Red Sox Bloggers:
Question 1: What is the most pressing need this for the Red Sox this offseason?
Evan: Their most pressing need is to bring in high-impact players on offense. Will they do it? Who knows. However, there is no one in the lineup currently that really makes an impact. Can you win without that player? Sure -- Boston did that to an extent this past season, although they had Jason Bay along for the ride. Without Bay and an appropriate replacement, it would be difficult.
Take a look at the participants of the championship series. The Dodgers had Kemp, Ethier and Manny. The Phillies have Utley and Howard. The Yankees have their version of the Bronx Bombers. Only the Angels don't have hitters on the level of the other teams -- like Boston -- but unlike Boston, is deep.
Ian: The most pressing issue for the Red Sox is to get Jason Bay under contract. With Matt Holliday as the only free agent left fielder worth going after and his lack of success in the AL, Bay is the better fit. Plus with Bay, he’s already acclimated to Boston and knows what to expect.
Another pressing issue is shoring up the shortstop position. I know they want to see how Jed Lowrie progresses with his health. But with Alex Gonzalez’ option being relatively cheap, why not exercise the option and have Lowrie be the backup infielder for the year. He can play short, third and second if need be. Gonzalez did a great job in a short time with the Red Sox and you know what you’re going to get with him.
Dan: Clearly, they need to add a bopper in the middle of the lineup. Adrian Gonzalez has been discussed as a commodity worth pursuing more often than the plot of "Glee," but that's only because he is. I think all Red Sox offseason plans revolve around him. Get him, and you can make another run with minor retooling. Don't, and you need a significant alternative to upgrade the lineup, like finding a shortstop who can actually hit.
Matt: They need a big bat. With Big Papi past his prime the Red Sox need an RBI machine.
Troy: Obviously left field is the most pressing need this offseason. There are ways they could improve third base, DH or short stop, but none are as needed as finding the right option to fill left field. I'm a fan of Matt Holliday as the replacement, but I wouldn't bid to astronomical numbers.
Q2: Name your top TWO choices among the list of Free Agent starters: Ben Sheets, Mark Mulder, Erik Bedard (Type B), Rich Harden (Type B), John Lackey (Type A), Randy Wolf (Type A) and explain why you think they are the best fits for Boston.
Evan: 1) Lackey. If we shell out for Lackey -- which we won't, but I picked him anyways because he's the best of the bunch -- it will be because of his hard-nosed nature that would be a fit in Boston. He and Youkilis together would probably send baseball bats scurrying in fear. He is a lot like Josh Beckett, only more firey and a tick lower in talent. Who wouldn't want this guy? 2) Harden is similarly superbly talented, and it seems as if he would fit in Boston where the team will both take very good care of him physically and make sure they have enough reserves in place to step in and replace Harden. The team will not ask Harden to pitch hurt and their medical program is reportedly top-notch.
Ian: I’ll be honest with you, I wouldn’t sign anyone of these guys other than John Lackey and I’m not sure I’d want to give up my draft pick on him. The Red Sox value their draft picks as we’ve seen the fruits of their labor recently so to sign a TYPE A or TYPE B free agent, he would have to be something special. I just don’t see it in that group. I might be willing to take a flier on Ben Sheets or Mark Mulder if the price is right.
Dan: John Lackey fits in best from the list of pitchers you named, but I think that's also because he doesn't fit in there. Unlike Sheets, Mulder, Bedard and Harden, there shouldn't be any major injury concerns about him right now -- just look at him in the playoffs. He'd fit right in and give the Sox an imposing rotation. However, I find it unlikely Epstein would spend the money on him, not to mention burn the draft pick.
Bedard intrigues me, if only because Sox fans had such a good look at his dominating 2007 season with the Orioles, when he struck out 221 batters in 182 innings and posted a 1.088 WHIP. Harden would also fit in, and has a boatload of talent. I'd also suggest that onetime Oakland A's ace Justin Duchscherer should be considered. A 1996 Red Sox draft pick, he's already a two-time All-Star and a proven talent -- when he's healthy. His "buyer beware" free agent warning is big, however. He missed the entire 2009 season not only because of injuries, but because of clinical depression. Makes you wonder how he'd do pitching under a microscope in Boston.
