Thursday, November 01, 2007

If I Were Theo Epstein...

"Forgotten, thoughts of yesterday
Through my eyes I see the past."

I have dreamed of this opportunity. Everyone in Red Sox Nation has. But now, given that the season is over, we're World Champs, and I didn't feel like drinking heavily tonight, I thought I would put my ideas on paper. Now this is strictly dealing from a personnel standpoint. All other crazy things I would do from an ownership perspective can be found on my profile. So, I hope everyone enjoys this. Maybe these are things you have thought of before, maybe they are ridiculously obvious, maybe it's something new...I don't know. All I know is that I wanted to do this at a rare sober moment I am having right now.

Position Players:

Well, we all know who the starter will be, but what about his backup? It never hurts to have a little insurance on the bench in case something goes array. Right now, you have Doug Mirabelli and Kevin Cash. Not only are both these guys completely ineffective, but they also chewed up around $1.25 million in cap space. I know Wake is not the same without Mirabelli, and you have to love Dougie, but as a ruthless GM obsessed with making a team better and having a dynamic chemistry, these moves are necessary. So, both of those guys are gone. In their place, you would have George Kottaras and Damian Miller. Kottaras is a home-grown catcher who is currently playing for the PawSox, and Miller is a free agent from Milwaukee. Miller's asking price will likely be around $1.5 million for a one-year deal. Sure, these guys do not have mega power, but they are able to get on base, something the prior two cannot say. Both of these guys will likely be one-year stopgaps for Jon Still, who is currently rocketing through the minors. Still was the Minor League Offensive Player of the Month for June, and combining his stats from Single-A Greenville and Lancaster, Still hit 25 homers and drove in 98 RBIs and batted .291. Still will be a force next year, and with another year under his belt, he should be ready for the majors in '09.

First Base: Yooooooouk! There isn't even a dot of doubt as to who is playing the 3-spot in the infield. Youkilis did not make an error all season, and will likely win his first gold glove in his first full season at first. Couple the fact that he hit .380 in the postseason, and is making short money ($424,500 last year). I believe Youk is arbitration-eligible this season, so it will depend on whether or not Youk wants to test his value in the free-agent market next season in terms of trying to sign him long-term right now. In arbitration, he will likely get around $4-5 million. So, this is a golden opportunity to make this a long-term deal. I would forget about saving money now and worry about saving money for the future. I would offer Youk a five-year, $27 million contract with a $4 million signing bonus (a little bit higher than the $12,000 he got when he was drafted). An ongoing theme to my fantasy offseason will be to lock up the young cornerstones of the franchise...just a heads up there. In any event, Youkilis is one of the most marketable and likable guys on the team, so you have to have him on this team for a really long time. Now, in terms of who will take his spot when he needs a day off, I would bring up Chris Carter to play a backup role at first. He has great power, he's a lefty, and while he's labeled as not being a "strong" fielder, he has improved vastly, and is now major league ready. I am big on this guy for two reasons: One, he is a lefty power hitter, something the Sox are lacking coming off the bench (sorry Eric Hinske, this is the end of the road for you and your $5 million contract), and two, he's the guy we got for Wily have to make sure you cash in on that trade. Oh, also, is Kevin Millar on this team now? He's on FOX rooting for the Sox, he's throwing out the first pitch at Fenway...what's going on?

Second Base: My personal hero (because he's small and has a receding hair line like me), Dustin Pedroia proved to everyone that he will be this team's leadoff hitter for a good, long time. Much like Youk, this is a guy that you need to lock up right now. He's making short money now, but it will not be that way forever. Pedroia should get an even longer deal considering he is younger than Youk. I want Pedroia until he is at least 30, meaning I'm offering a six-year deal in the $22-23 million range, with a $4-5 million signing bonus. This bump in salary will hurt for one year, but the peace of mind it will offer, along with getting a perennial All-Star at a very weak position overall in baseball is a great move for right now. Also, he's another one of those guys who is very marketable because, much like Youk, he's a hard working guy, and although he's not possessed with the attributes most baseball players have, he's a catalyst at the top of the order, and plays a fantastic second base. Alex Cora will return as Pedroia's backup next year, and is a very capable guy in the box, on the field, and in the clubhouse.

