SAWX!

I’ve just about had it with all the Yankee talk. The playoff exit was gratifyingly humiliating (and vindicating), the Joe Torre soap opera was amusing, the Lidle crash was saddening, and there’s still the A-Rod soap opera to look forward to.

I’m afraid I haven’t helped any by being too busy to post much the last few weeks — all but ceding the blog to the Yanks and their spawn fans. Anyway, I’m back and darn it I won’t go down without a fight. So, after much speculation here and elsewhere about what the Sox should (get pitching!) and shouldn’t (trade Manny!) do, here’s the Comprehensive Omnibus Red Sox Off-Season Prediction and Analysis Thread.

For my part in all this, I’ll break it down three ways — the minimalist approach, the realist approach and the idealist approach.

Minimalist

For all the talk about the Red Sox’ lineup-wide slump this year, rumors of the demise of the Sox’ offense are just untrue. Considering that Manny missed the last month, Loretta played through pain the last month, Ortiz missed two weeks, Nixon and Pena both were out for a month, etc. Injuries short-circuited this lineup, and while a big No. 5 bat would be great, it’s not necessary with Wily Mo showing he can hit at least .300/30/120 in extended playing time.

Doing nothing to their lineup, the Sox can expect reasonable increases in production next season out of:

  • C (because Varitek can’t do any worse)
  • 1B (because Youkilis is younger than people realize)
  • LF (because Ramirez will be healthy)
  • CF (because Crisp will be healthy)
  • RF (because a full-time Pena is a monster)

Decreases in production can be expected out of:

  • 2B (because Loretta’s at that stage in his career)
  • 3B (ditto Lowell)

With essentially equal production out of:

  • SS (Gonzo wound up close to his career averages this season; why expect differently?)
  • DH (because Big Papi is Big Papi).

Overall, by merely maintaining their current lineup (with Pena replacing Nixon and Pedroia replacing Cora so as to get more playing time under his belt)), the Red Sox should be a better offensive team — and they weren’t bad to begin with.

As for starters, we know four of them already:

  • Schilling (15-7, 3.97)
  • Beckett (16-11, 5.01)
  • Wakefield (7-11, 4.63)
  • Papelbon (4-2, 0.92)

Depending on your perspective that leaves us in need of a No.1, No. 3 or No. 5. The minimalist approach would be to anoint Kyle Snyder or Julian Tavarez the No. 5. It wouldn’t be a bad rotation, and Snyder and Tavarez have shown enough flashes that they could be quite serviceable in a low-expectation role.

As a side note, I think the carping on Wakefield I’ve seen is just ridiculous. A year ago, he was the steady rock, of whom all Red Sox fans were saying: "He’ll give us 12-15 wins, no problem." He has one injury, and all of a sudden the tune is, "He’s old, he’s injured, who knows what we’ll get?" We got a pitcher who had a higher percentage of quality starts per games started than Jeremy Bonderman, Chien-Ming Wang or the much-coveted Ervin Santana. He also had four quality-start losses, tied for sixth-most in the league with roughly 10 fewer starts. So let’s put that to rest, shall we?

The bullpen, as always, is a complete and utter mess:

  • CL: ?
  • Setup: Mike Timlin
  • 7th: Manny Delcarmen
  • Lefty: ?
  • Middle relief: Snyder/Tavarez

Yeah, I have no solutions for the bullpen. Theo Epstein gets paid a lot of money to figure that out, and he’s only gotten it right once.

Realist

All signs seem to point to Loretta being replaced by Pedroia at second. I’m not sure he’s ready, but he did show signs of life at the end of the season, and there’s something to be said for throwing the kid in and letting him find his legs. Likewise, Gonzo is looking for a multiyear deal. Although I (and others) am more than willing to sacrifice his spot in the lineup for his glove, the front office seems inexplicably infatuated with Edgar Renteria Julio Lugo.

There’s also the Manny situation, which has seen Remy and Edes say they think he’ll be traded and Gammons say he thinks Ramirez will return. Considering A-Rod is more than likely on the block and is younger and cheaper (thanks to Texas), I bet the Manny market ends up being quite thin. I predict he stays.

