitely knows the ins and outs of the Red Sox farm system so I’m sure he has his favorite players that he would like to bring to San Diego with him.

Many people think that because Hoyer knows the Red Sox farm system so well it will be tougher to strike a deal between the two clubs, but I think it goes both ways because it’s is very possible that Jed Hoyer values players differently than Theo Epstein. You know, he is his own person.

Hoyer is moving from a top-10 farm system to a middle-of-the-road one so it would make sense for him to trade Gonzalez for prospects. The Red Sox will have to give up a nice package – maybe Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Manny Delcarmen and two lesser prospect to obtain Gonzalez. It’s a deal worth making, in my opinion, because the Red Sox can’t afford to miss out on another Mark Teixeira-type player.

Second Base

Offseason Target: We’re good here.

Nothing to see here with Dustin Pedroia inked until 2014 for $39 million with an $11 million team option for 2015. Not too shabby.

Shortstop

Offseason Targets: Re-sign Alex Gonzalez, Sign Miguel Tejada?

This position has been a mess ever since Nomar Garciaparra was traded away. The fact is, this organization doesn’t expect a lot out of this position except good defense and average offense. The Red Sox could pick up Alex Gonzalez’s team option for $6 million, which would be worth it because the only other decent option in free agency is Miguel Tejada, who would probably be more expensive and has shown his willingness to stay in Houston.

Third Base

Offseason Target: Youuuuuuk!

If the Red Sox acquire Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis would make the permanent move to third base. He is locked up through 2012 for $35.125 million with a $13 million team option for 2013.

Obviously this would be a major blow to Mike Lowell’s career in Boston because with Youkilis at third base, Lowell will be forced to the bench to platoon with David Ortiz at DH. The upside is he would give Terry Francona a legitimate bench bat for the first time in ages and he could spell Ortiz against lefties, but the downside is we would be paying him $12 million for 300 at-bats.

Left Field

Offseason Targets: Re-sign Jason Bay?, Matt Holliday? Bobby Abreu? Johnny Damon? Hideki Matsui?

Jason Bay

We know one thing: Bay is going to get paid this winter. He is the premier hitter this offseason, along with Matt Holliday, and is coming off a 2009 season where he set career highs in home runs (36) and RBI (119). My gut is telling me that Bay is going to go wherever the cash is and it’s not going to be in Boston. He is going to want that last huge contract so we can expect something in the area of four or five years at the rate of at least $15 million per year. I don’t think the Red Sox are willing to go that high because it’s not their style to give players in their thirties long-term deals. There’s too much risk involved. Of course, if the Red Sox can’t strike a deal for Adrian Gonzalez, there will be more pressure to keep Bay because the Red Sox need a big-time bat and Holliday (read below) is likely to stay in the National League.

Matt Holliday

Holliday is another unlikely scenario for the Red Sox because he most likely will stay in the National League where he seems more comfortable. I’m sure he would cross leagues again if the price was right, but the Red Sox won’t pony up that kind of cash unless they really have to. Again, this all boils down to whether the Red Sox have that premier bat in their lineup so if the need is there then there’s a chance the Red Sox would pony up the dough. Personally, I would rather have Matt Holliday than Jason Bay.

Bobby Abreu

Probably one of the most underrated players in the game, Abreu knocked in 100 runs for the eighth year in a row in 2009. The guy can flat out hit and was a steal for Angles this season at just $5 million. It’s no lie that he is getting old (35), but the Red Sox could do a lot worse when opening up their checkbooks this offseason. He is the prototypical Red Sox hitter because he gets on base (.390 OBP) and hits well with runners in scoring position (.354 BA w/RISP).

Johnny Damon

Is it a crazy thought? Yes, but it does make sense. It has been four years since Damon crossed over to the dark side, but he has shown that he can still play. The Red Sox could stick him in left field, where his diminishing range wouldn’t hurt the team, but his offense is where he could really be useful. He is still an on-base machine, can steal bases and hit for some power. He won’t get the $13 million he got from the Yankees four years ago, but the fact that the Red Sox will be trying to outbid New York means they will have to overpay somewhat. Damon is an outside shot of joining the 2010 Red Sox, but at the right price I would have no problem with it. Of course with Jacoby Ellsbury and Damon the Red Sox would have the worst collection of throwing arms in baseball.

Hideki Matsui

Another outfielder, another Yankee. Hideki Matsui rebounded nicely from his injury-plagued 2008 season with a .274 batting average, 28 home runs, 90 RBI and a .876 on-base plus slugging percentage. Matsui didn’t have bad numbers considering he is 35 years old. One major problem here is that Hideki hasn’t had to play the field since 2008 and he would have to show the ability to man left field for the Red Sox. Not that we expect much because the last two players to do it (Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay) are average fielders at best. The Red Sox could take a chance on the veteran given that his contract isn’t too high because his skills are clearly diminishing.

