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Ask Nick: Hire Valentine already

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  November 29, 2011 04:22 PM

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I guess there’s a tough decision to be made over on Yawkey Way as to who the new Red Sox manager should be.

Since late September this correspondent has believed it should be Bobby Valentine. Shocking to me there’s even a decision to be made between Valentine and anyone else. There were many good candidates who weren’t even considered or interviewed. But I believe for this team, at this time and place, Valentine is the best choice to get the players' attention.

If you believe your roster needs a kick in the pants – and I’m not sure who doesn’t believe that – than Valentine can get that accomplished. He’s a strong personality who would take the pressure off the players and put it on himself.

So as we await the big decision, Valentine vs. Gene Lamont, we try to answer your other questions and concerns concerning free agents, trades, and other assorted topics in this week’s mailbag:

I have two questions, Nick.

1. When a player has major surgery and misses an entire year and is still under contract, I know that they are still getting paid, but do teams have insurance to reimburse them for this and do they still count against the cap?

2. Do you think that MLB will ever get rid of the Sept. 1 expansion of the Major League roster. It is, in my opinion, a really bad and unfair rule in that teams play for five months with a 25-man roster and then in the thick of pennant races, it expands to a 40-man roster.
-- Jim G., Beltsville, Maryland

No cap in baseball. Teams do take out insurance on some of their big contacts, but not all of them. And in some cases they insure only certain years of the contract because insurance is costly. As for the 25-man roster point, there have been discussions concerning making the rosters uniform so you can expand to 30. But unless they sneaked it into the new basic agreement, things will stay the same.

Bear with me here, if you will. Last season, after all of the prime acquisitions made, the Red Sox won just one more game than they did in their injury-plagued 2010 (though September 2011 also had its fair share of injuries). I know that September of last year is not what this team is deep down, and I know they are a championship-caliber club, but clearly some things need to change. The fact that they won one more game than in 2010 means that something is wrong with this group.

The one thing that will truly change this team's look is when our prospects start claiming spots on the roster. Ryan Lavarnway should start at catcher this year, and I believe that either mid-season or in 2013, Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks should take over. Making a trade now is not going to help the Sox. Kevin Youkilis will be dealt, but not now when his stock is at a penny. Give it time, and these young guys will curb our sour thoughts about this Red Sox club. Sign some free agents now, but don't do anything too drastic, yet. Stay the course, this team is far better than it showed in September.
-- Claudia, Sarasota, Florida

Voice-of-reason approach Claudia. I think you’re right in most of the things you say. Personally, I have no idea if Jose Iglesias will ever be able to hit enough to be a huge factor in the majors. He’s got to show that in Pawtucket for a half year at least, like you said. Middlebrooks is a very good defensive third baseman with some power potential. But he does have some holes he has to fill before he’s a big leaguer. His swing can be a little bit long, according to some of the scouts who watch him and that’s not always good. Youkilis’s value wouldn’t be at an all-time high, but he is a third baseman with a track record and I’ll bet you could get a lot for him. But do you want Jed Lowrie playing third?

Red Sox should give Matt Murton a shot at right field. Low-risk and can perform at least as well as Reddick/Kalish. Then, is Heath Bell better than Ryan Madson? Seems like Scott Boras wants too much for Madson. Bell for two years and more money than San Diego is offering should do it.

Lastly, Theo and six prospects for Matt Garza? Hear me out. (Keep Middlebrooks, Lavarnway, and Xavier Bogaerts.) Make an agreement with the Cubs to send them our two compensation picks for Papelbon? Theo could even help us draft them, (two pitchers probably) and they be sent as two players to be named later. So: Reddick, Anthony Ranaudo, Lars Anderson, the two picks, and they keep whatever players they owned the Sox.
-- John, Little Rock, Arkansas

[One more question along a similar line, then the answer.]

With the compensation issues still open regarding Theo, why couldn't we pry Matt Garza away? We could throw in a prospect or maybe Reddick since they won't do the deal straight up. We need the pitching and the Cubs have made it known he is available.
-- James, Concord

No reason they can’t get Garza. It would more than Reddick and a prospect though, and therein lies the problem. Theo is trying to rebuild his farm system and he needs top talent in return.

If John Farrell signed his contract with the Blue Jays understanding that there was an open-door policy to go to another team if he wanted to, and then in midstream, the club changes that policy, couldn't he file a grievance if he wanted to leave ?
-- Joe M., South Dartmouth

We would have to know what the wording of his contract is. I have no idea. I think if it could have happened, it would have happened.

Since the Red Sox can't seem to figure out who they want for a manager, do you think there's a chance the Sox just hire a temp (Lamont) for a year to wait for Joe Maddon to become available?
-- Steve, Middletown, Rhode Island

Tough to do in that because in essence you’re hiring a lame-duck manager. Can’t really do that. Especially in this case, I think you need a strong voice to deal with this team.

Was wondering what your thoughts were in regards to Theo being with the Cubs and his friendship with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Do you think this gives the Yankees an edge over the Sox in regard to the impact deals Cashman and Theo can now make to help facilitate each team's improvements?
-- Dario, Orlando

I suppose. Cashman had a great relationship with Jim Hendry, the previous Cubs' GM. These two teams aren’t going to “help” each other because of the Red Sox. These two guys would never let that emotion get in the way of making sound business deals.

