We finally have our answer. The Red Sox will not be going to the postseason this year, the first time since 2006 they won’t be making a postseason appearance. And while I know that there are some angry fans out there, upset that the upgrades weren’t there when the Red Sox started going down with injuries, I can’t fault the organization on this season. They simply had too many issues to come out on top.
It would have been difficult — perhaps impossible — for Theo Epstein to replace all the players who went down, including a center fielder and left fielder, second baseman and backup catcher, front-line starting pitcher and first baseman. Unfortunately the caliber of players the Red Sox lost was just not available.
And so we start to move on to 2011. It’s time to look ahead to the offseason, to what the Red Sox might be interested in acquiring. It’s hard to know exactly how it all might shake out right now, but it’s still worth it to contemplate what might be available and what the Red Sox might want to do.
So, as you get ready to watch the final few weeks of the season to get a look at Lars Anderson and others, or as you get ready to ignore the final few weeks in favor of the Patriots, take a minute to read this week’s mailbag — and make sure to send in questions for next week’s. Enjoy!
Andy from Reston, Virginia asks: Hi Amalie, Thanks for the great coverage all year. As much as I want to believe there is any glimmer of hope, we now pretty much know it’s flickered out. That being said, I was somewhat inspired by the waiver claim put on Mike Napoli. And while I know no deal came of it, it did get me thinking of who some of the Theo targets might be this offseason. I’ve heard the Red Sox approached Victor with a 2 year deal, however I suspect Theo will look at a lot of other players. Knowing they won’t show their cards now, who do you envision would be targets for the Sox this offseason? I hate to think of another cold, dark winter, but these thoughts give me hope!
Answer: Thanks to you, Andy. You’re right. All hope is gone, at least where it concerns the rest of the Red Sox season. As for the offseason, that’s certainly a good question, though not exactly easy to know at the moment. I think the first thing the Red Sox need to do is evaluate where they stand with their own free agents, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and go from there. I think the Red Sox will try on Beltre, though I don’t think a deal will get done. I think they’ll work something out with Ortiz, though probably not by picking up his option. I think they might work out a backup position for Varitek, though that is somewhat dependent on what they do with their catcher situation overall. As for Martinez? That’s the one that I’m just not sure about right now.
Mike Napoli, who was claimed as you mentioned, could be a candidate, as well, if the Red Sox don’t get something done with Martinez. The Red Sox are definitely interested in him, even though there was really never a chance that they’d get a deal done with that claim. When you head outside of the organization, I think the Red Sox will look at finding another left fielder, perhaps Jayson Werth, with Carl Crawford more of a long shot. They’ll need to find either a third baseman or a first baseman, with Adrian Gonzalez likely to be less of on option after the season the Padres had this year.
The Red Sox don’t need much in the way of starting pitching, but they do need significant bullpen help. That’s generally one of the hardest areas of a team to predict, so I’ll reserve that for when talks start up in earnest this winter.
Francisco from San Juan, Puerto Rico asks: Hi Amalie. I enjoy reading all your columns and posts in the (mostly) sunny Caribbean. Much is published about the salaries of MLB players, but not much about how much players make in the minors. How much does the average minor leaguer make each year? What happens when they get called up to the majors? Do they get the pro-rated MLB minimum, even during a cup of coffee? Is it the same for September call-ups? If so, do cheap teams (Pirates and Marlins) limit their September call-ups to save money, even though they are out of it and should be showcasing prospects? Thanks.
Answer: I checked in with Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen on this one, to make sure the numbers were all correct. Here’s what I found out: Regardless of signing bonus, every player in the minor league system makes $1,100 per month when they sign their first contract. Each team has control over their players for the first six years of their career, so the teams largely set the contracts over that time. The standard contract has pay rising to $1,500 per month in Double A and $2,200 per month in Triple A. Players will typically receive raises of approximately $100 per month when they have accomplished specific levels. They also get bonuses for getting awards (player of the year, etc).
