There is no position on the Sox in higher need than our pitching staff. Some clowns have been arguing that our bats are the problem, or that our lack of timely hitting and consistency of the offense is our biggest need. It's always about the pitching... always.
I was going to break this down into starters and bullpen, but with Bard and Doubront as "tweeners", I'll just lump the whole sorry bunch into one analysis.
All winter long, I argued for making a deal to get at least a top quality 3rd starter. I mentioned a few names, most notably, Gavin Floyd and to some extent the Wandy Rodriguez and Jeremy Guthrie types. This would have allowed Bard to stay in the pen and lessen the blow of losing Papelbon.
The gain of Bailey, Melancon, and others along with full seasons by Morales, Tazawa and others could have helped make up for Papelbon, but injuries and ineffectiveness has not made that happen thus far.
Here's a breakdown of what we have now and what our near and distant future looks like:
(Salary based on avg of contract)
Beckett 32 ($17M '12-'14)
Lester 28 ($6M '12-'13 & club option for '14 at $13M/ $0.25M buyout)
Matsusaka 31 ($8M '12 then FA)
Lackey (Inj) 33 ($16.5M '12-'14 and club option at min wage '15)
Doubront 24 ($484K then 2 pre-arb & 3 Arbs to '17)
D. Bard 27 ($1.6M then 3 Arb years '13-'15)
Aceves 29 ($1.2M then 2 Arb years '13-'14)
Bailey 28 ($3.9M then 2 Arb years '13-'14)
Morales 26 ($850K then 2 Arbs '13-'14)
Melancon 27 ($521K then pre-arb, then 3 Arbs '14-'16)
B Jenks 31 ($6M '12 then FA)
Padilla 34 ($1.5M then FA)
A Cook 33 ($minor league deal and FA in '13)
M Albers 29 ($1.08M then Arb '13)
A Miller 27 ($1.04M then Arb '13-'14)
Tazawa 26 ($920K then 4 Arbs '13-'16)
R Hill 32 ($725K then Arb '13)
Thomas 28 ($516K then FA)
Atchison 36 ($510K then 2 Arbs '13-'14)
Mortensen 27 (487K then 2 pre-arb and 3 ARbs to '17)
Ohlendorf 29 (minor league deal then FA in '13)
Duckworth 36 (minor league deal then FA in '13)
J Carlson 31
T Pena 31
B. Buckner 28
J Maine 30
Saying we need a quality 3rd starter type and a closer is an understatement. We should all know by now, that this is and has been our highest need area for years. The future isn't too bright either, beyond maybe 2-3 propsects.
(ranking and grades based on soxprospects.com)
3) Anthony Ranaudo 22 (5-9)
4) Matt Barnes 21 (5-9)
(13 is Doubront & Tazawa 19... see "Now")
14) Alex Wilson 25 (5-7) Perhaps the only prospect that could help now.
17) Stolmy Pimentel 22(3-8)
20) Henry Owens 19 (3-8)
21) Drake Britton 22 (3-9)
24) Brandon Workman 23 ( 3-8)
31) Cody Kukuk 19 (3-8)
34) Noe Ramirez 22 (3-8)
35) Frank Montas 19 (3-8)
39) Madison Younginer 21 (3-8)
41) Chris Hernandez (3-6)
42) Chris Balcom-Miller (3-6)
43) Aaron Kurcz (3-5)
45) Keith Couch (3-7)
46) Miguel Celstino (2-6)
48) Chris Carpenter (3-6)
50) Josh Fields (2-6)
Not a very promising bunch here, but maybe a couple of guys will rise to occasion.
Looking beyond 2012, we are losing Dice-K and Jenks and a few of the projects. We need some pitching help from the outside or we will be left with this:
Not pretty, but not so bad that 2 nice pick-ups couldn't make this a formidable staff.
Our catching position is struggling right now as a whole, but there is a lot to be hopeful about. I had hoped we'd have traded Salty this past winter, and that window might be quickly closing now, but he seems to be doing better with the staff the last 2-3 weeks. That being said, many still want to see Lavarnway here by the date that does not take away a year of team control.
Here's a breakdown of our catching position:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 27 ($2.5M and final Arb for '13)
Kelly Shoppach 32 ($1.14M, then a FA after this year)
AAA Mike Rivera 35
Shoppach is a very capable catcher vs LHPs. That matches up better with Salty than Lava, but at this point, it is getting close to Lavatime, either by moving Salty or Shoppach.
Now and the Future:
Ryan Lavarnway 24 (2 pre-arb years and 3 Arb years to'17)
(Rankings and grades by sxoprospects.com)
6) Ryan Lavarnway 24 (5-9)
10) Blake Swihart 20 (3-9)
25) Christian Vazquez 21 (3-7)
32) Dan Butler 25 (3-6)
55) Jordan Weems 19 (2-7)
I'm very excited about Lavarnway and Swihart. Unless Lava becomes our DH of the future, we may not have to think about this position for a long time. (Too bad we can't start today!)
