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How to Fix the Red Sox this Offseason: Core-Building Edition

Ben Cherington (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Another regular season in the books, another Red Sox team left with gaping holes, managerial search controversies, and rumors of character problems. Hey, when you don’t follow good advice, what do you expect? With everyone tired out by underperforming super stars and no particularly enticing free agents to lure Boston into repeating the same mistakes, things look pretty bleak.  Several seasons of rebuilding doesn’t seem unreasonable. But it does seem unnecessary.

What if I told you that the Red Sox could be competing in the World Series as soon as next year? That’s right, it’s the second annual “How to Fix the Red Sox this Off Season” post. If Ben Cherington listens to me, the Boston Red Sox will be back to winning like it’s the early 1900’s. As always, the following plan is championship guaranteed, but I take no responsibility in the actual results.

General Strategy

While the Red Sox don’t necessarily have to go into rebuilding, they definitely need to do some core-building. Right now Boston’s core consists of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, and Buccholz. That simply isn’t good enough and, in all honesty, will be very difficult to add to in one year. With that in mind, every move Cherington makes should have the core in mind.

That means no contracts over five years in length or $100 MM in value (With a weak free agent class, I think they can even avoid contracts longer than three years). It means no Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke. It means it’s time to see if any of the younger players can be a part of that core or if it’s time to cut losses. It means signing amiable, not-alcoholic, semi-talented veterans as stop-gaps to fill the holes and keep the team competitive. If the 2012 season has taught us anything, you don’t need 15 all-stars to be a winning a team (unless you’re the Yankees). And with appropriate judgement, constraint, and luck, it can be done. With that in mind, let’s fix this mess.

Oh, and before we start, let’s just give David Ortiz his overpriced two-year contract instead of dragging it out for two months and risk another PR disaster resulting in the face of the franchise playing for New York. Add him to core.


Second Base is set with Pedroia and that’s about the only sure thing. If Will Middlebrooks can play a full season at the level he did this year, add him to that core (and don’t trade him for an overrated starting pitcher because that’s totally going to happen). While Mike Aviles and Pedro Ciriaco would make an awesome bench, this isn’t Kansas City so I want them nowhere near this starting lineup. That being said, it’s “No Way (I can hit at the Major League Level)” Jose Iglesias’ time to shine…the Red Sox can afford one black hole on offense, but only one. If it doesn’t work, Xander Bogaerts is allegedly a few years away and we can continue to perpetually rotate mediocre utility players while waiting for the shortstop of the future.

At catcher it gets more difficult. Ryan Lavarnaway only hit .157 in his time in the big leagues this year and while Jarrod Saltalamacchia had 25 bombs, the 139 strikeouts is nowhere near ideal. But is leaving these guys to hash it out a better option than overpaying for a Mike Napoli? I say probably. There just aren’t many good catchers, so the Red Sox have to deal. If they can trade one of the two for something not terrible, go ahead, but I’m smelling a platoon.(Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

First base is even worse. The James Loney 2012 stat line of .249/.293/.366 is not going to cut it. Bringing him back is unacceptable. That being said, the available free agent first baseman aren’t much better. Carlos Pena? Gross. Kevin Youkilis? Been there, done that. Adam LaRoche was surprisingly good for 33 home runs, 100 RBIs, and .271 batting average. Unless the Red Sox can trade for Ike Davis without giving up anything worthwhile (unlikely), LaRoche might be the best option. The best, underwhelming, creepy unibrowed option.


Hypothetically, the Red Sox need between one and three outfielders. Cody Ross wasn’t terrible and it sounds like he’s coming back. There are some  productive veterans that seem to be available free agency such as Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, and Torii Hunter, among others. For the right price, any of them would be useful. If the Cubs eat Alfonso Soriano’s salary, that’s an option. If the Angels eat Vernon Wells’ salary, that’s a terrible option. Additionally, you have Ryan Kalish, but I think even if you sign Ross and one other guy, he’ll still get enough playing time.

