Red Sox fans, I'm going to tell you something that you might not want to hear. You might cringe at what I'm telling you. But it's something everyone has to hear and, perhaps, has to accept:
The Red Sox's 2010 season might already be a lost cause.
Yeah. I'm serious.
Marc Normandin, a Baseball Prospectus writer and former ringleader of the Beyond The Boxscore cult, was scratching his head about all the reports regarding the Red Sox recently. Why are they going after Jason Bay? Why aren't they going after Matt Holliday?
And then it all came to him:
The Sox front office also seems more optimistic about the 2011 market than the 2010 one, for a few reasons. The ones they discuss specifically are the fact that David Ortiz and Lowell will be free agents, so they can get their contracts off of the books, opening up their budget and some roster spots. This also screams that they are in the market for a new designated hitter and third baseman, but will wait until their current ones take their leave.
Why would they do this? Why would they sign someone who is so obviously not fit for the position, especially as he ages and becomes more expensive? The answer may lie in that 2011 market, as left fielder Carl Crawford will be a free agent (assuming the Rays don’t lock him up to a deal, and they may let him walk due to their own prospects and budget). The Sox may be looking to sign Bay long-term, not as their future left fielder, but as their present left fielder and future DH. Having a bat like Bay’s at DH would allow them to shore up their defense, which would in turn improve their pitching, which would improve their record…see where I’m going with this? They would be squeezing runs and wins out of everywhere they can in order to keep up with New York this way.
You know? I think he may just be on to something.
Of course, the biggest hitch of them all is if Carl Crawford is actually available come next winter. If the Rays are smart -- and we know they can't be all that dumb -- they're going to try their hardest to bring Crawford back. Crawford, who has been in Tampa Bay since his big league career started in 2002, can pretty much do everything you want out of a baseball player. His defense, though, may be his biggest asset -- at least for the Sox.
Crawford's +17.5 UZR/150 last season in left for the Rays was seventh best in baseball. No, not seventh best for left fielders, but seventh best UZR/150 for all fielders. He was the highest-ranked left fielder and second-ranked outfielder (Franklin Gutierrez - 27.1 - is just straight filth). There's no doubt his success could translate well to Fenway Park and playing The Monster.
Another key to this scenario is the Red Sox not bringing back Mike Lowell. Which is likely. Actually, it's not likely at all if he is traded to the Texas Rangers soon -- which is a rumor. I'm not really buying the rumor right now, but at least it's being discussed (if he is traded, Adrian Beltre would be a Red Sox faster than you can say "Beltre throwing from his knees from short left field ... OUT!").
The downside to waiting until 2011 is that there's not a huge market for good third basemen. Anybody want Eric Chavez? Just kidding. If Beltre were to be available next year, we could have a nice match on our hands, but that is unlikely.
One more thing worth pointing out: Joe Mauer is a free agent in 2011. As long as the Twins don't extend his contract, he will be the No. 1 free agent on the market. If the Sox were to try and nab Mauer (Victor Martinez's current contract expires at the end of the season), it'd be a pretty penny to pay for both Mauer and Crawford. The Sox could have the money for both, but would they really want to shell out that kind of cash?
What say you, Sox fans? Is it worth it for the Red Sox to save money, resources and prospects in 2010 and just aim for the sky in 2011? Or do you think the Sox can stay competitive and try to win every season? Do you buy any of this at all? Is Theo just holding his cards close to his chest?
Whatever the future holds, it's going to bright ... at some point. But that point may not be 2010.