Having successfully staged a coup on Yawkey Way, I am now the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, at least until the angry hordes break through the barricades and stage a counter-coup. In the meanwhile, I'll try to fix the team as best as I can.
What do the Sox need?
Well, reviewing the state of play around the diamond, the Sox need: starting pitching, first baseman, shortstop, an outfielder or two, and utility players. So, where do we start?
Pitching, pitching, pitching
Let's start with the starters. Aaron Cook didn't exactly light the world on fire during his time with the Sox. The less said about Lackey, the better, but we're stuck with him, so he gets to make his case for not being designated for assignment outright by working his way from the bottom of the rotation. And all I can say to Daisuke Matsuzaka is "Sayonara." (I guess I could also add, "Adieu. Goodbye. Da svidanya. Tschüß. Arriverderci.")
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are on relatively friendly contracts, and have a chance to prove they just had blips last year, rather than permanent declines. Felix Doubront appears to be a very serviceable back-end-of-the-rotation guy, and I've got him slotted in as the #5. Now that means I need to find a #3 and a #4 to fill things out.
If the Mets hadn't exercised their option, I would have offered a deal to R. A. Dickey. (Knuckleballers are cool, and makes him a unique opponent who can’t easily be "planned for.") Looking over all the available options on the free agent market, the leading options that make some bit of financial sense would be Zack Greinke and, if his option isn’t picked up by the Angels, Dan Haren. Most of the other options out there just don’t really make sense—their production doesn’t merit the overinflated price tags they’d command on the market. Greinke and Haren are both reliable arms who can be #1/#2 pitchers on a staff, but could be acquired without completely breaking the bank. I would estimate that Greinke would command about 5 years and $80 million. (Another Lackey-like deal, except for a pitcher who is hopefully better than Lackey.)
Now, to go after King Felix or not? Well, if we can’t get an arm off of the market, I’d consider a trade here. Of course, this would require a king’s ransom. Perhaps a package of Jose Iglesias, Jacoby Ellsbury, Drake Britton, and a few other AA/AAA players would convince them to part ways with Hernandez. (If I could figure out how to do it, I’d throw in language that would force them to take John Lackey as well, but I don’t think Seattle’s front office contains the reinacarnation of Al Davis.)
On to the relievers. The Sox don’t actually need to acquire outside help—they already have pretty much all the reliable arms they need. Craig Breslow gets offered $2 million to avoid arbitration. Junichi Tazawa gets to return and show that 2012 wasn't an anomaly of the good kind. Daniel Bard gets to prove that 2012 was just the result of trying to convert a reliever to a starter. Scott Atchison and Rich Hill also come back, as does Andrew Miller. (Yes, that surprises the heck out of me, too.)
So on the reliever front, that just leaves us short a closer. I have serious doubts about Andrew Bailey's ability to handle the job, but he's got no trade value coming off a 7+ ERA campaign and an injury, so we'll do the dreaded "closer by committee" to start the season until one of the arms above shows himself capable of the job.
First (base) things first (second, really)
James Loney is not the future at first base. He’s not even the present; under my regime, he will be strongly encouraged to explore the free agent market. Unfortunately, the free agent class at first isn’t all that exciting. Kevin Youkilis would be an option, but I think his day is come and gone, and I can’t see him being a first choice. A third or fourth choice, perhaps, but right now I’d have to put Mike Napoli or Nick Swisher as targets here. Their bats have not gone into relative decline the way Youkilis’s has, and they’re both several years younger. Napoli might get a bit more than Swisher, but I’d think I’d rather have Napoli over Swisher (the fact that Swisher has been contaminated with Yankeedom makes it harder to pull the trigger). I would be going for three years and about $36 million here.
Sign a new shortstop
I think Jose Iglesias will be a great defender. But no amount of defense will disguise the fact that his bat is absolutely horrible. It's awful. How else can you describe someone who in two successive seasons managed to have a slugging percentage below his on-base percentage? And, at the major league level, his OBP has been a scintillating 0.210. No, that's not his batting average. This just will not work. Not at all.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the year to try to go for shortstops. Stephen Drew might be an option, but his fractured ankle is a big warning sign. On the other hand, the reduced production from the injury in a contract year might make him reasonably affordable. About the best option among the rest might actually be Marco Scutaro—one of the bazillion shortstops the previous regime traded. I don’t really like any of the options out there, but Iglesias’s bat is so bad that his actual bat is worth more than his offensive output.