That leaves the Jacoby Ellsbury problem. He was amazing in 2011, but the obvious question is: is he worth the big money contract he is going to receive in free agency? Even without all the injuries, I think the answer is no. If the Sox get blown away with a trade offer they should absolutely pull the trigger. Personally, I’m always in favor of waiting for a desperate team to do something regrettable at the trade deadline.

Starting Pitching

For reasons that go without saying, this is probably what the Red Sox need to improve on the most. Unfortunately, the only surefire way to do this is to acquire an indisputable, top-5 starting pitcher and those don’t really seem available right now. Nevertheless, the Red Sox can still tremendously improve their pitching situation if they follow one piece of advice: Do not pencil Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz as the No. 1 and 2 starters. They are both No. 2 guys at best and clearly are not worth the gamble anyways. If you expect them to pitch like Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez, you will be disappointed. It’s time to accept that and move on.(Photo Courtesy of  Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

Luckily, there’s a whole crop of free agents who can be productive starters (and by that I mean not consistently allow 8 runs a game). Sign two of them and don’t pull another Cherington (and by that I mean stand in shock and not sign anyone). I vote personally for Jake Peavy and Dan Haren–that way you have four guys who can be a No. 2 or 3 guy.  They’ll all require to be paid, but nothing near Lackey territory. I’m all in favor of one experiment spot, so let John Lackey and Felix Doubront and whoever else duke it out. Several playoff teams, this year, were built on worse.

Problem solved.


The bullpen was relatively okay, so it only needs some minor tweaking. Andrew Bailey was hurt, so give him another chance. Successfully, reconvert Daniel Bard into a setup man and you have another piece to that core again. I’m all in favor of keeping Alfredo Aceves..he was one of the only players on the team this year who actually cared about what he was doing. If someone coming off an injury like Joakim Soria or Ryan Madson is available, do it, but don’t go crazy.


The importance of the new manager is going to be significantly overrated. As long as it’s not another egotistical sociopath, Boston will be fine. That being said, I’m skeptical of John Farrell even before compensation talks come into the picture. Was Farrell really that good of a pitching coach? Did Jon Lester or Clay Buccholz or Josh Beckett or anyone else truly pitch dominantly for an extended stretch of time under his watch? Did he have any success whatsoever as a head coach in Toronto? Am I missing something?(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

When it comes to selecting a new manager, the Red Sox can’t do worse. I think I hope. But here are some names, that I’m sure people find interesting: Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar Jr., Bill Mueller, Gabe Kapler, anyone who played catcher at some point in their MLB career.


If any core-building is going to occur, it will probably be happening internally. Any and all offseason acquisitions will be stopgaps to cover up that process. The result will be a team that is good enough to compete now, with financial flexibility in the future. Last offseason, Ben Cherington seemed paralyzed and trigger-shy and that simply can’t happen again.

With all that in mind, my ideal team in April looks like this:


  • CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  • 2B Dustin Pedroia
  • DH David Ortiz
  • 3B Will Middlebrooks
  • 1B Adam LaRoche
  • LF Nick Swisher
  • RF Cody Ross
  • C Saltalamacchia/Lavarnaway
  • SS Iglesias

Rotation (In no particular order):

  • Lester
  • Buccholz
  • Peavy
  • Haren
  • Lackey/Doubront/whoever

Manager: Dave Martinez

Cue the duck boats or start the riots.  I’m fine with either.

About Josh Segal

Josh Segal is a professional shock artist and trash talker. He also occasionally writes opinion pieces about the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and their respective leagues at large. Segal is currently a junior at Kenyon College where he plans to double major in drama and political science. Apparently he also writes his own biographies in the third person.

