David Ortiz is a driving force for the Sox
The 2012 season is in the books for the Boston Red Sox.
It came and went, and should disappear forever into the history of this beloved franchise.
Bobby Valentine was never a fit, the pitching was an utter mess and a potential last-place finish is looming with 15 games left to play.
Turning a new leaf in the offseason and focusing on 2013 will be essential for the front office and for the rest of Red Sox Nation.
Because baseball is a team sport—more true to the production of the entire unit as opposed to individual talent—one player cannot turn the Sox around on his own.
However, here are seven players that can straighten the ship and carry the Red Sox back to the playoffs.
Ortiz will hope for more than a one-year contract
Big Papi was on pace for one of his best statistical years when he went to the disabled list in mid-July.
Ortiz was hitting .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBIs through 89 games. He could have finished with similar numbers to the Red Sox 2004 championship season when he hit 41 home runs and batted .301.
At 36, Papi has shown the frailty of his age. The Achilles tendon injury that has sidelined him for nearly two months is taking much longer than expected to heal.
That being said, Ortiz has proven that he can still excel offensively in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.
He has expressed dissatisfaction with the way his contract extensions have been handled in the past. Seeing the Sox shell out money to Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and others, Ortiz is tired of the one-year contracts.
General manager Ben Cherington said the team would not focus on extensions until the offseason. He would be smart to give Ortiz what he wants.
Ellsbury will seek a long-term deal in the offseason
Jacoby Ellsbury is another player who will be seeking a long-term deal from the Red Sox.
Ellsbury is the type of player the Sox want to keep around for many years.
After the failed Theo Epstein experiment with Gonzalez, Crawford and John Lackey, Cherington and the Red Sox brass should attempt to build this team from within. Of course, key free agent signings will occur, but the core of the team should come from home grown talent.
Jacoby is the quintessential example of coming up through the system.
The Sox witnessed his potential in 2011 when he attained the desirable 30-30 season with 32 home runs and 39 stolen bases. That year he also hit .321 and drove in 105 runs—all from the top of the order.
After a season limited by injury, Ellsbury is up for arbitration in 2013. His agent Scott Boras will likely seek a long-term deal this offseason somewhere in the nine-figure range.
It's a lot to ask.
The Sox may wait to see if Jacoby can produce consistently like he did in 2011 before giving him big time money.
Lester will try to forget his 2012 season
Before this season, Jon Lester was considered by many to be the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff.
He had a 76-34 career win-loss record, which was good for a .691 winning percentage and was consistently keeping his ERA under 3.50.
Then the 2012 season came around.
It has been a difficult year for Lester, who has struggled with his command and the results have shown. He is 9-12 with a 4.95 ERA. His strikeout numbers are down and his WHIP is up.
The Red Sox desperately need Lester to return to form in 2013. The starting pitching is a major reason for the team's disappointing season.
There are many question marks for the starting rotation next season with Josh Beckett gone, Daisuke Matsuzaka likely (and hopefully) departing and John Lackey returning after missing the entire 2012 campaign.
If Lester can produce the way he has in previous years, he will catalyze a depleted pitching staff.
Trumbo would be a great addition to the Sox lineup
They have Albert Pujols locked up long term and also feature Kendry Morales and 26-year-old Mark Trumbo.
The Red Sox lost their first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, in the Los Angeles Dodgers trade, and James Loney, the man who came over from L.A., becomes a free agent after the season.
So, the Sox need a replacement at first base.
Enter Mark Trumbo.
Trumbo is only in his second full year with the Angels and contractually has four more to go, so it is hard to imagine them letting him go very easily. The Angels would likely ask for some young talent in return, which goes against my "building from within" argument made previously.
In a perfect world, where the Red Sox acquire Trumbo for very little in return, they would be getting a player who is hitting .268 with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs.
Trumbo has improved in every offensive statistical category since his rookie season, except strikeouts, which have risen marginally.
Things are looking up for Trumbo, but are they also looking at the Sox?
Jackson's record is not reflective of his output this season
Most Red Sox fans will remember him for the three seasons he spent with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006 to 2008.
Jackson signed a one-year deal worth $11 million with the Nationals in 2012. He becomes a free agent in the offseason and the Red Sox should take a look at him.
The Sox have some talented starting pitching coming up through the farm system in Matt Barnes, a first round draft pick, and Allen Webster, one of the key components in the Dodgers trade. Nonetheless, the team needs starting pitchers next season that can give them the chance to win every day.
Jackson sports a 9-10 record and a 3.89 ERA. The record may not be flattering, but he has thrown well for the most part this season.
He has allowed three earned runs or less in eight of his last 11 starts. In four of those eight games, Jackson took the loss despite his solid pitching effort.
He is young—only 29—and is not against the idea of a one-year contract. He could be a nice No. 3 starter behind Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Swisher is asking for the big bucks this offseason
He has hit at least 20 home runs and knocked home 70 RBI in seven of his last eight seasons (it would have been all eight seasons if not for his 69 RBI in 2008).
Swisher also draws a good amount of walks, taking the free pass upwards of 95 or more times in four of his last seven seasons.
He is regarded as a clubhouse player, always bringing a positive attitude to the game and encouraging his teammates to play their best.
A free agent in the offseason, Swisher is seeking a Jayson Werth-type contract, according to Jon Heyman. That would mean somewhere in the $126 million ballpark.
Swisher would be a fantastic fit at Fenway, but the Sox should be very cautious signing him for that amount.
Kuroda has been great against the Red Sox in 2012
The New York Yankees made a great move signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million deal in the past offseason.
Kuroda, who spent four seasons with the Dodgers, has looked brilliant at times for the Bombers. He has a 14-10 record with a 3.26 ERA and eclipsed 200 innings pitched for the second time in his career.
Kuroda is a free agent after the season, and if the Yankees decide not to resign him due to his age (he will be 38 at the start of the next season), the Sox should quickly steal him away. They can definitely afford his price after shedding more than $250 million in salaries through the Dodgers trade.
The Red Sox would definitely like to have him on their side as he has been a tough opponent this year, going eight innings in two of his four starts against them.
Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald explained how the Red Sox failed attempt to sign the Japanese pitcher in the offseason last year was a both disappointing and consequential.
The Sox will try to not let it happen again.