Matt: Ben Sheets and Rich Harden would be my two choices. Sheets will be ready to go at the the start of the season and will not have to be slowly brought along like Smoltz. The team would know what they had in spring training before it counts.
Rich Harden could be a spot starter and might avoid his usual injury if he is not a full time part of the rotation. He would also come much cheaper than Sheets.
Troy: Ben Sheets and Erik Bedard are my top two choices here. We don't need a Type A free agent signing this year with a starting staff that is full with Tim Wakefield returning from surgery. I would also look into Rich Harden, but he maybe looking for the longest contract of the group. Sheets and Harden seem like solid bets on one year deals with possible options for more years.
Q3: Ignoring the unlikelihood of this actually happening, if the same package of young talent would land EITHER Adrian Gonzalez or Felix Hernandez, who would you trade for and why?
Evan: I would trade for Felix Hernandez. He is a year younger than Buchholz and look how much he has already accomplished! He would set the Sox up with a no-doubt-about-it ace who could rack up multiple Cy Young awards over the next ten years. How often does that person come around?
Alternatively, A-Gon does provide the juice that Boston needs. Age 30 isn't all that far away, though, and who knows if he would regress given the pitching style in the American League? It's become very clear over the years that while some National League players can definitely adjust to the style of pitching, some simply cannot. Is Gonzalez that guy? Do you want to risk that?
Ian: Both would be good fits in Boston and I can argue for both. With Gonzalez, you have Mike Lowell in the last year of his contract and Kevin Youkilis who can play third base. You can always try to move Lowell and pay part of his contract. If Jed Hoyer gets the job in San Diego, he’ll know who he wants if he decided to trade Gonzo.
#1 starters are a dime a dozen. If you’re presented with an opportunity to get a pitcher of King Felix’s stature, you most definitely have to consider it. The Red Sox lucked out in getting Josh Beckett and we all know what he’s done in a Red Sox uniform. He’s also in the last year of his contract and with Roy Halladay possibly hitting free agency after the 2010 season, Beckett’s price could go up. But with both of these, it all depends on what you’re giving up. If Daniel Bard is part of these trades, I say NO. With Papelbon being Papelbon and wanting to set the market for closers, Bard could simply step in and close after the 2010 season.
Dan: I take Gonzalez, since he feels the more immediate need. Hernandez would be wonderful to have, but I wonder if it's short-sighted to burn most of Boston's good prospects if it leaves David Ortiz playing every day. A trade for Hernandez would do that.
Matt: I would rather have Felix Hernandez. He is one of the best pitchers in the game and with Beckett in his last year of his contract the Red Sox would be well served to have another great pitcher on the team for the long term.
Troy: I would prefer Adrian Gonzalez. The reason is the Sox now lack a power threat in the minors since Lars Anderson has taken a step back. The Sox have plenty of solid outfielders and lots of pitching talent, but power hitters will need to be acquired from outside of the system.
Q4: Personally, I think the Red Sox NEED to sign one of the two... but if the prices for Jason Bay and Matt Holliday get too high, who do you think should be/will be the back up plan? Note: You can choose to simply agree with me if you think the Sox can't afford to NOT sign Bay or Holliday.
Evan: I just wrote about this at Fire Brand of the American League. If the prices are too high, I selected Jermaine Dye as the likely backup option. If you look at his first half, he was just as good as Holliday was and better than Bay. Of course, his second half was so terrible that it's an enormous risk to sign him. That said, Theo has always coveted Dye and I can see Dye launching some bombs at Fenway. It comes down to this. Do you trust Dye's career and half-2009, or is his second half in 2009 indicative of his advanced age?
If the Sox refuse to bite on Bay or Holliday and elect to stay competitive but not drop a ton of money on the team (alternatively, if they elect to go 'cheap' in left after acquiring Gonzalez) then I think Jermaine Dye makes a lot of sense. If he fails, you drop him and you look to pick someone up on the cheap or see if Brian Anderson or Josh Reddick can handle advanced playing time.