If we go for Drew, then I’d plan on about 3 years, $27 million (I’m not going 4/$36MM to avoid the obvious comparisons to another one of the line of miseries in Red Sox shortstop flops.) Scutaro is in the twilight of his career; hopefully a two-year deal for $12 million would get the job done and postpone the day of recokoning at least a little bit longer.
Re-sign David Ortiz
If 2012 hadn't lived up Mayan apocalyptic standards—at least as far as the Red Sox were concerned—I'd have arranged a "Bon Voyage" party for Ortiz and sent him on his merry way. But the truth remains that he is still the face of the franchise, and he is still as productive as ever. The only concern is that injuries will continue to reduce his playing time. Therefore, I'd extend him for two years, and offer a slightly reduced contract, in the mold of Tim Wakefield: 2 years, $20 million, with $12.5 million due in 2013 and $7.5 million due in 2014.
I would try to re-sign Cody Ross, and hope that it doesn’t get too expensive. (Four years, $25 million?) But other moves would then depend on whether or not Jacoby Ellsbury can be finessed for another position on the roster. My guess is that he really can’t be moved, in which case the starting outfield in 2012 is Kalish in left, Ellsbury in center, and Ross in right. If we could get our hands on Hernandez and send out Ellsbury, then we need to find a replacement. While Josh Hamilton would be a nice idea in principle, after all of the other changes, there might not be room in the budget for the contract Hamilton would command. Ichiro Suzuki might be an option on right, which would send Ross to left and Kalish to center. Ichiro’s deal would also be relatively limited in scope, so it wouldn’t be a long-term albatross. (2 years, $30 million). But none of the other options are particularly attractive in any of the outfield positions excite me. I’d rather roll the dice with Ellsbury, and try again next offseason, rather than try to make too many changes at once and break the bank.
Filling out the roster
The utility players are just as important, but of course, there isn’t much money left to pay them for their efforts. We’ll need one outfielder and two infielders. Daniel Nava has been reasonable enough that he could stick around as the fourth outfielder; with Kalish’s and Ross’s versatility, the outfield can reconfigure as needed to accommodate any of the starters coming out. If Iglesias doesn’t get traded, he has to go back to Pawtucket, because he just doesn’t have enough versatility—we’d need a single infielder who can cover 1B, 2B, and 3B, and at the moment, we don’t have one. So I’d hang on to Mauro Gomez and Ivan De Jesus as part of the roster; adjustments can reasonably made during the season here if needed.
Avert the curse of Tim Wakefield by signing him to the 40-man roster
I have no intention of letting the Red Sox become the new Pittsburgh Pirates, who have failed to have so much as a winning series in nearly 20 years—ever since designating Tim Wakefield for assignment, they have been consigned to abject failure. Therefore, Wakefield will officially be signed to a permanent contract on the 40-man roster, thereby at least averting any future catastrophes that may be Wakefield-curse induced. Such contract would expire only 17 years after the Pirates next post a winning season.
(Okay, that last one is a joke—sort of.)
Give something back to the fans
After riding through the maelstrom through the last few years, the Red Sox owe their loyal fans an enormous debt of gratitude. This debt has not yet been repaid, but we can start making amends for this. Since I’ve already theoretically deposed the current GM to enact my reign of terror, I think I would have the mojo to enact an immediate 10 percent cut on the price of all bleacher tickets for the next two years. (Season ticket holders might also get a rebate on the order of $100—not nearly enough, but the dollar supply is limited.)
The door appears to be buckling so it looks like my time as GM is almost up. But here's the team I'm leaving behind—lone1c’s version of the 2013 Red Sox:
|SS||Stephen Drew (Marco Scutaro)|
|IF||Mauro Gomez, Ivan De Jesus|
|C||Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnaway|
|SP||Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Zack Greinke (Dan Haren), Felix Doubront, John Lackey|
|RP||Scott Atchison, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard, Craig Breslow, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa|
It’s a lineup that tries to correct the needs, as best as is possible given the Sox’s constraints, while still maintaining enough financial flexibility that moves will be possible during and after the 2013 season as well.