WAKEFIELD & CASH~ Signing Wake for $4m gives the Sox a proven 5th or even 4th man in the rotation, while at the same time frees up umpteen bazillions for other needs. While Cash is no Papi at the plate, he does have adequate skills behind the dish. The experience he gains as Wake’s personal catcher will only serve to increase his trade value come the day Wake does retire. And if Charlie Zink stays hot in Pawtucket and shows up north, then the Sox in Beantown have a catcher who can handle the knuckleball.
LOWELL/TEXEIRA/PAPI/YOUK~ It’s tough to write about the players in this infield logjam separately as they are all so closely related in the evaluation of potential improvements.
Mike Lowell took a discount to stay in Boston when he could have easily left for more money elsewhere. He is the type of player you want in your clubhouse, in your line-up, and on your field. He’s another proven veteran. While he suffered some injuries in 2008, there is no reason to believe that he will not rebound after his surgery and have another good year. While he may not have a career year, expect him to earn every penny of his contract. He cares about the team, is well liked by teammates and fans alike, and gives everything he’s got. If Theo jettisons Lowell for Texeira, it will set a bad precedent. Exceptional players down the road would be less likely to sign with the Sox knowing that a heartless SOB GM will trade them anyhow. Texeira’s bat would of course be most welcomed in the line-up behind Papi, but at what cost? The bazillions he will most likely command? The ill will that could be fostered by trading quite capable and admirable players who happen to be over 32 years old?
Lowell being the professional that he is, I expect him to recuperate nicely and rehab himself into season ready condition come February. I expect Papi to rebound as well. While I don’t expect he’ll hit 54 HR’s again, a winter of rest for his wrist and knees will ready him for whacking 30-35 taters in 2009. While Youk is not Manny, he’s shown he is not to be taken lightly at the plate. Their Gold Glove work at 1B and 3B take away runs from other teams.
VARITEK~ I say keep him. Who would be his heir? Much has been made of his decline at the plate this year, but let’s not forget that as late as the end of May this past season, he was still hitting at a .295 average. It’s quite possible personal issues took its toll on his offense, and it’s quite possible he could rebound to hit .250 or better. His game calling skills make up for a BA less than stellar. Now when Boras demands an outrageous amount of money for the Captain (that would be anything more than $16m/2 years), then all bets are off. I hope ‘Tek realizes the monetary value and historical value to the game in his staying with Boston for the remainder of his career. Let’s not forget the deal Posada got and the year he had this past season at his age. Boras! Are you listening?
CORA~ I think it was Sparky Anderson who said he didn’t want guys on his bench who were happy to be role players. I disagree. There are guys out there who give 100% in that capacity, and Cora is one of them. He plays 3 positions well, hits .275, is a smart player, and is a bargain, taboot. I say keep him. Besides, he likes it in Boston.
CASEY & KOTSAY~ Who wouldn’t want Casey on his team? His clubhouse presence is a huge asset, he hits for average, and is quite adequate at first base. He could be a starter on many other teams, and may well pursue that route via free agency. He would be missed should he decide to find a full time job, but not irreplaceable. Much of the same could be said for Kotsay. He has proven his talent in the outfield and at first base and would make a fine candidate for a bench player, but I expect he will look for full time playing as well. Lars Anderson may not quite be ready for the big leagues this season (I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in a couple of spots along the way, though), but Theo will find a quality back-up player should Casey and Kotsay both bolt.
BAY/DREW/ELLSBURY/CRISP~ As it turned out, this 4 man outfield seemed to work well in 2008. Jason Bay is not the HR machine Manny is, but his defense and professionalism added to his above average offensive skills make up for the loss of HR’s that Manny would produce. And we know Bay will be there every day.
Three outfield starts per game times 162 games divided by 4 outfielders gives each an average of over 120 starts. Injuries and slumps happen, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Theo keep all 4, and then dangle Crisp next July, unless he’s needed to secure the elusive stud pitcher they should seek to offset the loss of Manny’s run production.
LOWRIE/LUGO~ Theo will find a way to unload Lugo, whether he has to eat some of his contract or not. Lowrie will be the starting SS, who can also spell 3B and 2B if needed. We now know the reason for Lowrie’s drop-off in the 2nd half, expect another rebound.
My projected starting day line-up:
2B- Pedroia (R)
DH- Ortiz (L)
1B- Youkilis (R)
RF- Drew (L)
3B- Lowell (R)
LF- Bay (R)
C - Varitek (S)*
SS- Lowrie (S)
SP- Lester (L)
This is an elite defensive line-up. If they hit to the best of their abilities, offense will be no problem.
*If Boras doesn’t break the bank.
Lester, Dice-K, Beckett, Wakefield make up 4 of the 5 starters. Rather than stir up shit in the infield by adding Texeira, which looks good as it is, find that last stud pitcher. Lowe? (How many elbow curls is he up to these days?) Sabathia (Too fat?) Peavey? (How much?) Byrd? (Good, but not that good.) Another Japanese hurler? Theo will find the right one. And once the injuries start up, you’ve got Bowden, Bucholz, Pauley, Zink, and Hansack waiting down in Pawtucket. Many have recently discounted the notion, but Schilling as a mid-season pick-up if necessary is not all that bad of an idea, if he’s well and not retired.
What team doesn’t need help in this department? Papelbon, Masterson (who could also start), Okajima, Delcarmen, and Lopez look to return. Timlin should retire. Aardsma? His performance fell after returning from the DL, he could be gone. Theo needs to find two good arms for the ‘pen.
Except for Baltimore, expect another dog-fight in the AL East again. My heart says Boston wins, but what do I know? I'm only playing armchair GM.