After reading some of the proposals it seems like there is hesitance to make a major commitment on the free agent market. Don't get me wrong, I am all for staying away from the 7 year $140 million contracts and focusing on development, but I don't see a problem with committing to a few players for 2-4 years with contracts ranging from $10-$15 million/year. I believe there are good positional prospects in the pipelines, but like we have seen before prospects can be unpredictable so I think there should be a plan in place that goes beyond next year. The idea behind this plan is to make 2-4 year commitments to role players to help give the line up some continuity as the team allows the prospects to further develop in both the majors and minors.
Position Players Signings
My first move of the offseason would be to sign David Ortiz 2/$26. He showed last year that he still has the ability to produce in the heart of the line-up and I don't believe they could afford to lose his bat. If they did lose him it is unlikely they could replace his production for less than $13 million/year or top prospects.
The other pending Sox free agent is Cody Ross, and I would look to go in a different direction. My preference would be a series of moves:
- Sign Melky Cabrera to a 1/$9 million with a team option for a second year to play left field. Cabrera will be looking to prove himself after his suspension and I think he would provide the sox with a switch hitter who works counts and puts the ball in play, a skill set that last years team seemed to lack. Even if he is not hitting .350 he will provide 10-20 steals, 10-20 HRs, a strong obp and the ability to work counts.
- Secondly I would sign Nick Swisher to play 1B, 3/$45 million, I know I don't like the thought of it any more than you, but Swisher is another player who works the count and is not afraid to take a walk. He is also durable, having played over 145 games in all of the last 6 years, something sox fans should value given the last 2 seasons. I foresee Swisher taking on a similar role to Youk. Another option would be to go get Youk, but I think Swisher is a superior player at this point in his career. A second reason I am high on Swisher is his ability to play the outfield. With the league realignment next year 8 out of the sox last 36 games will be played in NL ball parks. With the sox short term commitment to Ortiz it makes them one of the only teams in the AL with a set DH. This means that he will take over 1B in these late season interleague games. So Swishers ability to play the OF is added lineup flexibility. Other 1B/OF that may be available via trade Morse, Trumbo, Morales, Moreland (in my opinion Swisher is the most proven and consistent of the bunch).
- I would sign B.J. Upton for RF at 4/14 million. This would be a polarizing move but here is my reasoning: I would prefer to pay Upton 14 million over 3/4 years than pay Ross 9/10 million over 2/3 years. Upton and Ross have comparable power, neither have a great OBP (Upton does walk more), but the Swisher and Cabrera signings should help offset that deficiency. The reason I prefer Upton to Ross is because Upton provides a defensive upgrade, an upgrade on the base paths, and provides the red sox with options regarding the Ellsbury situation. Just to be clear I wouldn't give Upton more than 4/$14 Million, if he gets a better contract then I would be willing to pursue Ross. (Other options could be Choo or J. Upton, but the price in terms of prospects may be a bit steep)
Prospects & Pitching
The next order of business is the positional prospects. I would start the year with both Iglesias and Lavarnway in the starting lineup. In the case of Iglesias it is a combination of the genuine lack of shortstop talent on the market and his defensive prowess. The Lavarnway situation is a little more complicated, and the short of it is that he has proven himself in the minors and I want to see what he can do to help the club. To back up/mentor Lavarnway I would go with a defensive minded veteran David Ross.
I realize this means giving up on a catcher who just hit 25 HR's, but he was poor with men on base, with RISP and in high leverage situations. I would try to package him and one mid level/high upside low level prospect (Workman, Pimentel, Vinicio, De La Cruz) and trade him back to the Texas Rangers for Alexi Ogondo. Then I would convert Ogondo back to the starting rotation where was successful in 2011 and he would provide the sox rotation with a power arm.
In the event Ogando's price is to steep/he is not available. I would look into Marcum for a 1 year deal, but I would not be opposed to camp competition between De La Rosa and a couple of veteran camp invites possibly Harden & Colon. I think that the Sox system does have impact pitchers who could make the majors by 2014 so although SP was the weakest point of the team last year I am hesitant to go sign Harren/Peavy/Loshe/Jackson to multi year deals.
- 1B - Swisher - 3/$15 - 45 (Team Option for 4th year)
- 2B - Pedoria
- 3B - Middlebrooks
- SS - Iglesias
- C - Lavarnway
- RF - Upton - 4 years @ $14 million/year
- CF - Ellsbury
- LF - M. Cabrera - 1 year @ $9 million/year (TO for 2nd year)
- DH - Ortiz - 2 @ $13million/year
- D. Ross - 1/$7 million
- 2 of Lackey/Dubront/De La Rosa
($58 Million new contracts for 2013)
I realize that Cabrera, Swisher and Upton are all polarizing players, but they all have specific aspects of their game that would be beneficial to the Sox line up. Even with a few longer contracts this plan still provides opportunities for prospects, both this year and in future years.
Anyways, these are just some thoughts to add to the conversation...