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Red Sox and Yankees: The best (and worst) of both worlds

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  November 13, 2008 07:38 AM

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In the ideal world, money is no issue. You could spend what you wanted, without fear of the consequences, and never experience regret. Yet for all the spending power possessed by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, each team has at least some limitations.

MAZZ'S HOT STOVE SERIES:
  • Tuesday, Nov. 4:
    Shortstop in focus
  • Wednesday, Nov. 5:
    Yankees: Under construction
  • Thursday, Nov. 6:
    Handicapping the field of potential Manny suitors
  • Friday, Nov. 7:
    Top prize: Mark Teixeira
  • Tuesday, Nov. 11:
    Most likely Sox trade partners
  • Wednesday, Nov. 12:
    For free-agent pitching, it's buyer beware
  • Thursday, Nov. 13:
    Tony's best- and worst-case offseason scenarios for the Red Sox and Yankees
  • MORE FROM MAZZ:

  • Sox' 5 biggest offseason questions
  • Player-by-player Sox overview
  • Big names in play
  • Agent could Boras to death
  • Red Sox aren't afraid to be bold
  • Sox look soft in the middle
  • So, with the bidding process on free agents due to begin at midnight tonight, what we offer here today is at least a somewhat realistic view of how this offseason could play out between baseball's fiercest rivals, each of whom has considerable dollars to spend in a deep market. We are not building fantasy teams. Both the Red Sox and Yankees have specific needs as this free offseason begins in earnest, and the idea today is to outline realistic scenarios for both franchises.

    There is no point in fantasizing about the Yankees trading Derek Jeter and moving Alex Rodriguez to shortstop, then picking up Mike Lowell in a three-way deal involving the Philadelphia Phillies. Nobody benefits from that kind of foolish speculation.

    This offseason, the needs of the Red Sox and Yankees overlap with regard to one player who is the foundation on which today’s scenarios are built: Mark Teixeira. For the Sox, a best-case scenario involves the signing of Teixeira while simultaneously keeping the slugger from the Yankees (or anyone else). Of course, the same is true for the Yankees, who can substantially help themselves (and hurt the Red Sox) by putting Teixeira in the middle of a lineup that already features Rodriguez.

    The Yankees on Thursday traded for Nick Swisher, who can play first base and all three outfield positions, but that doesn't mean New York has him penciled in as their first baseman for 2009. Swisher could be an option off the bench, which he is ideally suited for.

    At this stage, the pursuit of Teixeira very much looks like a head-to-head competition between the Sox and Yankees -- the offseason equivalent of a divisional game -- and the winner could have an advantage for years to come.

    With all of that in mind, here are the four bookend scenarios involving the two franchises:

    Best-case scenario, Red Sox

    Everyone knows that Jason Bay is not Manny Ramirez, but try to look at it this way: Had the Red Sox declined Ramirez’s option at the end of this season, the club would have had nothing but draft picks to show for him. Instead, the Sox now have Jason Bay ($7.5 million next year) at 37.5 percent of what it would cost to retain Ramirez, which means the Ramirez deal actually gave them Bay and a chunk of money to spend.

    Add in the money the Sox save on, say, Curt Schilling ($8 million), Craig Hansen ($1 million), and Brandon Moss ($500,000), and they effectively could end up trading those four players for Bay and Teixeira, the latter of whom would anchor the Boston lineup for years.

    Only a knucklehead wouldn’t make that deal.

    The other primary questions concern what the Sox do at catcher and with their pitching staff, in that order. Aside from discussing a deal with the Texas Rangers for Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or Taylor Teagarden, the Red Sox have poked around about Russell Martin, whom the Los Angeles Dodgers have expressed some willingness to deal, assuming they could acquire someone like Jason Varitek (a favorite of manager Joe Torre) as a replacement. The Sox obviously have the capability to acquire Martin and retain Varitek, the latter then serving a much-needed mentor for the former, who needs some schooling. The reality, however, is that this is a highly unlikely scenario.

    In the end, a deal with the Rangers is far more likely, and it may come down to what the Rangers are willing to give up. If Texas wants someone like Clay Buchholz in return, the Rangers must part with Saltalamacchia, whom the Sox prefer. If the Rangers only want to give up Laird, they’ll get Michael Bowden. That deal almost certainly would inspire the Sox to sign a veteran starter for the No. 4 or No. 5 spot in their rotation, which means someone like Derek Lowe would be too pricey.

    What that means is that the Sox are more likely to go out and sign a low-risk, high-reward starter -- as they did last spring with Bartolo Colon -- which may lead them to someone like Jason Jennings, Jon Lieber, or even Brad Penny. That would allow the club to keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen -- at least in the short term -- while leaving Bowden or Buchholz (whoever is retained following the Texas deal) for depth.

    As for the shortstop situation, bet on Jed Lowrie being there with Julio Lugo on the bench. Even if Lugo is traded, the Sox aren’t going to get much back.

