The 2007 Red Sox are starting to slowly take shape. Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, and Alex Cora have all been secured for next year. Keith Foulke will be going elsewhere, Alex Gonzalez has signed with Cincinnati, and the big news is that the Red Sox are on the verge of signing Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Right now, here is what the team kind of looks like:
C: Jason Varitek
1B: Kevin Youkilis
2B: Alex Cora/Dustin Pedroia/???
3B: Mike Lowell
SS: Alex Cora/Dustin Pedroia/???
LF: Manny Ramirez?
CF: Coco Crisp
DH: David Ortiz
SP: Daisuke Matsuzaka
SP: Curt Schilling
SP: Josh Beckett
SP: Matt Clement
SP: Jonathan Papelbon
SP: Jon Lester?
SP/RP: Tim Wakefield
RP: Mike Timlin
Manny Ramirez is being mentioned heavily in trade talks. It seems like he might end up in Anaheim to play for the LA Angels of Anaheim. That sentence points out how stupid that name change was.
Anyway, the Angels are looking for a big bat and just lost out on the Soriano deal. The other teams out there with money to spend and a hole in their lineup have either spent the money or filled the hole. The Cubbies got Soriano for an insane amount of money, and the Mets got Moises Alou for a one year deal.
According to Gordon Edes of the Globe, the Sox could get set-up man Scot Shields as part of a package deal for Manny. This would not be a bad pickup. We need help in the bullpen and Shields is just that. He, like a younger Mike Timlin, can throw a lot. He pitched 179.1 innings of relief the last two seasons in 152 appearances.
Along with Shields could come 23 year old righty Ervin Santana, who has yet to put up great numbers, but shows a great deal of promise. The Sox could also get top short-stop prospect Brandon Wood in a deal with Anaheim.
Of course, there are several problems with any Manny deal. First, it is difficult to trade him because of the $38 million he is still owed over the next two seasons. Any deal would probably have to involve the Sox paying some of that money.
Second, Manny is a 10-5 guy, meaning he can veto any trade. It has been made public that he would waive the veto if the team he is traded to extends his contract. But what is the flighty, flaky Ramirez going to ask for in a contract extension? The negotiations of that could break down and nullify any trade we make.
Third, we can get decent value for Manny if teams like Anaheim want him enough, but that value will come in another form other than offensive production. Teams that want Manny are in need of that production, so inherently, we will not be able to get that production in return.
Losing Manny will mean fewer headaches for Francona and the team, $38 million freed up over the next two seasons, and a lot less offensive production. We can't forget, Manny is one of the most productive players in baseball right now. He is the closest thing to a guaranteed .290+, 35+, 120+ so long as he stays healthy and happy.
Now, we don't have to replace that production in order to win, but considering that we only scored 820 runs last year, if we lose the production of Manny and can't fully replace it, we're going to have to seriously upgrade our pitching.
Other offensive options to replace Manny in the lineup have been taken off the market. The Cubs just paid a boatload of money to Alfonso Soriano in a Manny-like 8 year deal for a ton of money. Former Sox cry baby and short-stop Nomar Garciaparra re-signed with the Dodgers for two years. Nomar's new contract with LA will end the same time that the one the Sox offered him would have ended. In two years, Nomar will have been paid $32.75 million by the Cubs and Dodgers. He would have been paid $60 million over that timeframe by the Red Sox but he chose to try to find a better deal elsewhere. Good choice, Nomar.
The Red Sox middle infield is still up in the air. Alex Gonzalez is gone so the team will be looking for its 5th short-stop since Nomar. The Sox have yet to make an offer to 35 year-old Mark Loretta who had a solid season for us. It seems as though Pedroia will be the 2007 starting second baseman.
Pedroia came up as a second baseman, then he switched to short-stop because, now he would be asked to return to second base. Pedroia is also an unknown with little time spent in Boston, and only one full season in Pawtucket. He looks good and could be an adequate replacement for Loretta.
As far as short-stop goes, the Red Sox have their eyes on LA Dodger free agent Julio Lugo. Lugo is 31 years old. Offensively, he will max out at about .300 with 15 homers. That's about as high as his numbers will go. He doesn't get on base enough to be a good #2 hitter with an OBP of about .340. He has speed and steals a good number of bases, but he also gets caught a good number of times. He's a good defensive short-stop who is capable of playing other infield positions as well as the outfield.
I just don't see what the big appeal over Julio Lugo is. He seems like a guy who will give us some offensive production, which will be an upgrade from Alex Gonzalez, but not that much offensive production. He frequently strikes out two times for every walk, his OBP is mediocre, he has minimal power, and he seems to have difficulty driving in runs. I know he was playing for Tampa Bay for a few seasons, but when he was thrust into the playoff picture with the Dodgers last year, his numbers plummeted.
Lugo seems like a guy the Sox could get for $6 or $7 million. I think that would be unwise. We could get similar production from Mark Loretta for just a bit over half of that. We could then start Pedroia at short-stop. Loretta's a bit older, but Lugo is far from a young prospect.