Following the selection of a manager, which we all assume will be forthcoming shortly, it seems that the next order of business for the team is pitching, pitching, and more pitching. In terms of a starter, are you expecting the Sox to make a deal for a starting pitcher? If so, who is your realistic list of teams and pitchers with whom the Sox match up to make a deal for a solid rotation addition?
-- Dave L., Reno, Nevada

Dave, I really think they’ll try to sign a pitcher or two first and see where that goes. They don’t have a lot of prospects to deal so I think they’ll be very careful. If they can trade for a Matt Garza or a Gio Gonzalez, that could change. But short of that caliber of pitcher, I see them signing rather than trading for.

It just puzzles me why DeMarlo Hale is not being seriously considered for the Red Sox manager position. Looking at his bio, he has been quite successful in the minors, and has done (in my opinion) an admirable job here as the third base coach and on the bench. What is the issue here?
-- Chris S., Arlington, Virginia

The issue is his close ties with Terry Francona. At least in the eyes of Sox management. Tremendously qualified to be the manager. Shocked that he wasn’t considered more in Chicago. He would have been a better choice than Dale Sveum in my opinion. Looks like he’s mulling heading to the Orioles as a third base coach.

Good call on Michael Cuddyer for right field in last week's mailbag. I totally forgot about him. Thoughts on guys returning to the Sox next year: Erik Bedard? Tim Wakefield? Mike Aviles? And the hardest to swallow -- could the Sox say goodbye to Jason Varitek?
-- Chad, Medford, Oregon

I think Cuddyer is the perfect fit for Boston. As I outlined, they could also go after Carlos Beltran because they have a backup plan with Reddick or Kalish should he get hurt. Very well could say goodbye to Varitek and Wakefield. I’m sure they’ll consider Bedard if it’s one year, but not sure he wants to come back. I like Aviles as the super-utility guy. Like his toughness.

Here's a rumor I got from a friend with ties to the Red Sox: They want Tim Wallach as their manager but the Dodgers won't give them permission to talk with him. Possible?
-- Skip, San Diego, California

Wouldn’t buy the part about how they won’t give him permission. Any coach gets permission to interview for a big league managing job unless he has it in his contract that he can’t. Don’t believe Wallach has that.

Nick, I know you don't agree, but I still think Ben will need the gorilla suit at some point. Could the Sox be waiting for Brad Mills to become available?
-- Paul, Gilbert, Arizona

I think if Ben proves himself as a GM then yes, he could borrow that gorilla suit. So let’s see. Don’t think they’re waiting on Brad Mills. Given the ownership situation, he would have easily been given permission to speak to the Red Sox. It never happened.

I'm curious as to your take on what appears to be a front office power struggle when it comes to selecting a manager. I encourage all of the beat writers to do some in-depth homework on Mr. Lucchino and his time in Baltimore and San Diego. He ran the Ripkens out of Baltimore (out of the organization), need you know more? Henry and Werner appear perplexed and inept, if not downright disinterested. Cherington seems more than ready to do battle with Lucchino, but for how long? What's your take on this fracas?
-- Dave L., Reno, Nevada

Don’t think it’s much of a fracas. Lucchino is in charge of the team. Ben is a new, unproven GM. Lucchino has every right to make the final decision. To call this ownership group “inept” is kind of a stretch. They won two championships. How can they be inept? Is there a little confusion right now after Theo left? And after Francona was fired? Sure. How can you expect it to be smooth after two huge events like that? There has to be a transition period and that’s what’s happening. I think they’ve been slow on the manager and they were slow in trying to make Papelbon an offer. They need to pick up the pace so they don’t lose out on players who could serve them well like Cuddyer, Heath Bell, Brad Lidge, etc.

If Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves stay in the bullpen, which starters should the Sox go out and get? If they sign someone like Oswalt, does that preclude them from making a trade? Who would you rather the Sox traded for -- Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, or someone else?
-- Sean S., Easton

If they signed Oswalt, I would think that would be it. If they make a deal I’d prefer Gonzalez because he’s lefthanded, young, proven and heading into his prime.

I just read your comment about Bobby Valentine being good with Japanese players any chance the Red Sox might look at acquiring Kei Igawa, the $46-million minor leaguer, from the Yankees? Nothing would bring a bigger smile to my face than to burn the Yankees by turning Igawa into a major leaguer and possible Yankee killer. But would the asking price be too high?
-- Francisco, Silver Spring, Maryland

Kei Igawa is not who I had in mind when I mentioned Bobby V. and Japanese players. I’d stay far, far away from Igawa.

Hi Nick, I have a blockbuster trade idea to ask you about. What if the Red Sox gave up Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Anthony Ranaudo, and Kevin Youkilis (with cash) to go get Clayton Kershaw? Do you think that trade could work? The Sox could then just go after David Ortiz and Aramis Ramirez to fill third base and DH. while having Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz as the top four guys in the rotation.
-- Eric, Auburn

Wow. I love Kershaw, who wouldn’t? But you’re giving up too much. Ellsbury is a superstar everyday player. Not sure you have to go too far beyond that.

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