The Red Sox have some big decisions to make this winter. Matt Collins takes a shot at making those decisions.
Today we continue our series at Over the Monster with each author taking their turn as a fictional general manager of the Red Sox. This year, we'll have a bunch of fake money to rebuild this somewhat depleted roster. As we typically do with these series, you will be able to vote on your favorite offseason plan once each fictitious-Ben Cherington goes. Today, it's Matt Collins' turn.
It's been a weird year for the Red Sox, with so many storylines and narratives that I would succumb to carpal tunnel were I to rehash all of them. As we enter the offseason, there is a renewing feeling in the air. Firstly, the team has already found their manager, which puts them about a month ahead of last winter's schedule. On top of this, the megadeal with the Dodgers at the end of August has resulted in Boston being flush with cash, making them flexible enough to revamp this roster before pitchers and catchers report. However, is this the year to spend all of that money on big names, or is it time to be cautious with their money and prepare to contend when the prospects are ready for the majors?
The first order of business this season, as I said above, is already done. With the addition of John Farrell, the team got a guy who everybody on the team seems to be comfortable with. In return, they only gave up Mike Aviles, who seems a bit redundant with Jose Iglesias, Ivan de Jesus and Pedro Ciriaco already here. The next task on this GM's to-do list is to take care of a couple of guys from last year's team who are now without a contract. Firstly, David Ortiz will almost certainly be back. The only question is how much he will get and how long the deal will be. This is a situation where I feel comfortable making a mild overpay. This will likely be the last contract of Ortiz's career, and it would be great for PR if that would be in Boston. Never mind the fact that he has still been swinging a productive bat. Because of these reasons, I'd be comfortable giving him a two-year deal worth between $22-26 million.
Cody Ross is a more complicated deal, as he is coming off an impressive year in Boston. It would be smart for him to test the market, but he may not see the deals he's expecting. The outfield free agent class is pretty loaded this year, and there are guys like Justin Upton who are potentially available via trade. This could lower the market for Ross, who's services shouldn't be in as much demand as they may be in other years. I'd start my bidding for him somewhere around the 2/16 range, but I'd be willing to go up to 2/20 or maybe even 3/18-21.
With Ross at one corner outfield position, the team will need someone to cover the other side of Jacoby Ellsbury. One option here is Melky Cabrera, who may end up being the best value available this winter. However, with all of the bad press surrounding him, and this media's penchant for feasting on that stuff, Boston probably isn't an ideal place for him to repair his image. Looking around the other guys near the top-tier of outfield free agent market, there doesn't look like there are any other short-term candidates. Seeing this, I would look towards Torii Hunter or Shane Victorino. I see the Angels moving Peter Bourjos this winter, so they'll likely keep Hunter in town, especially considering he had a nice year in 2012. The Dodgers, however, have old friend Carl Crawford to take over in left, so Victorino should be available. After a down year, and being 31 years old, he could very well take a one-year deal to prove he's worth one more big contract before he's on the downside of his career. Eventually Shane Victorino signs in Boston for a one-year deal worth ten million dollars, with incentives added in.
With the outfield set, the lineup just needs one more hole to be filled. Unless the team wants to move forward with Mauro Gomez and James Loney at first base - and it doesn't take an expert to know that they don't - they'll have to look elsewhere for an upgrade. With an extremely weak free agency class at the position, I think it would be wisest to explore some trade possibilities instead. Last week, I went in-depth on my idea of trading for Ike Davis, and I still think it's the best route to take. I won't go too deeply into my reasoning here, as you can check the linked article for that. Basically, these young, team-controlled contracts are the types that this team should be aiming for. I'm dealing Andrew Miller, Blake Swihart, and Stolmy Pimentel for Davis.
With this, the lineup is set. However, the biggest issue for this team last year was starting pitching. This is where I'm giving out my one big(ish) contract. There are many options in free agency this year, with Jake Peavy, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, and Brandon McCarthy being the most popular names being thrown around. Personally, I'm going to sing Jackson. One thing that this Red Sox team has severely lacked is durability in their rotation. This is Jackson's most attractive quality, as 2012 was his sixth straight season making at least 31 starts. Though I'd love to have him on a two-year deal, he is a guy who has bounced around the league his entire career. He'll likely look for a more stable contract. With this, I'd be willing to give him a 3/$33-36 million deal, which should be able to get it done.
I'd consider signing another one of the names listed above, but Jackson already gives them five starters, with Rubby de la Rosa and Franklin Morales already providing depth. Instead, I'd look at some less-desirable candidates to take on for more depth. There are plenty of these guys available in free agency. Amongst the guys I'd look at are Rich Harden, Bartolo Colon, Jeff Francis, Daisuke Matsuzaka*, and Jeremy Guthrie. In the end, we could have Harden and Guthrie in the minor league system, ready to fill a similar role to Aaron Cook in 2012, should the need for that arise.
*Totally kidding about Matsuzaka. I scared you, didn't I?
With that, the roster is complete. Here's a look at what the team will enter Spring Training with.
|C||Jarrod Saltalamacchia||SP||Jon Lester|
|1B||Ike Davis||SP||Clay Buchholz|
|2B||Dustin Pedroia||SP||Edwin Jackson|
|3B||Will Middlebrooks||SP||John Lackey|
|SS||Jose Iglesias||SP||Felix Doubront|
|CF||Jacoby Ellsbury||RP||Franklin Morales|
|RF||Cody Ross||RP||Mark Melancon|
|DH||David Ortiz||RP||Scott Atchison|
|C||Ryan Lavarnway||RP||Rich Hill|
|IF||Pedro Ciriaco||SU||Junichi Tazawa|
|OF||Daniel Nava||SU||Craig Breslow|
|OF||Ryan Sweeney||CL||Andrew Bailey|
Upon first look, this is a team that can be competitive in 2013. It doesn't jump off the page like the 2007 team did, or how we thought the 2011 team looked, but if things break the right way this can be a playoff team in 2013. Beyond that, they did not commit to too much long-term. Realistically, this organization should wait for their prospects before they make too many huge moves, and they should really be shooting to be championship contenders in 2014. However, with the roster above, it's possible to bridge to 2014 while still competing for the postseason in 2013.
Assuming the payroll is at around $75 million after the guaranteed contracts and arbitration procedures, the payroll is still flexible enough to make a move at the trade deadline if it is necessary. With the deals I've given out this offseason, the team should be looking at about $110-$120 million in payroll commitment for the season. This easily keeps them below the luxury tax threshold, and keeps them well on-track to be playing for a ring in 2014.
The deciding factor for this team is the bounce-back of their pitching, especially Jon Lester. If he can pitch like he has in the past, and Buchholz can pitch like he did in the middle of 2012, then this is a very solid rotation that could possibly be improved during the season, if deemed necessary. The lineup has talent from top-to-bottom, with Jose Iglesias the only true black hole presented there. Victorino is a question mark, coming off a down year, but he's one year removed from a huge season where he was worth 5.9 fWAR. Hopefully he regresses back towards that mean, and the motivation of one last big contract could push him back towards that production. When it's all said and done, this is a roster that should realistically be shooting for a win total in the high-80s or low-90s, which should sneak them into the wild card game. After getting there, anything can happen, and the Red Sox shouldn't be out of the limelight for too much longer.