Five questions on the please-pardon-our-appearance Red Sox as we close in on the end of what was a miserable 2012:
5. What does the lineup and bench look like right now?
With the reported addition of Stephen Drew - and assuming the Mike Napoli mess gets sorted out - the Red Sox seemingly have filled all of the major holes on their positional roster. Drew may have been a bit of a surprise addition given the presence of Jose Iglesias, but the Red Sox have nothing other than money to lose on that one-year deal.
As such, allowing some latitude, the projected starting lineup and roster look something like this:
Jacoby Ellsbury, cf
Shane Victorino, rf
Dustin Pedroia, 2b
David Ortiz, dh
Will Middlebrooks, 3b
Mike Napoli, 1b
Johnny Gomes, lf
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c
Stephen Drew, ss
Davis Ross, c
Ryan Kalish, of
Pedro Ciriaco, if
Jose Iglesias, if
Ryan Lavarnway, c
Mauro Gomez, 1b
Jon Lester, lhp
Clay Buchholz, rhp
John Lackey, rhp
Ryan Dempster, rhp
Felix Doubront, lhp
Alfredo Aceves, rhp
Andrew Bailey, rhp
Daniel Bard, rhp
Mark Melancon, rhp
Clayton Mortensen, rhp
Koji Uekhara, rhp
Andrew Miller, lhp
Franklin Morales, lhp
Craig Breslow, lhp
Junichi Tazawa, lhp
Yes, there are 30 names there, including 15 pitchers and 15 positional players. The pitchers should not a surprise because most teams will carry a surplus into camp. The positional list is admittedly liberal, allowing for people like Mauro. Whether you think the Red Sox are competitive is certainly debatable, but some of the extra pieces lead to additional questions, like:
4. What exactly does the future hold for Jose Iglesias?
If the Drew signing sounds any alarms, they should be between the ears of the soon-to-be 23-year-old Iglesias, whom the Red Sox signed out of Cuba three years ago. In three minor league seasons, Iglesias has a career OPS of .626. In the big leagues, he's 10 for 74 (a .135 average) with 18 strikeouts and a .413 OPS. If Iglesias is legitimately 23, there's still time for growth. If the Red Sox have questions about that age, they may be ready to move on.
Think about it. The Red Sox are essentially rebuilding. Now would be the time to play someone like Iglesias and to start getting some answers. Prospects Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero are both playing shortstop in the minor leagues. Bogaerts may not project as a shortstop in the majors - many teams will draft an excess of players in the middle of the diamond - but it's getting close to decision time on Iglesias, assuming the Sox haven't made one already.
Is he nothing more than utility man at this stage? Or are the Red Sox positioned to package Iglesias with people like Ellsbury and/or Saltalamacchia in a deal for pitching?
3. What gives with Ryan Kalish?
Kalish made his major league debut on July 31, 2010, and his inaugural big league season was quite respectable. In 53 games, Kalish batted .252 with a .710 OPS and 10 stolen bases while playing all three outfield positions. The Red Sox made it quite clear at the time that they regarded Kalish as a better outfield prospect than Josh Reddick, whom they subsequently traded to the Oakland A's for Andrew Bailey. Some people in the organization even compared him to a young Trot Nixon.
Injuries have set Kalish back some, of course, and he missed considerable chunks of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Other than switch-hitting, shouldn't he be capable of giving the Red Sox something close to what Shane Victorino will give the Red Sox in 2013? Kalish will be 25 next spring. The clock on him is now ticking louder than ever. Any complaints on the Victorino signing should have nothing to do with the money - the Red Sox still have plenty. But why isn't Kalish getting a shot?
2. Do the Red Sox have something big up their sleeves?
Do the math. At catcher, the Red Sox currently have a group that includes Ross, Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia. Iglesias looks like he's getting squeezed from both ends (the majors and minors) at shortstop. Kalish is being bumped by Johnny Gomes in left and Victorino in right. At various points during the offseason, the Sox have reportedly had trade discussions involving Ellsbury, Bailey and others.
Individually, all of those pieces may have limited value. Ellsbury is a free agent at the end of 2013. Iglesias hasn't hit. Kalish has been hurt. Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway are regarded as below-average defenders. But put an combination of them together - throwing in a pitcher perhaps - and the package might be significant enough for the Red Sox to add a starting pitcher.
Obviously, no team builds a 25-man roster during the winter. The goal is to build a group much deeper than that with the idea that there will be injuries, mishaps, failures. But the Red Sox' short-term depth is far less of a concern than the long-term, and the Sox might be wise to sacrifice some lesser, short-term talent for a bigger, long-term gain.
1. Is Texas a trade partner?
The loss of Josh Hamilton to free agency seemingly leaves the Rangers with a significant hole in their lineup, and there has long been speculation that the Rangers would be players for Ellsbury if and when Hamilton departed. The most publicized scenario has a featured a swap of Ellsbury for shortstop Elvis Andrus, who seems destined to be replaced by wunderkind Jurickson Profar, a shortstop regarded as the best prospect in the Texas system.
Remember, too, that the Rangers traded Michael Young to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rangers have said publicly that they intend to give an opportunity to their prospects - corner infielder Mike Olt is projected as a power hitter - and the Rangers might be telling the truth. They may even be inclined to go with outfielder Leonys Martin in center field.
Still, Ellsbury to the Rangers is an obvious fit, even if only for a year. The Rangers have a deep roster and strong farm system, and the Los Angeles Angels' acquisition of Hamilton upped the ante in the American league West. Minus Hamilton and Young, the Rangers also might have the money to give Ellsbury the money he will command on the free agent market next fall, though that obviously could dissuade them from making a deal for the player now.
After all, why give up the prospects, too?
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