Ian: The Red Sox need to re-sign Jason Bay. The market for left fielders sucks. And given Holliday’s relative lack of success in the American League with Oakland, I’d rather give my top money to Bay. If they can get him for 4 years around 12-15 million or even add a 5th year for $12 million, I say do it. You know what you’re going to get with Bay in the outfield and at the plate as he knows what it takes to play in front of the Fenway Faithful on a nightly basis.
Dan: I actually went into this at some length the other day at Red Sox Monster. Yes, my first preference is to re-sign Bay. He's proven he can play in Boston and appears to be comfortable there. However, if he demands a five-year deal worth, say, $80 million, I'd be understanding if the Red Sox walked away. Given all the buzz on Holliday -- prefers to play in New York; prefers to play in the National League -- and his likely price tag, I find it unlikely he ends up in Boston (another Scott Boras client -- YAY!).
That leave us with the other lesser options. Bobby Abreu? Jermaine Dye? Shoot, man, I dunno. I just hope we're not looking at 2006 all over again.
Matt: If the Red Sox can get Adrian Gonzalez then Bay or Holliday can be passed up if the price gets too high. Reddick could take Bay's spot in the outfield. Jason Bay is a good player but he is not a break the bank guy. Sometimes you wish the Red Sox could just be like the Yankees and sign both Bay and Holliday.
Troy: My first thought is moving Jacoby Ellsbury to left field where his defense has been much better. You can then look into potential options like Carlos Beltran or just promoting Josh Reddick to center field. The Sox are not quick to promote youngsters so I doubt we'll see Reddick full time this year, but his defense alone would be a plus.
Q5: I heard an interesting debate on the radio the other day: Seeing the staggering financial flexibility that the new stadium has allotted the Yankees (see Teixeira, Sabathia, Burnett, etc.), do you think the Red Sox need to bite the bullet and finally build a bigger stadium to compete? Considering all the angles, do you think it would hurt or help the fanbase?
Evan: On one hand, I think that a new stadium would open up a ton of new revenue streams for the team -- as it has for every team who has moved into a new park. Adding 10,000 to 30,000 more seats wouldn't be too much of an issue.
However, look at it another way. Look at the appeal of Fenway Park and how many people that draws. Can we quantify how much scramble for tickets because it's Fenway? If you say that the amount is negligible and the new ballpark is built with that many more being able to be seated, what happens to demand? If it becomes too easy to get tickets, are you as motivated to get out to the game? I can tell you from varied experience that no, you aren't.
That doesn't really answer the question, though. I think, eventually, the team has to, but that time will come when the stadium cannot support the team from an infrastructure standpoint, not a financial standpoint. Clearly, the team has no issues with payroll right now. Does building a new stadium allow the team to expand payroll? Yeah, but who says they have to? Boston has ponied up when the time is right -- remember the $145 million payrolls of years past? Their 2009 payroll of $121 million is not because of the stadium, but because of opportunities and decisions afforded them.
Ian: This is a tough question to answer. I’d love to see a new Fenway Park in Boston that’s bigger given the demand for Red Sox tickets. But to me a new stadium wouldn’t be the same. I really think you’d lose that Fenway mystique. Fenway Park gives the Red Sox an advantage for 81 games a year. Do you really want to give that up? Yeah, me neither.
Dan: No. No. Absolutely not. Never.
For all of its "magic," the old Yankee Stadium really wasn't that old. It was remodeled in the 1970s, when I assume a David Ortiz jersey was buried in cement somewhere. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field shouldn't be touched, regardless. Fans are relatively understanding of its, uh, quirks, and management has done a good job of adding revenue generators like the seats on the Monster. I don't even want to think about the team playing somewhere else. Ugh.
Matt: I personally would rather see the Red Sox play in Fenway with a smaller payroll than sell out for a bigger stadium. Henry and Co. are finding new ways to generate money (NASCAR etc.) so I think they can be competitive at the Fens. The Yankees are not selling out their new stadium even in the playoffs so their predicted revenue may not pan out. The Yankees also get most of their money from TV so building a new stadium in Boston would not give them the same revenue as New York.
Troy: Having been to several new stadiums I have to say the continued push to keep Fenway has really dragged the Sox down. They are missing out financially with a new stadium as well as the failings of Fenway (grandstand seats looking at CF). The location of a new stadium would still be a problem, but even dismissing the financial a new stadium is really needed for aesthetic purposes.
