The Sox are in disarray. So who's out the door?
The Boston Red Sox fell apart at the seams in 2012. The only thing they clinched this season was their first losing record since the Clinton administration. They head into the offseason with roster flexibility from the salary-dump mega-trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they're also saddled with plenty of organizational deadwood.
General manager Ben Cherington needs to make some moves to fill roster holes for next season. But, if they hope to start fresh as serious contenders, they'll also need to rid themselves of the stink of 2012.
To paraphrase a Hollywood classic: Forget it, Ben, it's Beantown.
Let's take a look at some players who won't be wearing the red and white next year.
Aceves and his rubber arm aren't worth the trouble anymore.
Alfredo Aceves was one of the best stories on the 2011 Sox. He was non-tendered by the New York Yankees the previous offseason after suffering a broken collarbone in a motorcycle accident. The Sox signed him to a major league deal and proceeded to reap the benefits of his versatility, rubber arm and strong command.
But the big righty has worn out his welcome in Boston this year.
Aceves was placed in the closer role after newcomer Andrew Bailey went down with a thumb injury. He kicked off the year with a disastrous seven innings in April, yielding five walks, nine hits and eight runs that month.
Then he settled in with three strong months before collapsing again in August and September. He's got a 6.55 ERA with six home runs allowed in 34 innings since the All-Star break.
Even worse, his primary value as a pitcher—his ability to pitch multiple innings—has fallen by the wayside. His OPS allowed between pitches 1-25 is .655, but after the 25th pitch, it's a horrible 1.314.
As if his performance this season wasn't bad enough, Aceves has injected an already tumultuous Red Sox roster with a booster shot of crazy.
He's had several altercations with teammates and the coaching staff, including a heated dugout exchange with 2B Dustin Pedroia and manager Bobby Valentine over repeated pickoff attempts (video per MLB.com).
More recently, he refused to give the ball to Valentine after being pulled, and took a weird circular path off the mound once he was yanked.
Though he's cost-controlled and just 29, Aceves isn't worth the trouble. Frankly, he should've been designated for assignment already. But even if they let him finish the season on the roster, Sox fans shouldn't expect him in uniform on Opening Day 2013.
Ellsbury may be a fan favorite, but the front office needs to invest in wins.
This one is bound to be a little controversial.
Red Sox OF Jacoby Ellsbury finished second in the MVP voting in 2011, and he almost single-handedly carried a dysfunctional Sox squad to a playoff berth that season.
This year, however, was yet another one lost to injuries for the 28-year-old center fielder. Admittedly, his last two major injuries have resulted from freak trauma (breaking his ribs running into Adrian Beltre in 2010, and dislocating his shoulder sliding into second base this year), so it's a little harsh to call Ellsbury injury-prone.
But even if Ellsbury's 2011 season is truly indicative of his value (and many GMs are likely to think that it is), he's a client of super-agent Scott Boras.
To put it bluntly, that means Ellsbury is looking to get paid.
He's currently being paid about $8 million a year entering his last year of arbitration, with free agency looming after 2013.
The Sox minor leagues are stacked with toolsy young outfielders, including their Defensive Player of the Year, Jackie Bradley Jr. Ellsbury is looking for a big-money deal through his mid-30s, likely one that nears the $20 million dollar annual range. It makes good business sense to maximize his value now by trading him for blue-chip prospects.
Let somebody else pay for past performance for a change.
Ellsbury is a great player with a high ceiling, but he wants to be paid commensurate to that ceiling. The Sox shouldn't repeat their past mistakes.
They have to let Ellsbury go.
Salty is a great catcher who's of more value to another team.
I'm a big fan of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. There aren't many catchers with his caliber of game-changing power.
And there isn't a player in sports with his caliber of surname.
But at this point in the narrative of the Red Sox franchise, it's time to look ahead. Even if Salty's replacement, prospect Ryan Lavarnway, isn't yet as good as Salty, he's the future of the Sox at catcher.
Saltalamacchia is due a big payday in free agency, which he'll almost certainly get if he bops another 20 or more home runs in 2013. The Sox won't be inclined to pay him for another three or four years in the $30-40 million range, so they should try and extract a strong haul from a contender who will.
Plenty of teams will relinquish solid prospects for a 28-year-old power hitting catcher. The Red Sox shouldn't be one of them.
With so much payroll flexibility, they need to be investing in acquiring and maintaining a young core of up-and-comers. Boston needs to stick to its old philosophy dating back to the early Theo Epstein years.
That is, no long-term deals for players entering their 30s.
Salty will turn 30 in 2015, and especially given the wear and tear of his position, the Sox should steer clear of handing him a big deal.
Instead, they should continue to replenish their prospect pool by trading him to a contending team in need of a catcher with pop.