Let the 2011 Season Begin

Last night when Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz to end Game 5, it not only meant that the San Francisco Giants were the 2010 World Champions, it meant that the 2011 season was under way.  The Giants can of course bask in the glow of being champions until April 1, 2011 but every other team will look at this as the beginning of 2011.  For the hometown team, this offseason will be as crucial as any.  Many questions surround the Red Sox.  I will be following them closely all winter long and keeping you up to date with the goings on of the organization.

In this column, I will provide what we know about the roster going into next year, what gaps there are, and what potential solutions are out there.

The Rotation

1) Jon Lester

2) Clay Buchholz

3) Josh Beckett

4) John Lackey

5) Daisuke Matsuzaka

Yes, this will be the same rotation as last year but will be coached by former Oakland A’s pitching coach Curt Young.  John Farrell has left to go manage the Blue Jays.  Many have looked at Young’s resume and are excited about bringing him in as his staffs have often been tops in the AL in ERA.  I will remind you however that Oakland’s ballpark is as pitcher friendly as it gets in baseball.  Lester and Buchholz are studs.  Question marks surround Beckett, Lackey, and Matsuzaka.  Will Young be able to get all three guys back to the pitchers fans know they can be?

Cliff Lee is the big name free agent this year and the Kansas City Royals have announced that Zack Grienke is on the trade block.  Don’t expect the Sox to make a push for either guy.  To be honest I am not interested in either.  If you look at Cliff Lee’s career he is wildly inconsistent and he is also approaching the end of his career.  I don’t want the Sox to give him a long term deal that they will regret.  As far as Grienke is concerned, it has been well documented that he suffers from depression and anxiety.  With that being the case Boston is not the place for him.

Who’s out there?

Bronson Arroyo, Erik Bedard, Jorge De La Rosa, Ted Lilly, Kevin Millwood, Rich Harden, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte

The Bullpen

Closer: Jonathan Papelbon

Setup: Daniel Bard

Lefty specialist: Felix Doubront

Righty: Scott Atchison

Long: Tim Wakefield

Righty: Michael Bowden

What happens with the bullpen this off season will be anyone’s guess.  Many are calling for Jonathan Papelbon to be traded allowing Daniel Bard to become the closer.  As much as Pap has annoyed me the past two seasons I am against this idea.  The bullpen is weak as it is, and moving Papelbon will only make it weaker.  I don’t think Doubront will actually be the lefty specialist as I expect him to start another year in Pawtucket.  Bowden and Atchison will be in Boston filing the roles once held by Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen.  Wakefield will be used as the emergency spot starter.  There is room for one more guy in the pen.

Some interesting names the Sox might target: Kerry Wood, Dan Wheeler, Scot Shields, Aaron Heilman, Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Scott Downs, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Jeremy Affeldt, Mariano Rivera.

The Sox have loved Aaron Heilman since he was a farm hand with the New York Mets and may be able to get him at a small cost.  Scott Downs would be the ideal lefty specialist the team would love to have in the pen to replace Okajima.  The other named are long shots that I think will at least get a look and a phone call from Sox brass. Would Bronson come back to the team he once gave a hometown discount to, just to pitch out of the pen?

 

Later in the week I will look at the Sox infield, outfield, and bench.  If there are any players I might have missed that you think the Sox should take a look at please comment below!

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