Q6: Since we don't know how much Theo had to do with the Beckett & Lowell for Ramirez deal... what is Theo's best move (or non-move if you like) as GM of the Red Sox?
Evan: Theo's best move is clearly the David Ortiz signing. However, I'll focus on best trade to shake things up a bit. Unfortunately, that would disqualify Kevin Millar, which was a great move. However, let's push on ahead and say the best trade -- or non-trade, I suppose -- was Alex Rodriguez.
After seeing him struggle in New York from 2004-8 I severely question how those times would have gone in Boston. In addition, do you really think Boston would have been able to justify signing him to a 10 year, $275 million contract through 2017 at which point he wil be 41? Come on! He'd have ended up with the Yankees regardless. He just happened to get there a few years earlier.
And who were we going to move? Nomar Garciaparra for Magglio Ordonez, and Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester for A-Rod. As hindsight shows, Nomar was responsible for the Orlando Cabrera/Doug Mientkiewicz trade which single-handedly shored up the defense and clubhouse en route to a title. Manny gave us 2004 and 2007 before easing our pain with Jason Bay, who has been awesome. And Lester... need I say more?
Ian: Honestly, the best move I think was going out and getting Alex Gonzalez this year. It didn’t cost them much as far as prospects and with the shortstop position being a blackhole, Gonzo came in and solidified the position and that enabled the Red Sox to make the postseason.
Dan: Numerous reports (Seth Mnookin's "Feeding the Monster," for one) would suggest Epstein had almost nothing to do with the Beckett trade. I assume he was probably robbing a bank in a gorilla costume at the time. I actually find it unlikely that he would have made the deal, considering the injury risk associated at the time with both Beckett and Lowell. Some days, it's better to be lucky than smart, I guess.
I don't see how this discussion moves past Epstein's 2004 deadline deal, to be honest. Making a trade that spurs a historic championship? Even if Orlando Cabrera had come with a truck-full of hobos who sat in the bullpen, the deal worked. Case closed.
Matt: His best move was bringing in Ortiz. Without Big Papi the Red Sox would not have had nearly as much sucess this decade. Not only was bringing him in great but the low $ they had to pay him in his first few years allowed the team to sign some pricier players like Curt Schilling.
Troy: Theo Epstein played a big part in the addition of Curt Schilling. If not for adding Schilling the Sox would likely not have won the 2004 World Series. After that I am starting to think the addition of Victor Martinez might take second place. We'll see in 2010, but I think a full season from him will really add to this team.
There you go! Tell us what you guys thing about these issues and the answers from outr blogger buddies in the comments section!
Okay boys, we've got a situation. The front office has ignored my suggestion to trade Lugo for a case of beer and some Cubans and now they're talking about carrying three short stops when Lowrie gets back from rehabbing in Pawtucket.
That means one of us is headed back to the minors... and since it's probably gonna be you Bard, you can go get us some bruschi's while we figure out a way to take Lugo out of the picture.
:: door slams, car peels down the street ::
So let's hear it boys. How are we gonna get Lugo off the roster?
I'm thinking Tequilla and lots of fireworks. Julio loves the 4th of July...
I like where you're head's at Manny and I'll admit, I've had a few close calls with the old Cherry Bomb in the toilet trick, but let's see what the other guys have.
:: crickets and shocked faces ::
What!? Too soon...?
I don't see what the big deal is guys. Julio has worked really hard to come back from injury and if Management wants to keep him on the roster, I think we should root for him to succeed.
Listen Dumbo, we don't have time to play goodie-two-shoes here. Greenie almost took a wooden stake in the chest in Washington. He's earned the everyday role at short and we got Lowrie in Pawtucket. It's time for Lugo to go... next!
:: simultaneously run their fingers across their neck like a knife ::
:: door slams open, Bard is carrying two 30-packs and wearing a sombrero ::
Hey guys, look who I bumped into at the store!
'Sup ladies? Me and Wake are heading up north to go mountain lion hunting and the rookie here tells me you guys have a problem that needs fixing?
:: a sinister smirk grows on Papelbon's face ::
Bard... you're a genius.
