The Armchair GM: Matt Sullivan, Red Sox (Fake) General Manager

With the unpleasant aftertaste of 2011 behind us, we shift our focus to making the 2012 Red Sox a better team from the bully pulpit that is Over the Monster. Matthew Kory and Marc Normandin have had their say, now its my turn.

 

The Coaching Staff: The first challenge facing us is the search for a new manager. Replacing the popular Terry Francona will not be easy. Two candidates slated for interviews thus far are Pete Mackanin and Dale Sveum, both worthy candidates, but not necessarily dramatic choices. I am going in another direction; I am hiring Mike Maddux, Texas Rangers’ pitching coach.

Maddux has not yet served as a major league manager and as former pitcher and current pitching coach, he is not an obvious fit. However, the Boston offense has not been the team’s central problem for quite some time. This team can score runs, but it struggles most at keeping them off the board. In the short term, Maddux can help the team evaluate and acquire the starting pitching help we will need for the 2012 season. After all, this the pitching coach who took Colby Lewis from the NPL to the World Series and oversaw the conversion of C.J. Wilson from closer to starter. In the more distant future, Maddux can help the Red Sox develop and groom young pitchers in the mold of the Rangers’ new durability model.

It is hard to say what type of field general Maddux would be since he has not managed yet. I certainly would hope that he would not follow the Ron Washington School of Intentionally Walking the Entire World, but I will be sure to grill him about such things for eight to nine hours before hiring him. For help with the offensive side of the game, I would put my trust in hitting coach, Dave Magadan, and my new bench coach, Jason Varitek. Tek may choose to play another year, but it will not be with my Boston Red Sox, who have Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway. Hopefully, a major league coaching position will be enough to persuade him to stick around. Putting Varitek next to Maddux helps keep a sense of continuity to the team. Hiring Maddux would also address the pitching coach issue, as Maddux could pick his own guy for the job. Finally, to replace Tim Bogar, I would bring in Tim Raines, currently manager of the Independent League’s Newark Bears and one of the greatest base runners of all time. He couldn’t do worse and he is named Tim, which is convenient for the older players. 

Options: The real Red Sox GM has already exercised the option for SS Marco Scutaro, a no-brainer in my opinion. He has also declined the options on Dan Wheeler and Scott Atchison. Wheeler had some tough luck and suffered from a proclivity for home runs but he did two things right: he got strikeouts (7.11 per 9) and he didn’t walk anyone (1.46 per 9). I am going to limit him to ROOGY work as much as possible, but I do hope to bring him back for around $1M. Miller on the other is out of chances as far as I am concerned. He has thrown 359.1 major league innings and walked an ungodly 5.68 per nine innings. He is not going to turn into a major league starter anytime soon and he is too risky in bullpen, especially since he somehow has an even higher walk rate against lefties (6.55 per 9). I don’t even see Miller as worthwhile minor league depth at this point.

Arbitration Cases: The Red Sox face one major arbitration case in Jacoby Ellsbury. In the interest of avoiding unpleasant battles I hope to secure Ellsbury to a 2 year/$18M contract, or roughly what he would expect to make anyway. If the Red Sox want to sign their superstar centerfielder long-term, downplaying his abilities in a hearing won’t help much. The rest of the group, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Aviles, Jed Lowrie, Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales and Darnell McDonald will all be affordable and I would expect to settle with most or all. The one exception is Darnell McDonald, who has become redundant with the presence of Mike Aviles.

Red Sox Free Agent Players: The Sox will have J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Conor Jackson, Matt Albers, Trever Miller, Erik Bedard, David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon hitting the market. Varitek, Drew and Wake have been great for Boston, but I am letting them go along with Miller and Jackson. I already laid out my plan for Tek above.  While I would love to see Tim Wakefield’s name atop the Red Sox all-time win chart, he has lost his versatility, which was the key to his value for the last few years. Alfredo Aceves will take over that role for my Sox team. Drew almost certainly will retire. I’ll keep Albers as he is an effective low cost solution in the bullpen.

The real questions are Papi and Paps. Both players are extremely popular with fans and had excellent 2011 seasons. Unfortunately, both players are also going cost a significant amount and that cost is at a high risk. Ortiz is an aging slugger and the definition of a one-dimensional player. Paps will probably be looking to get a long term deal at a rate that has rarely been justifiable for closers.

I am signing Ortiz, after letting the market set his value and letting Paps go. Papelbon may be one of the only relievers capable of justifying a deal worth 5 years/$50M, but that doesn’t mean Boston should be the one to pay it. If Paps can’t command the money he wants, I might commit to the closer, but it has been clear for a long time that Papelbon wants his payday and giving long-term big money to a pitcher who will not even see 80 innings of work is very hard to justify. Daniel Bard’s miserable September might have changed the perception of his ability to close, but it doesn’t change the reality.  

Ortiz, on the other hand, could fit perfectly into my plans. The fear of Ortiz’s rapid decline has ebbed now that he has had two solid seasons in a row. It is likely that his 2008-2009 struggles were the remnants of his wrist injury. I would bring Ortiz back, though at a maximum of his $12.5M 2011 salary, for two years he would need to except $16 for the added security. As great as Papi is, he is still only a DH who can’t run or play the field and paying for his past heroics doesn’t make sense.

