It's only halfway through this exciting 2008 season and there is plenty to look forward to. However, like many Red Sox fans I can't help myself from looking towards the future.
Boston is in excellent shape for the future with one of the highest payrolls in the MLB, and a vast pool of talent in the minor leagues. Although a number of variables can change from now and next season, and thinking about moves for next season this early is probably inappropriate, allow me to share a few offseason moves I'd consider making as of July 15, 2008.
1. Let Varitek go. I love Jason Varitek but unfortunately, this is his stop in the line. Offensively he has come to a screeching halt posting a dismal .218 AVG and an embarrassing .299 OBP which is sac-religious to Theo and Bill James's scouting.
I am all about his variables such as amazing pitch caller with the most no-hitters called, and is basically a second pitching coach, but with Boras as his agent and no offense productivity, I feel the Red Sox have no choice but letting the captain go.
While sentimentally we will miss him dearly, look back on Pedro, Nomar, and Trot Nixon who we all let go and haven't done a whole lot since. Who takes his place? I'm not sure. Texas has an overabundance of young catchers, but it doesn't matter, the average AAA catcher can hit better than Varitek at this point.
2. Let Alex Cora go, move Lugo to the bench, and start Lowrie. With a Julio Lugo trade highly unlikely, even with Boston eating a significant amount of his contact, its time to move Lugo to the bench making him the most expensive utility player in the game.
Cora's two million dollar contract expires at the end of the season, which Boston will not need to extend. Lowrie, appearing major league ready should start.
3. Sign Ben Sheets. This is the Boston Red Sox. They can spend some money, as we all know. Starting pitching is the most important aspect of baseball, especially playoff baseball.
Imagine a rotation of, Beckett, Sheets, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Lester. That is a MLB wet dream. Just releasing Cora, Varitek, and Schilling (remember him?) frees up almost $20 million which can be thrown at the NL starting pitcher, Ben Sheets.
Hell, they can even move Wakefield to the bullpen and let Masterson or Buchholz start, but we can talk about that at another time.
4. Exercise the option on Manny Ramirez. I may change my mind on this one by the end of the season but Manny is Manny. Highly regarded as one of the best right handed hitters ever, this guy has a lot of hitting left in his career.
Letting Manny walk leaves a gaping hole in the Red Sox lineup which cannot easily be filled. He's not worth $20M but it's better than paying an unproven free agent in Boston such as Adam Dunn. I say as of now, bite the bullet, it's only for one season. Besides who wants to see Manny in pinstripes anyways?