The Red Sox are going to have 14 players come up for free agency. Here is the list:
RP Mike Stanton
CF Johnny Damon
1B Kevin Millar
1B John Olerud
3B Bill Mueller
1B Roberto Petagine
IF Tony Graffanino
RP Ricky Bottalico
OF Gabe Kapler
OF Dave Berg
IF Jared Sandberg
RP Matt Mantei
RP Mike Myers
RP Mike Timlin
Stanton, Millar, Petagine, Bottalico, Berg, Sandberg, and Mantei should all be gone. Bill Mueller is a questionable one. I think if we can re-sign him to a short one or two year deal, we should keep him. The same goes for Olerud. Graffanino should be re-signed to bring some experience to the bench in case some of the younger players don't work out. Kapler should also be re-signed because he's a good 4th outfielder/pinch runner/right handed bat on the bench. Timlin and Myers should also be re-signed. They are two of the maybe three dependable bullpen arms we have.
The big off-season pageant will be Johnny Damon. I'd like to keep him seeing as he is pivitol to our offense as a leadoff hitter. However, I don't think he deserves what he might ask for. In which case, he can go play for the Yankees and have fun shaving every morning, and trimming his hair.
The one position that has a lot of depth to it on the free agent market is first base. Paul Konerko would be a nice pickup, if you ask me. He would make a really good #5 hitter which is something we lacked for most of the season. We could also attempt to pry Mike Sweeney from the Royals. His contract is about a quarter of their total payroll so they might be happy to dump that.
Second base should be split between Graffanino and Pedroia, as well as some Youkilis. He was the Offensive Man of the Year for our Minor Leagues last year and was an Eastern League Post-Season All-Star with Portland. Pedroia struggled somewhat in Pawtucket, hitting .255 compared to .324 in Portland, but I think it is a perfect time to put him in there. With Graffanino backing him up, he won't be under too much pressure to perform.
Third base should be split between Mueller, if we can re-sign him, and Youkilis. If we can't get Mueller to sign a short deal, I think Graffanino could come over and platoon with Youkilis. Joe Randa and Geoff Blum could also be fillers for a season. I think Youkilis is as ready as he'll ever be to play consistently. I also think if he's given consistent playing time, he'll do pretty well.
Shortstop, unfortunately, will be Edgar Renteria's once again. The only way this might be avoided would be if we can't re-sign Damon and Mueller, sign Rafael Furcal to be the leadoff hitter, and then move Renteria to third base. This is a slim possibility, but you never know. There is no way we could move Renteria with his contract and his numbers from last season.
Left-field will probably be Manny Ramirez, unless the Red Sox work on a deal to move him. It wouldn't shock me that much as they've worked on deals to dump his contract almost every year he's been here. He's a great player, but he takes up alot of salary.
Center-field is the big mystery. I think the Red Sox would like to see Johnny Damon out there in 2006, but there are alot of questions. I don't think he's worth more than $11M. He's not getting any younger. He's prone to injuries, its a surprise he didn't fall apart this season. His 2nd half of 2005 scared me. I think the injuries were finally taking a toll on him. If he has an entire season like his second half, he won't be very useful to us. The scary thing is, the Yankees are looking for a center-fielder.
Gabe Kapler - this wouldn't be my first choice as I don't think Kapler is an everyday player.
Hideki Matsui - he's a potential free agent. If the Yankees want to spend money on pitching and a new center-fielder, they might let him go.
Jacques Jones - solid defense and a decent bat. Could benefit from hitting at Fenway.
Jay Payton - proved last year he could hit for us. But then again, he might not hit for us if he's not fighting for a job.
Carl Everett - just kidding
Kenny Lofton - He hit .335 with Philly last season, stole 22 bases (only caught 3 times), and had an OBP of .392. Didn't have huge production numbers, but then again, he was batting after the pitcher AND batting in the Phillies lineup. Scored 67 runs in 110 games. He's going to be 38 years old next season, but I think he could be a good filler before we're able to find a more permanent replacement. With the amount of kids we'll be bringing up, it might help to have some experience on the team in Lofton. He's been to the playoffs quite a few times, but still hasn't gotten that WS ring. Maybe that will entice him to come to Boston. I think we could sign him for maybe $5 million, which would save us some money to help our pitching staff.
Left-field will probably be patrolled by Trot Nixon next season. I'd love to see Kapler stay on this team so we could take Trot out against those tough lefties. That hurt us somewhat down the stretch and in the post-season. We need to be flexbile. We were flexible in 2004, but not in 2005.
I wonder who our DH will be.
Ideally, this would be the offense I'd put out there.
