Matt Kory: Like, Totally The (Fake) Armchair GM

It's your GM, Red Sox fans. Run and hide. Seriously. Run and hide. (Also, what's up with my tie?)

We here at OTM aren't necessarily of one voice. Sure, we agree on lots of stuff (cats are awesome, souffle is yummy, nothing in the world is worse than wet socks) but we aren't of one mind on everything. It is in that spirit that we offer you, the astute reader, a collection of different essays wherein different writers sketch out their off season plans. We call it Armchair GM. Marc Normandin's effort, the first of the series, can be found here. My effort is below. Enjoy!

 * * *

With the 2011 Red Sox safely in the rear view mirror like Tim Bogar after waiving David Ortiz around third towards certain doom, it's time to out line a plan for success in 2012. Here's what I'm thinking.

Coaching Staff

As GM, my first job is to find a steadying force in the dugout, one who can work to foster a fun environment, set and maintain order, and will make the least painful and bone-headed in-game moves possible. I probably won't be on this job long and I'd rather not die of an anger-induced brain explosion during that time. ("No! NO! Don't bunt here *BOOM* Blleaaarg...") It doesn't hurt if he has experience working in a big market and with big egos. That could describe a number of candidates, but I think it fits Pete Mackanin best. He's my guy. Also, I set BIll James and some engineers to work on a device I can hook up to Mackanin during the game which delivers electric shocks anytime he thinks about bunting. Hopefully that can be complete by opening day.

Options

We can't address anything until we know what the team's finances are. According to Cot's, the 2012 Red Sox have already committed $132 million to player payroll. That figure includes Marco Scutaro's $6 million option which was picked up on Sunday. The last two seasons the Red Sox have had a payroll around $165 million, so it's unlikely ownership wants to go well beyond that. As such, I'll try to stay within that range.

Since I took over the job yesterday, I've had some trouble locating the rest rooms. Thank God for buckets! Fortunately, much of the options-related work was completed just before I moved my antique abacus collection into my office, when the Sox declined options on Scott Atchison and Dan Wheeler. Neither player is likely to make or break the Sox season so I'm not particularly broken up about this. I'd consider bringing Wheeler back if 1) he signs for around a million or so, and 2) Mackanin's machine can be programmed to shock him for each lefty Wheeler faces.

As for  Andrew Miller, if last year proved anything it is that you can't have too much pitching depth. That said, right now Miller just isn't a major league pitcher. If he can be stashed at Pawtucket, he's absolutely worth bringing back. If not, as the great American Weird Al Yankovic says in his hit song, Smells Like Nirvana, "Sayonara, sayonawa, ayonawa, hodinawa, yada yaday, ayeee haaaaaa." In other words, buh-bye.

Red Sox Free Agents

First, we bid adieu to Tim Wakefield. Thanks for your many years of service, old friend, but it's time to move on.

I may be in my own boat on this one, and that boat may be very small, in the middle of a wide ocean, have a hole in it and be surrounded by giant blood-craving sea-slugs, but I want David Ortiz back on the Red Sox and I'm willing to pay for it. Ortiz is both an extremely productive hitter and a Boston icon. The second is a bit nebulous and I don't want to pay for that, but at the same time I'm cognizant that the Red Sox would lose credibility if Ortiz donned another team's uniform. After last year's collapse, I don't want that to happen. I also don't want you, the reader, to think team credibility is the only reason I'm bringing Ortiz back. Heck no. Dude can mash. By wRC+ Ortiz was the tenth most productive hitter in all of baseball last season. That's not just DHs, not just in the AL, in all of baseball. But if that measurement is a whole bunch of hocus-pocus to ya, then maybe the more standard OPS will sell you. Ortiz finished eighth in OPS, again, in all of baseball. Dude can hit and the Red Sox need him in the middle of the lineup. It's probably also worth pointing out that, with all the injuries the Sox suffered, Ortiz wasn't one of them. Hopefully when the dust settles, Ortiz can be wooed back by a two year deal at around $20 million. I'd be willing to include a vesting option for a third year, though that isn't where I'd start the bidding.

If Jonathan Papelbon is reasonable, I'm more than happy to bring him back as closer. Reasonable would be no higher than three years and $36 million. $12 million is probably too much to pay, but as GM of the Red Sox, I can afford to pay a bit extra for some extravagance here and there, and this qualifies. Mariano Rivera makes $15 million a season and no other reliever is set to make more than $12 million next year, so the hope is that by waiting him out Paps can be had for around $10 million a season but if the other offers are there, I'll go as high as $12 million per. (An addendum: If I can't resign Papelbon then my next target is Ryan Madson from the Phillies. Hopefully a two year deal for about $15-16 million gets it done. Madson's K rates are excellent and he can go after lefties and righties with equal success.)

When writing this yesterday I concocted a secret deal, one which I was quite proud of. I was going to trade for Derek Lowe. He wouldn't cost much, I reasoned, as the Braves have been trying to rid themselves of him since virtually the day they signed him, and Lowe throws lots and lots of innings. Advanced metrics (FIP) still think he's a good pitcher, and apparently so do the Cleveland Indians, who stole my idea out from under me. So, with my first plan now unavailable, I first call Chris Antonetti's office and leave a profanity laced message on his answering machine. Then, I get on the horn to Erik Bedard's agent, who I assume is either Wayne Gretzky or Gérard Depardieu, and re-sign him on a one year deal for about $3 million or so with incentives. Then I go poop on Antonetti's lawn.

