The Providence Journal's Red Sox writer Sean McAdam was gracious enough to answer a few questions for the readers of Over The Monster. He touches on all the hot Sox issues, including how he thinks Daisuke Matsuzaka will perform, if this really is Curt Schilling's last year, and what may be the worst move made by General Manager Theo Epstein.
Over The Monster: With a handful of candidates for the closer's job in Boston, who do you think will earn the job come April 2? Do you think the Sox want to lock their closer in for years to come or do you think they'd settle with a veteran like Mike Timlin for a year or two?
Sean McAdam: I'm completely up in the air about the identity of the closer for '07, although the kind of guaranteed deal they gave Pineiro ($4 million) seems to indicate that he'll be given every opportunity to win the job. I think this would be a big leap of faith for the Sox -- giving such an important role to someone with exactly one career save.
I don't think they're looking for anything longterm here. I still believe that by 2008, if not sooner, the closer with either be Craig Hansen or Bryce Cox.
OTM: What kind of season do you expect Diasuke Matsuzaka to have? Is he going to live up to the hype and money?
McAdam: It's impossible to know how Matsuzaka will transition, but from everything I've been told from people who've seen him, he has "plus" stuff and the ability to throw any number of pitches for strikes. In my book, those are two key components for success. No doubt, Matsuzaka will have some difficulty in adapting to a new country, culture, language, etc. But from what we know about his makeup and ability, I think he'll be a success on the mound. Does that mean 20 wins and a Cy Young Award? Probably not. But I think you can pencil him in for 15 wins.
OTM: How do you think Dustin Pedroia will handle the starting second base job in Boston? We've seen him impressively move up the ranks since draft day in 2004 but he struggled in his 89 at-bats last in the '06 season. Is there any chance Alex Cora wins the second base job in spring training?
McAdam: Pedroia struggled mightily in September and that caused some in the organization to have their doubts about his readiness and ability. But Sept. can be a tough month to evaluate young players. I think he'll be given every chance to win the job in spring training, but Cora will be a nice insurance policy. My guess is that Pedroia will play somewhere between 100-120 games and Cora will play the remainder. As for what to expect statistically, I think the Sox would be happy if he could hit .260 and field the position.
OTM: Back in November the Red Sox thought they had their right fielder locked in for 2007. Yet JD Drew's contract still isn't official. What exactly is holding up the contract from being completed? Is it Drew's health that is in question or is it some sort of contract terminology?
McAdam: Drew's deal is being held up because the Sox want to insert some language into the deal to protect them should his shoulder sideline him. When they got his full medical records, they discovered the shoulder was more troublesome that they initially thought. Several other clients of Scott Boras -- Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez -- have signed deals like this. My guess is that this will get done eventually. After all, it's mid-January and Drew doesn't exactly have a lot of other options.
OTM: Curt Schilling has said for a few years now that 2007 will be his last season and that he doesn't want to go the "Clemens route." Do you think Schilling will hang up his cleats come November? Would there be anything that could bring him back to the Red Sox or another team, perhaps the Diamondbacks?
McAdam: Schilling has been adamant about this: 2007 will absolutely be his final year and nothing can change his mind. I'm inclined to believe him. Schilling has other business interests, he's set financially and he wants to spend more time with his family. He's in the process of selling his Arizona home, so his intent is to stay in Mass. upon his retirement.
OTM: Josh Beckett had one of the most disappointing seasons in a Boston uniform last year. Have you heard anything about his training this off-season? Has new pitching coach John Farrell addressed Beckett at all or talked with him? Do you think Beckett will bounce back in 2007?
McAdam: Beckett was a disappointment. On the plus, side he stayed healthy for the entire season and posted career highs for starts and innings. Farrell hasn't said a whole lot about Beckett; most of the questions for him have centered, predictably, around Matsuzaka and the closer's role. Beckett needs to mix in his pitches better and not try to blow everyone away with his fastball. His stuff is too good for an ERA of 5.00.
OTM: There are rumors circulating that the Marlins would like David Murphy to be their center fielder in 2007. Would the Red Sox be willing to trade Murphy? What or who do you think they'd look for if he were to be dealt?
McAdam: To tell you the truth, I haven't heard the Marlins much in relation to Murphy. I know Florida is searching for a center fielder, but I think they're looking for someone a little more established. They were talking to Tampa Bay about Rocco Baldelli. The Marlins might be willing to move one of their many young starters, but not Murphy, who doesn't have that value. Murphy's path in Boston would seem to be blocked. Coco Crisp is signed for three more years and Jacoby Ellsbury is rising quickly through the organization. I've heard Texas has some interest, but I'm not sure if anyone believes he's ready to play every day in the big leagues.
OTM: Once the All-Star break arrives, what are Red Sox fans going to think about their new shortstop Julio Lugo? Will they be missing the defense of Alex Gonzalez or be enamored by the offense Lugo delivers?
McAdam: Lugo is going to be intersting to watch. His defense won't match that of Gonzalez -- that much is obvious. But the Sox like his range and his athleticism. Some errors will be frustrating to fans. As you point out, however, his offense will be a significant upgrade over Gonzalez, who hit under .200 in three different months in 2006. Look for Lugo to get lots of doubles (40?) at Fenway and chip in with 10-15 homers.
OTM: One of the mysteries over the past year and half has been Matt Clement. What should we expect out of him in 2007? Does he have a shot at being the pitcher he used to be, or will he be another pitcher that fails in Boston?
McAdam: I don't know that we'll see Clement again in a Red Sox uniform. He underwent rotator cuff surgery last fall and isn't expected back until late in the year. Clement has always been something of an underachiever, never posting numbers commensurate with his stuff. Boston was a bad market for him and his deal will go down as one of the worst moves made by Theo Epstein.