Since the start of the offseason, I have been a proponent of letting David Ortiz walk. Despite the two-year upsurge in offense, it is hard to look past the age (35 years old) and injury history. Not to mention, Ortiz has not exactly endeared himself to the Boston Red Sox fanbase this fall.
The bottom line is Ortiz is getting at least a two-year contract, with a 70 to 80 percent chance of getting a third option year. Seeing that he made an average of $12.95 million over the last five seasons, I would not expect him to sign for anything less than $24-30 million over two years. That is a lot of money and years for a guy who can only hit, and due to recent free-agent success (or, lack thereof) it is the last thing the Boston Red Sox need.
Those last two sentences may leave you with a belly-aching question: Who can replace Big Papi? Well, never fear, answers are here (honestly, the rhyming was unintentional).
I have been an advocate of the Red Sox avoiding spending, so here is a list of internal options that could take over DH duties in 2012.
Obviously, I picked the picture above for a reason. Can you figure it out…? Need a clue? No problem.
Josh Reddick cannot play defense. Or, maybe he can, but he certainly did not show it last year. Reddick was praised for his defense in the minors, showing great range and an ability to play each outfield position. However, in his 2011 extended call-up, he looked absolutely lost.
Reddick misread several easy catches. He also lacked any affinity for Fenway's right field corner. Perhaps each blunder carried extra weight because of Boston’s September collapse; UZR numbers say that Reddick plays well above-average outfield.
Nonetheless, there is the Ryan Kalish effect. No matter how good Reddick is, Kalish can be better, and that makes Reddick position-less.
I am still on the fence over what we saw from Reddick in 2011. His .280/.327/.457 was a welcomed change from what we have seen in the past, but it is hard to look past the disappointing .177 ISO. Projected over a 600-AB season, Reddick would have hit 15 to 20 home runs at his 2011 pace; that is a far cry from his touted high power ceiling.
At 24 there is still room for Reddick to grow into that power. If 2011 was a sign of growth, then Reddick might be too important to part with. If Ryan Kalish takes right field in 2012, then the DH spot could be the best place for Reddick.
Marco Scutaro is a defensive weapon; I can concede that. In his career he has played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. However, no matter how versatile, effectiveness is a whole new metric.
Scutaro’s defensive numbers in Boston have been lackluster. His UZR at second over the last two years stands at -2.0 and his UZR at short is a stellar -2.2. His only positive was last year at short (a whopping 0.07).
No matter how bad the glove has been, Scutaro’s bat has brought plenty of value. He has hit in numerous spots in the lineup and shown the same consistency everywhere. The 36-year-old has a .284/.343/.401 line in Boston. His walk rate has yet to hit the career-high 13.2 percent he put up in Toronto in '09, but he has cut his strikeout rate each season.
Scutaro has a consistent and valuable bat, but his age and injury troubles make him a defensive liability. With star prospect Jose Iglesias on his heels, Scutaro could become obsolete. If the Sox cannot find a worthwhile suitor, their best option could be moving Scutaro to the DH spot. It keeps his bat in the lineup, while keeping his glove off the field.
Jed Lowrie used to have massive potential. He was seen as the second coming of Dustin Pedroia—a guy who would never excel in one category, but could still be a great hitter. However, season after season injuries have shoved that potential deeper and deeper.
From wrist surgery to mononucleosis, the 27-year-old shortstop has seen it all. These ailments have had drastic effects on the on-field results. Despite playing anywhere in the infield, defense has been a nonfactor as evidenced by his average to below-average UZR numbers. The bat has been kept down too, to the tune of a .252/.324/.408 career line.
However, even in the darkness there is light. Anybody remember Jed Lowrie's 2010? Ah yes, wonderful 2010. The 2010 in which the switch-hitter posted a .287/.381/.526 line. The 2010 in which he hit nine balls out of the park, in just 171 ABs. Oh, what a fall that was.
Then 2011 came and Lowrie disappointed again. The potential is still there though. I mean, if the kid had kept his 2010 pace going over 600 ABs he would have had 30 home runs. Is that what to expect from him? No, in a full season I doubt he could ever have more than 20.
But, the fact remains that when healthy Lowrie has a high-upside bat. Home runs are not his bread and butter, but doubles very well could be.
If he could DH, and DH well, it would be a huge boon for Boston.
Boston Red Sox fans love Kevin Youkilis. We really do. Where other teams see annoying, angry and hideous, we see offensive beast, fun-loving personality and an epic beard matched with an equally epic batting stance.
I would never want to see Youkilis go, but he remains a huge liability to Boston. The injuries are well-documented; no one needs a reminder of that. And, despite being a Gold Glover at first, it was obvious that moving to the hot corner took an extra toll on Youk in 2011.
The 32-year-old owns a career .883 OPS, and from 2008-2010 he posted three years of an OPS over .900 (.965 average per year). The epic numbers stopped in 2011, as the Greek God of Walks posted a subpar .833 OPS with only 17 home runs (two fewer than 2010, in 69 fewer ABs).
Youk has a valuable bat, but at his age injuries are gaining influence over his numbers. I think it would be a mistake to trade Youkilis (unless the deal was very mouth-watering), but playing him on the field could be just as big a mistake. Moving to DH could be what the righty needs to get his bat back on track.
As for a replacement, I cannot sit here and say that Will Middlebrooks will take over the position in 2012. He needs time at AAA; his best bet is a mid- to late-season call-up. But, as mentioned earlier, with Scutaro and Lowrie's defensive versatility I am sure a third base rotation can be established.
I am perplexed—truly and utterly perplexed. Why, oh why, is no one talking about this kid?
Is it because he is a catcher? Because, Lavarnway is not a catcher. His defensive tools are not yet refined enough for him to take over as the full-time backstop. Could he fill in from time to time? Sure, that approach has definitely worked for Victor Martinez and the Tigers. But, the fact remains that Boston has preened him to be the new DH.
And, why would they not? Lavarnway has a minor league stat line of .284/.376/.521. Subtracting his first year at Lowell, Lavarnway has never posted a season OPS lower than .882. Last year he dominated minor league pitching. At Double-A he hit .284/.360/.510; things got even better at Triple-A where he hit .295/.390/.612.
Did I mention the combined 32 minor league bombs he blasted last year?
Lavarnway has a big bat with high power potential. At just 24, he is entering his prime and could bring great things. 2012 might not be his best year, but it would get him acclimated to the MLB and ready to mash for the rest of his career. Not to mention, the right-handed bat certainly brings balance to the lineup.
Out of all of Boston's internal options, Ryan Lavarnway is by far the best. His youth and upside gives him an advantage over other candidates. He also has experience at a valuable position—granted, he will not play there every day (Salty can still share once in a while).
Lavarnway is the future DH of the Boston Red Sox; might as well get him started sooner than later.