Taking a Look Ahead

It is pretty fair to say that the 2010 season for the Boston Red Sox will end as of October 3rd when they play the New York Yankees on the final day of the regular season.  Whether your feelings about the season are positive, negative, optimistic, pessimistic, etc, as of that day in October, it will no longer matter.  Red Sox fans will being looking towards next year as soon as they can.  I feel that being at the hub of all sports information here at NTCF, it would be beneficial to all of you Sox fans out there to maybe get a head start on the rest of Red Sox nation in looking towards the 2011 MLB season.

FREE AGENTS

I constantly find myself in intellectual debates with close friends about Theo Epstein’s success in his signing of big-time free agents.  I think that we can all agree of Theo’s ability to sign the perfect “role player” for this team (see Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, David Ortiz etc.).  But, Theo’s success rate in terms of signing highly paid free agents has drawn skepticism from many.  For example, the Red Sox spent big money on Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria, J.D. Drew, and more recently John Lackey.  While I’m not sold on John Lackey being a bad signing just yet, I do have to agree that the Sox have wasted a ton of money on players that haven’t worked out.  It is important for all of us to remember that while rehashing the bad, we certainly need to consider the good.  Adrian Beltre was a spectacular signing, and the Sox would be lucky to keep him around for next season and beyond.  Free agency also brought the Sox Hedeki Okajima, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Alex Gonzalez.  Those names may not be “big time players” in your mind, but all have played key roles in the Sox’s successes.

-Where Theo has been very effective is through trades.  Acquiring Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell from the Marlins was a key move that paid off in the 2007 World Series.  The 2003 acquisition of Curt Schilling helped in ending the 86 year World Series drought.  Dealing fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, as well as acquiring Dave Roberts were pivotal moves.

-Before we get into the available players, we need to consider who is coming off of the books.  David Ortiz’s contract is up (pending the team picking up his $12.5 million option).  I expect the Sox to try and resign Ortiz, but trying to keep his salary around $6-7 million will be tough.  Mike Lowell’s contract is up, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, it looks like Lowell is headed towards retirement.  Papelbon’s contract is up, but I expect another one year deal to be agreed upon, avoiding arbitration.  Adrian Beltre has a player option for 2011, but after his 2010 he’ll be looking for a big payday.  I expect the Sox to go hard at trying to resign him and it looks like Beltre likes playing here.  But, as always there are a lot of teams willing to over pay for players (something that Epstein hasn’t really been willing to do).  Victor Martinez’s deal is up.  This is a tough situation for the Sox.  I don’t think that they see Martinez as their catcher of the future, but trying to pay him DH type money probably won’t even have the Sox in the conversation for keeping Victor around.  Bill Hall and Okajima’s contracts are also up, and I expect Boston to part ways with both of them.

-As for 2011, the free agent class seems to have some players that could certainly help the Red Sox reach the playoffs and maybe compete for another championship.  Establishing the positions of need is something critical for the Sox.  It looks like left field, third base, and catcher are all positions of need.  While improving the starting rotation and bullpen are always on Theo’s mind.  The 2011 third baseman class isn’t particularly strong.  Beltre is atop the list as the best third baseman available, which brings a lot of competition when looking to sign him.  Other possible candidates to end up in Boston include the versatile Brandon Inge and Nick Punto.  Aside from those players, a possible switch to third base for Kevin Youkilis could allow for the team to look into a deeper first baseman group.  Available first baseman include Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko (although he is primarily a DH), Derrek Lee, and Lyle Overbay.  Konerko looks like he could be a replacement for Ortiz, but that wouldn’t make you much younger.  As for catchers, Gerald Laird is a possibility.  Also, there is always a possible platoon situation between Varitek and Saltalamacchia.  Jason Werth and Carl Crawford are the two gems of the outfield free agents.  I think that Boston really respects Crawford’s abilities and will make a big push for him (just imagine his numbers in Fenway), but going for a bigger bat in Werth is certainly enticing as well.  Other than those two, other available outfielders include Jose Guillen, Coco Crisp, and Maglio Ordonez (the latter two both have 2011 options).  Available starters include Cliff Lee, Ted Lilly, Kevin Millwood, Carl Pavano, and Brandon Webb.  As for relievers, the list includes the likes of Jeremy Affeldt, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Aaron Heilman, J.J. Putz, and Scot Shields.

PROSPECTS

-To be optimistic, the one really good thing about the Sox not making the playoffs is that they are getting their young kids a hell of a lot of experience.  Guys like Josh Reddick, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Lard Anderson, and Yamaico Navarro are going to benefit greatly from this time facing MLB pitchers in game situations.  In terms of next season, the prospects that I see contributing on a consistent basis are Felix Doubront in the bullpen and Ryan Kalish as the “reserve” outfielder.  I don’t think that Kalish will get a starting spot right out of spring training, but one injury could lead to an every day spot for him.  As for Anderson and Navarro, they need some more seasoning in the minors.  Anderson was supposed to be a big time prospect, but has yet to pan out.  Although his defense at first has improved and he does not look nearly as lost at the plate as he did last season.  I guess I can’t really call them prospects, but Jed Lowrie and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will both be big pieces on this team next year, seeing around 300-400 at bats each if not more.

-As for the distant future (2012 and beyond) important names to keep your eye on include P Casey Kelly, 1B Lars Anderson, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS Jose Iglesias, 2010 first round pick P Anthony Ranaudo, and a guy that I really like in C/DH Ryan Lavarnway.  Casey Kelly is the one “can’t miss” prospect on this list, but just becoming a full time starter this season may impede his progress a bit.  Ranaudo, formerly considered the best starter in college baseball, had a mediocre season at LSU but his talent alone made him a first round pick.  If he can get his mechanics back on track his trip to Boston could be expedited.

EXPECTED TEAM

-The chances of me coming even close assembling a team similar to the one we will see in 2011 are slim, considering the amount of variables involved (trades, injuries, signings, retirements, etc).  But, I gave you all of the players so I might as well take a shot at it.

Starting Lineup

  1. LF Carl Crawford
  2. 2B Dustin Pedroia
  3. DH Victor Martinez
  4. 1B Kevin Youkilis
  5. RF J.D. Drew
  6. 3B Jed Lowrie
  7. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  8. SS Marco Scutaro
  9. CF Jacoby Ellsbury

Starting Rotation

  1. Jon Lester
  2. Clay Buchholz
  3. Josh Beckett
  4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
  5. John Lackey

-Damn, that lineup is not intimidating at all.  Looks like we’ll have to adopt a new motto for the 2011 season, pitching and defense…

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One Response

  1. 1) Jacoby Ellsbury CF
    2) Dustin Pedroia 2B
    3) Carl Crawford LF
    4) Kevin Youkillis 1B
    5) Victor Martinez C
    6) David Ortiz DH
    7) Adrian Beltre #B
    8) JD Drew RF
    9) Jed Lowrie

    Bench:
    Darnell McDonald
    Jarrod Saltalamacchia
    Marco Scutaro
    Ryan Kalish

    Rotation:
    1) Clay Buchholz
    2) Jon Lester
    3) Josh Beckett
    4) John Lackey
    5) Daisuke Matsuzaka

    Bullpen:
    Jonathan Papelbon
    Daniel Bard
    Scott Atchison
    Michael Bowden
    Felix Doubront

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