Apparently, Theo is addicted to this "low risk/high reward" crap and he's eyeing another rehab project named Billy Wagner.
But isn't Wagner a closer?
And aren't you our closer?
Damn straight. Theory is, the brass think we need another lefty out here since the Yankees have a couple hundred in their lineup and we're gonna have to go through the Bronx if we want a shot at another ring.
But Wagner's like 15 saves away from 400... no way he settles for a setup role with us.
Well he better, 'cause there's only one Captain of this ship and it's Big Daddy Paps!
So what are you gonna do?
I already told those media clowns that I ain't about to let Theo pull another Gagne on us, and that seemed to get Old Man Wagner riled up.
Bottom Line: The guy's been saving meaningless games in the NL for 15 years... big whoop. The one time he managed to make it to October was in 2006... and he choked.
But what of Theo makes the move anyway? Won't that mean that one of us gets cut?
Don't get your panties in a bunch Bard. When people started that "closer of the future" talk, I just busted out that voodoo doll I picked up Haiti this off season and a few needles later you came right back to earth didn't you?
Forget it. The point is, this Wagner thing is a little more serious, so I sent my best guys to take care of it.
:: cut to Billy Wanger tied up in his hotel room with a ninja on either side and a phone in his hand... ::
Listen Bean! Just tell Theo that I don't want my $8 million dollar option picked up and that I want to save my arm and test the market in 2010.
But you aren't going to prove anything pitching for the Mets in September Billy!
:: similtaneously pull out their swords... ::
Just tell them Bean, okay!?!
:: cut back to Paps and the gang... ::
By lunch time today, Wagner will be on his way to Florida with the Mets... with his pitching hand... or without it.
A few weeks back, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis offered to answer a few questions from the The Bottom Line. Bottom Line readers had a chance to submit their questions before we sent the off to Youk. Here are is answers:
Note: The "Teixeira Sweepstakes" were in high gear and Youk was still working on a contract extension when we sent these questions over, but for obvious reasons, Youk was unable to dicuss anything related to his contract status or how the Tiexiera situation was effecting the negotiations...
Dustin Pedroia just signed a six-year, $40.5 million extension that will keep him with the Red Sox through at least 2014. Many of us are expecting the Red Sox to offer you a long term deal as well. Have the Red Sox made you an offer? Are you interested is staying in Boston long term?
I would love to play my entire career with the Red Sox, but a player doesn't have complete control of how that turns out. Sorry, but I won't get into the specifics of contract negotiations.
The Yankees had their worst season in recent memory last year, but they just added C.C. Sabathia to the rotation. Do you think Sabathia makes them a World Series contender again?
I think it's safe to say, with the additions of C.C., Burnett, Swisher and Teixeira, that the Yankees will be a force. We'll be ready to deal with it.
Along those same lines, the AL East has changed quite a bit recently, most notably with the Rays winning the East last year. Who do you think will present the biggest challenge in the race for the AL East division title in 2009?
I'm sure it will be a tough battle all the way. Tampa Bay, the Yankees and us have all had success, and Toronto's pretty good, too, and Baltimore also has some excellent, young players.
What is your favorite part about playing at Fenway Park? Also, is there anything you don't like about playing at Fenway?
The atmosphere at Fenway is the greatest, and I love everything about the place. If Fenway had more seats, the atmosphere would be even better!
How difficult is it to prepare for a game physically and mentally when the position you play can change from game to game?
I really don't worry about that, and feel completely comfortable at either 1st or 3rd. I want to be a Gold Glove caliber defender at either spot.
You've also hit in various spots in the lineup throughout your career. How did you handle the added pressure of replacing Manny in the cleanup spot this year?
I really never thought about replacing Manny. He's a sure Hall of Fame player. I just try to have good at bats, and get the job done wherever I hit.
Do you have a spot in the batting order that you prefer most?
Anywhere in the middle of the order is fine with me. We've got a lot of productive hitters, so Tito just has to figure out each day what's best in any given situation.
You have a very unique batting stance. Could you give us some details on the origin? And could you explain how the "separated hands" grip you use helps your approach at the plate?
I've never really studied it in front of a mirror or anything like that, but just go with what's comfortable for me. Things like the hands have just kind of evolved without any planning.
