The hot stove is heating up as we come upon December, and the Red Sox, one of baseball's richest teams, have one big name on their wish list this year: Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira epitomizes exactly what Boston general manager Theo Epstein looks for in a player. He's young, at 28 years old. He plays very solid defense. He has plenty of power, but maintains a high on-base percentage, Epstein's favorite statistic. He drives in runs, can hit for average, and is actually better on the basepaths than one would expect. Above all, he's an all-around good guy and, to the Sox, the marriage of production and personality is a match made in heaven.
But with that, we face a problem.
The Sox are pretty loaded with everyday players as it is. Kevin Youkilis is a high-caliber first baseman who finished third in MVP voting just this past year. He's got a gold glove and just had his first near-.300-30-100 season (.312, 29 HR, 115 RBI).
Dustin Pedroia, the actual MVP, is entrenched at second. A big financial commitment was given to shortstop Julio Lugo not long ago, and up-and-comer Jed Lowrie showed a lot of promise last year.
At the end of the 2007 campaign, the Red Sox signed Mike Lowell for good money to play third. Lowell is coming off a hip injury and is 34 years old, but, when healthy, he's been extremely productive in Boston.
In short, the Sox seem pretty stacked in the infield.
So where could Teixeira fit into all of this? Here, we'll explain what the Red Sox need to do, knowing the glaring need for a middle of the line-up power bat.
Assuming they sign Teixeira, the odd man out will have to be Lowell. Youkilis is too young, too talented, and he's cheap. His natural position is third base, so with Lowell gone they would have a place to put him.
Even though Lowell has done a lot for the organization in only three years, he was a bad investment last season. Infielders start their decline in their mid-30s and that's just where we find Lowell.
Don't get me wrong, he can still produce, and other teams know that. That's why Epstein can get somebody decent for him in a trade, possibly even a catcher. The return on investment rises if Theo packages a farmhand with him. In Boston, where they're always trying to get younger and more productive, Lowell hardly fits the mold.
If you're the Red Sox, who obviously lacked a big power bat in their line-up last year, you almost NEED to sign Teixeira. Just Imagine the card with him.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF—25 years old
Ellsbury is coming off a big inconsistent year, but he's got everything you look for in a lead-off man. He can hit for average, he gets on base and he gets himself into scoring position. They say speed never slumps, and Ellsbury is a threat any time he gets himself on base. A five-tool player with great defensive prowess, he doesn't always need a big knock to get on base.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B—25 years old
MVP! MVP! The chipmunk is everybody's new favorite Red Sox. He's a prototypical No. 2 hitter, with above-average power, a great average and the knack for a key hit. Pedroia is scrappy in every sense of the word, but he is very productive both offensively and defensively. He can steal a base if he needs to and very rarely does he not produce a quality at-bat. If you need a sense of what he can do, look at his mantle. Rookie of the year, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and the MVP. Now that's quite a show.
3. Mark Texeira, 1B—28 years old
Assuming they sign him, Texeira is the perfect man to bat in front of Papi. He gives you 30-40 homers, 100-120 RBI and is great at, what else, getting on base. He plays great defense, is only 28 years old, and is an all around stand up guy. What more could you want out of your first baseman?
4. David Ortiz, DH—33 years old
That wrist injury should be all set by the start of the season and Ortiz should be back in full form. Ortiz is getting up there in age, but it's not as if defense is an issue. Papi can still swing the stick with the best of them, and is to be feared every time he comes up to bat. He can hit regularly around .290 and with all the walks he gets, he does a good job of getting on base. Ortiz would benefit greatly if the Red Sox were to sign Mark Texeira.
5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B—29 years old
The Red Sox signed JD Drew in 2006 to fill the No. 5 hole, but the emergence of Youk and the inconsistency of Drew makes this gold-glove infielder the better choice. Youkilis can hit for power and average and he sees the pitch as well as anybody in baseball. He draws walks and has productive at-bats. We don't know if 30 home runs a year is realistic for him yet, but, regardless of that, hes a great ball player. He too makes Ortiz better, since managers won't want to walk Ortiz to get to Youkilis.
6. J.D. Drew, OF—33 years old
Drew has the sweetest swing in the game and is one of the most purely talented players I have ever seen. Injuries keep him as a question mark but when healthy Drew hits big knocks, he can really get on base and doesn't strike out much. If he can stay healthy, Drew can be one of the most effective players in baseball, bar none.
7. Jason Bay, OF—30 years old
The lone reminder of the Manny Ramirez era in Boston, his replacement could be a No. 3, 4 or 5 hitter on any other club except New York. Bay has taken to Boston and it has taken to him back. Jason has power, he hit 31 homers last year and always produces runs. To have a guy like this, who also is a pretty solid defensive player as well as a locker-room presence, as your number 7 hitter is a luxury few teams have.
8. Jed Lowrie, SS—24 years old
The Red Sox ought' to be finished with the Julio Lugo experiment and they could have a pretty good player in Lowrie. You don't expect your shortstop to be a great hitter, but Lowrie isn't a bad one by any means. He also has speed and a good glove with solid range. Because of age, he's still a question mark but considering the big money and little production the Sox have given to this position in recent years, some young stability can't hurt.
9. Catcher to be named
Catcher is a question mark, and even if they do trade Lowell and a young gun for a catcher, the chances are he won't be a No. 1-6 type of hitter, especially in this lineup. Regardless, the Red Sox will probably have a more productive batter in the 9-hole than most other teams in the league.
That lineup is, straight-up, stacked. If that's the card for the season, expect the Sox to score a lot of runs, hit a lot of big knocks and win a lot of games. If they do sign Teixeira, no skipper can manage his way around that line-up. If they do sign Texeira, expect the Local Nine to have a pretty phenomenal year.