There’s also talk of trading Lowell and his contract while his value is high and signing Aramis Ramirez. I’d love for that to happen; I’m just not sure how realistic it is. Let’s assume it happens as the Sox’ big offensive upgrade this offseason,

Our four starters remain constant, leaving the Sox an opportunity to go out and get a cheap No. 3/5 type or channel all their funds into the Matsuzaka hunt. Zito appears to have little interest in Boston, and I’d be happy if Boston has reciprocal interest in him and the same in Schmidt. The numbers for both are trending downward, and I’ll reiterate my bafflement with the idea that a 33-year-old NL-only pitcher will somehow be Nolan Ryan when transported to the AL East. If the Yankees want Josh Beckett-like performances (except minus the flashes of absolute dominance and the chance for improvement) for the next five years/$65 million, be my guest.

As for who this mystery, probably free agent starter will be? I’d take a flier on Vicente Padilla myself. If the Yanks let Mussina walk, that’d be both incredibly stupid and incredibly lucky for Boston. OTM (I think) was floating Gil Meche. These would all be good choices, I think.

As for the bullpen … Yeah, I have no solutions for the bullpen. Brad Lidge? It’s a possibility I would be intrigued by — and no bigger a risk than starting this season with Jonathan Papelbon out there.

Idealist

Trade Manny to the Angels for Ervin Santana, Brandon Wood, one or two top-line prospects.
Trade Coco Crisp, Mike Lowell and a mid-level prospect for Andruw Jones and a low-level prospect.
Sign Aramis Ramirez.
Sign Carlos Lee.
Re-sign Gonzo and trade him in the offseason if and when Wood is ready.

Assuming of course that those clubs are up for trades like that — which they very well might not be, but that’s why it’s called the "idealist" scenario.

That leaves our lineups and rotations looking like this:

Minimalist:

  1. Youkilis, 1B
  2. Loretta, 2B
  3. Ortiz, DH
  4. Ramirez, LF
  5. Pena, RF
  6. Crisp, CF
  7. Lowell, 3B
  8. Varitek, C
  9. Gonzalez, SS
  • Schilling
  • Beckett
  • Wakefield
  • Papelbon
  • Tavarez/Snyder

Realist:

  1. Lugo,SS
  2. Youkilis, 1B
  3. Ortiz, DH
  4. Ramirez, LF
  5. Ramirez, 3B
  6. Pena, RF
  7. Varitek, C
  8. Crisp, CF
  9. Pedroia, 2B
  • Schilling
  • Beckett
  • Matsuzaka/Padilla/Meche
  • Wakefield
  • Papelbon

Idealist

  1. Youkilis, 1B
  2. Pedroia, 2B
  3. Ortiz, DH
  4. Lee, LF
  5. Jones, CF
  6. Ramirez, 3B
  7. Pena, RF
  8. Varitek, C
  9. Gonzalez, SS
  • Schilling
  • Beckett
  • Santana
  • Wakefield
  • Papelbon

Thoughts? It’d be interesting to see who gets closest to the Opening Day lineup (barring injuries, etc.) in October. That’d be quite a feat, considering I suspect most Sox fans would have had Damon leading off the April 2006 lineup at this time last year, with Youkilis at third base and Renteria at shortstop.

26 comments… add one
  • Wow, your analysis is really weak and reads like a 3rd graders wish list for the sox next year.

    Eric October 17, 2006, 9:14 am
  • As opposed to Yankee fans Eric? Who actually think they are going to sign all the big free agent pitchers and Matsuzaka?
    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…
    Here is my take on next year, DO NOT TRADE MANNY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!!!

    LocklandSF October 17, 2006, 10:12 am
  • Eric, no offense, but that is the stupidest comment I’ve seen on this site in a long time. How can an analysis that begins with the Sox essentially standing pat with their current players be construed as a wish list?
    Come back and post something intelligent when you’ve gone to school a few more years…

    Paul SF October 17, 2006, 10:44 am
  • Care to articulate why you think that, Eric? I am all for dissent, but the least you could do is back it up with substance. Until then, your criticism applies more aptly to your own comment than to Paul’s, without contest.

    SF October 17, 2006, 10:48 am
  • I’m with Lockland on this. As a YF, I’d love, love, love to see Manny traded. That suggests it wouldn’t be a good thing for the Sawx to do. It’d be interesting to see Papi’s numbers if he had a more average player behind him.
    (By the way, does anyone else feel sorry for Albert Pujols? Here he is, playing in a LCS, and he has Juan Freakin’ Encarnacion hitting behind him! Just for that, the red birds don’t deserve to win the pennant.)