Right Side Infield:
The Sox right-side IF is perhaps the most secure part of our team. AGon and Pedroia are both locked up for a while and are not likely to be traded. Here's a breakdown:
Gonzalez: 13-16: $21M annually, 17-18:$21.5M annually
Future (Rankings & grades by Soxprospects.com):
Possibly could convert Lavarnway to 1B if needed.
21) Lars Anderson 24 (4-7)
29) Travis Shaw 22 (3-7)
39) Reynaldo Rodriguez 26 (3-6)
44) Mauro Gomez 26 (2-6)
Pedroia: 12:$8M, 13:$10M, 14:$10M, 15:$11M club option ($0.5M buyout)
(Aviles/Punto/Spears: see Leftside IF)
12) Sean Coyle 20 (4-9)
20) Oscar Tejada 22 (moved to OF this year)
35) Heiker Meneses 20 (3-6)
Sean Coyle is highly regarded by some, but we don't have many very promising prospects in this area. At least we shouldn't need any for over 3 years (Pedey's deal expires after 2015).
Left Side Infield: There are many questions and concerns about our SS and 3B positions, both for 2012 and beyond:
1) The left-side IF defense has a brighter future.
2) Youk's apparent decline has been steeper than anticipated, but he could come back with a fire burning within.
3) Aviles has had a nice offensive start, but can he keep it up for 550+ PAs?
Here's a breakdown of what we have now and beyond 2012:
(Contract is avg salary of contract)
Mike Aviles 31 ($1.2M the Arb from '13-'14)
Nick Punto 34 ($1.5M for '12-'13 then FA)
Now (?) and the near future:
Jose Iglesias 22 ($2.6M for '12-'13 then 3+ yrs of Arb)
Pedro Ciriaco 26
The Future (Rankings and grades by Soxprospects.com):
2) Xander Bogaerts 19 (3-10)
5) Jose iglesias 22 (5-9)
26) Jose Vinicio 18 (3-7)
58) Mookie Betts 19 (2-7)
Only Iggy is a realistic 2012 option, but our extended future looks bright with Iggy and Bogaerts both having a 9+ upside potential grade. Aviles would be one of the leagues best utility players, and if one of these kids shines soon, we could see that happen. I doubt we go outside the system to fill the SS position anytime in the next 2 years.
Kevin Youkilis 33 ($10.3M & '13 club option for $13M with $1M buyout)
Mike Aviles/Nick Punto/Pedro Ciriaco (see above)
Nate Spears 23
Now & near future:
Will Middlebrooks 23 (5+ years of team control)
1) Will Middlebrooks 23 (5-9)
2) Xander Bogaerts 19 (3-10) If moved from SS to 3B
11) Sean Coyle 20 (4-9) If moved from blocked 2B position
12) Garin Cecchini 21 (4-9)
15) Kolbrin Vitek 23 (3-8)
36) Nate Spears 23 (3-6)
This is the Sox deepest and strongest prospect position, especially if you count Bogaerts and Coyle as possible 3Bmen. 4 players with 9+ upsides and another at "8".
All in all, the Sox might not have to go elsewhere to restock these two positions. Not having to would free up a lot of resources to upgrade at the pitching and OF positions (see my OF Now & Future thread and my pitching Now & Future thread to come soon).
Much has been said about trading Ellsbury before his FA payday.
Much has been said about the signing of Crawford and his recent history.
Much has been said about DMac, Ross, Sweeney and Kalish.
With CC and Ellsbury out injured, our OF is in trouble.
Here's a breakdown of what we have now (salary is avg annual salary):
The Now (and Future?):
Ellsbury 28 ($8.05M) '13 Last Arb Year
Crawford 30 ($20.3M)'12-'18
C. Ross 31 ($3M) Free Agent after 2012
Sweeney 27 ($1.75M) '13 Last Arb Year
DMac 33 ($507K) 3 Arb Years ('13-'15)
J Repko 31
D Nava 29
J Kroeger 29
(Aviles & Punto)
The Future (Soxprospects rating and grade):
7) R Kalish 24 (6-9)
8) B Brentz 23 (4-9)
9) B Jacobs 21 (3-9)
16) J Bradley 22 (3-8)
18) O Tejada 22 (3-7)
23) A Hassan 24 (4-7)
27) C-H Lin 23 (4-7)
28) Hazelbaker 24 (3-7)
29) H Ramos 20 (3-8)
30) W Jerez 19 (3-8)
37) JC Linares 27 (3-6)
40) K Perkins 20 (3-8)
We have 3 prospects with a "9" upside grade. We have 8 more with a "7" or "8" upside grade. Some of our prospects are obviously at least 2-3 years away. Some may be ready by 2013 or perhaps this year.
This team could use a right-handed power hitter. Will we make a move at the deadline or this winter? Will the slugger be an OF'er? Will Ellsbury be dealt before we lose him to free agency? Will we try hard to keep him? Will he turn us down anyway? There's some big questions here about the future of our OF, and there are some big questions about the hear and now as well.
Here's a list of players that might be FA Outfielders this winter:
Curtis Granderson (has option)