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After such a difficult elimination in the first round of the 2009 American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, many people are looking for a reason as to why the Red Sox lost, and what they can do to fix the problem. Analysts have come out and said that Jonathan Papelbon has to go, mainly because of what they saw in the postseason from him. He was not very impressive, but it’s not necessarily his fault either. The offense faltered when the Red Sox needed it the most. I’m sure Theo Epstein will take calls regarding Papelbon, but getting rid of him will not solve all the problems.
There have been rumors about a number of young big hitting first basemen then have been on the Red Sox radar for awhile now. The most notable was Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres this past season. Other big hitters that could be available are Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Along with hitters, some people tend to believe that the Red Sox need to add a proven starter/ace to their pitching staff. Those pitchers are Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners and Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays.
In my eyes, the Red Sox need that big bat in their lineup sooner rather than later if they want to make it back to the World Series. Everyone knows that some of the best hitters in the MLB are first basemen, and that is the perfect position for the Red Sox to upgrade in. David Ortiz is not a first baseman anymore and his numbers are on a decline, Kevin Youkilis is extremely gifted at both corners of the infield so he could shift back to third and Casey Kotchman is a good defensive backup for the Sox, but that’s it. The Red Sox are an aging team and could really use a young power hitter in the middle of the lineup.
Adrian Gonzalez could have been exactly what they needed to get by the Angels this year but as of right now, we will never know. Next year though, his name could reemerge and maybe Epstein could get a deal done for the 27-year-old left-hander. Gonzalez quietly had a very impressive year with 40 home runs, 99 RBI, and 90 runs while hitting .270. Sure, his numbers were not so good at Petco Park, where he hit 12 home runs, drove in 36 RBI, scored 31 runs, and hit .244. Petco Park is one of the best pitchers parks in the majors so it’s not very surprising that his numbers were down from what he hit on the road. One stat that sticks out for his hitting at home was his strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 80 games at home, he walked 73 times while only striking out 58 times. On the road, he struck out 51 times and walked just 46 times.
Gonzalez would be the perfect candidate to take over at first base for the Red Sox. Of course, it would take a lot to get the talented slugger. The Padres have not been a good team the last couple years and Gonzalez is the only good player left on the team. They had a proven ace in Jake Peavy, but decided to trade him to the Chicago White Sox before the deadline this season. So with Peavy gone, the Padres will be looking for pitching, and not just any pitching, good young, talented pitching. The first name that comes to mind is Clay Buchholz. I hate to say it, but if the Padres were to make the trade, Buchholz would be someone that they would be interested in. He’s proven that he can pitch at the major league level (yeah that no-hitter in his second career start was not an illusion) and performed very well this season when the Red Sox really needed him. So, I think that if the Red Sox made the trade for Gonzalez then Buchholz would have to be included with maybe Michael Bowden and a couple of lower level prospects like Felix Doubront and Kyle Weiland.
Gonzalez is the perfect player in regards as to what the Red Sox need in their lineup. He would instantly take over the middle of the batting order and with the protection around him, he would probably improve on his impressive numbers.
Another possible first baseman would be Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers failed to make the playoffs on their 163rd game of the season and it’s already been rumored that the team cannot keep all of its high-end players; Cabrera is one of them. I’m not saying that he is definitely going to be traded, but there is a good possibility. Cabrera, once the third baseman for the Florida Marlins, would be a viable first baseman for the Red Sox because of his big, consistent bat. He has been one of the most consistent players in the majors not named Albert Pujols.
Since coming to Detroit, he has put on a few pounds and has added a few homeruns. This year, he hit .324 with 34 homeruns, 103 RBIs with 96 runs and tied a career-high in hits with 198. He holds a career average of .311 and has 209 homeruns in seven seasons in the league. Sure he does strike out more than Gonzalez, but Cabrera is a strong threat because of his ability to get on base. His on-base-percentage this past season was .396, but he has put up a .430 back only four years ago. The Tigers will be looking to unload some of their top players and I am sure the Red Sox will be listening.
As far as what the Tigers would want in return, they could very well throw Papelbon’s name in there. Their closer, Fernando Rodney, is a 33-year-old free agent who will be looking for a decent two or three-year deal and I am sure the Tigers will not be willing to try and work something out to keep him. Papelbon would be a good short-term solution for the Tigers and Papelbon for Cabrera would make for a very interesting trade. Both sides would satisfy a hole in their roster, and the Red Sox could even take on his $20 million deal. Maybe the Tigers will even throw in Dontrelle Willis’ and his big contract if the Sox threw in some prospects. I know Papelbon doesn’t make $20 million but I’m sure Epstein could figure out the salaries somehow.
Prince Fielder could also very well be on the Red Sox’s radar for a big bat. This is a situation where I don’t think that the two sides could work out a deal, but if they did it would be huge. Fielder puts up the numbers that David Ortiz used to, but the only difference is that Fielder does it on a consistent basis and he’s only 25 years old. This past season, he hit .299 with 46 home runs while knocking in 141 RBI and scoring 103 runs. His .299 average was his highest since he came into the league, but the only negative is that he does strike out more than the other two batters, but not by much. He’s still learning how to play in the league, and with his vegetarian diet now under control, he’s sure to improve even more. The time to get him is now, and if the Red Sox do acquire him he would most likely retire a Red Sox player.