    Sam October 17, 2006, 11:15 am
  • Paul, no offense? Come on man, offend, offend.

    LocklandSF October 17, 2006, 12:05 pm
  • Sam, it’s difficult to feel sorry for a slugger who gets pissy and throws chairs when media have the audacity to want to interview him after a game, and then belittles an opponent’s performance even though that performance held him hitless.
    Hehe, Lockland, my tongue was a bit in cheek when I added that phrase …

    Paul SF October 17, 2006, 12:28 pm
  • You know what, Paul? I agree. I was surprised to see Peter Abraham say that the St Louis beat writers say that Albert’s a jerk. I always thought that he had a rep as one of the “nice guys”. Guess not.
    Still, as a neutral, it’s frustrating to see the best hitter in baseball get no protection from his crappy, crappy lineup.

    Sam October 17, 2006, 12:49 pm
  • Agreed on AP.
    Now, for my only input into this talk:
    Actively go after Mike Mussina and Padilla. I’m fine with Lowell at third, but if you do trade him, I’m all for picking up Sean Casey for big money and moving Youk back to third, where he’s proven more than capable.
    I think Casey is the sleeper this off-season, and I don’t mean that in a sense that no body knows him, but rather in the sense that NY can’t possibly justify addding yet another first baseman to that team, so it’ll be easier to eliminate other markets. Plus, I see casey like the infield version of Trot – he’s a gamer with a filthy hat and great personality: Boston will immediately take to him.
    Next, keep Gonzo and stop this weird love-fest with Lugo. The guy just isn’t as great as they think. What he’ll give up on defensive throws is just as much as he’ll drive in. The guy get’s to every ball hit his way, but his throw to first is something to see, so it’d be nice to have a great first baseman, like Casey there to scoop them or bring them down.
    I’m the middle of the road with Manny. I think there is real possibility that he goes, but if he does, it has to be for pitching. If he goes to the Angels, which is the likely candidate if A-Rod stays, I thnk the Sox should get back Santana (who’s currently overrated) and a certain SS they never should have let go in the first place.
    If Manny goes, they have to figure out a deal that brings in a big hitter to sit behind Ortiz. I don’t know who it is, or how they’ll get it done, but they have the parts to do it, and should.

    Brad October 17, 2006, 12:56 pm
  • Oh man. I want nothing less than to have Sean Casey on the Red Sox. Nice guy and all, but wasn’t part of the issue with Youkilis manning 1B that he wasn’t providing enough power at the position? So the answer is to get an older more injury-prone, less powerful version of Youkilis to take over at 1B? Just can’t understand that. And also, even if we did get him, he’d better not be getting big money.

    Quo October 17, 2006, 1:23 pm
  • So, what is the consensus of the writers? Is Phat Albert now going to be called Prince Albert? (Look it up if you don’t know. Ouch.)
    Manny hitting back-to-back with Vlad. Oof. That’s just about as bad as the current situation when facing Manny/Papi from a YF’s perspective. So the Yanks still won’t be able to beat Anaheim.
    Now that Lou is skippering the Cubs, we’ll see if they can get A. Ramirez signed, since contract negotiations went on hold while they finalized the managerial situation.
    I’m surprised his name has not been brought up yet in this thread: how would Alfonso Soriano look in a Sox jersey? Boston will certainly look into bringing him in.

    attackgerbil October 17, 2006, 1:48 pm
  • Your argument is valid, Quo, but Casey is a good first baseman and a solid .300 hitter.

    Brad October 17, 2006, 1:48 pm
  • I think the only way Soriano signs in Boston is if the promise him second base. We all know that’s what he wants, and he’s going to get it somewhere. It would allow Boston to deal Pedroia and fill the 4-spot for years to come.
    That being said, he would fill the role of a great hitter, but at what cost? The thought of him getting in a lineup that allows for Crisp and Soriano to be on base at the same time is definitely a risk to any pitcher trying to hold the bases.

