I was originally going to post this the day we lost-I had written it as something of a therapeutic exercise-before I realized that this might be a "the body is still warm" situation. I thought that fit with the title. Anyways, we've all had time to cool off, time to grieve, and I think it's about time we move on. The stove is warming up, so let's get right to work, starting with a player-by-player review of the current and free-agent bound Red Sox. Who's going, who's staying, and who has trade value.
Daniel Bard: As a young, cost controlled player, Bard provides an immense positive for the Red Sox in the pen. Groomed as a closer throughout his career, Bard may not be ready yet, but he certainly gives the Sox flexibility in the event that Papelbon does become a sought-after commodity, both in the decision to act on a potential trade, and in the pieces they may get back, since they would not necessarily need a closer in return.
Josh Beckett: In the final year of his contract, Beckett actually has a lot to prove. Beckett has largely been living off his 2007 reputation with the Sox. While he was by no means bad this year, his 4.03 ERA in 2008 is not what we expect of an ace-type pitcher, nor is his 3.86 this year. Looking further into the stats, he's giving up quite a few more walks and homers, and striking out fewer of late too. This has lead to a steadily rising FIP from 3.08 in 2007 to 3.24 in 2008 and 3.63 in 2009. His tRA has also risen dramatically from 3.09 in '07 to 4.57 in '09. Ultimately, the Sox cannot approach Beckett's free agency with the idea that he's a necessary commodity. 2 years ago this idea might seem ridiculous, but as is Beckett may be a very replaceable pitcher for the money he will want.
Clay Buchholz: With his salary in check and his potential finally starting to show, Buchholz should be a valuable part of the Red Sox for years to come, whether as a future ace that many project him as, or as a solid #3 man. The real question with Buchholz is what his trade value is. There haven't been many trades mentioned throughout this last year that haven't involved the young hurler, but it seems that the Sox and potential trade partners just cannot agree on his worth. While his much-improved showing during this regular season may have raised his stock, it's still questionable whether the rest of the league sees him as being worth as much as the Sox feel he is. I doubt the Sox deal him unless he gets value near that of a potential ace.
Paul Byrd: The Byrd man is gone, possibly for good. After getting no interest from anyone until the Sox were forced to sign him due to injuries and poor results from FA signings, Byrd may even choose to go out on his own terms and retire. Either way, there are better options for the Sox in the offseason.
Manny Delcarmen: Around the trade deadline, the Sox had a great chance to get value for Delcarmen. Now they'd be lucky to get any trade offers. Even with a good start to the season, teams would need to see prolonged success to believe in him. Given the talent he's got, it would be smart for the Sox to keep him on as a low-leverage bullpen man if the rest of the pen gives them the option, and then trade him the second a team shows significant interest. He's still under team control for a number of years though, so it's not a big risk (yes, I know, low-risk high-reward is a crap buzzword right now).
Jon Lester: Not much to say here. He's our ace, he's young, he's under team control for many years. He's one of the most definite of the Red Sox' pieces.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Much has been made of Daisuke's difficulties with the management and coaching staff of the Red Sox. And certainly the Sox can't be happy with him after he all-but-sacrificed his season with the team to pitch in the WBC. He is young, he isn't too expensive (well, not now after the posting fee) and he does have plenty of ability, but there are many questions as far as Daisuke's future is concerned. If Daisuke recommits himself to the team this offseason, then perhaps the Sox will recommit themselves to the idea of the Wunderkind Daisuke. But if the Sox can get good value on him, despite their weak bargaining position, they may jump at it, even if it does mean hurting their position in the Japanese prospect market.
Hideki Okajima: Okajima will be entering his first year of arbitration-not free agency-and as such is likely not going anywhere anytime soon. However, Sox fans do have to question how good Oki is going to be from here-on-out. 2009 was a down year for Oki, as his ERA rose to 3.39, though his peripherals were largely unchanged. He lost a few strikeouts, and gave up 2 more homers (though, when you're giving up 6 on a year, that's not a small deal), but his HR/FB% was up similarly, and his BABIP was up too, suggesting it might be some luck. The fear has to be that the league has figured out Oki and his bizarre delivery. In this case, only time will tell. If Okajima can return to form, it'd be a significant boost to the Red Sox' pen.
Jonathan Papelbon: After blowing up to end the season on a horrible note, plenty of Sox fans were calling for Paps' head. The post-loss fervor seems to have died down, but the idea is still out there. Papelbon has not been as good as he was in 2007, though he has by no means been bad, average, or even just above average. Let's make no mistake, he's one of the games best. However, the Sox are going to lose him one way or another in a couple of years, and Daniel Bard certainly has the stuff to replace him soon, if not now. Ultimately, it seems likely the Sox very quietly inform the league that his name is out there, and then if someone decides to overpay for a relief pitcher due to the "closer" title, give it a long, hard look.
Ramon Ramirez: Another cost-controlled pen arm, Ramirez started the season hot but struggled as the year went on. While his 2.84 ERA is still very low, his high walk rate and middling strikeout rate lead to a high FIP and ERA. If Ramirez can return to early-season form next year, he'll be a valuable part of the pen. If he returns to being a guy they can't trust in late innings, though, the organization will have to choose when to cut and run.
Takashi Saito: Saito is an interesting case. The team holds a $2.5 million option on him, and while his tiny ERA would seem to make this an easy decision, there are many things that suggest otherwise. The first is that his peripherals are universally worse. His K/9 are down, his BB/9 up, his HR/9 up. His FIP and tRA have risen tons compared to his career averages, and he seems to have lost his ability to induce ground balls. The team has also shied away from using him in pressure situations, and if he's only gonna pitch blowouts and 6th innings than he's likely not worth the money it would take to keep him-especially if his numbers regress towards what his process suggests they should.
Note: South Coast Ghost correctly points out that the option is actually worth quite a bit more, as Saito fulfilled all his incentives for remaining on the active roster, as well as two for innings pitched. This brings the option value up to $6 million with $1.5 million in incentives remaining to be had. If it was a tough call for Sox management before, it's even harder now.
Billy Wagner: To the Red Sox, Wagner represents draft picks. Beautiful, beautiful draft picks. A type-A free agent, Wagner will net the Sox the top draft pick of any team that signs him, and a supplementary pick after the end of the 1st round-assuming he doesn't retire. While earlier, it was questionable whether the 38-year-old Tommy-John patient would garner enough interest for a team to sacrifice a pick, 26 strikeouts in 16 innings should turn a few heads, not to mention a 1.72 ERA. The Sox have already agreed to pass on Wagner's $8 million team option, and it seems unlikely he will accept arbitration if the Sox offer it, since his reason for demanding they pass on his option was his desire to close. In essence, the Sox have a chance to recycle Carter and Lora for first-round talent. Now that's a deal.
Tim Wakefield: As per usual, Wakefield outperformed his 4 million dollar option, and as usual it would be foolish of the Sox not to pick up his contract if he's willing to come back. But given his status as a perpetual injury risk, the Sox had also better be sure they have a back up ready. If he chooses to call it a career, then it will be the end of a long and fruitful career that set the bar for loyalty.