Terry Francona said volumes about where he things this year's version of the Boston Red Sox stand in 2010. Clay Buchholz was supposed to start on Wednesday night, but after the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox (badly) on Tuesday night, Francona flipped the ball to Tim Wakefield. It's over. Francona threw in the towel. And that is the realistic answer for Francona and the gang. They put up a valiant fight. Francona has probably had his best year as a manager for keeping the Red Sox competitive and in the hunt for as long as they were this year. But the anchor of injuries, bad fielding and bad pitching just got too heavy and the Red Sox finally sank. Now the question becomes: Where do the Red Sox go from here? How will next year be a response to this year?
Let's start with David Ortiz. Please don't faint at these words, but if Ortiz is reasonable in his contract demands, bring him back. He has a 133 OPS+ this season. The Bay Rays would kill for their DH to do that. His penchant for getting on base is reason enough to bring him back and whether it's still reality or a feared reaction to the past, Ortiz still lends presence to the line up that would be hard to replace. Okay, that said, what else?
You have to have Adrian Beltre back no matter the price. The guy has been an absolute stud. However, the Red Sox should beware of a long-term deal with Beltre's history of ups and downs. An easy to rearch incentive deal would be the way to go. But Beltre's great season has given him leverage and he will use it to get an above market contract whether it is from the Red Sox or somebody else.
Shortstop is another issue. Marco Scutaro will be 35 next year and according to Fangraphs, he's only the fifteenth most valuable shortstop in baseball this season. His 86 OPS+ and his range at shortstop are replaceable and should be. This has been a huge position problem for the Red Sox since 2004. The Fan has proposed this before and will pose it again. The Red Sox should trade Scutaro, and a good pitching prospect (Doubront?) to the Diamondbacks for Stephen Drew. You could unite the Drew brothers under one roof (which would be cool) and get a superior and younger shortstop. Drew has stagnated a bit in Arizona and it seems that the desert-based team doesn't believe in him the way they once did. Give him a new environment and see what happens. It worked for Beltre. He will hit better than Scutaro and he's a big time fielder at short.
The Red Sox are all set at second and first base with Pedroia and Youkilis, both of which should return to their usual form next season.
The outfield is a mess for the Red Sox. And what should be done there? The mess begins with Jacoby Ellsbury. The team is certainly not happy with him, that's for sure and many of his teammates have soured on him as well. But when you look at his 2008 and 2009, the guy is one of the scariest players in baseball. Valuation of players should account more for speed and base running than they currently do and Ellsbury is a test case for such an increase in valuation. He was killer the last two seasons on the bases and every stat other than Slugging was very good. Bring him back for one more try to attempt to get the player who played in 2009.
Bring J. D. Drew back for one last season. Let him go after the contract is over though. He still gets on base and hits for occasional power. You could use Cameron to back him up against tough lefties. That's all Cameron should be used for. The guy is 38 years old and his signing was a huge mistake that has another year of life left to it. To give Cameron a starting position just because of the contract would be a huge mistake. And if he puts up a fuss, dump him.
The Fan would open a competition for left field in Spring Training between Neddick and Kalish. Kalish has performed better in the majors but Reddick has been awesome in the minors. One of them should provide the Red Sox with what they need to complete the outfield.
The catching position is a huge mess. You want Victor Martinez because he can hit. But he's a terrible catcher. He can't play first and besides, Youkilis is there. He can't DH because Ortiz is there. So you are stuck with him behind the plate. Varitek wants to play another year. He had a decent bounce back this year before getting hurt, but he's ancient. It will be very interesting to see what happens here in the coming months. Saltalamacchia doesn't seem to ever be poised to be a good big league catcher.
The Red Sox seem to be all set in the rotation next year. Lester, Beckett (who needs to bounce back), Buchholz. Lackey and Dice-K seems to be a solid rotation. Doubront can be the swing man. Tim Wakefield, sadly, should be put to pasture or kicked to the front office. He should be done.
The Red Sox are all set at closer next year...if you are talking about Daniel Bard. Yeah, Papelbon will be allowed to walk, no question. Okijama is a big question mark for next year. He's been brilliant for years, but has been awful this year. He will be 35 next year. Do you bring him back? If not, the team will need a lefty. With lack of room in the rotation, Doubront can become a late inning guy to feed Bard. The back end of the Red Sox bullpen could use some rebuilding.
The Fan sees no reason to panic in Boston. This was a tough year where injuries and peculiar circumstances short-circuited their plans. They have had to give several marginal players a lot of playing time and that experience could serve them well as bench strength. The Red Sox rotation should be solid and with Bard at the front end of the bullpen, you just need some good arms to fill out the rest. The Red Sox will continue to be viable contenders next year.
Off season possibilieis: Carl Crawford if they can out bid other teams