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14 comments for “How to Fix the Red Sox this Offseason: Core-Building Edition”

  1. Agree with most of your thoughts,not sure Iglesias should be an option tho.Like the Haren idea,comning off a down year may soften his price tag a bit too. A few other starters the Sox should target.Paul Maholm,Anibal Sanchez,Kyle Lohse,Hiroki Kuroda,(last 2 on no mre than 2yr deals).Shaun Marcum and Edwin Jackson have good upside but may be too pricey for their talent and health.K-Rod and Mike Adams ore good options for the pen.Stay away from Francisco Liriano,comes into a game with era over 9 and pitches a no-no 2ks 6bb,?Ryan Theriot,could be a viable stop-gap option at ss,if they decide not to stick with Aviles,and have him return to a utility role.Love the “No way(I can hit at the Major League level)” Jose Iglesias moniker.Good article Josh.

    Posted by Paul | October 12, 2012, 10:03 am
  2. How about Swisher at first and trading for Alex Gordon?

    Posted by John | October 12, 2012, 3:34 pm
  3. Its a good article. Swisher is not a good option for Sox because of three reasons.
    1. He is not good away from Yankee stadium. No way he can hit 25 home runs if it is not home park.
    2. He wouldn’t sign for less than 5 years.
    3. By 2014 we have two prospects ready for majors in (Brentz, Bradley Jr).

    Bullpen is solid this year and it looks good for next year.
    Haren is best option for them. He will sign for 1 or 2 years to boost his value.
    Nationals will pickup the option on LaRoche. So best option is bringing Youk back and he will be good at 1B.

    Posted by manny | October 12, 2012, 4:05 pm
  4. Good article. Makes sense.

    As an O’s fan and looking at the A’s what gave those teams a playoff berth? Starting pitching. Great starting pitching? No. Chicago and Tampa for the most part rolled out 4 out of 5 guys that gave them a chance for a quality start and they competed.

    For the first time in 15 years the O’s actually had ten guys on the team or in the system that could give you a quality start (Hammels, Chen, Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz, Britton, Gonzalez, Hunter, Saunders (added) and Bundy and Gausman. Anybody there that makes you go woohaa? Tampa Bay does the same thing every year (its a crime that staff isnt in the playoffs). The Yankees used Pettitte and Phelps to round out their group.

    Toronto and Boston cant do that at the moment and as you postulated they need two free agents and some depth guys. You could have put Toronto as your lead in and you almost have the same needs.

    Get starting pitching. Otherwise the rest is hot air.

    Price and Shields could both be traded this offseason. Texas matches up real well here (Profar, Olt, Moreland, Ogandi are four names that could attract Price and/or Shields.) If they can get three prospect/controllables for each I could see Tampa possibly move both with their depth and Moore close to number one status. Cobb, Neimann, Archer are ready to claim spots with Moore and Helleckison and any pitching that comes back. Upton is gone, Tampa should have one exciting offseason and Texas will be there as well.

    Laroche, I predict stays in Wash on a three year deal. Kuroda goes back to LA, Maholm’s option stays in Atlanta. Haren, Peavy, Sanchez, Lohse, Jackson and Marcum are probably in play. Marcum has history in the AL East which is a plus over guys like Lohse and Jackson.

    Whatever the strategy-get a mgr ASAP and get one starter quick and then see what plays out. Boston has money. Set the targets and budgets and then get aggressive quick then add depth on the ass end.

    Rambled a bit.

    Posted by steve anders | October 12, 2012, 5:39 pm
  5. much of this looks great … except for LaRoche and Haren.

    Posted by timmay!!!!! | October 12, 2012, 5:46 pm
  6. Ohhh the Red Sox have 5 problems.

    #1 solution: free agents
    #2 solution: high profile trades

    Work with that approach and the team will never improve. This goes especially true at 1B because it is easily the most overpaid position in all of baseball.

    There are so many low profile signings and trades that can pay huge dividends. Why not explore that area?

    Sample Solutions:
    – CJ Cron is very likely blocked by Albert Pujols

    – Astros don’t need both Wallace AND Singleton

    – Darin Ruf is very expendable to the Phillies

    – Adam Lind is expendable; could revive himself in Boston

    – Bourjos or Trumbo are expendable because the OF is already full

    – Blue Jays don’t need both Arencibia and D’arnaud

    This is where the value is found. Low cost options with HUGE upside. Worst case scenario, these guys are simply role players. Best case scenario and you could be looking at silver sluggers.

