Step by step guide on taking the Red Sox into contention without blowing up the bridge.
Step 1: The right manager
This should read: anyone but John Farrell. Count me amongst those who would avoid ole' Johnny at all costs. Interesting to see that Dustin Pedroia put on his anonymous hat to join my chorus this morning, which only further speaks to why the next manager cannot be John Farrell. Tony Pena would be my first choice, but Mueller, Martinez, Ausmus, or Wallach could all make fine choices. The Red Sox passed on Arnie Beyler but I could live with him too. Just not John Farrell. I didn't enjoy Joe Kerrigan the first time around.
Step 2: Assemble the roster, don't sell the farm
With so many holes to fill the Red Sox will need some luck and return to mean from current players to contend. This may be asking alot, as Jon Lester is not likely to start throwing 97 and being dominant again, but they have a core of solid arms for the rotation. Morales should be stretched out from spring training, Dubront, Lester and Buchholz fill out a potentially passable rotation. Cut Jon Lackey's brake lines. No, seriously. Then go find the best deal available for Peavy, Jackson or Sanchez. Would much prefer Peavy, but sign one of those three. Start DeLaRosa in triple A, ready for a mid-season call up when depth is needed. Leave Tazawa ready to take over the second Andrew Bailey falters. Fill out some more bullpen depth, part with the likes of Padilla and build around Andrew Miller, Alex Wilson, Atchion, Hill and yes Melancon as depth.
This is where things get tougher.
Trade: Garin Cecchini/Blake Swihart and Drake Britton/Brandon Workman, plus two lower tier prospects for Ike Davis. Give the mets a 3 tier list, 1 player from first tier, 1 player from second tier, and two players from third tier.
Ike Davis gives you a left handed cost controlled 1b age 25 with power and some discipline.
Trade: Jacoby Ellsbury for Nelson Cruz
MLB.com's Texas beat reporter TR Sullivan threw this out there while saying the Rangers wouldn't trade Andrus or Holland for Ellsbury. Frankly, this is a better fit long term anyway. Assuming Boegarts goes the route of Hanley Ramirez and doesn't change positions, Andrus would create a logjam necessitating a younger player to move not just positions, but likely from the infield to the outfield. I'd flat out pass on Holland like I wanted to flat out pass on Lackey. Cruz is intriguing. At 31, he is only locked up for one more year (like Ellsbury), has slugged nearly .500 in his career, is righthanded, and doesnt kill you with his k rate. He is ideally suited to anchor the middle of this new lineup between Ortiz and Davis.
Sign Angel Pagan
The 31 year old Center fielder has good speed and decent plate discipline, but more importantly actually has better career numbers batting leadoff than any other spot in the order. Whereas someone flashier like Victorino comes with the Carl Crawford 'not comfortable leading off' caveat, Pagan is just fine batting first. His base running is not world burning, but in 3 full seasons he has averaged over 30sb each year while getting caught less than 10 times.
Re sign Papi and Ross
It is house money short term anyway. We pay the highest ticket prices in baseball, and these owners have NESN, are getting more from the national deal, and can afford a $200m rennovation of the other team they are driving into the ground. They can manage to hand out 2 and 3 year deals respectively without mortgaging the future and handcuffing the front office moving forward.
This would leave the Red Sox with
Pagan (b) CF
Pedroia (r) 2B
Ortiz (l) DH
Cruz (r) LF
Davis (l) 1B
Middlebrooks (r) 3B
Ross (r) RF
Not 03/04, but not 2012 either, this lineup should be fine albeit right handed heavy towards the bottom
DeLaRosa (mid season)
Fill out the bench with Kalish, The two non starting platoon players, and some capable role players and this team should have a shot at a division title without destroying the future