Mark Teixeira is clearly the marquee position player up for grabs in this winter’s free agent bazaar. In fact, he’s the best hitter available since the winter of 2000-01, when Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were offering their services to the highest bidder.
So, with Teixeira’s sparkling resume and the mounds of cash Boston seemingly has to spend this winter, is there any reason why Epstein should not make the two-time Silver Slugger his primary offseason objective?
Yes, there’s actually one huge reason -- Teixeira can’t pitch.
Despite Boston’s burgeoning dynasty, which includes two world championships and five postseason appearances since 2003, the organization’s post-2010 pitching outlook outside of emerging ace Jon Lester isn’t as bright as one might think. Workhorse Josh Beckett, a free agent after 2010, could follow the likes of Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and others, by shunning megabuck overtures and return to his native Texas; Daisuke Matsuzaka, his 18-3 record last season notwithstanding, consistently racks up high pitch counts due to poor command and failed to make it into the sixth inning in almost half his starts; Tim Wakefield is 42; Clay Buchholz has regressed significantly and is now being dangled as trade bait; and recent free agent signee Junichi Tazawa has never thrown a pitch in North America.
Fortunately, ‘tis the season for Epstein & Co. In C.C. Sabathia, Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett, Boston has three studs to choose from this winter. Sabathia is obviously the main attraction. As his work down the stretch with the Brewers exhibited, he’s a money pitcher, a guy who’s capable of putting a team on his back and changing the entire dynamic of a pennant race all by himself.
Lowe is intriguing for several reasons. First, he’s already had success pitching in the Beantown pressure cooker, as evidenced by his excellent 52-27 record as a starter from 2002-04 and the stingy 3.09 ERA he posted in 61 postseason innings with the Red Sox. Second, he’s durable. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2002, Lowe has never missed a turn and averaged nearly 211 innings a season.
Burnett has always been something of an enigma – he has first-rate stuff but only appears to stay healthy in the walk year of his contract. Still, given his electric arm and the success he’s enjoyed against the arch-rival Yankees (2.43 ERA in almost 80 career innings), he’d provide manager Terry Francona with the perfect right-handed foil to Lester.
The Red Sox likely don’t have enough money to sign both Teixeira and a pitcher from the Sabathia/Lowe/Burnett triumvirate; however, they’d have far less difficulty making do without Teixeira’s lumber. In Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew, Boston has the strongest lineup in the A.L. East. And let’s not forget that Ortiz will have an entire winter to rest and rehabilitate the ailing wrist which caused him to suffer through a disappointing 2008. Nor should we neglect to mention third baseman Mike Lowell, who, after undergoing hip surgery this offseason, could very well return to his 120 RBI form from 2007.
There’s yet another player we feel compelled to bring up. That’s Boston’s first baseman of the future, Lars Anderson. Anderson, 21, breezed through High A and Double A in 2008 at a .317/.417/.517 clip and displayed a good eye as well as the ability to hit with power to all fields. While no prospect is ever a sure thing (see Burroughs, Sean), Anderson is as close as it gets.