Have a Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Nick.
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. Sorry for the long gap between mailbags, but I'll start cranking them out regularly starting now.
The Sox aren't done yet. But they're looking for low-cost moves. Some people don't like this approach, but it's rewarding I think to find gems in January (can you say Alfredo Aceves?) that turn out to really help your team. Tampa Bay does it all the time. The World Series Cardinals did it (Lance Berkman). You don't have to spend a ton to get good players. The Red Sox will try to prove that this offseason as they attempt to keep under the luxury tax threshold so their tax rate can be readjusted as the new basic agreement provides.
This approach will test Ben Cherington's skill in finding these types of players.
This is not to say that they won't try to make a bigger deal, as they attempted with Oakland pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey. But they're not going to give up too many major pieces in their farm system. They did that last season with Adrian Gonzalez. It's hard to keep giving up young prospects. It came back to haunt them late last year when they didn't have a good major league ready pitcher to bring up.
Here are some questions and answers from the mailbag:
Looks like the Cubs are just waiting for the Red Sox to forget about them taking their general manager and putting off for as long as possible the team's compensation. It seems like the value of that compensation will become less and less the longer they wait. Why aren't the Sox trying to push a deal for Matt Garza and some prospects the Cubs are looking for to help build their farm system?
-- Frank, Modesto, California
I think the Red Sox have been asking for Garza. In fact, they asked for Garza as compensation for Theo Epstein. Garza is a nice fit for Boston. He'd be an excellent piece to their rotation and they know it. Not sure they have what it takes to give up in a deal, however. That was the reason they walked away from Gio Gonzalez.
1. No one should be certain of the return of Bobby Jenks. Unfortunately it appears from a medical perspective (I am a doctor) that his problems are serious. Everyone, of course, hopes this is not the case and prays for a complete healing and his return to baseball.
2. The health of Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are questionable. Beckett has back problems and Buchholz has a problem with strength. It is very possible that both will falter in 2012. For that reason, the Sox should be ready to build around Bard, Aceves and Lester.
3. Are not the moves that Cherington has made good ones?
-- Vincente, Cali, Colombia
I think the Red Sox are optimistic about Jenks. The back surgery he had was considered minor and they're saying he should be ready to participate in spring training. Beckett is fine. He just needs to get into better shape. Buchholz was OK for a long time before the season ended. The Red Sox just were ridiculously cautious. So far, Cherington has got good value. Mark Melancon is a good young reliever/closer and he gave up very little to get him.
These season I look for the Sox to instill a sense of urgency beginning with the first spring training game. Last year it seemed as though they were going through the motions and it was reflected when the games started to count.I was wondering what your thoughts are? Do you think we see a different approach to the spring?
-- Mike B., Troy, N.Y.
Yes. It will be tougher. There aren't as many guys coming back from surgery, so no need to "go slow" with any of the veterans with the possible exception of Youkilis, who I'm told is coming along nicely from sports hernia surgery. They have to step it up a notch and I would guess that if guys aren't in shape, there will be a price to pay for it. Bobby Valentine said he's adhering to the team's new strength program and holding the players accountable.
If John Lackey comes back strong and closer to his past performance, do you see the Sox possibly picking up his contract option early and restructuring his contract? If he would agree to it, then they could average the amount more evenly and therefore have more to spend annually while still avoiding the luxury tax. Your thoughts?
-- Bob, Mountain View, California
It's a club option, so if he's not pitching well, they'll just let him go. But it was a great move on Dr. Thomas Gill's part to insist on that clause. They're essentially getting a free year, if his rebuilt elbow responds.
Why doesn't major league baseball make the umpires go back to the balloon outside protector? There are so many pitchers throwing 95-102 in each and every game the umpires are hiding behind the catcher on the inside corner and none of them roll over the catchers head to call that outside pitch. At least 10 pitches are missed because of this in every game the the best answer to this problem is go back to the outside protector and train the umpire to line up in the center of the plate and roll left or right where ever the pitch goes.
-- Bob, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
I always wondered that too. Everything is made to be sleeker, and modernistic, but sometimes the old ways are better. I plan on bringing this up with one of the umpire chiefs in the near future.
With the payroll being what it is for this season, isn't it possible for the team to sign a player to a contract that is back-loaded? For instance, sign Ryan Madson for around $38 million for three years. Pay him $6 million to $8 million the first year, and split the difference the remaining two years. Or is that not allowed within the scope of the CBA?
-- Bill, Moosup, Conn.
I think the key figure is the average annual value of the contract.
Any chance the Sox would consider re-signing Daisuke Matsuzaka if he's healthy and the price is right? I'm wondering if things might be better with Bobby Valentine's presence. Or maybe the Sox will be happy to have the whole Dice-K experience over?
-- Denny, Portland, Maine
I think Bobby V could give Dice-K a new lease on life in Boston once he returns from Tommy John surgery during the summer. There will be changes once he returns and changes he will probably enjoy and flourish with. So I would never say never.We all know the Sox need another starter, another back of the bullpen stopper and it would be great to add another big righthanded bat. What do you think about trading for Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh as our closer instead of overpaying for somebody like Ryan Madson who's looking for $9 million or $10 million, then possibly bringing back Hanley Ramirez to Boston for Youkilis and Jose Iglesias?
-- Rick, Ft. Myers, Florida
The Red Sox have always loved Hanrahan and tried to obtain him before he became good. But not sure Pittsburgh would deal him. I'm not a big Hanley Ramirez fan. I like players who give you all-out effort and as talented as he is, he doesn't do that, never has and not sure he ever will. I don't think he'd be a good fit with Bobby Valentine and he's not a very good defensive shortstop. They will do more before camp starts. I think one of the most rewarding things for a GM is when he finds an Alfredo Aceves. Maybe they can find another one like that at low cost.
With Beckett, hopefully a thinner Lester, Buchholz, Bard and Aceves in the rotation, and Matt Albers (hopefully slimmer), Franklin Morales, Melancon and I'm sure a couple of others Cherington has yet to acquire in the bullpen, what's wrong with that set-up?
-- Paul, Waterford
Nothing wrong with it. We just don't know how good of a starter Bard will be. The back end of the bullpen needs more beef, more experience. They need to find a veteran closer to mix in with Melancon and I'm sure they?re working on that.
What do you think are the odds that Mike Aviles gets the starting job in right field?
-- Joe, Syracuse, N.Y.
He would never be the outright starter, but he could be part of a platoon. I'm still thinking they sign a rightfield type like Ryan Ludwick, Andruw Jones and perhaps a Cody Ross.
Are the Red Sox as I know and love them going to be terrible? Is all of Red Sox Nation nervous? Are we excited? Will I still be able to trash talk to my A's and Giants fan/neighbors because their teams are way below the level of my Sox?
-- Erin, San Francisco
Seems like a different approach. More bottom-line oriented this year. Taking the approach we have a good core of players so let's put complimentary players around them. The Rays do this every year. The reason Boston is doing it is because if they stay beneath the $178 million luxury tax threshold, they can reset the tax rate. The Yankees appear to be trying to do the same thing.
Read Nick Cafardo on Twitter @nickcafardo