C - Jason Varitek
1B - Paul Konerko
2B - Dustin Pedroia/Tony Graffanino
3B - Bill Mueller/Kevin Youkilis
SS - Edgar Renteria
LF - Manny Ramirez
CF - Kenny Lofton
RF - Trot Nixon/Gabe Kapler
DH - David Ortiz
A potential batting order:
1. Kenny Lofton
2. Edgar Renteria
3. David Ortiz
4. Manny Ramirez
5. Paul Konerko
6. Jason Varitek
7. Trot Nixon/Gabe Kapler
8. Bill Mueller/Kevin Youkilis
9. Dustin Pedroia/Tony Graffanino
I think our bench should look like this:
C - Doug Mirabelli
IF - Kevin Youkilis
IF - Tony Graffanino
1B - John Olerud
OF - Gabe Kapler
Graffanino could be used in the outfield in a pinch. He has little, very little, experience out there but we could still use him.
Now for the bigger challenge, the pitching staff. If we want to win the World Series again, we're going to need pitching. That's why we won it in 2004, as well as 1918, 1916, 1915, 1912, and 1903. Pitching wins championships. We had an amazing offense last season and were swept out of the playoffs in 3 games. We were just like the Cleveland Indians from 1995-2000. Score 950 to 1,000 runs a season, get into the playoffs against good pitching, and then lose.
The pitching staff is full of question marks. But there aren't a whole lot of answers out there. Unfortunately, most of the staff will be under contract next season.
Did anyone know that by winning the World Series in 2004, Curt Schilling's contract was automatically extended thru the 2007 season? His deal actually contains some werid things, here is a summary from MLB4U.com:
"Curt Schilling: 2-Year EXTENSION worth 25M signed after being trade from ARI in Nov. 2003- + the deal includes a vesting option for 2007 based on Red Sox winning WS between 04-06- + the total value of the deal can rise up to 37.5M- + receives 2M raise if Sox win WS- + all performance bonus money is paid to specific chairities- + if he cannot sell ARI or NE(if traded) homes the Red Sox must buy them at the appraised price- + receives personal luxury box at every home game he starts- + receives 50K bonus for All-Star Game start- +100K bonus for All-Star seldction- will make 12M in 04 and 12.5 in 05- + WITH RED SOX WINNING WS in 2004, his 2005 salary rises to 14.5M and his 2007 option worth 13M becomes GUARANTEED (in total guaranteeing him 15M extra than orignal value)- + Bonuses he has earned: 400K for 2nd place in 2004 Cy Young Voting
Agent: Jeff Borris Service Time: 14.134
NOTE: WS clauses are illegal by MLB rule, but officials did not catch the clause in Schilling's contract till after the trade and it was allowed to stand."
So, anyway, here are the pitchers currently on the team and the year in which will be their last year under contract with us:
SP Matt Clement - 2007
SP David Wells - 2006
SP Tim Wakefield - 2006
RP Mike Timlin - 2005
SP Curt Schilling - 2007
RP Keith Foulke - 2006
RP Craig Hansen - 2009
RP Matt Mantei - 2005
RP John Halama - 2005
RP Mike Stanton - 2005
RP Mike Myers - 2005
RP Jeremi Gonzalez - 2005
SP Bronson Arroyo - 2005
SP Wade Miller - 2005
I think the Sox should make an effort to re-sign Bronson Arroyo, but as a bullpen pitcher, not a starter. He might not like this, but I just don't think he has the stuff to be a 200 inning pitcher. We also need to make an effort to re-sign Mike Timlin. We also need to explore the option of putting either Schilling or Wakefield into the bullpen. If we don't, we will have one open spot on our rotation.
There aren't any Aces out there on the free agent market except for one: Roger Clemens.
Why the hell not? We NEED an Ace badly. I know Roger is happy down in Houston, but I would still make an effort to get him. Why wouldn't he? Apart from being happy in Houston, the people he didn't like in the Red Sox front office are long gone. And do you think he likes having to bat? I doubt we'll sign him, but it'd be awesome if we did.
There are some good enough pitchers on the free agent market to fill in our last spot. AJ Burnett, Joe Mays, Jarrod Washburn, Kevin Millwood. We need to find someone who we know will make 30 starts and win at least 15 games for us and have an ERA of 4.00 or below.
Our possible rotation:
1. Clemens, but more likely AJ Burnett
That's actually not that bad. Especially if Schilling is healthy.
The bullpen needs ALOT of work, too. We need Foulke to come back healthy, and we need to re-sign Timlin and Myers. If we do that and keep Arroyo as a bullpen pitcher, we won't be in terrible shape. I think Papelbon should start the season in Pawtucket just because we need him to be a pitcher for us for a long time to come. The same goes for guys like Delcarmen, Alvarez, and Hansen. Either AAA or AA for them.
Tom Gordon will be a free agent this off-season but I doubt the Yankees will let him go, especially to us. A guy like Paul Quantrill, Felix Rodriguez, or Bob Howry might make for a nice set-up man. We're also probably going to make a move to get BJ Ryan to be a potential closer in case Foulke continues to struggle. Our potential bullpen:
Closer: BJ Ryan
Set-up: Mike Timlin
Set-up: Bob Howry
Unkown: Keith Foulke
Mid-relief: Bronson Arroyo
Situational lefty: Mike Myers
That isn't a bad bullpen at all.
The Red Sox have quite a bit of off-season work to do. Hopefully Theo will do a better job at making a team for the 2006 season than he did for the 2005 season.