    Brad October 17, 2006, 1:52 pm
  • Soriano had a great awakening this year, but given a choice between him and Lee (assuming Manny’s traded), give me Lee every time — same power, fewer Ks.
    As for replacing Loretta, that sounds good — but isn’t this the same Soriano everyone was trashing this time last year? He might be benefiting from the soft pitching of the NL…

    Paul SF October 17, 2006, 2:02 pm
  • I agree with you, to a point Brad. Casey is a quality player, a contributer, and an above-average glove at 1B. I think Casey got $9M this year? I think Lowell earned his $9M a little more than Casey earned his. Just why I’m reluctant to make that move. If we move Lowell, it’d better be to get a premier power hitter at 3B or 1B. Otherwise, I don’t quite see the benefit. My guess is if we trade Lowell (to SD for Linebrink?) that we might have to pick up some of his contract even given his solid season this year. I just think using that money, the better combination would be Youks 1B, Lowell 3B, and possibly Speier in the bullpen. I’m not opposed to upgrading the corners, just not sure Casey would actually represent an upgrade.

    Quo October 17, 2006, 2:26 pm
  • I don’t know about Zito, but I can’t imagine how the Yanks _not_ get Matsuzaka. With salary relief from Moose, Shef, to a lesser extent Lidle, giving 10 mil a year to Matsuzaka doesn’t seem like much.. (even if it might cost the Yanks 20 mil in fees, but that’s not luxury taxed anyhow..)
    Nevermind that it works both ways too – Matsuzaka gets to pitch in a huge market, with market potential here and perhaps in Japan. The Yanks get even more global coverage (as if Matsui and Wang doesn’t do it enough for the Asian countries..)
    I’m almost certain the math and the finance works out, of course in the end we’ll see..

    Lar October 17, 2006, 2:41 pm
  • The reason they might not get Matsuzaka is because the posting system involves a blind bid, not an open auction. The Yankees could obviously blow everyone out of the water with their bid, but it’s not a given that they will just throw $40M out for the right to negotiate, or what that number might even be. Blind bidding is totally inexact, since you cannot watch a market develop and fluctuate in real time like at an open auction, and it’s not a given that the Yankees will play the posting right.
    That being said, they have a big leg up, money-wise.

    SF October 17, 2006, 3:23 pm
  • I’m not sure why everyone’s concerned about Youkilis’ power. Sixteen home runs this year, more than expected, and he’s just finished his first full season. Give him another year, why can’t he be a 25-HR/.415 OBP guy? Is that a detriment at 1B when we’ve got the best offensive DH in baseball (nod to Travis Hafner) and the best offensive LF in baseball? I don’t think so…

    Paul SF October 17, 2006, 3:32 pm
  • I agree, Paul. I wasn’t dumping on Youk, but trying to keep him in the lineup while actually getting Sean Casey, whom I like as a player. If getting Casey involves any move that doesnt allow Youk to stay on the team (and I think he could be a good second baseman for that matter), I’d be pissed about it.

    Brad October 17, 2006, 4:19 pm
  • Very interesting analysis. I think the Manny trade is completely unrealistic. Putting aside that Stoneman is ultraconservative, Santana + Wood + B+ Prospect is the type of thing you’d sit around and mull over in exchange for A-Rod at $15M/yr. It’s the type of thing that’s far too much for Manny making $59M over the next three years (it’s actually $58M, but he gets another $1M if he’s traded).
    (BTW I’m not trying to get into a Manny v. A-Rod debate here. A-Rod will put up similar, though probably slightly worse, offensive numbers, and has a big edge in defense and defensive *value*, even if his fielding woes continue.)

    PTO October 17, 2006, 5:15 pm
  • Oops, apologies, I didn’t see the Manny trade under “Idealist”. Scratch what I said, then.

    PTO October 17, 2006, 5:17 pm
  • Manny is only owed $38M over the next two years, of which $8M is deferred: he is not signed for three more years as alluded to above. The last two years of his deal are club options, which will never be exercised.

    SF October 17, 2006, 6:36 pm
  • …hey eric, lighten up…it’s my job to keep the sf’s honest on this site…who put you in charge?…by the way, you’re wrong, paul’s sawx analysis was thorough, well thought out, and covered 3 scenarios of possibilities…the only one you could characterize as a “wish list” is the “idealist” version, and paul admits as much in his comments…nice job paul…

    dc October 17, 2006, 10:48 pm
  • Who hijacked dc?

    Sam October 18, 2006, 9:18 am
  • yeah, I was thinking that too.

    Brad October 18, 2006, 9:32 am
  • …old news, but i see where theo finally signed his contract…is he worried about the new guy taking his job?…

    dc October 18, 2006, 10:42 pm

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