The only problem with getting him is that we’d have to give up a lot. The Brewers had Trevor Hoffman as their closer last year, but he is set to be a free agent this winter, and he’s 42 years old so retirement might be in his sight. So that means that Papelbon is once again an option, but the Brewers would still want more. Throw in Bowden and a possible replacement at first with either Lars Anderson or Anthony Rizzo. They might also want a starting pitcher too, so throw in Stolmy Pimentel.
Fielder is not paid as much as Cabrera, but after next season, both he and Gonzalez should be. Like I said, I think that Fielder is the least likely to come to the Red Sox, but if we do get him, then I’d be a very happy person. The Red Sox have not tried to trade for Fielder as of yet, but the rumors have been swirling around that they might make a push for him this winter.
As far as pitching is concerned, Felix Hernandez would be a great addition to the Red Sox rotation. The 23-year-old is coming off a year when he went 19-5 with an ERA of 2.49 and had 217 strikeouts with 71 walks. It was by far the best season in his career, and this kid has shown a lot of promise and hitters around the league have been left in awe with his stuff. He is considered to be the Mariners ace, so the Red Sox would have to give up a lot in order to obtain the pitcher.
They tried to bring him in at the trade deadline for five of their top eight prospects that included Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, Bowden, Doubront, Yamaico Navarro, and Josh Reddick. The Mariners declined the trade that also involved the Padres with Gonzalez winding up in Seattle. If they do pursue the deal again, then I am sure that the same names would probably be listed, except for Masterson, who of course is now in Cleveland.
Obtaining Hernandez would give the Red Sox an ace to complement Jon Lester for quite some time. Lester, Beckett, and Hernandez would certainly make the Red Sox owners of the best rotation in baseball. To make room for him the Red Sox would have to get rid of either Wakefield or Buchholz, with Buchholz more likely to be moved. I can’t really picture Hernandez coming to Boston, but I do see him coming rather than Roy Halladay.
I know that the Red Sox had pursued Halladay before the trade deadline, but who didn’t? The Blue Jays made it pretty clear that they wanted to trade him and most, if not all, the teams in contention wanted to make a deal for the veteran right-hander. He is known to be a work-horse when it comes to finishing games, and that is something the Red Sox could always use. On the other hand, he will be 33 next season and with the amount of innings he has logged, it’s only a matter of time before injuries start to hamper him.
This past season, he went 17-10 with an ERA of 2.79 with 208 strikeouts and only 35 walks. After being “shopped” at the trade deadline, Halladay struggled through August as he went 2-4 with a 4.71 ERA, giving up eight homeruns and only completing one game. He rejuvenated himself in September as he went 4-2 with an ERA of 1.47 in six starts; four of the starts were complete games with three shutouts. September was by far his best month all season long, and that’s impressive considering he was 10-3 with an ERA of 2.85 before the All-Star game.
When the Red Sox tried to trade for him during the season, one of the main prospects the Blue Jays wanted was Buchholz. After Buchholz performed so well at the end of the season, I don’t think that Theo will want to trade him this off-season. Buchholz was always seen as a future star or maybe even the ace of the staff, and if he is starting to become that player, then it looks like they won’t want to trade him.
I don’t see the Red Sox acquiring Halladay this offseason, especially because the Blue Jays are in the same division and would want too much in return.If a trade does happen, then it would have to include Buchholz, Bowden, Rizzo, Navarro, possibly Papelbon or Bard and some other lower level prospects. The Blue Jays would want too much and the Red Sox would be better off with the younger Hernandez instead.
This is going to be a very interesting offseason for the Red Sox and I can see many big changes in their clubhouse. Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and Ortiz are all getting towards the end of their respected careers and the Red Sox need to make a decision as to whether or not to keep any or all of them (Varitek is a free agent, but has a mutual option). They need to make some kind of move this winter or otherwise the team will struggle again next year and Red Sox Nation will not be happy.
I think that either Gonzalez or Cabrera are the more logical answers for first base, with Fielder being the most desired but most difficult to obtain. If the Sox do obtain one of those hitters, they would certainly move Youkilis back to third with Lowell going to the bench or even possibly traded (he made $12.5 million this past season and teams might be interested in his expiring contract after the 2010 season).
I know the Red Sox would love to add either Hernandez or Halladay to their rotation but both the Mariners and Blue Jays would want some of the same players the other teams would want for the big hitters the Sox covet. The Red Sox need to address the hole in the middle of the lineup, especially if the team is unable to resign Jason Bay, who wants to go back to the West coast. A sign-and-trade for Hernandez involving Bay would be the perfect scenario but the likelihood of it happening? Not so sure, but it sounds good.
All we have to do now is sit back and watch Theo work his magic, we know he won’t let us down. In the end I don’t think that the Red Sox will trade all of their prospects, but if a deal can be made to help the team improve, then the necessary players will be involved.