I do not share the current fascination with acquiring Adrian Gonzalez or Roy Halladay, or for signing free agent Matt Holliday for that matter. For the life of me, I don’t understand the reason most fans, media members and pundits are drinking the Steinbrenner Kool-Aid.
Memo to Red Sox Nation: Got milk? Good. Then drink it, and leave the Kool-Aid alone.
The prescription for fixing what ails the Red Sox roster does NOT begin with emptying the roster and farm system of all of its young talent. THAT is a prescription for disaster, a la the NY Yankees of George Steinbrenner throughout most of the 1980s and early-1990s.
The Red Sox organization will NEVER be able to compete with the Yankees on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Boston does not have the population base of New York City. Boston will not subsidize the Red Sox as The Big Apple has subsidized the Evil Empire (Massachusetts politicians will always and forever do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons).
Thus, the Red Sox will never have a fancy new stadium and the corresponding sweetheart deals on property taxes, parking garages, etc.
In order to compete, the Red Sox HAVE to have a much more productive farm system than the Yankees. Every few years, the ballclub is going to need an infusion of guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Casey Kelly, Ryan Kalish, and Josh Reddick, because it cannot afford to sign CC Sabathia AND AJ Burnett AND Mark Teixeira to compensate for the dearth of quality talent in the organization.
The post-season failure of the ballclub in 2009 had little to do with the pitching staff and more to do with a paucity of offense. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz were not at fault for the early exit from the playoffs.
If Ray Halladay had been a member of the Red Sox rotation last season, he would not have produced a single run from the mound during his start. And as much as I like Halladay, he’s not worth emptying the roster/farm system of its best young talent.
It is arguable the Red Sox need another pitcher, but I would argue that it is Tim Wakefield who needs to be replaced in the rotation, not Clay Buchholz. Some folks believe they need another bat—even if they were to re-sign Jason Bay. But I am not numbered among those who are in that camp.
There are lessons to be learned from last winter. There will be productive bats available in December and January who will not require large investments in terms of years or dollars. Thus, the Red Sox do not need to panic in terms of signing Bay or Holliday.
I like Jason Bay a LOT, but I cannot see tying up big bucks for several years in a player who strikes out as often as he does. He should realize that signing with Boston is as much in his best interest as it is in the ballclub’s best interest. He would be best served —offensively and defensively—playing half of his games in Fenway Park. The Red Sox lineup affords him the kind of protection that few other lineups could provide.
If he wants to sign in New York, good luck to him in the new Yankee Stadium. He had better spend the winter working on his defense and learning to go the other way.
There is a course the organization can navigate here that will address all of its needs WITHOUT emptying the cupboard of all its talent. It’s rather simple, really.
The "additional bat" the club needed has already been addressed. Victor Martinez has been named to replace Jason Varitek behind home plate. THAT acquisition adds a very productive bat to the lineup and subtracts a nearly-automatic out.
Additionally, the team has the opportunity to walk away from Alex Gonzalez and add a consistent offensive performer at shortstop (though A-Gon performed better than anticipated at the plate last season, the truth of the matter is he has never been a productive performer at the plate). Can you say Marco Scutaro?
Next, offer Bay $80 million over five years and give him until December 1st to accept the deal or leave it. If he leaves it, move on without hesitation. If he declines, stay away from Holliday—a product of Coors Field and the National League who was abysmal in his short American League audition in Oakland last season.
Instead, approach former White Sox OF Jermaine Dye with a two-year offer (or a one-year deal with an option). The guessing is that Dye would move to left field in order to play for a contender. If not Dye, then a guy like Marcus Thames would almost certainly be available on a one-year deal. Another option revolves around acquiring Dan Uggla from Florida and converting him to LF (something that has been talked about already).
Adrian Gonzalez? Cost prohibitive. Miguel Cabrera? Most folks think he will look like Mo Vaughn before his current contract is finished.
And remember, if the club adds either of them it will have to say goodbye to 3B Mike Lowell, who is not only an outstanding offensive performer (who’ll be a year removed from his hip surgery in 2010), but who is a good guy, a respected member of the Boston community, and a positive influence in the clubhouse—all facts that should not be ignored by the front office.
If you want to empty the coffers, sign a pitcher. The name John Lackey comes to mind. He’s just 30 years old (2+ years younger than Halladay). In his career, he is 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA. He throws hard and is a hard-nosed competitor.
Oh yeah, and he won’t cost you the farm system.
And the fact that the club would still have Buchholz in the rotation frees up money THIS winter to sign Josh Beckett to an extension. You can bet he will not stay in Boston if he has to play the upcoming season without a deal for 2011 and beyond. It would also allow the Sox more financial flexibilty if they wish to sign Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman (something I warmly endorse).
My strategy would provide the Red Sox with a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Matsuzaka, and Buchholz for the next few seasons—with Tim Wakefield as swingman, and Michael Bowden, Junichi Tazawa, and the much-ballyhooed Casey Kelly still developing in the minor leagues.
The lineup would consist of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Martinez, Youkilis, Dye, Drew, Lowell, and Scutaro.
The club would lose high-round draft picks for signing Type-A free agents Lackey, Dye and Scutaro; but, it would gain a first-round and supplemental round pick for losing Bay (and, presumably, Billy Wagner), so the influx of talent into the farm system would not be brought to a screeching halt... thus, THIS might be the year the club SHOULD dip into free agency with abandon.
Buchholz would remain with the big league club while Kelly, Tazawa, Anderson, Reddick, Kalish, Westmoreland, etc would all remain in development in the Red Sox farm system—with Red Sox Nation awaiting their arrival in Boston.
The only holidays I want in Boston over the next six weeks are Thanksgiving, XMAS, and New Years. Forget Holliday, and forget Halladay, too, for that matter.