    A gamble?
    Perhaps. But it is immensely better than simply picking the top free agents. Even a child can do that.

    Posted by just_my_opion | October 12, 2012, 7:03 pm
  7. I agree, great article. Everyone is a speculator. How about this?
    Ervin Santana, Mark Trumbo, (or Kendrys Morales) Dan Haren, and Toril Hunter for John Lackey, either Buchholz or Jon Lester, and an outfielder of their choice-Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Daniel Nava and possibly Jose Iglesias.
    Next trade with the Dbacks for Trevor Cahill and Justin Upton or Chris Young for eithe Buchholz or Lester, probably Will Middlebrooks, and a player to be named later.
    Three new pitchers in the fold..
    Third trade-Ellsbury for a young pitcher-Derek Holland or someone similar. That would give them four.
    I think with their injury history, a six man rotation is something to consider.
    The Dbacks could use a catcher and either Lavernway or Salty should go for a frontline pitcher.
    I would use the free agent market to try and sign Mike Napoli, a short term contract, and to pick up a third baseman in case Middlebrooks is traded. The flaw in the above scheme is what to do on Els, Iglesias, and catching. I think Ellsbury would work in a trade for a pitcher or a shortstop. I don’t think Iglesias is ever going to hit his weight.
    Free agen signings besides infield, should address a reliever like Rafael Soriano, or Jose Valverde. They need a front liner. Also make plans to replace Ellsbury.
    I think that that would go a long way to help their cause.

    Posted by George Smith | October 12, 2012, 7:54 pm
  8. That line up misses the playoffs again. Nick Swisher! Are you serious?

    Posted by Jim | October 12, 2012, 9:13 pm
  9. Swish is a RF and Cody is better suited in LF. Carlos Lee could be a good cheap option at 1B.

    Posted by Cha | October 12, 2012, 9:18 pm
  10. Swisher’s career numbers at Fenway aren’t bad. He’d be worth a five year investment. Have him play first base for two years. Then have him be the primary DH and spot an occasional game at 1B or OF after Ortiz retires. He won’t get a Jayson-Werth like deal, but JD Drew money seems reasonable. He’d be worth it.

    He’s an OBP guy. Something LaRoche is not and it was an unsung killer to this offense this season.


    Posted by John | October 12, 2012, 11:49 pm

    Posted by AP MECH | October 13, 2012, 8:00 am
  12. I like Swisher, but not at Werth Years and Dollars.

    My FA money is on Napoli.

    How about this too: Ellsbury and Bard to Philly for Cliff Lee!

    The centerpiece is salary relief for Philly. Plus they need a rental CF til 2014 and a set-up man for Paps.

    Posted by Chris C | October 13, 2012, 9:29 am
  13. C Napoli/Salty
    1b Kendrys Morales
    2b Pedrioa
    SS Aviles/Stephen Drew
    3b Middlebrooks
    LF Cody Ross
    CF Ellsbury
    RF Alex Gordon
    DH David Ortiz

    SP Lester
    SP Buchholz
    SP Buerhle (Miami would trade him)
    SP Peavy/Lohse/Haren/Shields (pending options)
    SP Lackey/Dubront

    CL Bailey
    SU Tazawa/Aceves/Atchison
    RP Hill/Miller/Bard/Mortenson

    That’s my ideal roster. You would have to trade for Buerhle, Gordon, and Morales but that price shouldn’t be exorbant. My free agent money goes to Napoli, one SP, and Drew (capable shortstop – has an option in Oakland)

    Posted by Daniel McCarthy | October 13, 2012, 11:54 am
  14. Addition by subtraction by parting with Dice-K. I am concerned that Lackey will come to camp looking more like Prince Fielder. It’s a good thing he has such an inclusive and feel-good personality.

    Posted by BoSoxSince65 | October 14, 2012, 8:26 am

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