Shortstop: Face it, we're stuck with Julio Lugo for the forseeable future, because Theo recanted on his whole "we're not going to give out long-term deals" and gave Lugo five years, $45 million. Not smart...especially when you consider Jed Lowrie is about a half a year away from being ready to start in the majors. Lowrie will be in Pawtucket for the year, but hopefully, he will still be on the team come September, and we will see him when the rosters expand to 40. Lugo will continue to be just "ok" for the position. Again, because Epstein was so in love with Lugo that he couldn't even stand himself, the Sox are stuck with this guy for the foreseeable future.

Third Base: There's no need to worry Red Sox fans. You know where I'm going to go with this one. I said at the beginning of the season that Mike Lowell's contract would "finally be up" and that the Sox could get him back at a "hometown discount." Fast forward seven months, and Lowell is the World Series MVP, the team MVP, the franchise's all-time leader for RBIs in a season by a third baseman, and by far the second-best option at third in the free agency market. Now, it would seem like Lowell can command up to $14-15 million a season. However, I am almost positive that the Sox can get Lowell back for $12.5 million a year for three years. Also, throw in some All-Star team incentives, playoff incentives, and a $10 million signing bonus, and Lowell will likely sign up. Now, despite how well Lowell played, I would not make the fourth year guaranteed. Rather, I would set up a $14 million team option for 2011. Now, in the unfortunate event that the Sox are unable to sign Lowell, you have to start talking about possible replacements. There is really no one outside of A-Rod on the free agent market that is attractive, and it will be a cold day in hell before you find me saying that A-Rod would be a good fit on the Sox, and that he deserves $300 million. So, who would be left? Mike Lamb, Corey Koskie, and Russell Branyan as free agents, and in terms of trades, Adrian Beltre for the Mariners and Ty Wigginton for the Astros are possibilities. Wigginton is an intriguing player because of how many different positions he can play, and also, he has a fairly powerful bat. However, if the Astros let Lamb walk, it would stand to reason that they would not let Wigginton walk so easily. So, that would leave Beltre and his mammoth contract. So, I would almost be willing to go the extra mile before I had to trade for Beltre, take on his contract, and give up minor leaguers.

Left Field: Done deal. Manny for at least one more year. Worry about this one next year. For now, Manny to start, Brandon Moss on the bench.

Center Field: This isn't even a question as to "who's starting?," it's more like "what can we get for Coco?" Ellsbury is the starter, so now, how can we sell Coco? Well, for one, the guy is a legitimate top-15 center fielder in the league, and compared to the kind of money Torii Hunter is going to get (probably from the Yankees) and Andruw Jones will receive, someone will get Coco for two years for fairly short money. Also, he's an excellent defensive outfielder, and is only 28 years old. Plus, he's a switch hitter. So, there are definitely some attractive points there. Now, what can the Sox get? Well, I would look to get a power arm for the future, as well as a top-tier prospect. Now, looking at what's out there, Minnesota is the first team that comes to mind because of the aforementioned Hunter. Here's my proposed trade:

To Minnesota: Coco Crisp, CF
To Boston: David Winfree, 3B; Brandon Roberts, OF; Eduardo Morlan, RHP

Winfree is the 12th ranked third baseman in the minors. In A ball two years ago, he hit .294, 16 HR, and 101 RBIs. His plate discipline has been lacking lately (struck out over 100 times in AA last year), but at the age of 22, this is something that can be corrected. Roberts is a stolen base threat, swiping 50 bases last year in A ball. This year, the steals were diminished, but still, he's a .300 hitter, and you will always need a guy who can get on base and steal a base. Morlan is probably the prize of the deal. In 65 2/3 innings last year, Morlan struck out 92 batters. Now I have to say that the Sox may not be able to get all three of these guys, but if any deal with Minnesota was done, I would demand Morlan be thrown into the deal. He's 21, he's a strikeout machine, and he's already ready to pitch at the AAA level.

There are two other teams I can see Coco ending up on: Atlanta and Philadelphia. Here are the proposed deals:

To Atlanta: Coco Crisp, CF
To Boston: Van Pope, 3B; Jo Jo Reyes, LHP

Pope is a highly regarded third baseman much like Winfree is, and Reyes is a hard-throwing reliever who gets the strikeouts, and also, is a lefty...double bonus.

To Philadelphia: Coco Crisp, CF
To Boston: Michael Costanzo, 3B; J.A. Happ, LHP

Basically, all the deals are structured the same way. The idea is that the Sox will get a third baseman for the future to take over in the inevitable departure of Mike Lowell in the next three years. This would be by far the best deal overall for the Sox. Happ actually pitched in the majors last year, but it will be very hard to pry away one of the Phillies' best prospects. In addition, Costanzo can flat out beat the cover off the ball. Sure, it's probably unrealistic that any of these moves get done, but this is sort of a blueprint for what the Sox could possibly do to get value for Crisp.