That changes when minor leaguers become six-year free agents. At that point, they have rights, and their contracts typically range between $6,000 to $8,000 per month, all the way up to $25,000. Once a player is selected for the Rule 5 draft, they earn $30,000 then $60,000 then $90,000 per year for each year on the roster. And, in case you’re multiplying those numbers out, those minor league players are only being paid from April through the end of the season in September, for the five-month major league season. (On the 40-man roster, players are paid for the six-month major league season.) So they’re not getting paid much at the minor league level.
Players who are called up to the majors get the pro-rated major league minimum for the time they’re on the big league roster, no matter when they’re promoted. As for whether they should save money by not calling players up, most teams want to see what their minor leaguers can do. Even though September is not the best time to evaluate players, it helps to see them in a major-league setting.
Scott from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania asks: With 2010 essentially shot, I am guessing that the Red Sox will spend some time seeing what they have for next year. Has there been any thought to seeing if Lowrie could be the super utility player next year? (I am assuming Hall is going to look for full time employment.) If he could get some games at first base and in the outfield during meaningless September games, it seems that they could develop him into this type of role.
Answer: While Bill Hall was a pretty good pickup for the Red Sox last offseason, swapping him for Casey Kotchman, he is likely to be elsewhere next season. And you’re right, that does mean that the Red Sox will need to find a replacement utility player. I think it’s certain that Jed Lowrie will be a candidate for that spot, and very likely that the Red Sox will use him in that role next season. He has experience at all the infield positions, though that experience is limited at first base. He has shown that he can hit now that his wrist issues are mostly over. The one concern that the Red Sox front office has about him is his ability to stay healthy, and rightly so, given his history (wrist, mononucleosis). My guess is that he’ll be the favorite in a competition in spring training for the utility spot, with Marco Scutaro starting the season at shortstop and Jose Iglesias waiting in the wings to take over toward the middle-to-end of the year.
John from Ireland asks: Hi Amalie, I was very impressed with Billy Wagner’s performance from the bullpen last year. I know he was anxious to be a closer, but could he not have shared the role with Jonathan Papelbon this year and both could have eased Daniel Bard’s load somewhat?. Does Pap’s contract allow him to veto sharing the closer role? Holding onto Wagner would have made a big difference.
Answer: You’re absolutely right. Billy Wagner would have made a big difference in the Red Sox bullpen this season, with his 1.56 ERA and 32 saves. The Red Sox offered Wagner arbitration, which he declined because he wanted to close. Wagner made it clear that while he was willing to set-up for the Red Sox for the last few months of the 2009 season, he wanted to finish out his career as a closer, with some milestones within reach and the ability to pitch in that high pressure spot. So he decided to leave the Red Sox behind and eventually signed with the Braves.
The Red Sox did get something out of the transaction in the form of two draft picks, since Wagner was a Type A free agent. So ultimately it was not the Red Sox’ call. It was Wagner’s decision to leave town for a different role than the Red Sox could have given him, with the team not about to change around their closers for the 2010 season. Jonathan Papelbon was it, and Wagner wasn’t going to change that.
Ben from Pittsfield, Massachusetts asks: Do you think the trade of Manny Delcarmen to the Rockies was a good idea?
Answer: I do think that the Manny Delcarmen deal was a good one. Though it’s hard to know what will happen with the prospect the Red Sox got (Chris Balcom-Miller), it was clearly time for Delcarmen’s tenure in Boston to end. While Delcarmen had excellent pure stuff, it just wasn’t translating in games. (I was once told by catcher Doug Mirabelli that Delcarmen had the best stuff on the team, better than Papelbon or Josh Beckett.) Delcarmen could never quite conquer his inconsistency, making him a gamble to use in close situations. He had the stuff to pitch in a setup role, but not the reliability.
Perhaps a new setting will allow him to overcome that, though the early returns didn’t suggest it, with Delcarmen giving up four runs and getting just one out in his first appearance for Colorado. While bullpen arms are valuable, there’s just so long that a team can rely on a pitcher who can’t quite put it together. Other pitchers, like Felix Doubront, had come to be used more in pressure situations than Delcarmen had, as he became more of a mop-up type reliever, and so it was probably time for the Red Sox to let him go.