After almost another historic comeback from the Red Sox, the 2008 season ended. Now what will the Red Sox have to do this offseason?
The starting rotation is looking great for next season with Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, and Tim Wakefield returning. Who will fill that fifth spot? Paul Byrd will most likely not be returning to the club. This position could be filled within the system, with a couple great pitchers in there.
Who are the options?
Bartolo Colon is not the answer to fill this spot.
Clay Buchholz is in the system, and will be looked to as the main option to fill this spot. But after a disappointing season, he needs to improve and show the Red Sox he can do it.
Devern Hansack started two games a couple of years ago and showed what he can do for a short period of time. I don't think he'll be in this spot at all. He may be called up from AAA if he pitches well to make a spot start for an injury.
Charlie Zink was the AAA pitcher of the year. Can an MLB team have two knuckleballers in a rotation? It's possible. His award tells everyone he's ready for the next step. But does he fit into the Red Sox plan? He will be there to replace Wakefield whenever he retires. But in the meantime, he's in Pawtucket unless he's traded.
Derek Lowe is a free agent and has expressed interest in returning to Boston. What Red Sox fan wouldn't want a player from the 2004 team back? He is still a great pitcher, and is an option.
The winner is Clay Buchholz. He needs to step up during spring training and show he can start regularly. This is his year to shine!
Jason Varitek will sign for one more year, and will be a mentor to a younger catcher. Some believe that a younger catcher will be brought in. But in my mind a young exciting, talented catcher is already in the system: George Kottaras, who the Red Sox received for David Wells.
He hit .243 with 65 RBI, 22 HR and 63 runs scored in 395 AB last season with AAA Pawtucket. He can be the man in Boston for years to come. And he has experience catching knuckleballer Charlie Zink. So he could handle Wakefield as well.
1B: Kevin Youkilis
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Mike Lowell
SS: Jed Lowrie
Simple enough. A good hitting infield with a big youth infusion. Something has to be done with Julio Lugo, as in get him out of here. Jed Lowrie is the starter at shortstop.
Alex Cora will backup the middle and left side.
The question now is the backup at first base. Many sources believe that Kotsay will be leaving for a starting position elsewhere and with his talent, he should. So if Boston can't keep him around, who would be a good option?
Would bringing back Kevin Millar be a good option? His numbers dropped over the last couple of years. Red Sox fans would love to have him back. He would be an improvement over Sean Casey, but I don't think the same magic will be there. Maybe fill from within? Jeff Bailey can play first base.
Last year's four-man crew worked well. Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury complemented each other well. Will the Red Sox go with a four-man crew again? They should.
Keep Ellsbury, Crisp, Jason Bay, and J.D. Drew. Jonathan Van Every can back up these four on the corners.
Jonathan Papelbon: Closer
Justin Masterson: Setup-Man
Okajima: 7th Inning and Left-handed Specialist.
The rest of the bullpen falls in where needed. Kyle Snyder will be around again for long relief. David Aardsma, Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez and Mike Timlin will be around for the other relief purposes.
Overall, the Red Sox don't need very much change over the offseason because this good, young team will improve with age.
One other thing. The designated hitter is set in stone with David Ortiz. Not many teams in the American League can say they have a very solid, everyday designated hitter.