With Spring Training in full swing for the Red Sox, the fun (and drama) can really begin.
After an off-season full of wheeling and dealing, Boston found itself with more players than it knew what to do with. Now, many of the long-time Sox players will slowly be pushed out of their starting jobs, and things could get very awkward.
Most obvious on the list of uncomfortable situations is the Mike Lowell Saga . An integral part of Boston's success since being acquired in 2005, Lowell must now sit back and watch Adrian Beltre flash the leather at the hot corner.
After the deal with the Texas Rangers for Max Ramirez fell through, it was painfully obvious the Sox had no idea what to do with Lowell. His age, injury history and portly $12 million contract will make trading him during the 2010 season a difficult endeavor.
Despite assertions to the contrary , though, Boston almost has to trade away Lowell. The 36-year-old has made it clear he wants to play every day and, unless he becomes DH or Beltre suffers a season-ending injury, this will not happen.
A similar tale of awkwardness is being played out at catcher. A cornerstone behind the plate since 1999, catcher Jason Varitek finds himself in a similar situation to Lowell.
In the middle of ‘Tek’s offensively useless 2009 season, the Sox decided to light a fire under their sagging offense and add stud catcher Victor Martinez to the lineup. Martinez did what he was paid to do (hit the hell out of the ball) and Varitek suddenly became second fiddle.
Varitek may have been around long enough to say all the right things in an interview , but he knows his time in Boston is almost up. At 37, Varitek is a dinosaur for a catcher. He is replacement-level defensively and offensively, and has mainly been kept around because of fan appeal and his “intangibles”.
Martinez is 31 years young, a far better hitter, and has expressed a great interest in staying in Boston .
The Red Sox must like embarrassing their veterans by parading around their replacements, because Josh Beckett is the latest victim of this uncomfortable trend.
Boston stunned the baseball world by signing ace John Lackey to a monster 5-year, $82.5 million contract. With Beckett entering the final season of his own deal, it certainly seems Lackey will be taking over as staff ace next year.
When Beckett goes to negotiate his new deal with the Sox, he will most certainly point to Lackey’s deal as a starting point. Beckett is about two years younger than Lackey and has seen his strikeout totals rise over the past three seasons. Beckett can easily fetch $90 million on the open market, which is probably too rich for Sox blood.
Throw in the past troubles with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s unwillingness to disclose injuries, Tim Wakefield’s insistence on being in the starting rotation, Jeremy Hermida becoming a reserve player , and Red Sox Nation’s ongoing hate affair with J.D. Drew, and the Sox look like an awkward team indeed.
If only Manny Ramirez was still around. He would fit right in.