The acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez brings to an end a three-year period in Red Sox history. Ever since the decline of David Ortiz and the departure of Manny Ramirez, it's been all about finding that second successor to the big bat role to go with Kevin Youkilis. Victor Martinez, while impressive, was no Ortiz-owing much of his value to his position. Not even Papi himself was quite Papi last year, even during his resurgence last year. They've never been anywhere near as close as they are with Adrian Gonzalez.
That being said, with the Winter Meetings getting underway today, the Red Sox are not done yet.
Yes, they have their big bat, but let's be honest, we weren't even looking at Adrian Gonzalez a few days ago, and with Jayson Werth suddenly vanishing from the market on the most ridiculous contract since...OK, only since Ryan Howard's contract, but still...the Red Sox might have to make some changes to their plans.
What problems do the Sox have left to answer? The same ones they had coming into Saturday.
1) The Outfield
So yes, the Sox have three potential starting outfielders for next season. But between Cameron's age and last year's injury, it's hard to imagine that the Red Sox really feel secure in their outfield corps right now. Add to the fact that there's no real impressive options in next year's free agents, when the Sox will be down to just Jacoby Ellsbury and possibly Ryan Kalish, and it just makes too much sense for the Red Sox to bring in some help.
With Jayson Werth off the table, the obvious option is Carl Crawford. The thing with Crawford is that he just doesn't necessarily make a ton of sense. He's going to cost a fortune after Werth set the market so high, much of his defensive talent would be wasted playing in front of the Monster, and with his very poor splits vs. lefties, just isn't really a full-time middle-of-the-order bat.
Who else is there? We can probably cross off Justin Upton. As fantastic an addition as he would be, the Sox' farm system would be depleted by such a large hit so soon after the Gonzalez acquisition. No matter how many picks the Sox have in the next draft, you can probably count them out on that front.
Really, that doesn't leave many options for the Sox. They could make a move on Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham or free agent Magglio Ordonez. Both options would be relatively cheap short-term answers to the possible problem against lefties, especially when you consider Cameron's ability to platoon with Drew. Still, they leave the problem in 2012 unsolved, and while I'm sure the Sox would be willing to keep a player of Willingham's caliber around a little longer, he'd be in position to pick up his last big contract after 2011, and would likely want three years. Count the Sox out.
Where does that leave the Sox? Quite frankly, right where Crawford wants them. Then again, don't be surprised if the Red Sox set a limit, stick to it, and then burn the 2012 bridge when it comes.
2) The Catching Situation
So we have Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, and zero confidence that either can start. While a straight platoon looks like it might actually provide some decent offense if the numbers from the last few years held up perfectly, splits won't solve defense, and they never, ever seem to work out perfectly.
If you ask our readers, then the answer is simple: Russel Martin. He's been non-tendered, can play defense, and unlike Saltalamacchia, his promise has actually shined through in the major leagues, if not in recent seasons. The case has been made more thoroughly earlier, so I won't go too in-depth here, but suffice to say that if we want an actual starter for cheap, that's where to find him.
3) Who's At Short?
It's hard to think that Jed Lowrie did not earn the starting shortstop job with his performance in the second half of 2010. .287/.381/.526? A walk rate less than 2% below his strikeout rate? A 25+ home run pace? From a shortstop? Even if his production falls off a cliff, he'll still be better than almost every player at that position offensively.
But what about Marco Scutaro? While the Red Sox may have gotten used to paying backup players a lot of money over the last few years with the Mike Lowell situation, it turns out that you don't always have to do that-especially when the player actually has some value. While Scutaro's 2010 wasn't as impressive as his 2009, this came in spite of some power and bat speed draining injuries, and he was still an above league average shortstop signed for relatively cheap. That means there should be at least ten teams out there who would consider a deal. While it's nice to have a starter as a backup, it's an unneeded luxury. Realistically, the Sox don't even really need to get anything but payroll relief out of the trade, since shedding Scutaro's contract would free up cash to pick up any of the multitude of relievers on the market that the Sox desperately need.
4) Bullpen, Bullpen, Bullpen!
Did I mention that the Sox desparately need a bullpen? Bringing back Jonathan Papelbon and releasing Taylor Buchholz isn't gonna get the job done, but of course, Theo already knows that. There's rumor that they're targeting Brian Fuentes, but with his worrying peripherals and incredibly low ground ball rate last year, the Sox really should be targeting more premium talent.
Theo has been averse in the past to offering multi-year deals to relievers given their innate inconsistency, but if last year taught us anything, it's that a bullpen cannot be cobbled together from minor league free agents and fringe prospects (especially when you throw away the best ones. Like Taylor Buchholz. Yeah). The market on Scott Downs hasn't really taken form yet as teams pick up their big-ticket players first, but if the Sox are willing to spend $11 million on the shadow vaguely resembling Jonathan Papelbon, they should be willing to spend on Downs.
Also of note is Bobby Jenks and his fantastic peripherals, which were ruined by a .368 BABIP As a fresh non-tender from the White Sox, he is both available, and likely not as expensive as all that. Remember Matt Capps from last offseason? Look at what he did in 2010. Now look at Bobby Jenks. Bobby Jenks is this year's Matt Capps.
Also, re-sign Taylor Buchholz.