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Boston Red Sox Offseason Preview

The 2009 Red Sox will essentially be the same team in 2010, but here's a look at how the team will most likely act during the offseason.

First, a look at what we currently have:

C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Mike Lowell
SS Jed Lowrie
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF JD Drew
DH David Ortiz

SP Josh Beckett
SP Jon Lester
SP Clay Buchholz
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka
SP Tim Wakefield

RP Manny Delcarmen
RP Hideki Okajima
RP Ramon Ramirez
RP Daniel Bard
CP Jonatha Papelbon

Lester29      The obvious strength here is the pitching staff. The five starters are all but set in stone, the only doubt Tim Wakefield's back. By all accounts, though, the surgery performed a couple of weeks ago went perfectly and the Sox should be picking up his annual $4 M option shortly after the World Series - this has become their first offseason move in recent years. Rotation depth is fine as well, with Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa ready to pitch in the majors if need be. Also, there is a good crop of low-risk guys in this year's pool, like former Mariner and ex-dominant pitcher Erik Bedard. Expect Theo to make a run at one of those guys.

Darren-oliver2-220x300      The only tweaking to be done here is in the lefty reliever role. Hideki Okajima can still get batters out, but the facts don't lie. He's getting worse. His ERA and WHIP have been steadily climbing as his K/9 and K/BB have fallen since 2007, to mere mortal levels in 2009. Expect this trend to continue, for two reasons: Okajima will be 34 on Opening Day 2010 - he's done getting better from a physical standpoint. Also, Hideki has two key weapons: his fastball control and his splitter-changeup. The former is not a tool often lost with age, but the latter is something that I think batters have been adjusting to, and making less effective. The free agent market isn't ripe with quality lefty arms this year, assuming the Dodgers pick up Will Ohman's option. Probably the best lefty the Red Sox would be willing to pursue would be Joe Beimel, an effective lefty who is due for a big year, though one that lacks the ability to miss bats. Darren Oliver, now 38, posted a solid K/9 of 8.0 in 2009 for the Angels and is a Free Agent. That said, it seems if the Sox want a dominant left-handed reliever, they will have to trade for one.

     The major liability this club has is its offense. The lineup as it is now is above average, but there were road-hitting issues last year, and the Red Sox could face the loss of Jason Bay, a bat they could not replace, certainly not easily. Bay is reportedly looking for four years at $15 M, or more, and it is unlikely that the Red Sox will offer him this much. However, Bay has made it very clear he would loe to stay in Boston, and could possibly give a discount.

Bay_lifeguard       If Boston loses Bay, the only remaining power threats are Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, neither of whom cleared 30 home runs in 2009. JD Drew was, beside Youkilis and Bay, the only Red Sox to slug .500, and, finally, an outbreak performance might possibly be expected from him.

     If the Red Sox cannot obtain Bay, they could be in trouble. The only other offensive force on the market is Matt Holliday, a player the Red Sox (rightfully, in my opinion) have little interest in. Internally, Josh Reddick, who played in 27 games for Boston in 2009, could win the job, though he did not impress at the major-league level, hitting .169, and is not considered Major League ready, having just 71 AAA AB's, where he also performed poorly (.373 OPS). There probably isn't much going on on the trade market for outfield bats this offseason, but it would not be out of the question for Theo and the Front Office to try to force one.

Jedballot      Another question mark is at shortstop. Jed Lowrie will most likely get the nod, though he has played just a handful of games at the major league level -only a few of those healthy, and, even when healthy, is likely an average-above average player, and it is unsure yet if the Red Sox can afford one if the lineup gets any more shallow. Another option here is defensive wizard Alez Gonzalez, who is a very mediocre bat, and holds a $6 M dual option for 2010. The Red Sox might pick him up if they are uncomfortable with Lowrie's defense/health/consistency, but it will obviously be tough to gauge this during the winter. A platoon is not out of the question. Semi-propect Yamaico Navarro or the recently signed Cuban defector and 19-year-old defensive wunderkind Jose Iglesias might be the Shortstops of the future.

     The final, and probably largest question, is at catcher. Victor Martinez will be the everyday catcher for your 2010 Boston Red Sox. He is a competent defender, and an elite bat, as he will hit third in the lineup. However, he has caught 717 games in his career, will be 31 this season, and hasn't caught 100 games since 2007. He will probably catch about 100 games and play another 40-50 when spelling Lowell, Youklis and Ortiz at either first or DH. Tim Wakefield will again have good Canadian boy George Kottaras as his personal catcher. This is where the situation gets sticky.

Jason-varitek-red-sox      Jason Varitek has been a Red Sox since he debuted in 1997. Since then he spent a good deal as one of the games top 'two way' catchers, meaning that he played a Gold Glove defense and was perhaps the best pitcher-handler in the game, while consistently OPSing about .850, a great mark for a catcher. However, Varitek has been a serious detriment to the Red Sox' offense since his knee injury in 2006, hitting at a .231 clip since then. Now, Varitek will be 38 years old, has caught 1381 games, is less than an automatic out (.313 OBP over the past two seasons) and holds a $3 M option for 2010. It is popular belief that Boston will not pick up their $5 M option for his services. Now, if I were the unconditional ruler of baseball, I would hand Varitek the recently vacated bench coach job and be done with it.

     If Jason Varitek were out of the picture, Martinez could do his C/1B thing, and allow for Kottaras, who is still only 26 and has a career Minor League OPS of .811 (minor league numbers). Plus, it is not impossible that Kottaras may end up holding down the starting job an 2011 if Victor leaves / moves to first, and while we wait for the development of continuously underrated prospect Luis Exposito (scouting report), and having Kottaras catch 50-60 games in 2010 might help later.

     So, in conclusion, the only moves I would suggest would be to re-sign Jason Bay (you gave Drew $70 M, Theo...), and trade for a good left-handed reliever. On my wish list is, of course. star Padre Adrian Gonzalez, who could add a whole 'nother level to Boston's offense, though we would have to lose Mike Lowell and a handful of top prospects (both of which I would sacrifice for this guy).

     But there you have it, a look at what the Red Sox are likely to be looking at this Winter.


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