Spring training is coming and decisions must be made.
On Saturday, a semi-truck full of equipment was met with great fanfare on the streets of Boston as it departed for Fort Myers. Truck Day is a phenomenon I will never understand, but I am told by believers that Truck Day is valued for its symbolism more so than for the actual big rig making its way down the highway.
But Spring Training is rapidly approaching, in fact some players like Jon Lester have already shown up to start training, and yet there are still several question marks surrounding the start of the season including what Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek will do, where is Roy Oswalt, and what is the compensation for Theo. These questions can not remain unanswered much longer; it is time to demand answers.
Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield
There are three options for Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield now.
1. Go to Spring Training. Varitek and Wakefield have both been extended invitations to spring training by the Red Sox, and should they decide to accept, there is a chance that they could earn a spot on the big league roster.
For Varitek, there is a chance that during the offseason he has recovered from his injuries and could be capable of earning a spot on the roster. However, the Red Sox already have two major league catchers in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach, with Ryan Lavarnway seemingly capable of playing in the event of injury. But if Varitek is healthy and productive, the Red Sox will have to consider what value the veteran could bring to the roster. Varitek's depth of knowledge for the Red Sox pitchers make him a valuable asset, even though his throwing arm is shot--throwing out just 12 percent of runners last season.
Wakefield also has been extended an invitation to spring training, and after 22 seasons in the big leagues, he may be willing to take a chance on a roster spot. As a free agent, Wakefield has stated his preference to return to the Red Sox for one more season, but the spring training invitation is the best he will get at this point. Wakefield started 2011 in the bullpen and entered the rotation after the Red Sox were plagued with injury. Wakefield earned his 200th career win last season, and he does not seem ready to hang up his jersey quite yet. While it does not seem that Wakefield can solve the Red Sox's starting rotation issues again if there are injuries, he might still have some value in the bullpen.
2. They could play elsewhere. While this option seems to be less likely as spring training approaches, there is still the potential that another team sees value in Wakefield or Varitek. And though there is discussion about whether or not leaving for one final season elsewhere is bad for a legacy, for players like Wakefield and Varitek who want to continue to playing, it could be an option.
Varitek could draw interest from other teams, especially for a team that needs a veteran catcher to mentor younger catchers and pitchers. If the opportunity presented itself to join a team where Varitek could make a difference as a back-up catcher, it seems likely he could take that opportunity for one final season.
As for Wakefield, the time is running out to join another roster. Wakefield's agent Barry Meister said earlier this week that Wakefield "has some options" to play this season, but he did not discuss any specifics. Wakefield has been a fixture on the Red Sox roster for the past 17 years, so his decision to go elsewhere instead of retiring could be a difficult one.
3. They could retire. For both veterans, 2012 could mean retirement. If retirement happens, the landscape of the Red Sox does change: Wakefield has been there since 1994; Varitek since 1997. They were integral pieces of the Red Sox World Series victories in 2004 and 2007, and both are perennial fan favorites. But, keeping a player around based on popularity over productivity is not something that Cherington seems willing to do, and rightfully so.
Varitek will be 40 shortly after the season begins and has shown decline over the last three seasons. With stints on the disabled list and a weakened throwing arm, Varitek's best asset to the Red Sox is leadership and knowledge. Perhaps if Varitek stops playing there is potential he could transition into coaching for the Red Sox or another organization.
It seems that Wakefield will make his decision with the week about what the future holds for him--but chances are, it does not involve pitching... at least not for the Red Sox this season.
This is the obligatory "Where in the World is Roy Oswalt?" post from Over the Monster, as we contemplate where exactly he is a)hiding and b) why he has not been signed to pitch the 2012 season with the Boston Red Sox.
Frankly, Roy Oswalt could be anywhere. Chances are he is in Mississippi hiding in a tree stand waiting to shoot something, but at this stage, it's unclear. Jon Lester loves to hunt, too, and he still answers his phone when it rings, he still makes it spring training early, and he is ready to play baseball. Roy Oswalt just needs more time... but it is running out.
If you believe any trade rumors before things become official, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark says that the Red Sox are now one of two teams that could be signing Roy Oswalt. But, the Red Sox have stiff competition because the other rumored team is the St. Louis Cardinals, which seems to be Oswalt's preference because of its proximity to his family in Mississippi.
While it's obvious the Red Sox are the best fit for Oswalt (they could use a proven starter for the rotation and they are willing to throw money at the problem), Oswalt doesn't want to pitch in Boston because it's not close to Mississippi. I would argue that the $6 million the Red Sox are offering can buy a lot of plane tickets, but the decision is Roy's alone...and he will be waiting until the last minute to make anything official.
Compensation for Theo Epstein
The compensation issue is in the hands of the Commissioner's Office and will remain there until a decision is made. And in true Commissioner fashion, there is no timetable for Bud Selig's decision. One would hope that the compensation issue would be straighted out before the actual season begins, but sometimes these things take time...far more time than they should.
The Red Sox allowed Epstein to leave with the condition that they be compensated significantly for his departure, and thus far it has not happened. Since Epstein and Cherington could not reach an agreement on their own, Selig has stepped in to make the decision, however it seems to be taking longer than anyone had expected.
Any day now, preferably before the start of spring training, there could be an announcement about what the Red Sox are entitled to receive in return for Epstein. Until the announcement is made, there is just speculation surrounding which Cubs player or players the Red Sox will have on this season's roster.
The hopes of a big name player like Matt Garza or Starlin Castro are certainly the most optimistic of pipe dreams at this point. Realistically, the Red Sox will not be receiving one of the Cubs' elite, but likely a serviceable player or two, or prospects. While there are all sorts of names being thrown around that seem more reasonable like utility players Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson or left-handed pitcher Travis Wood, there is no real way of knowing what the compensation will be until Selig makes his decision.
Since the compensation issue has been dragged out since October, there is a chance that the decision Selig makes has no effect on the 2012 roster at all--focusing on a deal that could shape the 2013 season instead. At this point, there is limited information and plenty of conjecture. We will know Selig's decision on the compensation issue has been made when white smoke billows from the Commissioner's Office, accompanied by church bells, hopefully sometime before spring training begins.