What Next?

The Boston Red Sox are in what one assumes is an enviable position. Unlike after 2004, when an aging, veteran team was largely broken up within two years thanks to free agency, the Red Sox have few major free agents and won largely because of their young players, who are all locked up long-term.

That’s exciting for the upcoming years, but there’s still some work that needs to be done in the offseason. Rest assured, the other AL contenders won’t stay pat — the Tigers have already brought Edgar Renteria back to the better junior division.

Here are the Red Sox’ free agents this offseason, according to the Associated Press:

  • Mike Lowell
  • Royce Clayton
  • Eric Hinske
  • Doug Mirabelli
  • Bobby Kielty
  • Tim Wakefield*
  • Curt Schilling
  • Julian Tavarez*
  • Mike Timlin
  • Eric Gagne
  • Matt Clement

Two of these are easy to figure.

Royce Clayton went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and a run scored as a late-innings replacement for Julio Lugo. He never made it onto the postseason roster, but he got a ring after 17 seasons in baseball. He wept in the clubhouse as he hoisted the trophy. The Red Sox did right by him, but he won’t be back.

Likewise, Eric Gagne is pretty assuredly gone. One doubts he would get much money anymore after tanking in Boston, and I assume the Red Sox will be happy to get whatever draft picks they can and bid him farewell. He, too, got his ring and a 0.00 World Series ERA.

The rest have varying degrees of uncertainty.

Clement should be ready to pitch at the beginning of next season. Would the Red Sox bring him back for dirt cheap, assuming he would likely replicate his old pre-beanball, pre-injury self? It probably depends on how the rest of the free agent market for pitchers goes.

Wakefield may retire. The Sox may not want him back, in which case Wakefield probably would retire. Back and shoulder problems have derailed the past two seasons — but he very well could have won 20 games in 2007 if not for the strugglles caused by his injury in August and September. Right now, I would bet he won’t be back. Doug Mirabelli’s status is, of course, inextricably linked to Wakefield’s.

Tavarez also has an option on his contract. There’s no reason the Red Sox shouldn’t pick it up — except that the Red Sox don’t seem to like him anymore, rarely using him down the stretch and leaving him off the World Series roster in favor of Kyle Snyder. It’s hard to imagine him having a better year than the one had in 2007. He provided a great deal of value as an above-average fifth starter/long man — value any team could use next year, including the Red Sox.

Hinske and Kielty are capable backups. They play decent defense and they can hit the ball at times. You look at Hinske’s .204 batting average and think he had a career-worst year, providing little value. But his .715 OPS (83 OPS+) off the bench is serviceable, thanks to his ability to walk and hit for some power — and his ability to at least competently field two infield and two outfield positions. Kielty, similarly, had some good moments with the Sox during the regular season, then had THE moment in Game 4, when he hit what ended up being the game-winning home run on the only World Series pitch he’s ever seen. He’s coming off his worst season ever, though, plagued by injuries. I’m guessing he won’t be back; the Sox already have Brandon Moss in waiting. If Hinske is willing to take a one-year deal, I could see him returning.

Timlin had a fantastic year. Slowed by injuries in the first half and seemingly on the cusp of retirement, Timlin wound up posting a WHIP of 1.08, the second-best of his career (best since 2003) and a 139 ERA+, fifth-best in his 17-year career and second-best since 1998. In the topsy-turvy world of middle relief, Timlin has been as consistent as you can get. He hasn’t had an ERA+ below 106 since 1994. I see no reason why he couldn’t return on another one-year, incentives-laden deal — unless some other team realizes the value still left in his arm and overpays.

And finally the two big fish — Lowell and Schilling.

Based on stats alone, there is no better fit for Lowell than playing half his games at Fenway Park. He was the reason the Red Sox made the playoffs this season (well, him and some starter or other), and both sides seem more than willing to make a deal work. Both sides are saying the right things — unlike in the Damon and Pedro cases. If the Sox are willing to pay a little more per season, Lowell should be willing to take one fewer year. How does 3/40 sound?

