With a lame duck manager, the Sox are playing out the string with several players who won't be back next season.
As the Boston Red Sox play out the string of their miserable 2012 season, fans and the organization alike have already begun to look towards the future. Older players are sitting in favor of young prospects as GM Ben Cherington and the Sox’s brain trust try to gauge just what they have in some of these players.
A byproduct of this early portion of the rebuilding process is that it becomes quickly apparent which players will not return next year. Many nonessential veteran players will be jettisoned in favor of cheaper talent that can develop as the team retools: a vital part of the process.
It can be frustrating for fans to watch a lineup full of players who either aren’t ready or won’t be with the team in six months, but this is unfortunately a significant step in rebuilding the team. Many of these players will be little more than footnotes in Sox history, players who only the most fanatical of die-hards will remember as members of the team.
With apologies to the lamest of the lame ducks (Bobby Valentine, who does not qualify for this piece due to not being a player), here are five players on the active roster who fans can expect to see on different teams next year.
The 28-year-old former Dodger has actually been solid for the Sox since coming over in the massive deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to Los Angeles.
In his first 10 games, Loney hit .313 with a home run and four RBI. He has slowed a bit since, going two for his last 16 with no extra base hits after his hot start.
This formerly “untouchable” Dodgers prospect, while still a good player, does not produce the kind of power the Sox are looking for from a corner infield position. The real value in the trade with the Dodgers came with the prospects they received (Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster) rather than Loney.
Expect to see the first baseman to be wearing a different uniform next year.
Of the many blunders made by former GM Theo Epstein in free agency, Matsuzaka may go down as the worst.
The six-year, $52 million contract alone would make the right-hander overpaid; when factoring in the $51 million posting fee the Sox paid just to negotiate that deal, it becomes one of the most dumbfounding expenses the Sox have ever incurred.
After two decent seasons that saw the “National Treasure” go a cumulative 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA, Matsuzaka’s performance declined precipitously.
He has gone 17-20, posted a 5.30 ERA with a putrid 1.514 WHIP, has averaged just 71.0 innings per season and last year underwent Tommy John surgery.
His most recent stretch of ineptitude (consecutive starts where he failed to get out of the fourth inning) has possibly brought an end to Matsuzaka’s time as a starter in Boston. Alfredo Aceves appears slated to take the “lord of the gyro balls” spot in the rotation.
Brought in on a minor league deal after an injury-plagued last couple of seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Cook has (at times) given the Sox's beleaguered starting rotation a boost. However, at 34 years old, to start next season and with a full complement of pitchers coming back, the sinkerballer is likely playing out his final weeks in a Sox uniform.
Cook has at times been spectacular (his two-hit, 81 pitch complete game shutout in June being the highlight) and downright awful (a 1-4, 6.46 ERA effort in August); but since coming back from the DL in late May, he has provided the Sox with one thing they’ve lacked all season: stability.
While the Sox will be grateful to Cook for his ability to simply stay on the field, that won’t be enough for them to match the offers he will likely receive from other, more pitching-poor teams.
It has been a career renaissance for Scotty Pod, who despite being traded to Arizona at the July 31 deadline still managed to find his way back to Boston and continue to be productive.
After spending all of 2011 in the minors, it looked like Podsednik was done as an MLB player. However, the host of injuries to Sox outfielders has made the 36-year-old a vital player, and by the end of the season he will have amassed the fourth-most at-bats of any outfielder on the team.
His production has been outstanding, as Podsednik is hitting a crisp .316 with five doubles and a home run in 158 at bats. He can still move, too, having stolen eight bases in ten attempts.
Podsednik has been hugely valuable in his time here, and has established some value on the free-agent market. With several young outfielders coming up and Jacoby Ellsbury and Cody Ross likely to be holding down everyday spots next season, it appears Podsednik will have to move on if he wants a shot at playing every day.
Aviles has proven doubters (this author included) wrong this year, staying healthy for the majority of the season and playing excellent defense at shortstop.
It seems, though, that the Sox are still committed to prospect Jose Iglesias, who despite his struggles at the plate (hitting .091 so far) has made seven starts at shortstop in the last three weeks.
Aviles’ production has really tailed off since the All-Star break, as the versatile infielder has hit a paltry .233 and slugged just .340. The Sox will likely see these numbers as benchmarks Iglesias could easily achieve, and given the young Cuban’s defensive wizardry the team will likely commit to Iglesias for 2013 and beyond.
As an arbitration-eligible player, Aviles could be back next season. However, if he is unwilling to accept a part-time super-utility role, the Sox will likely non-tender him and allow the infielder to test free agency.