New manager Bobby Valentine has already proved to be divisive force in the Sox clubhouse, and will likely prevent big free agents from wanting to come to Boston.
It's no secret that the Red Sox like to make a splash in free agency. Although they didn’t make one with a player this offseason, they still made one of MLB’s marquee signings when they tabbed Bobby Valentine to become the 44th manager in team history.
Even though the 2012 season is young and the Sox still have 146 games left to play, we can already start turning an eye towards next year and begin to consider how the Sox will fill their considerable roster holes via free agency.
The free agent class of 2013 is absolutely loaded with talent, particularly at positions such as corner outfield and starting pitcher. The Sox have needs at those spots, have cut costs and have shown a willingness to spend in the past, a perfect storm for an offseason spending spree.
However, the Sox will see that they have a major problem in recruiting free agents. Despite the allure of playing in front of the game’s best fans, in its greatest ballpark and with one of its signature franchises, players are not going to want to come to Boston.
The cause ultimately boils down to one single problem. Or more specifically, one person: Bobby Valentine.
The Sox manager has already proven this year that he does not always handle players in a diplomatic or mature way. His players have already spoken out against his tactics.
Quite simply, Valentine is going to be a tremendous obstacle, impeding his franchise's ability to build for the future. Here are 10 upcoming free agents that the Sox will miss out on signing because of their brash manager.
This one has already been examined from pretty much every angle. Last week, the uninitiated Valentine criticized Youkilis’ dedication early on this season, a sentiment neither the Sox third baseman nor his teammates shared.
Youkilis has always been a grinder, playing through pain and going wherever he was asked to on the field. He has, on occasion, even played games in the outfield if it was determined that was what the team needed.
A consummate professional, Youkilis will now be able to test the waters of free agency for the first time in his career. Although he is a fan favorite in Boston, after the way in which he was treated by Valentine it seems a “hometown discount” is out of the question.
A four-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP, Hamilton would be a great fit for any team if you only looked at his accomplishments on the field. However, his off-the-field substance abuse issues have given pause to teams that might otherwise pursue him.
Although the Red Sox would do everything they could to put a system in place to help Hamilton adapt to Boston, the overall culture around the team would be a problem. Yes, Valentine banned beer from the Sox clubhouse, but he has already proven that he is going to have a hard time controlling the strong clubhouse personalities at the center of the “Fried Chicken and Beer” scandal of 2011.
Given his recent troubles staying away from drugs and alcohol, Hamilton will see this lack of control as a reason he should avoid playing in Boston.
A pitcher who by many advanced metrics has been the best in the game over the last several seasons and someone who has proven he can succeed in the AL, Greinke is an ideal match for the struggling Sox rotation. He’d give them a young, bona fide ace to pair with Jon Lester to form one of the great one-two punches in baseball.
Unfortunately, there is no way he’d come to Boston.
Greinke has struggled with anxiety issues in the past, and playing for a manager like Valentine might be the worst possible thing for him. If Terry Francona was the consummate player’s manager, taking heat for his players and coddling his veterans, Valentine is his polar opposite.
Despite undoubtedly earning a monstrous salary, the extra pressure of playing for Valentine in front of the demanding Sox fans makes Boston an unlikely destination for Greinke.
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” emerged from a relatively unknown Rule 5 draft pick into one of the most dynamic leadoff hitters in the game. He will hit the open market this winter looking to parlay his strong production over the last several seasons into one last big contract, and the Sox will likely come calling as they look for an everyday force to group with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Victorino, though, is unlikely to want any part of the Red Sox.
With Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia entrenched atop the lineup, the versatile outfielder would likely be shuffled all over the place, something a player of his stature would not take kindly to. Valentine has never shown much regard for his players’ opinions in this arena, and Victorino would be wise to stay away from this potential conflict.
Though it seems the lefty has been “close” to signing an extension with the Phillies for the last year, with every passing day it becomes more likely that Hamels will test free agency instead. Anytime a pitcher of his pedigree becomes available, the Sox always put in a call.
The laid-back Hamels will not like Valentine’s managerial style. As someone familiar with a quote being taken out of context, Hamels is likely wary of extra media attention. Valentine, on the other hand, relishes it and with the things he says ends up bringing lots of it upon his players.
If he wants to avoid more unpleasant interactions with the media, Hamels will take one look at Valentine and stay away.
Whether the Angels elect to pick up the $15.5 million option on Haren’s contract for next season will depend largely on how he performs in 2012. Given the Angels’ pitching depth, it would be unsurprising if they decided to not make the long-term commitment it would take to keep Haren around.
Though they’re logical contenders, the Sox are not a likely destination. Haren has never played in a true “big” market, and moving to Boston would be a jarring experience. The environment Valentine creates only fuels this high-pressure atmosphere, and it seems far more likely Haren (a California native) would want to stay on the West Coast.
Although Peavy has a team option on his contract for the 2013 season, the White Sox are unlikely to want to pay the oft-injured right-hander $22 million. When the former Cy Young winner hits the market, he’ll have a number of suitors—including the Red Sox.
Unfortunately, Sox fans should not expect to see Peavy in a Boston uniform next year. While Peavy’s high-intensity demeanor would make him a Fenway favorite, it would also grate on Valentine.
The Sox manager has always had difficulty getting along with hard-headed players, and forging a strong relationship with Peavy would be a challenge. Not one who likes to be micro-managed, Peavy will look to stay away from Boston.
Bringing Lowe back as a veteran anchor for the pitching staff would be a hit with fans, but is unlikely to happen.
Lowe has always been known as a bit of a free spirit, and would likely not take too kindly to the overly structured environment implemented by Valentine. While certainly a hard worker, a veteran such as Lowe would have a hard time getting on board with the rigorous spring training and lengthy list of rules Valentine uses.
While it would be a fitting way to end a great career, a possible Lowe return to Boston as a free agent is an impossibility due to the pitcher’s incompatibility with Valentine.
If there's anything we've learned early on this season, it's that the Red Sox bullpen needs all the help it can get. Putz, currently the closer in Arizona, would be a welcome addition to the Boston relief corps. However, because of how Valentine would likely use him, this is unlikely to happen.
Partially due to their struggles and partly to the fickle nature of their manager, the Red Sox bullpen has not been able to carve out defined roles for each one of their pitchers. It has been a guessing game all season as to who will appear in what situation, and that would not work for Putz.
The hard-throwing right-hander has thrived in defined, traditional roles. Since he wouldn't know whether he was a set-up man, closer or something else in Boston, Putz will avoid coming to the team altogether.
This is truly a doomsday scenario for Sox fans, as the idea of the beloved Ortiz suiting up for another team is practically unspeakable in Boston. Unfortunately, if things with Valentine continue on their present course, the affable slugger may elect to finish his career elsewhere.
Ortiz' behavior has sometimes been, shall we say, a bit juvenile. Remember his outburst during a Terry Francona press conference last year about an official scorer's decision? Francona brushed it off, but would Bobby Valentine be so forgiivng?
With Ortiz off to the best start of his career in 2012, the thought of losing him is enough to nearly drive Sox fans to tears. However, Valentine's abrasive nature and Ortiz' stubborn pride may prove to be too volatile a mix to keep together for 2013.