This past season was full of career bests for you: .312 BA, 29 HR, 115 RBI... but your numbers have typically faded in the second half. Did you do something different in the pre-season or during the season this year to make sure you didn't "burn out."
I didn't do anything different, but just didn't have any of the little, nagging injuries that I'd had to play through in the past. I work hard every off-season to be in the best possible shape, and just was able to carry it through the season a little better last year. Plus, I was a little more aggressive in certain counts and game situations, and that helped my power and productivity numbers.
Speaking of routines... Do you have any unusual habits or superstitions that are part of your pre-game routine?
Not really. I just try to stick with what's going good...try not to change things that are working.
What pitcher on the Red Sox would you least like to face as a hitter? Also, have you ever tried to hit Wake's knuckleball?
All the Red Sox pitchers fear me more than I fear them...Ha Ha! Wakefield's a nightmare though!
What was your favorite moment from the 2008 season?
I'd have to say that getting elected as the American League's starting 1st baseman in the All-Star Game, and playing in the final All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was something I'll cherish forever.
Do you have a favorite moment in your career?
The feeling I had the moment we won the 2007 World Series has to be the all-time best. I can't wait to have that same feeling again!
How would you encourage an aspiring 4th grader? My son has hopes for major league play.
The most important thing for me is to work hard in school, and on your baseball skills, and to make sure you always have fun playing the game. Enjoy the game, and working hard to get batter at it, and the rest will fall into place.
We know there are some pranksters on the team... were there any particularly memorable pranks or funny moments from this past season?
Probably nothing that was PG-rated enough to detail here!
Most Red Sox fans have heard of the SlumpBuster, the drink with the naughty name that you promoted this season. Let's be honest: You DID know that meant, right, Youk?
I'm not going to tell you that I'd never heard that connotation before, but that's not what it meant to me. It's an energy boost to get yourself or your team going.
What do you think of the new logo and uniforms?
They'll hopefully bring us a lot of good luck and help us win a lot of games, and, if so, then I'll love them!
A pair of your game-worn underwear was recently auctioned off on ebay. Were you aware of this? Also, last we checked Josh Beckett's pair were going for twice as much as yours... thoughts?
The fans of this game never cease to amaze me! Beckett only uses his once every 5 days, so they had to be a little newer looking!
Your beard became a bit of an icon this season. Some of the readers think it may be the source of your success - true or false?
I wish success was that easy! If that were the case, I'd probably try to pull off a Rip Van Winkle beard!
You recently shaved your beard for charity... will you grow it back from the 2009 season?
We'll see what feels right when the time comes. I haven't had a lot of time to think about it yet.
And, since it is the holiday season... has anyone ever told you that the beard makes you look a lot like Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer?
No one's ever told me that! He's a legendary figure, though, so I guess it's OK.
Thanks to Kevin Youkilis and his agent Joe Bick for taking the time to answer these questions. I know I speak for all Red Sox fans when I wish Youk and the team the best in 2009!no comments
When I contacted The Fours about helping us sponsor a Jimmy Fund event, I knew I would find my fair share of generous sports fans ready to help out a great cause.
What I didn't expect was the pirate.
We kicked off the event at 5:30 on Friday and donations big and small began trickling in right away. But when the bar got crowded, it became difficult to showcase our tiny table with the Jimmy Fund jar on it. Then... around 9 o'clock... a surprise guest arrived and made an immediate impact on the crowd and the event.
It was Captain Morgan.
As soon as the good Captain learned of our dilemma, he grabbed our donation jar and began threatening every beer-drinking, hamburger-eating patron in the joint to donate to a good cause or walk the plank!
Okay... he asked nicely, but the story's much better when the pirate isn't so polite.
Anyway. When the night was over, and the Captain and I had made a few loops through the bar, we were able to call-in a much larger donation than I ever would have raised on my own.
Thanks to The Fours, Captain Morgan (Joe Z) and the good people on the South Shore, The Bottom Line raised $500.00 dollars that night!
The NESN/WEEI Telethon also did very well, raising $4,550,786.
Thanks again to everyone that donated and came out to hang with us at The Fours!no comments