Whew, I just got back from an abortive effort climbing Mt. Everest?* So... how are the Sox doing? ...
To be serious for just a moment, yes I saw the ALDS, and the ignominious end to the Red Sox season. I imagine my reaction to that series mirrored that of many Red Sox fans: shock, horror, disgust, anger, revulsion, anger, humiliation, anger, horror, anger and anger. After watching, it was difficult to write about the Sox again, to express anything about a team that had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a return to the bad old days, where the team teases you all season only to rip out your heart at the end.
Sadly, there's not too much that can be done about a sudden offensive drought, which was the deciding factor in the series. And as much fun as it might be to trade Papelbon to team suiting his competitive spirit (Pittsburgh, Florida, Kansas City), he should not be traded under vindictive, disadvantageous terms. I'd rather see Paps moved for real value in a trade like the one that netted Matt Holliday for the Oakland Athletics (reliever Huston Street was the centerpiece of that deal). If that happens to be for Hanley Ramirez, then so be it.
But Papelbon doesn't need to be dealt any time soon. And Boston's offense, while unimpressive in October, was still good for 3rd best in the league. Accordingly, this offseason Theo should make the following items priorities:
1) Improve Defense.
Boston ended the year with the 28th worst Defensive Efficiency in all of baseball (second worst in the league). By UZR they were ahead of 13 teams, but still bad overall (-17 runs). The left side of the field was largely a disaster, a putrescent cesspool anchored by Mike Lowell and Jason Bay, with a generous slopping of Julio Lugo on the side. No more. Efforts should be made to improve defense on the left: put Matt Holliday out there in Bay's spot, move Youk to 3rd. Some of the bad D was due to Ellsbury's crappy year, and Lugo's gone, but Lowell is still a worry and there's a hole in left field where Matt Holliday should be. [CLICK CONTINUE READING FOR 2 - 7]
2) Scout and make great draft picks.
Saito and Wagner should net some nice ones. Hopefully the farm gurus can grow us something better than a Jason Place or a Will Middlebrooks, because at the moment the farm system doesn't have too many players ready to help in the majors. I only hope that Mr. Anderson can overcome whatever is holding him back and become the All-Star we need. We need more excuses for Matrix quotes here...
3) Don't sign Johnny Damon.
This is less about pissing off the entire fanbase (and taking Judas away from his beloved Big Apple) and more about playing style. In Boston, Damon might knock mothers off stepladders or bring about the Apocalypse, but he won't hit +20 cheap, wind-tunnel-aided home runs to the right field stands. Further, if Johnny is signed to play left, that means the team missed out on both Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, both of whom would be better choices.
4) Don't count on Jed Lowrie.
Either Gonzo or Nick Green (or Hanley Ramirez) should be retained to back him up, for the 90% of games he misses with a strained cranial flexor.
5) Do something big.
This isn't strictly necessary from a strategicy standpoint, but it's much more fun to write about signing Matt Holliday or a trade for Adrian Gonzalez, than about more low-risk, moderate reward signings. In addition, if you get a great player, the likelihood of him imploding on you is reduced than if you get someone coming off a down year / injury-plagued season. We saw what players like that can do in 2009, and it wasn't inspiring. Brad Penny gave us some good starts before he started sucking, but John Smoltz was monumentally bad from the getgo. Theo doesn't have a great record rehabbing pitchers (Wade Miller comes to mind), so he should either avoid free agency altogether this season, or go for something resembling a known quantity. I am willing to make an exception for Rich Harden, because he is very good when healthy.
6) Fix Daisuke.
On the subject of injured players, we need Daisuke to pitch well, if only to avoid a third appearance by Paul Byrd. I still think he can put it together and become a #2 or #1 starter, although I'd settle for a luck-aided season like 2008.
7) Get a catcher who can throw out runners.
VMart only gets runners when they're following his throws into centerfield. Varitek is dead, long live the corpse. Get someone who can actually play the position to backup the starter.
Anyway, enough of my thoughts. What do you guys think should be the Red Sox offseason priorities? And how much improvement, if any, do they need?
* I canceled the trip after learning that I would not be the first or coolest Sox fan to do so. I just hope nobody complains about how much of OTM's bailout money was used to fund the junket.