MLB Free Agents 2012: Tough Choice to Be Made with Tim Wakefield for Red Sox

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MLB Free Agents 2012: Tough Choice to Be Made with Tim Wakefield for Red Sox
Nick Laham/Getty Images
In spite of getting his 200th win the 2011 season didn't end too well for Tim Wakefield.

The Boston Red Sox appear to be getting closer to finding their manager. Once that decision is made, then the rest of the major offseason decisions are likely to be made in a rapid succession.

Considering that the winter meetings are in just three weeks, and the free agent period is already in full swing, the Red Sox will soon be faced with some choices. 

Among them will be the one regarding pitcher Tim Wakefield. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Tim Wakefield's agent, Barry Meister, said that if the Red Sox neglected to bring back the 45-year-old Wakefield, then “he’s going to win 15 games somewhere else.’’ 

Now, agents are of course in the business of selling their clients' services, and there's little doubt in my mind that Wakefield would get signed by another team, get some starts, and get some wins if he was denied an offer by the Red Sox. 

Fifteen wins though? Look, if Meister wants to sell his client's services, then there are a number of things he could honestly point out.

Point out his versatility as a pitcher and his ability to pitch in long or short relief as well as start; point out that he doesn't require the same regimented pitch counts and days off as most modern major league starters do. 

Fifteen wins? Wakefield hasn't won 15 games since 2007. He could do it again, but it's not really a stretch to suggest that Wakefield may finally be slowing down a touch. His numbers aren't falling into an abyss, but they are in decline (and they weren't dominant type numbers to begin with).

Wakefield is one of the longest tenured members on the Red Sox roster, and while that is an admirable quality, many fans felt his pursuit of individual achievements such as his 200th win this past summer have been distractions from the team's overall focus.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
New Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington has a number of tough decisions to make this offseason.

The real issue with Wakefield is this: While he's not by any means a great, or even consistently good starting pitcher, this team currently has only three starters who they can trot out to the mound with any confidence for the 2012 season. It's easy to say that guys like CJ Wilson or Roy Oswalt are better options, but they would also cost more—a lot more.

Wakefield is a known commodity and he's not that pricey. Last season the Red Sox spent $142 million on Carl Crawford. Crawford was unlikely to ever earn that much, yet the Red Sox needed an outfielder and overpaid for the best one on the market at that time.

Going after a guy like CJ Wilson or Roy Oswalt may prove to be the very same thing—a headline-grabbing offseason move that grabs headlines for all the wrong reasons once the regular season begins.

The right answer of course is what ends up working. If the Sanox retain Wakefield, only to watch him labor through another injury-prone, inconsistent season, even at a low cost it's still a valuable roster spot.

If Boston lets him go and spend big on a questionable free agent who falters, while Wakefield has as an impressive season in another uniform, once again, the Sox will look bad.

It's a tough choice, one of many for new general manager Ben Cherington, and whoever the eventual manager is. Those two should get used to tough choices though—they're part of the job when you're running the Boston Red Sox.  

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