Free Agents

With Sabathia now back in the Yankees fold (and how much money did he leave on the table? Wow!), none of the other free agent pitchers interest me. Which is a problem because the Red Sox need pitching. But really, C.J. Wilson? Someone is going to get stuck paying way too much for that guy and it ain't gonna be me. Same with Edwin Jackson who could get better and justify the long term deal he's likely to land, but do you really want to bet $40-50 million on that? I sure don't. Hiroki Kuroda has a fear of the east coast and Mark Buehrle is too hard to spell. That leaves Yu Darvish. Darvish has and will continue to be compared to Daisuke Matsuzaka, as both are famous Japanese pitchers, and both will enter the Majors through the posting process. There are certainly similarities, yes, but there are differences. Paint with too broad a brush and you will miss the details, Danielson. Darvish is younger and has been better than Matsuzaka was in Japan. Also, if there is any team that is capable and prepared to deal with another star Japanese pitcher, it is the Red Sox. Darvish is my man. I'd replicate the Matsuzaka deal almost exactly, but updated a bit. I'd put down $61.1112 million for the posting fee and sign him to a six year, $60 million deal.

Then I go poop in Antonetti's mail box.

The hunt for an exciting free agent right fielder isn't happening this year. Which is just as well because the Red Sox have two nice in-house candidates for the job in Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick. Neither is without their problems, but both project to be around league average, which for our purposes now is good enough because both will be playing for essentially nothing. However, as both are left handed, and the the one without health concerns has shown somewhat of a platoon split, it might be wise to bring in a right handed hitting outfielder who can compliment their skill sets. Enter Andruw Jones, formerly of the Yankees. Jones isn't the guy who was all-world in Atlanta a decade ago, but he has three things going for him. He's cheap, he crushes left handed pitching, and he's a decent enough fielder that putting him in right field at Fenway part time wouldn't be too much of an adventure. The Yankees paid him $2 million last year. Let's make it $2.5 and free juices from the Fenway vending machines.

Trades

I explored the possibility of trading Jacoby Ellsbury for Matt Kemp. Kemp is a year younger, walks more, has a longer history of hitting for power (i.e. there is a smaller chance his power will disappear), and Kemp's agent is Dave Stewart, who is more amenable to a contract extension than Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras. Also as a right handed hitter, Kemp might be a better fit in the Red Sox lineup. The reason I'm opting against are two. One, Ellsbury is, I have come to believe, a better defensive player, and two, and most importantly, Ellsbury has two seasons left under team control while Kemp has only one. I mention it because even though I'm not advocating for it, I still find the idea interesting.

The Finished Product

I wish the end result was more exciting. I looked at potentially obtaining John Danks and/or Hanley Ramirez, but Three Big F's kept me away: Finances, Fear and Frogs. Danks is an intriguing pitcher, but, like a frog, not without his warts. The cost to obtain him is likely much higher than the difference in performance between he and Bedard. (Should Bedard's price go way up though, I'd reconsider going after Danks.) Ramirez is a big name with an attachment to Boston, but he's coming off an awful year and is due $46.5 million over the next three years. If he can't hit, he can't play, and though the possibility of buying low is exciting, the risk is simply too high. Scutaro was a better hitter last season and it wasn't close.

The entire infield of Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, and Kevin Youkilis is set. I'm not dealing Youkilis. Will Middlebrooks isn't ready and I want nothing to do with 150 games of Mike Aviles at third. Neither, by the way, do you.

At catcher, I'll consult with my advisers, but I think we'll decide to put Lavarnway back in AAA so he can play more frequently and work to improve his catching skills. I resign Varitek as the back up catcher for six dollars and a box of expired Saltines. If Tek or Salty gets hurt I can bring Lavarnway up. If Lavarnway proves to be ready, I can cut, trade or stash Varitek on the DL. If he proves to be ready soon I can probably even repossess the Saltines.

Right Field was a slot I worked hard to upgrade, but the available production was never worth the cost. Especially so considering the Sox have two in-house options likely to play at an average level. In the end, I'm sanguine on Ryan Kalish, who I hope will prove healthy and capable of winning the every day job. If he can't then Josh Reddick has some skills too. Andruw Jones will back up whom ever starts. 

My lineup looks like this:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
6. Carl Crawford, LF
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Salty/Tek, C
9. Scutaro, SS

My rotation looks like this:

1. Jon Lester
2. Josh Beckett
3. Clay Buchholz
4. Yu Darvish
5. Derek Lowe Erik Bedard

And the Bullpen:

Jonathan Papelbon/Ryan Madson
Daniel Bard
Alfredo Aceves
Felix Doubront
Matt Albers
Franklin Morales
Dan Wheeler

Benchy Bench:

Mike Aviles
Jason Varitek
Jed Lowrie
Andruw Jones

Final Thoughts

So that's it. Darvish is the big pick up, with everything else staying roughly the same. This roster reflects my belief that this roster really doesn't need much. With a bit of tweaking, a bit better luck, and lots of hard work, this team is, I believe, a championship club.

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