    With all that said, here is my best-case-scenario projected lineup and rotation for the 2009 Boston Red Sox:

    Starting lineup
    1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
    2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
    3. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
    4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
    5. David Ortiz, DH
    6. Jason Bay, LF
    7. J.D. Drew, RF
    8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
    9. Jed Lowrie, SS

    Starting rotation
    1. Josh Beckett, RHP
    2. Jon Lester, LHP
    3. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP
    4. Penny/Lieber/Jennings, RHP
    5. Tim Wakefield, RHP

    Worst-case scenario, Yankees

    The Yankees have said their priority is pitching, and we all know that they would pay handsomely to land the biggest fish, CC Sabathia. The question is whether Sabathia really wants to go to New York when he can play in his native California and have the luxury of hitting in the National League, something he enjoys. As a result, there is a very real possibility that the Yankees lose out on both Sabathia and Teixeira, which would almost immediately trigger a fire drill.

    Clearly, the Yankees need to get younger, which is part of the reason Sabathia and Teixeira are so important to them. (Both are 28.) If they miss on both, New York would be in a position to overpay for A.J. Burnett (32 by next Opening Day), Lowe, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez (37 in April) or Bobby Abreu -- or any combination of them -- only perpetuating the club’s long-term issues.

    One other note: As things stand, the Yankees believe that Jorge Posada will be able to catch for them again, but if he cannot, that opens up an entirely different set of issues. Posada most likely would be required to play first base or serve as the designated hitter, which could badly affect New York’s defense and similarly inspire the Yankees to make a trade or signing to fill the need behind the plate. The Yankees really don’t have the depth of prospects to make a deal for Martin, Saltalamacchia, or Teagarden, so they would probably have to start Jose Molina again.

    That said, here is my worst-case-scenario projected lineup and rotation for the 2009 New York Yankees:

    Projected lineup
    1. Johnny Damon, CF
    2. Derek Jeter, SS
    3. Bobby Abreu, RF
    4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
    5. Hideki Matsui, DH
    6. Jorge Posada, 1B
    7. Xavier Nady, LF
    8. Robinson Cano, 2B
    9. Jose Molina, C

    Starting rotation
    1. Burnett/Lowe, RHP
    2. Joba Chamberlain, RHP
    3. Chien-Ming Wang, RHP
    4. Andy Pettitte, LHP
    5. Mike Mussina, RHP

    Best-case scenario, Yankees

    For general manager Brian Cashman, here’s the flipside: The Yankees have so much money this offseason -- and no spending limit, thanks to Malachi Brothers owners Hank and Hal -- that any combination of big-name free agents is possible and realistic. The Yankees can sign Sabathia andTeixeira, and they would then still possess the financial flexibility to add another starter, be it Lowe, Burnett, Mussina, or Pettitte.

    Despite what the Yankees are saying, Teixeira is the most important element for them given the dearth of first basemen available. The Red Sox can play Kevin Youkilis at first base and Mike Lowell at third if things don’t pan out; the Yankees do not have an option nearly as appealing. But if they get Teixeira ... and if they can Sabathia and Burnett to fortify their rotation ... and if Posada can hit and Wang returns to health ... look out. The Yankees would still have some holes -- Damon is not really a center fielder anymore -- but they could also address those lesser needs as the season progressed or sign a defensively oriented player for the bench.

    Here is my best-case-scenario projected lineup and rotation for the 2009 New York Yankees:

    Projected lineup
    1. Johnny Damon, CF
    2. Derek Jeter, SS
    3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
    4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
    5. Hideki Matsui, LF
    6. Jorge Posada, DH
    7. Xavier Nady, RF
    8. Robinson Cano, 2B
    9. Jose Molina, C

    Starting rotation
    1. CC Sabathia, LHP
    2. Burnett/Lowe, RHP
    3. Chien-Ming Wang, RHP
    4. Joba Chamberlain, RHP
    5. Andy Pettitte, LHP

    Worst-case scenario, Red Sox

    Here’s the beauty of being the Red Sox right now: As general manager Theo Epstein pointed out at the end of the season, they are not truly desperate for anything. Even if the Sox make no moves, they will return with a club that came within one victory of another trip to the World Series. Their pitching staff is generally young and intact. Their offense is not great, but good. Their bullpen is above average. Their defense and depth are strong.

    Any losses the Sox suffer this offseason will likely affect them more in 2010 and beyond, which is why Teixeira is so important to them.

    Still, while all of that is a credit to the decision-making and farm system built by Epstein and his baseball operations staff, we summon an old adage: If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. Lowell is coming off hip surgery and David Ortiz seems to have slipped a little, be it the result of a wrist injury or age. Which Josh Beckett will the Sox get in 2009? Is Buchholz a bust? And who’s going to catch?

    No matter what happens, of course, the Red Sox look like they’re going to have a good team again in 2009. But if the Yankees add talent and the Tampa Bay Rays continue to improve, we cannot help but wonder if the Red Sox will be good enough.

    Here is my worst-case-scenario projected lineup and rotation for the 2009 Boston Red Sox:

    Projected lineup
    1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
    2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
    3. David Ortiz, DH
    4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
    5. Mike Lowell, 3B
    6. J.D. Drew, RF
    7. Jason Bay, LF
    8. Gerald Laird, C
    9. Jed Lowrie, SS

    Starting rotation
    1. Josh Beckett, RHP
    2. Jon Lester, LHP
    3. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP
    4. Tim Wakefield, RHP
    5. Clay Buchholz, RHP

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    Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

    About Mazz

    Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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