The Hot Stove Season with the Boston Red Sox
ProBaseball-fans.com Boston Red Sox Correspondent Elizabeth Dreeson brings us her latest update on Red Sox Nation.
The Red Sox came agonizingly close to a return to the Fall Classic; they fell short in Game Seven to the Tampa Bay Rays, losing 3-1. The Red Sox’s post-season run was highlighted in many ways, like in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Angels when Jason Bay scored on Jed Lowrie’s walk-off single, carrying us to the American League Championship Series. Or perhaps when the Red Sox came back to win Game 5 of the American League Championship Series 8-7 after being down 7-0 with seven outs to go, at Fenway. This “Hot Stove” Season has raised a lot of questions for the Red Sox. There are tons of premier free agents, and questions are raised regarding one of our own.
There are a few premier pitchers out there that many teams have their eyes on. Among those are CC Sabathia (Brewers), AJ Burnett (Blue Jays), Derek Lowe (Dodgers), Jake Peavy (Padres), and Francisco Rodriguez “K-Rod” (Angels). The Red Sox have expressed some interest in Burnett, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and Derek Lowe, who pitched for the Red Sox from 1998-2004, and threw a no hitter in 2002 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Lowe expressed interest in returning specifically to Boston, and Burnett is seeking a five-year deal, which the Braves might offer him, but has made a lot of teams apprehensive because of his injury history. In 2008, Burnett had a couple of career highs: 18 wins, and 231 strikeouts. The Yankees offered CC Sabathia a six-year deal valued at about $140 million in the middle of November, but the Yankees have not received a response. This could be because CC is interested in returning to SoCal, and is awaiting offers from teams like the Angels, Dodgers, and Giants.
For the Red Sox, they already have essentially four of their five starting positions locked up. The rotation could potentially be the lefty Jon Lester who proved himself an ace in 2008, and threw a no hitter May 19 against the Kansas City Royals; the Japanese superstar Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka who is notorious for getting into jams, but miraculously getting out of them unscathed; Josh Beckett, who struggled in 2008, but was a strong contender for the 2007 Cy Young Award; and the Red Sox veteran Tim Wakefield, who has pitched for Boston throughout his entire career. The Red Sox picked up his option for the 2009 season.
The fifth starter spot is very tentative. Clay Buchholz, who struggled in 2008 (2-9) but has improved in the minors, and has shown success in the Arizona Fall League, could vie off for a starting spot against future star Michael Bowden. Interestingly, another possibility sprung up when Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein traded Red Sox back-up centerfielder Coco Crisp to the Kansas City Royals for the dominant right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez. According to Theo’s reports, Ramirez has a fastball ranging from 92-95 mph. and a changeup that looks like a splitter with a 3.62 career ERA. This trade works out for both teams. Coco will get the playing time that he deserves, and will bring his experience and feistiness to the young Royals. The Red Sox will get the extra depth in their bullpen that they need, and Jacoby Ellsbury, who placed third place in the Rookie of the Year Award, will become the full-time center fielder for the Red Sox. The Red Sox will now have extra flexibility with Justin Masterson, who was an essential part of the Red Sox postseason, providing phenomenal relief in late innings. Masterson had success in starting, and relieving with the Boston Red Sox in 2008, as well as Triple AAA Pawtucket. Masterson could potentially be moved into the starting rotation, but I think that the Red Sox will keep him in the bullpen.
David Ortiz, the designated hitter for the Red Sox, mentioned that the Red Sox should invest in another 30-HR hitter, perhaps hinting at the Angels star first-basemen Mark Texieria. Tex’s agent, the power agent Scot Boras, who is also Jason Varitek’s agent, is seeking a ten-year deal. The problem with acquiring Texieria, would be the positioning of the rest of the infield. Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox first basemen who broke the record for most consecutive games without an error at first, would be moved to third. Even though Youk is a great third-basemen, Mike Lowell would be put in an awkward position. If the Red Sox acquired Mark Texieria, it would probably result in a trade of Mike Lowell. A trade like that would be similar to the one that almost brought Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox in 2003, even though they already had a shortstop, 1998 Rookie of the Year Nomar Garciaparra.
There have also been rumors regarding the trading of Julio Lugo. When he injured himself in mid-July, Jed Lowrie really stepped up and provided solid defense and some clutch offense. A few teams have reported interest in the shortstop including the Detroit Tigers, and the Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers had reportedly offered mediocre pitchers Nate Robertson, or Dontrelle Willis.
One of the biggest stories of the Red Sox offseason is Jason Varitek. He has been with the Red Sox since 1997, a starting catcher since 1999, and their captain since 2005. He is one of only three other captains of the Red Sox since 1923 (the others being Jimmie Foxx, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice). The Red Sox could be interested in acquiring a younger catcher, and having Varitek as a mentor to him, but Varitek is not interested in a reduced role. The Red Sox offered arbitration to Varitek, meaning that if he accepts, he will be contractually bound to the Red Sox for one year, but if not, the Red Sox would receive two compensation draft picks if he was to sign with another team. According to Scot Boras, Varitek is seeking a multi-year deal, valued at what Jorge Posada received last year.
On December 3, the Red Sox’s second basemen, Dustin Pedroia, extended his contract for another 6 years. In his two years with Boston, Pedrioa has acquired the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year Award, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger Award, and the AL MVP. The deal is valued at $40.5 million, and Pedroia’s salary will increase on a yearly basis from $1.5 million in 2009, to $10 million in 2014. There is also a seventh year option worth $11 million. Pedroia says that he loves playing for the Red Sox, and that he would sacrifice perhaps making more money, just to stay with the team that he loves. Money can’t always buy happiness. Theo Esptein said that Pedroia embodies everything about the Red Sox. Perhaps Jason Varitek should follow the same path: sacrifice making more in order to stay in the place that he loves.
The Red Sox have also signed reliever Wes Littleton of the Texas Rangers, and pitcher Billy Traber of the Yankees (to a minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training). They also added a third Japanese pitcher, Junichi Tazawa to a three-year deal, worth $3.3 million. Theo intends for him to start out in Double AA Portland, to get some more experience since he only played in Japan’s Industrial League, where he shined. Tazawa had three reasons for signing with the Red Sox. He likes their development program, which is amazing seeing that they have turned out players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jonathan Papelbon. He also liked the fact that there are Japanese staff, pitchers, and speakers already part of the organizations. Hopefully, the Japanese superstar Daisuke Matsuzaka will be able to provide the amateur with some solid advice. The third reason was that the Red Sox were the first team to scout him, over thirteen months ago. In that time, his fastball has increased in velocity to 91-94 mph; he also has a great ability to place his pitches around the strikezone.
The arbitration deadline is coming up, and the Winter Meetings start this week, which is sure to bring about some new trade rumors to the Hot Stove.
By Elizabeth Dreeson
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