Right Field: Guys, we're stuck with J.D. for the long haul. I guess what I can say here is that it's almost impossible for Drew to do worse than he did this year. Now that the Sox are champs, a lot of the duress directed towards Drew has slipped away. Also, he did show a little promise towards the end of the season. Here's what we're going for: .280/20/85/.350...if Drew can put those numbers up, without grounding into an astonishing number of inning-ending double plays, we'll be ok.

Starting Pitching: The Sox have a clear-cut phenom at the start with Beckett, and will be a Red Sox until at least 2010. The #2 guy is another story. Schill has come out and said that he only wants a one year deal at his present $12 million a year. That's a little steep for a 41-year old pitcher. Here's the thing Dice ready to be the #2? In a way, I want him to be a #3 for one more year so that he can become a little bit more comfortable with his new American lifestyle and major league hitting. Therefore, I think it's almost elementary to re-sign Schilling given how little talent there is in the market this year and how much there will be next year. We're talking Johan Santana, C.C. Sabathia, Jake Peavy, Brad Penny, A.J. Burnett, Rich Harden, John Lackey, Ben Sheets...the list goes on and on and on. So, I would take my chances and re-up with Schill for one more at $12 mil. #3 is Dice. Then, #4 would be Wake. I mean I know that the Sox have a ton of talent coming through the farm system, but Wake is established, and unless he retires, is still very effective. You are basically guaranteed 14-15 wins for $4 million. That's a pretty good deal. The #5 guy would be Jon Lester. I know, everyone wants Clay Buchholz right now, but I like the fact that Lester not only has pitched a bunch in the majors, but he also pitched in the postseason, and very effectively at that. Also, you need that lefty starter to face the Yankees, A's, and all the other lefty-heavy lineups in the league. I feel like Wake and Lester can be switched here as well, with Lester at four and Wake at five. In any event, this is a solid rotation for the '08 season, but it will definitely be the end of the road for both Wake and Schill, opening up holes for perhaps Buchholz and one, or perhaps two of those big names mentioned before.

Bullpen: No, I won't re-sign Gagne. I tried to be the lone backer of him, but in the end, he'll walk. But no worries, the Sox will receive a sandwich pick in this year's draft...not bad. Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez will be gone. There's no way I'm paying Tavarez a $3.85 club option. I never thought the guy fit, so he's gone. There's about $7-8 million freed up. From this, here's what I would do: Currently, the Sox have nine guys in the lineup, two backup catchers, two backup infielders, a backup outfielder, and five starters. That leaves six relievers in the 'pen. Papelbon is the closer, and Okajima is the set-up man. Timlin will be on this team until he retires (likely getting around $2.5 million this year). That means there are three spots left. One will be reserved for Buchholz, one for Delcarmen, and finally, one for Craig Breslow, who will be used as the "lefty specialist." There definitely will be interest in Scott Linebrink, who the Sox had coveted, and will be a free agent from the Brewers, but I like Breslow. He's good for a little more than a strikeout an inning. Then, of course, there's Okajima as the set-up man, and will likely be there for a few years. He'll be 32 next season, and we'll see how he works out in his second year. He has a club option for '09, so for right now, no worries. Of course at the end, you have arguably the best closer in the game right now in Jonathan Papelbon. Again, at this point, I'm locking up Papelbon. I would offer five years, $30 million with an $8 million signing bonus. The hope is that Papelbon will never get the kind of fan backing that he does in Boston, which seems to fuel his outings. Also, closing for the Red Sox, Papelbon is now a marquee player, and unless he plays for the Yankees, it does not get any better than this.

So, all the moves have been made, and here's how we stand:



TOTAL 137.95

Thank you, I'll be here all offseason.

So, I hope that is a somewhat insightful path that the Sox could take this offseason. I would be shocked if they actually did any of this, but at least you can kind of see what a Sox fan is thinking (at least this one) in terms of the direction I want this team to go. With my plan, the Sox will actually shave about $10 million from this year's team, while basically keeping the entire core of the team in tact. Agree, least it may cause some discussion. Hope everyone enjoys the Celts game tomorrow. Season opener! Peace.


No comments: