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With all the attention given to Alex Gonzalez heading to Toronto, Marco Scutaro confessing his desire to be a Red Sox, and the Blue Jays dangling Roy Halladay (who may have become the focus of the next Boston vs. New York bidding war), there are a few smaller moves the Red Sox will be focusing their attention on as well. While not flashy, the bench and bullpen are both under construction this year.
Fewer fourth outfielders have received the attention or support Rocco Baldelli has as the native son came home to play for his Boston Red Sox. He left Tampa Bay, but the injury bug followed him up north. As a backup for the also fragile J.D. Drew, Rocco was a questionable choice to begin with, but upside and low dollars gave the Red Sox reason to hope for a great bargain. Baldelli put up a .253/.311/.433/.744 line over 150 at bats, but did not have the kind of breakout or return to glory the fans would have liked to see. While Baldelli may yet re-sign with the Red Sox, he is now three years removed from his breakout 2006 season and is still unfortunately dealing with health issues.
Acquired from the Marlins, Jeremy Hermida will likely find himself in the role of fourth outfielder in 2010, a change from his starting gig with Florida. Still just 25, and only two seasons removed from a .296/.369/.501/.870 campaign, Hermida could be a force to be reckoned with. He made $2.25 million in 2009 and had two years of arbitration raises remaining, which was the likely motivation for Florida replacing him, but the Red Sox can easily afford the dollars for a chance at that promise Hermida still represents. In the worst-case scenario where both Jason Bay and Matt Holliday find there way to other teams, the Red Sox have a legitimate replacement in house. As a fellow southpaw, his ability to platoon in the lineup with J.D. Drew is limited, but if he hits, Hermida will find his way into the Red Sox lineup one way or another.
Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito are both free agents, and while Saito cannot be offered arbitration because of his contract, Wagner can, and may walk away with the Red Sox receiving drafts picks in return. Hideki Okajima has completed the two-year contract with an option for 2009, but will remain under the Red Sox control for three more years. Okajima has said he would like to sign a deal to remain with the team for the remainder of these years, preferring to pitch in America. With Daniel Bard and Ramon Ramirez returning as well, Jonathan Papelbon should feel confident that leads won’t evaporate before he can come in for the save.
Also on the shopping list are Braves relievers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. The two Atlanta closers will require a draft pick to sign and may not be satisfied with the setup role they would inherit behind Papelbon. In his five full seasons, Gonzalez has struck out more than a batter per inning and has collected 29 saves each of the last two years with WHIPs just under 1.2.
Soriano meanwhile has been even more dominant, but missed most of the 2004, 2005, and 2008 seasons. His 2009 season was excellent: 102 Ks in 75.2 innings to go along with 27 saves, a WHIP of 1.05 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.78. Soriano struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings in 2009.
While Gonzalez and Soriano made $3.4 and $6.3 million respectively in 2009 and would likely take multiple years to obtain, signing either of them would go a long way to shortening the game and taking some burden off the starting pitchers, which would give the Red Sox the flexibility to move one of their top relievers in a trade, should the need arise.