In a perfect world, this would be a slideshow on the 10 most important players in the 2012 Red Sox playoff run. But the team has sunk to unimaginable levels of losing this year and will likely finish with their worst record since 1965.
Instead, here's a list of 10 players that will help the Sox as they attempt to get back to relevancy next season.
Ortiz is the only remaining player from the 2004 World Series championship team currently on the Red Sox and one of six from 2007. The man is an icon in Boston, and Sox fans couldn’t imagine him in another uniform.
Even though at this point in his career he’s an injury risk, the Sox have to re-sign him. His stats before an Achilles injury (.318/.415/.611) are enough to justify a two-year, $25-30 million contract.
Considering the Sox just unloaded so much money, it would be the ultimate disservice not to resign Ortiz given their newfound financial flexibility. All he’s wanted over the past few years is respect from the Sox in the form of a multiyear deal, and he’s yet to have one.
The Sox management needs to make Ortiz a top priority, because if they don’t, he’ll take a lot of fans with him when he goes to a new team.
This one’s obvious. Even in a down year, he’s accumulated 4.6 WAR by playing an excellent second base and hitting—below average for him—.289/.346/.450.
It doesn’t seem like he’s starting a decline as he’s only 29, and much of his stats can be attributed to a wrist injury earlier in the year. Since Aug. 6, he’s hit .345/.403/.559.
As many Sox fans have pointed out, better for him to have a subpar season year in an overall down year for Boston.
The All-Star second baseman should bounce back and have a great campaign in 2013.
It doesn’t matter that Lester didn’t perform well this season. His 4.94 ERA is the result of slightly worse performance and luck; his 4.15 FIP is more indicative of how he’s pitched. Expect a bounce-back year next season.
Now that Beckett’s gone, the ringleader of the “no-effort, beer and chicken” crew is gone. Lester remains a fan favorite even though he’s been subpar this year, and management will love to bring a player back that went 65-32 with a 3.33 ERA from 2008-2011.
Buchholz was the best starter on the Sox staff this season. After a terrible start to begin the year, Buchholz has been one of the best pitchers in the game, and has a 2.93 ERA since May 21.
He has the track record of a successful pitcher, as his 2.33 ERA is 2010 showed his vast potential. Buchholz has the opportunity to be one of the Sox pitching greats, and next season a 20-win, sub-3.00 ERA campaign is certainly within reach.
Another disastrous year by a Sox player. In 2011 Ellsbury was the best player in the game. He hit .321 with 32 home runs, 47 doubles, 105 RBIs and 119 runs. He came up with countless clutch hits, including a walkoff in back-to-back games. He led the AL in total bases, while also ranking highly in stolen bases with 39. And he did all this while playing a stellar CF, for which he won the Gold Glove.
This year Ellsbury was injured for the majority of the season and has proceeded to hit a paltry .277/.321/.382 in 70 games. What a waste of a season. The only reason he's not ranked higher on the list is the risk that he'll be injured again next year and/or never again put up the stats he recorded in 2011.
But when Ellsbury's on, he's one of the best players in the game.
If it weren't for the rookie third baseman's breakout year, the season would have been much less enjoyable. Just look at how the Sox did after Middlebrooks went down with a season ending injury—they tanked.
He should pick up right where he left off last season once he heals, and if he can improve on his .288/.325/.509 line, even better.
After the kind of year that Josh Reddick—who was traded for Bailey—had for the A’s, the Sox management better be keeping him.
He’s only pitched 14 innings because of a thumb injury this year, but the career 2.33 ERA pitcher has the skills to succeed. After allowing only one run in his first nine appearances, a five-run outing has raised his ERA to 5.79.
Bailey will be the closer next season, and that’s a fresh of breath air after Alfredo Aceves was god-awful in the role this year.
Doubront’s numbers don’t jump out at you, as he has a 4.91 ERA over 154 innings this year. But he had a 9-4 record with a 4.41 ERA before the All-Star break and has struck out more than a batter per inning. His 9.2 K/9 ranks fourth in the AL.
Doubront has time to improve, as this is the 24-year-old’s first full season in the big leagues. Give him a couple years, and he may be at the top of the rotation.
Perhaps the only bright spot on the Sox this year goes to Cody Ross.
Save for an injury that caused him to miss a month of games, Ross has been great all year. He’s put up a line of .270/.333/.488 while being a presence in the lineup and the locker room. This team would be much worse off without him, and he also came up with a number of clutch hits.
Even with the success, Ross shouldn’t be too expensive to keep. He’s getting up there in age, so a contract similar to Ortiz’s, maybe three years, $25 million should do it. It seems like he enjoys playing in Boston, and his bat definitely likes the Green Monster: He’s hit .298/.356/.565 at Fenway this year.
Both sides are likely to agree to a deal that sees Ross finding his home in Boston for the 2013 season.
If you consistently read my work on here, you know that I love Andrew Miller. The once-great prospect has finally found a consistent home and has recorded a 3.23 ERA out of the bullpen this year. His 11.1 K/9 would rank first among AL starters and ranks in the top 10 of AL relievers.
If the Sox don’t move him to the rotation next year, he’ll be a great force on the back end of the bullpen.