That leaves Erik Bedard as the Boston’s last free agent. Bedard is the definition of "injury-risk," and, as such, should come cheap and without the need to commit to more than two years. Those are the perfect conditions for Boston to re-sign him. Ideally, he should be available for around Marc’s estimate of 1 year/$6M and I would even go so far as to include a vesting option should he manage 180 innings, to make it a possible 2 year/$13M.

That puts my plan at around $165-$170M before we import anyone. Before we hit luxury tax penalties, we should be able to spend $15M -$20M more to fill in a few key gaps.

Free Agents/Trades: I will be involved in the conversation for top free agent starter C.J. Wilson but landing him is a long shot unless ownership decides to dramatically increase payroll and/or Bedard, Paps and Papi all leave. Realistically, we will need to either sign veterans in an attempt to duplicate what New York did in 2011 or make an aggressive trade.

I am going to the trade market. Our farm system has been regularly disparaged for its lack of major league ready talent following the Adrian Gonzalez trade. However, we do have some pieces I would be ready to move in a deal for pitching. While both Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish have the potential to be above average major league players, only one of the two will factor into the Sox future. I want to sell high on Reddick this off-season. As a 24 year old player, Reddick had a good year for Boston, but he had an average strikeout rate and a below average walk rate, relying on his .318 BABIP to sustain his average-ish OBP. He has speed and a good glove and may well be a very good player in the future, but the outfield is a place we have some depth long term and Ryan Kalish may ultimately prove the superior player, thanks to better plate discipline. I would not hesitate to switch out Kalish for Reddick in such a deal, but Reddick likely has the higher value.

I am also looking to move Jose Iglesias before his value drops any further. I don’t believe in his bat, pure and simple. We also have Lars Anderson who is beyond prospect status now, but still could contribute to another team. That is three player players close to the majors for one pitcher. The guy I am looking to acquire is Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy broke out big time with Oakland last season at age 27, thanks to his intense study of Roy Halladay. He dropped his walk rate to the good doctor’s levels (1.32 per nine),  and went from a fly ball pitcher to a 46.7 GB%, without losing strikeouts (6.49 per nine). To land McCarthy, I’ll do what ever it will take, No one, not even top prospect,  Will Middlebrooks, will be off table, but any package will be conditional to McCarthy signing a long term deal with Boston (a la Adrian Gonzalez) McCarthy will be entering free agency after 2012 and Oakland is well stock with pitching talent under team control. So I think Reddick, Iglesias and Anderson (or another similar 3 player package) could get this done. Oakland will be selling high on him and should he stay with them and succeed, he will price himself out of town next year.

McCarthy may be young and supremely talented, but he is not without risk. He has only shown these elite skills this past season, before that he had far higher walk and fly ball rates. However, these skill are all repeatable. McCarthy did have some good fortune on home runs (he won't sustain a 6.4 HR/FB rate forever), but his BABIP was right around league average (.296) so this was no fluke. Additionally, he  had a very light workload while under 25, something that is often sighted as a key to long term durability. His 170 innings last season are the most he has ever thrown in a year and he should be primed to exceed that regularly going forward.  He is an under the radar player with team that has incentive to move him and could use some of our position players. I am doing this.

Saving money will be especially important as I plan to address the one offensive need the team has, a right-handed hitting outfielder, with the top player available. Carlos Beltran is a switch hitter and though he is no longer a plus defender, he can hold his own in any outfield position. He also hit in two very unfriendly places last season and still put up a .389 wOBA.

The market for Beltran is tough to gauge at this point. The Yankees will not need him, but a few other big market teams might make him a tough sign, especially the Giants. Beltran is still a great player, but at age 35 with his injury history, most teams won’t want to commit too much to him. I would try for a  2 years/$28M deal but I could see 2 years/ $32M being needed and justifiable, but that would be my max, no third year for us. Beltran gives the team more right-handed hitting and a productive outfielder for depth. Beltran, Youkilis and Lavarnway would all see some DH time and Kalish would play right against righties as much as possible to continue his development. Grady Sizemore would be a serviceable back up plan should Beltran slip away and likely cost less.

The rest of the pitching staff will have to come from in house, with Doubront and Weiland getting the first chances and Junchi Tazawa and Scott Atchison coming next. I would also consider Jeff Francis and Mitch Talbot for minor league contracts, but both may find full-time employment elsewhere. If Wake would consider a minor league contract, I certainly resign him in that capacity as well.

That would make our 2012 Red Sox easy favorites for the AL East and beyond and keep the team under the luxury cap. Our minor league system would suffer another set back, but this roster would make it all worthwhile.

 

Position

Player

 

Bench 

Player

C

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

 

IF

Jed Lowrie

1B

Adrian Gonzalez

 

UT

Mike Aviles

2B

Dustin Pedroia

 

4OF

Ryan Kalish

3B

Kevin Youkilis

 

C

Ryan Lavarnway

SS

Marco Scutaro

 

 

 

LF

Carl Crawford

 

SP6

Alfredo Aceves

CF

Jacoby Ellsbury

 

RP

Kyle Weiland

RF

Carlos Beltran/ Grady Sizemore

 

RP

Dan Wheeler

DH

David Ortiz

 

RP

Felix Doubront

SP1

Jon Lester

 

RP

Matt Albers

SP2

Josh Beckett

 

RP

Franklin Morales

SP3

Clay Buchholz

 

CL

Daniel Bard

SP4

Brandon McCarthy

 

 

 

SP5

Erik Bedard



 

 

 


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