Prelude: The 2012 Season wil be remembered as a season of failed expectations, injured and underperforming stars, on-air threats from Valentine, but most importantly - a fresh start. The Los Angeles Dodgers inexplicably wiped away those creeping doubts of trying to figure out how to put together a roster in 2013, '14, '15, and beyond with so many large dollar commitments on the payroll. The Red Sox still have a nucleus of players that have the ability to perform at a high level and when supplemented with the proper free agent and trade targets - this team could be in contention for the AL pennant. Free agency is meant to be a supplement to organizational player development. Gone are the days of 7 and 8 year deals for $20 Million+. Though the Red Sox are an incredibly wealthy club and a money making machine, it is wise to use that money on short term deals to patch the clubs immediate holes without compromising the long-term financial health of the club. Here is your guide to assemble the 2013 Red Sox.
Manager: Cherington did well to bring back some semblance of comfort to the team with the familiar face of John Farrell. Losing Mike Aviles is negligble and Farrell is expected to bring back happy thoughts to the clubhouse. Farrell should be able to help the starting pitchers return to form this season (along with the help of Varitek, who is now working for the Sox in some capacity).
Starting Pitching: As we all know, this was an area of great disappointment for the 2012 Sox. Here is what we have to build on...
Jon Lester - 29 - $11.625M
Clay Buchholz - 28 - $5.5M
John Lackey - 34 - $15.25M
*Felix Doubront - 25 - $500k
Sign: Anibal Sanchez - 29 - 3/$36M
Trade: Brett Anderson - 25 - $5.75M (J. Saltalamacchia, D. Britton, B. Jacobs for Anderson)
Lester, Buchholz, and unfortunately Lackey are here to stay for 2013. That leaves two spots open for the opening day rotation. Anibal Sanchez is an attractive candidate for a few reasons. Number 1 - he will be 29 next season and 3 year deal has him controlled at ages 29, 30, and 31 (hardly geriatric); Number 2 - he will not command a draft pick to sign because he cannot be given a qualifying offer from the Tigers; and Number 3 - he is durable and consistent as he has posted three straight seasons of 195 innings pitched with an ERA below 3.9. In my mind, 3/36 is enough to get the deal done as this represents some long term security for him with a salary $4M higher per year than his last contract. Brett Anderson is in a similar situation as Gio Gonzalez was last season. With an inflating salary, it is inevitable he will be traded by the As. He was once a top pitching prospect, but he was forced to undergo TJS two seasons ago before making an impressive (albeit brief) return last season. Given the depth of the Oakland staff and their need for offense, I could see Anderson as a realistic trade target. Webster, Barnes, and de la Rosa are depth options mid season.
Bullpen: The pieces are here for a solid bullpen already and everyone's fingers are crossed the Daniel Bard can return to a dominant 8th inning man again.
Andrew Bailey - 29 - $4M
Daniel Bard - 28 - $1.8M
Junichi Tazawa - 27 - $500k
Alfredo Aceves - 30 - $1.8M
Andrew Miller - 28 - $1.2M
Craig Breslow - 32 - $2M
Sign: JP Howell - 30 - 2/$4M
I think with Valentine gone, Aceves will fall back in line and be that valuable swingman once again. Tazawa is a lock with his impressive 2012 performance. Bailey, Bard, Miller, and Breslow return with reasonable expectations of success. The lone addition is JP Howell, who is likely to be a free agent. This move gives Farrell 3 lefties and 4 righties in the bullpen.
Catcher: With Saltalamacchia headed to Oakland in the Brett Anderson trade, the starter spot is open. Not yet Lavarnway...not yet.
Sign: Mike Napoli - 31 - 2/$24M
Sign: David Ross - 36 - 1/$3M
Mike Napoli possesses similar boom or bust qualities that Salty did, however, he is right handed with prodigious power and has had very impressive results in Fenway. The Sox have been willing to sacrifice defense behind the plate in exchange for offense recently (Martinez, Saltalamacchia) and this trend continues. Napoli posts sub-par CS% (career 24%), but has caught some impressive pitchers in LA and TEX and has garnered praise for his game calling ability. He can catch 90-100 games while chipping in at 1B/DH if necessary. David Ross is a solid veteran backup who posts equally impressive numbers against both lefties and righties. Great defender who can supplement Napoli's catching duties. Lavarnway rides the Pawtucket-Boston express next season as the number 3 catcher.
Infield: Middlebrooks and Pedroia are the only certainties in the infield in 2013. Shortstop and first base are positions of interest. Though I have previously been harsh on Iglesias, I believe he has a realistic shot at being the opening day starter at short. His defense might actually be worth the black hole in the lineup. As for first base - I have one target in mind.
3B: Will Middlebrooks - 24 - $500k
2B: Dustin Pedroia - 29 - $10M
SS: Jose Iglesias - 23 - $2M
1B: Trade: Billy Butler - 27 - $8M (F. Doubront, B. Workman, A. Wilson, J. Hazelbaker for Butler)
UTIL: Pedro Ciriaco - 27 - $500k
DH: David Ortiz - 37 - 2/$24M
Kansas City said they were interested in trading a hitter for pitching. Offering Doubront, Workman, and Wilson give KC three MLB (or close to MLB ready) pitchers along with an outfielder in need of an opportunity for Butler. Billy is young, consistent, productive, and durable and would provide a solution to first base.
Outfielders: For me, trading Ellsbury is not an option. It is impossible to get equal value for him so in the best interest of the 2013 squad, Ellsbury is in center and leading off. If he leaves for draft picks in the offseason, so be it. Left field and right field are in question.
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury - 29 - $8M
LF: Sign: Angel Pagan - 31 - 2/$16M
RF: Cody Ross - 31 - 2/$16M
UTIL: Ryan Kalish - 25 - $500k
UTIL: Daniel Nava - 30 - $500k
Pagan is another outfielder with experience at all three positions. He plays solid defense and brings an element of speed that this team misses when Ellsbury is out of the lineup. Cody Ross returns on a reasonable deal given his production and positive attitude. With two switch hitters, two lefties, one righty, and Ciriaco as a possible option - this is a versatile outfield.
Payroll: Approximately $136.5M (if my math is right)
Most Importantly: Competitive team with reasonable (non-taxable) payroll for a large market team. No long term contracts means that prospects who deserve a shot (Bradley, Barnes, Boaegarts) won't be blocked and anyone who is worth resigning (Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Lester, Butler etc) will be realistic.
Questions/Comments: Sorry about the length of this post, I decided it best to just get all my thoughts on one post rather than to trickle them out. Are my trade offers/free agent offers unrealistic? I think the free agent offers might necessitate slightly more cash to make up for the short term, but they are fair offers. Can this roster win? I think yes. Is this organizational model sustainable? I also say yes.