Center Field

Offseason Targets: 70 stolen bases not enough for you?

Jacoby Ellsbury showed what he could do if he got on base more frequently and it showed with a team-record and league-leading 70 stolen bases. The Red Sox have the speedster locked up through 2013 with arbitration so there’s no worry in center field.

Right Field

Offseason Targets: Call me in two years

Theo Epstein is behind Drew 100 percent. In a recent interview, Epstein expressed why he thought Drew was worth every penny they spent to sign him in the 2006 offseason. He is under contract for two more years at $14 million per year. Expect the Red Sox to go after a fourth outfield bat to relieve Drew once in a while.

Starting Pitchers

Offseason Targets: Pick up team options on Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield. Sign Rich Harden? Erik Bedard? Ben Sheets? Justin Duchscherer? Aroldis Chapman?

What the Red Sox Have

While Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz are under the team’s control long-term, the Red Sox have a solid core of starters for the foreseeable future. Theo Epstein will undoubtedly pick up Josh Beckett’s $12 million option for 2010 and should work on signing the 29-year-old to a long-term contract at around four years and $60 million. Also, the Red Sox will most likely pick up Tim Wakefield’s annual $4 million team option as well. However, the team could use another starter and could take a chance or two in this year’s market. They love taking their chances on previously injured, veteran pitchers.

Rich Harden

Harden would be a big acquisition for the Red Sox. He has failed to start 30 games in any given season since 2004, but the Red Sox have enough pitching depth to account for missed starts. Harden is an elite strikeout pitcher (783 K’s in 753 2/3 IP) who doesn’t go deep very deep into games. He would fit in this rotation as the number three or four starter and really push it towards elite status. His health and durability concerns should keep his price down enough that the Red Sox could make an offer.

Erik Bedard

Much like Harden, Bedard has been plagued by injuries in his career which have limited his progress as an elite starter. He is another pitcher the Red Sox could take a chance on to fill in the back of the rotation for reasonable money. He has been a failure in Seattle, but while he was in Baltimore he showed signs of being a future ace, especially in 2007 when he finished the year with 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 182 innings.

Ben Sheets

Sheets missed all of 2009 with an arm injury, but he plans to pitch in 2010. This would be a great low risk/high reward deal, which is something the Red Sox have been doing for a couple years now. They could sign him to a cheap one-year deal and if he doesn’t pan out, they could dump him at the end of the season.

Justin Duchscherer

Duchscherer had his breakout year in 2008 when he finished with a 2.54 ERA and .210 opponent’s batting average in 141 2/3 innings. However, he missed all of 2009 recovering from right elbow surgery, which will make him an interesting target this offseason. He isn’t an elite pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but he could be a serviceable back-of-the-rotation guy for cheap money in 2010.

Aroldis Chapman

The 21-year old Cuban defect is making a lot of noise in free agency this offseason and the Red Sox have been reported as one of the more aggressive pursuers of Chapman’s services. He is definitely a gamble because the lefty doesn’t have any polished complimentary pitches to his triple-digit heater. However, he has been touted as one of the best two pitchers not in the majors so he could be worth the investment. Buyer beware: Scouts said the same thing about Jose Contreras and look at how well that worked out.

Relief Pitchers

Offseason Targets: Trade Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen (read above), sign Billy Wagner

Trade Jonathan Papelbon and Sign Billy Wagner

Let me start this by saying I am not reacting to Papelbon’s implosion in the playoffs so spare me the “you’re overreacting” comments. My theory with closers has always been that they are replaceable and Papelbon is no different. The Red Sox will have to pay him in the neighborhood of $10 million per year over the next two seasons and he has already stated that he is unwilling to sign an extension before he becomes a free agent. The Red Sox could offer Billy Wagner arbitration, which he would accept if he was guaranteed the closer role, and trade Papelbon to a team that can afford him for a hitting prospect.

It’s a long shot from happening, but it would make sense for the organization because Wagner could take the reins for a couple years while Bard grew into the role. The Red Sox also have several pitching prospects that are a couple years away from making an impact on the team. Potential Papelbon suitors include, but are not limited to, the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, or the Texas Rangers.

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Discussion

4 comments for “Red Sox Hot Stove 2009 Preview”

  1. Red Sox Hot Stove 2009 Preview: Five years and two days ago, the Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series drought… http://bit.ly/1m4joR

    Posted by Sports of Boston | October 29, 2009, 6:13 am
  2. Red Sox Offseason Preview: http://bit.ly/3a2TJz

    Posted by George Fitopoulos | October 29, 2009, 6:58 am
  3. Red Sox Hot Stove 2009 Preview | Sports of Boston http://bit.ly/4os3pV

    Posted by Red Sox Fan | October 29, 2009, 10:47 am
  4. Good look at Red Sox hot stove options: http://bit.ly/3a2TJz

    Posted by Judith Schenck | October 31, 2009, 12:10 pm

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