Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Ben Cherington Era is Upon Us; What Now?

Yesterday, the Red Sox formally announced that, with the departure of GM Theo Epstein to Chicago, former Assistant GM Ben Cherington will be promoted to GM. He actually already served this position for a short time in 2005 when Epstein left the team for a short while. Cherington has been with the team since 1999, when he was brought into the baseball operations department by then-GM Dan Duquette. Now that the GM is in place, his first job will be to find a new manager. Since I am not really around teams and can't get a real feel for how different candidates would fit in this locker room, I won't speculate on choices, although from what I've heard I'd love to see Ryne Sandberg in here. After the managerial spot is filled, Cherington will then look to the team's contracts that are up. Here is a preview of all of those players.

David Ortiz
The Red Sox DH is coming off of his most productive season since his brilliant 2007 season, and is one of the premier DHs in the game. However, the DH position is changing rapidly, and is not seen as vital as it was as recently as five years ago. Where the position used to be one of power and home to some of the league's best hitters, teams are now looking to rotate players in and out of the slot, looking for more versatile, athletic guys. Ortiz will get some money somewhere, but it won't be for the amount or length he is hoping for. It has been said that he is looking for a contract in the 3/$32M range, which will not happen. If I'm the Red Sox, I'd be willing to give Ortiz a 2 year deal worth somewhere around $16 million range, and even that may be a bit generous. If he doesn't like that, he can go elsewhere. The team has Kevin Youkilis to slide into the DH spot, with Mike Aviles and Jed Lowrie possibly splitting time at third.

Jonathan Papelbon
The Red Sox closer just had a season that I would argue was the best of his career. Through arbitration, he earned $12 million last year, and I would be willing to bet that he will be unwilling to take a pay cut. He will also be looking for a multi-year deal. If the Red Sox can get Papelbon for a 2-year deal, I'd be willing to spend $14 million annually on him. While I think he will be looking for a longer-term deal, he likely won't get that money anywhere else. Other than 2010, Papelbon has been one of the elite closers in baseball every year he has been here, and I would love to see him and Bard continue to form that 1-2 punch in the back of the 'pen. However, if Papelbon continues to insist on a longer term deal, there are free agent options who will be cheaper at the closer role, including Heath Bell, Ryan Madsen, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Capps.

JD Drew
I'll keep this one short and sweet. While Drew hasn't been as bad as people will lead you to believe in his time in Boston, his time is clearly done. He may even retire. Whatever he does, it will not be in Boston, as the team already has a potential competition brewing in right field between Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish.
Erik Bedard
The biggest knock on Bedard has always been his health. He is still a lefty with a lot of upside, a good career K/BB ratio and a career 3.65 FIP. Especially with the news that John Lackey will be out all year after having Tommy John surgery this summer, Bedard looks even more valuable. He will definitely miss a few starts, so depth behind him will be necessary, but if I'm Cherington and can get Bedard for one year at about $4 or $5 million, with incentives based on games started primarily, I would jump all over that chance.

Tim Wakefield/Jason Varitek
I am grouping these guys together because they are both in similar situations. I have nothing but respect for these guys, both of whom have been on the team since I can remember following the Sox. However, their time here is done. They are no longer productive and at this point are taking up roster spots. If they choose to retire, I would definitely offer them some sort of position to stay with the organization, just as long as their not actually trying to contribute on the field.
Marco Scutaro
Scutaro has a $6M team option, which I would definitely pick up. While he is not the flashy, dynamic player the Red Sox have been missing at the position since the Nomar-days, he has quietly been very productive in his time here. In 2010, while Jacoby Ellsbury was out most of the year with rib injuries, Scutaro nicely placed himself into the leadoff spot and stayed productive. Last year, with all of the faults you can find from September, Scutaro was not one of them, as he put up a .387/.438/.581 triple slash line in the month. In his two years here, he has posted respectable .721 and .781 OPS's. He may not be a sexy choice at short, but with the lack of options in free agency, Lowrie's inconsistency and inability to stay healthy, and Jose Iglesias likely a year away, he can be a solid one-year stop gap.
Dan Wheeler
The righty reliever had a vesting option for 2012, but his 47 appearances weren't enough to make it kick in. Wheeler is now a free agent, and Cherington should let him walk. Wheeler just didn't get the job done last year, and middle-relief help could come easier. Building a bullpen is always a crapshoot, and it isn't worth it taking a chance on a guy who failed here the previous year. Also, Michael Bowden and Kyle Weiland will be looking to take a couple spots in the bullpen.

Arbitration Eligible's
1st Year: Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard, Scott Atchison, Jed Lowrie, Franklin Morales
2nd Year: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
3rd Year: Matt Albers

The only guy in that group I don't tender is Atchison. Morales is a solid enough left-handed option where bringing him on the roster won't be fatal, especially considering he will likely be dirt cheap. Although it is nearly impossible to do with a Scott Boris client, I would try to get a long term deal done with Ellsbury to avoid arbitration and keep him under control for another few years.

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