Schilling seems amenable to picking back up where he left off in spring training, telling WEEI that if he tests free agency, he’ll go for the best combination of money, chance to win and young pitchers to teach. This seems to indicate he’ll come to the Sox at the $13 million, one-year deal he proposed in February. If so, there’s no way you don’t make that deal. The man posted a 3.34 ERA in nine second half starts and a 3.00 ERA in the postseason. He seems to have effectively made the transition from a power to finesse pitcher, and a 3.87 ERA (which he posted in 2007) is certainly a desirable result from your third or fourth starter.

20 comments… add one
  • Unfortunately, this post is totally reasonable and I agree with almost all of it, so there’s not much for me to comment on. I do, however, think they’ll renew Wakefield unless his shoulder is totally shot.

    stuck working October 30, 2007, 11:21 am
  • Let’s not try to say Gagne deserves anything. I hope they give him a smaller share than the equipment manager. And in the post-season he pitched 4.1 innings and gave up 3 ER. That’s on top of his 70 ERA+ for the club. They’ll be lucky to get any draft picks.
    Bring Wake back. He’s very cheap insurance for the rest of the rotation. And you simply can’t get that from any other free agent pitcher for the 4 million.
    Tavarez too, but I agree he probably won’t be back but he’d be a fine 5th starter.
    Just say no to Hinkse and Kielty. They can upgrade easily – either through the minors or the free agent pool.
    Yes, to Timlin on a reasonable contract.
    Lowell and Schilling – I’ll be pissed if they’re gone. Lowell provides a great bat, especially for Fenway, a great glove, and great chemistry. You overpay if you have to, I agree. 3/40 sounds perfect. If they can get a team option for the fourth year, even better, and sweeten the deal with a few million buyout. They have the money. This is exactly what it’s for.
    Same deal on Schilling – it’s a no-brainer especially on a one-year deal. If another team gets crazy and offers two or three years, then the decision gets much more difficult and they should probably pass.
    One thing that can’t be said enough is how Schilling and Wake would provide cover for Buchholz and Lester, and vice versa. The Sox really have no reason not to sign both as well as Lowell.
    Of course, if any stupid bids (we’ll have to see) come through for Lowell or Schilling, it may not be a bad idea to let them go. They’d get two draft picks for each.

    Pete October 30, 2007, 11:44 am
  • I honestly want another couple of days to think about Lowell. In the afterglow of his phenomenal season and post-season, the reflexive (and defensible) thing is to say “sign him up, pronto!” But I want to think about it. Right now I lean “yes, sign him, preferably for three years not four”, but then again the Sox aren’t hamstrung financially so what’s a fourth year anyhow?
    With Schilling, I see no reason not to sign him to a one-year deal, independent of salary. Like Pete said, the only fly in the ointment is another team offering him bigger dollars for two years or two years plus.
    Perhaps the biggest question is not free-agency related, and that’s Coco Crisp.

    SF October 30, 2007, 11:51 am
  • Trade Coco for whatever you can get for the bench. He’s not good anywhere but CF, and the Sox have an answer there :)
    And sorry, but Lowell is a no-brainer. He’s thrived at Fenway for two years. That’s plenty to go on.

    Pete October 30, 2007, 11:59 am
  • Trade Coco for pitching (because you can never have too much). There’s no way Ellsbury doesn’t have the starting job on Opening Day. I think Crisp’s defensive prowess and the perception that he could still be a good hitter (I’m not so sure) could net the Red Sox more than they probably should be able to get for him. Not sure who or what, but surely Atlanta or Minnesota has a good reliever or two we could use.

    Paul SF October 30, 2007, 12:06 pm
  • The only reason to sign Clement is to take over the position as a mentor for the pitching staff but Sox management will probably ask for a pay cut. Clement is better off shopping around, I doubt they will signed him. I doubt the Red Sox will sign Schilling, unless he takes a pay cut, and he get himself in shape in the off season, which seems the biggest pet peeve in the Red Sox’s front office. Gagne can be a closer for a team like the Pirates, Marlins, Reds, or even go to a team like the Mets who desperately need relief pitching. I think his time in Boston was difficult transition, and if he has a catcher he is comfortable with, and pitches smarter, he can be back as a formidable reliever, just not in the Sox’s rotation. Gagne showed some at times why he is a good pitcher, however some there are 4-6 games lost by the Sox in the regular season that are sole responsiblity of Gagne.
    I always thought Tavarez’s 2007 performance was one of the unsung heroics for the Red Sox. He pitched and performed in different roles when asked. However, he seemed to very tempermental, I would try to keep him, but like Clement, he is probably better off shopping and getting a better price elsewhere.
    I think signing Timlin should be a priority, he is the dean of the bullpen, he sets the pace. I think one reason the Sox had a the best bullpen in baseball is Timlin. As much as Schilling proclaims he wants to mentor, Timlin already has that job. Hinske and Kielty should be signed again, Kielty for the sole reason to face the Santanas and Sabithias of the AL. Hinske may want a starting job with a club like the Royals etc, but the Sox need a strong bench, especially if there are injuries in 2008.
    If Wakefield retires, Mirabelli is probably gone as well, the Red Sox will call up Cash as their back up catcher.
    My guess is that Crisp will be traded to Atlanta, even to Minnesota, Crisp’s BA during the regular season wasn’t Lugo-like, but his defensive skills are stellar, this is the time to make a deal to get something good in return.
    The two top priorities in re-signing are Lowell and Timlin. Schilling is better off going to a team like Dodgers or Giants, or to a park like Petco. I just don’t see the Red Sox willing to pay $13 million for Schilling for another injury prone year..

    ted October 30, 2007, 12:41 pm
  • Long post coming…
    If Theo calls to ask me whether to bring back Wakefield or not, I’d say:
    Damn straight you bring him back, probably as a middle reliever. He won 17 games last year, has shown his ability and willingness to fill just about any role, and is also a sentimental favorite, to the extent that counts for anything.
    Yeah, his back went out last year… after 17 wins. Did I mention the 17 wins?
    And how about the phenomenal number of innings and decisions he was responsible fore before that back problem cropped up?
    I just don’t see how Wakes can’t continue to contribute, especially if he’s not asked to throw 7-8 innings 30 times a year.
    As for the rest, here are my votes:
    * Mike Lowell – Absolutely
    * Royce Clayton – No
    * Eric Hinske – Sure, if the money’s right
    * Doug Mirabelli – Unless Wakes is back as a starter (unlikely) and unless the Sox have no other options, I’m agnostic on Belli. Obviously, the Sox need a decent backup catcher, and he knows the staff and the park a little; but his bat stinks.
    * Bobby Kielty – Sure, if the money’s right
    * Tim Wakefield – Again, YES
    * Curt Schilling – Of course. He’ll be the best #3 in the majors.
    * Julian Tavarez – No, please, no. Francona never used him for just mop-up/low pressure situations, and he was always a disaster waiting to happen, despite the occasional flashes of genius.
    * Mike Timlin – No brainer, of course yes
    * Eric Gagne – Non, absolument pas.
    * Matt Clement – For a bag of baseballs, sure, give him a whirl. For any real money? No.
    Question — How long do the Sox have Donnelly signed for, and how’s his health? If there is any lesson of the Theo era, you can’t start the season with too many relievers, not to mention starters.
    Another question — who wants Crisp, and what can the Sox get for him?
    Third question — Is there a better shortstop option than Lugo — *not* A-Rod — on the market, and could the Sox move him? He became more of a part of the team in the playoffs, and I like his defense (except on shallow pop-ups off his glove in clutch situations), but I think the Sox are still looking for their long-term SS.
    Lastly: If the Sox plan to go after any marquee players, the one that would make this team truly fearsome is Santana, not A-Rod.

    Hudson October 30, 2007, 12:44 pm
  • oh, and make sure Farrell sticks around.

    SF October 30, 2007, 12:44 pm
  • Problem with Farrell is he could get a decent managing gig. Hard to ask him to pass that up. Of course, both he and Tito should get big raises.

    Pete October 30, 2007, 12:47 pm
  • I basically agree entirely with Paul’s assesment except on two fronts.
    – I think so long as Wake thinks he can pitch, the Sox will resign him. He’s so versatile and ridiculously cheap. How many 15 game winners can you get for his price?
    – Clement. Gone. He will only be kept if it was for far below his market value. I expect him to go free agent and may he have better luck elsewhere.
    I agree on everythign else ESPECIALLY on signing Lowell, forgetting A-Rod.
    I have a lot more to say on our needs (more bench! More bullpen! More Jacoby!), but I ahve go grab my free taco and get to work

    Dionysus October 30, 2007, 1:47 pm
  • Is there a better shortstop option than Lugo
    Julio Lugo’s second-half line.
    Julio Lugo’s line from the ninth spot.
    I’d keep him.

    Paul SF October 30, 2007, 2:33 pm
  • I thought you wanted A-Rod, Paul :)

    Pete October 30, 2007, 2:55 pm
  • Paul, as far as second-half lines go… We’re playing a full season in 2008, right?
    Or are you saying you expect Lugo to be a .280 hitter next year?

    Hudson October 30, 2007, 4:50 pm
  • Kevin Youkilis’ second-half line:
    Also, Paul, Lugo only really started in the ninth spot when he was on that extended second-half hot streak, so take that as you will. If I were Theo, and I didn’t sign A-Rod to play shortstop, I’d be looking out for possible mid-season replacements, in the very likely case Lugo stinks again. What about Jed Lowrie? Guy put up a very decent line in Pawtucket this year.
    And no doubt Wakefield gets picked up. Who’s blocking him, Julian Tavarez?

    AndrewYF October 30, 2007, 5:55 pm
  • Um, let’s go ahead and bring back the guy who’s been a mainstay on the club since 1995, and won 17 games this year. Tied for 11th in baseball, ahead of Holliday, Santana, Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, and others. And, oh yeah, gets paid much less than all those guys.
    Hinske is absurdly overpaid at $5.75 million. If he wants to come back, there’s no way he should be getting paid more than $2 million or so. Probably less.

    JoshA October 30, 2007, 6:40 pm
  • The 17 wins is impressive and all, but Wakefield did not pitch like a 17-game winner. At times, he did, but at other times, he pitched like a 17-game loser. So let’s not get carried away. He told the Globe today he expects to be back, and that his shoulder has no structural damage. If so, great. Like Pete said, he’ll provide great protection for Buchholz and Lester. If the three of them got 20 starts each, the Sox would be in great shape at the back end of their rotation all year long.
    As for Lugo, a .280 second half (much more in line with his career averages) would seem to indicate he was whether ing an adjustment period or simply bad luck in the first half. For example, his BABIP in the first half was .213 — just an atrociously bad number, unsustainably unlucky. Unsurprisingly, his second-half BABIP was .317 — exactly in line with his career average, and his overall numbers rose accordingly. There’s no reason to think he won’t be the second-half hitter over a full season next year.
    Youkilis meanwhile is an enigma. His career first/second half splits are night and day (.306/.408/.472 vs. .244/.351/.384), and his BABIP tends to drop as well, but not 100 points like Lugo’s. Hopefully it’s something he can figure out, and soon. His playoff performance was encouraging, to say the least.

    Paul SF October 30, 2007, 10:41 pm
  • Okay, in the first place A-rod goes to hell straight to hell and does not pass go along the way.
    He is the Anti-Champion and I fully believe any team that signs him will probably fill seats but personally, I think A-tool is one of those supremely talented guys who ends his career and everyone wonders why he never ever won a world series ring. Kinda like that NL schmuck (or should I say future DH) Barry Bonds.
    I have a feeling about Youklis, I might be wrong but geez during the heat of summer the guy sweats like he’s an artesian spring. And…the sweat is constantly getting in his eyes, making him ask time at the plate wiping it off. I just wonder if 1)he gets dehydrated, and 2) if it perhaps gets in his eyes as he he is swinging enough times to skew his numbers.
    Lastly, is it something that simply takes him out of his rhythm at the plate. I don’t know, but as the weather got cooler he caught fire again.
    Although in the end his WS average wasn’t phenomenal.
    Wake if he’s okay he comes back, where the hell are you going to find a 17 win pitcher who was asked to get decisions and came close to doing just that almost every single time out? For chump change? If he’s alright they sign Wakey for cheap and say thank yew!
    Hinske, yeah I like the guy and I hope he gets to play regular with someone.
    Kielty, if the can sign him for not much I say do it, I mean REALLY the guy saved a game with that catch in right and he had the winning HR in game 4. After sitting for how long? I love his swing and he can spell Drew defensively as well as at the plate against lefties, if the money is good I sign him.
    Shill, I don’t know… the guy was up and down all year and hurt again, anyone think trying for the no no cost him that DL visit?
    I suppose I give the old guy another shot but I’d have strong words that stipulate he come into camp in shape instead of a tubby like he did this spring.
    Dougie, geez he used to have such a good bat, but he is Wake’s guy, although Cash did a good job catching the knuckler, his bat is pffft, not much of a choice. Sure wish Bard had been able to catch it he’s a monster bat. Yeah, I think if Dougie is had cheap sign him again.
    Julian Tavares I dunno the guy is great on short notice but damn sometimes he REALLY sucks and part of it this year was a bad hammy that he just wouldn’t let keep him out of games, and as a result he got bombed all too often.
    Pre-injury he pitched some really good games, probably not getting signed though.
    Gagne, uhh no.
    Timlin, hell yeah, the guy has the heart of a lion, even if he can’t sling it like he used to. He’s still pretty clutch.
    Matt Clement, well now I really have to say he’s someone I think is intriguing, this is a guy who was an 11-2 All Star starter who got beaned yes, but when he finally had his arm looked at the doc could not believe the damage in there. This was his first DL visit and he was really pleased with his re-hab everyone else was impressed. I think if he is as far along as he says and is going to at or close to 100% and if he can be gotten for small money, take flyer on him, it could REALLY pay off big. I mean they liked him enough in the first place and he pitched great that first half year.
    Royce Clayton, please do not make me laugh, Taco boy can take his ring and go.
    If the Red Sox do not resign Mike Lowell, they are making a huge mistake, this man is not only a professional hitter, but a consistent force at the plate. AND he is probably the smartest baseball savy play-maker and base runner I have ever seen, bar none. the things he does on the basepaths and in the field win games, period. What he does in the clubhouse is vital too, and if Mike Lowell does not manage one day it will be a waste.

    Brian October 31, 2007, 12:06 am
  • Lowell’s also 33 and likely to regress next year. I think it depends upon the contract terms. I would favor 2 years at 24M with an option for a 3rd year. That seems reasonable, but I don’t think it’ll get it done. The problem is, what do you do if you lose Lowell and pass on ARod? I guess move Youk to 3rd and sign a DH or 1B.
    Schilling. I think I’d pull the trigger and sign him. He’s good insurance in the event the prospects (and that’s all Buchholz is regardless of the no-hitter he threw) don’t pan out. I think he’s figured out how to pitch with guile as opposed to power and if he can just report to camp in shape, could be poised for a very solid 15 win season.
    Tavarez. Not entirely sure what he did to fall into disfavor. There have been times when his pitching has made my eyes bleed, but he has also produced as a long reliever and 5th starter. He’s pretty versatile and seems to be a good teammate (something I never thought I’d say based upon his past history). I’d try to bring him back next year.
    Wake. All depends upon the shoulder. If there’s no permanent damage, you bring him back. There is no reason to believe that he can’t give you at least 13 or 14 wins if he’s healthy. And at $4M,that’s pretty damn cheap.

    Craig October 31, 2007, 2:42 pm
  • Craig –
    Sox have Chris Carter and Jed Lowrie. Between the two one could make the team – the former at 1B and the latter at 3B (or even SS). Youk then goes where he’s needed, and I’ve argued he’s actually more valuable as a 3B. But I’d rather they sign Lowell (3 years is fine) and have the kids to slowly break in.

    Pete October 31, 2007, 2:50 pm
  • You know what? factoring in Lowell’s age is okay and all, but Lowell went on a strengthening program last winter and look what it did for him. He said that he was bothered that his numbers tailed off a bit in 06 at the end. Mikey Lowell was by far the most consistent hitter the Sox had all year long, not to mention their season MVP (as well as series MVP)and RBI leader, I mean any other year and maybe it’s Manny and Papi at the top of that department, but hey maybe if Manny and Papi get back to their familiar RBI totals that simply gives Mikey more opportunities to drive in runs.
    If Lowell continues his regimen every offseason, I expect his bat will be as strong next year, AND the year after. I mean, the guy has obviously had an epiphany when it comes to strength training.
    Lowell isn’t just your average hitter anyway, and he became the kind of hitter that can reach out across the plate and take it to the opposite field with two strikes.
    In a small way it reminds me of Dewey Evans who went from being a productive hitter early in his career to a force at the plate in his later years.

    Brian November 1, 2007, 12:31 am

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