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Losing Bay will hurt a little less in June

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 29, 2009 09:23 PM

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For a baseball fan, there are few things that bring more warmth to a cold winter than to sit down and try and figure out the lineup for your favorite team.

Can David Ortiz hit cleanup again? Where does Marco Scutaro fit in? What about Mike Cameron?

But a smart general manager is making out the possible lineups for 2011, 2012 and 2013. His job is to build a team that will be good next year, the year after and the year after that. Putting all his efforts and resources into one season often spells disaster for the ones that follow.

The absence of Jason Bay will leave a hole in the lineup. Maybe not as big a hole as some believe, but a hole nonetheless.

Bay's deal with the Mets is for four years and $66 million with a vesting option worth $14 million for 2014. Whether Bay is worth an average of $16 million over five years is a subject worthy of debate. The Red Sox felt he was not -- and had concerns about the stability of his shoulder. Mets officials cautioned today that that Bay's physical was no formality, so those concerns are apparently valid.

Look at this this way, Sox fans: Were you prepared to have Bay be the highest-paid player on the team? Because that is what he would have been.

Theo Epstein took the money he could have spent on Bay and spent it on John Lackey. He decided to invest in pitching instead of offense. Only 162 games will determine whether that was a smart move.

But beyond that, the decisions the Sox have made this winter have left them with four extra high draft picks in June.

The Red Sox now control the No. 20 pick (from the Braves for Type A free agent Billy Wagner), two first-round sandwich picks (for Wagner and Bay) and the second-round pick of the Mets. The first-round pick of the Mets, No. 7, was protected from being lost as compensation.

The Sox lost their first-round pick (No. 29) to the Angels for Lackey and their second-round pick to Toronto for Scutaro. But they still will have four of the first 50 picks or so depending on where the other Type A free agents sign.

Those picks give the Red Sox plenty of options. They can take a gamble on a high-ceiling high school kid. Or they can make a trade in July knowing they just added four solid prospects to their system. Or they can hold onto all their prospects.

The 36 home runs and 119 RBI Bay contributed to the offense won't be easy to replace. But for half the price, the Sox have a player in Cameron had a .795 OPS last season and hit 24 homers.

Bay had his chance to stay in Boston but chose the wide open spaces of Flushing instead for a few million more a year. Both sides made their judgment.

The Red Sox have what they believe will be a championship contender in 2010 while not mortgaging their future. In you plan on being a fan beyond next season, you should be OK with that.

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