Ask Nick: Should Bard be a starter?

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We’re going to try to do a couple of these mailbags a week, rather than just one because of the volume of questions. Readers continue to be concerned with postseason issues like the manager, free agents, and changing the culture of the Red Sox clubhouse.

First order of business is tomorrow’s off-day in the World Series, when both Theo Epstein (Chicago) and Ben Cherington (Boston) will hold introductory press conferences. I’ll be reporting from Chicago and Pete Abraham will be in Boston.

The two old pals will then have to hash out compensation. They have until Nov. 1 before Commissioner Selig steps in.

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This doesn’t seem like a problem as I believe Epstein will be very fair and he won’t want to upstage Cherington. The Red Sox feel they’ll be able to hash it out with Theo before the Nov. 1 deadline.

Another big issues to watch – the manager.

As I wrote in Sunday Baseball Notes, John Farrell would be the Red Sox’ top choice, but it’s sticky to try to pry him loose from the Toronto Blue Jays, who would require major compensation to allow him to go. Obviously, there would not need to be an interview period with Farrell, but the Red Sox do have to go through a formal process and interview minority candidates for the job as well.

The Red Sox will have an exclusive period after the World Series to make deals with Jonathan Papelbon and Davis Ortiz and will have to decide on Marc Scutaro’s $6 million option.

Here’s the mailbag:

What are your thoughts on Daniel Bard becoming a starting pitcher? And how about Rick Burleson as a managerial candidate?
Mike, Saco, Maine
The Bard experiment would be interesting, but only if they had a good replacement for him as a set-up man. You have to ask yourself, do I really want to mess with this? Bard struggled over the last month, but he’s still one of the best at what he does. I always liked Rick Burleson. I thought he was a tough coach which is good to have nowadays. Just don’t know if he’d be right for this situation.

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Since the teams that have spent a lot of money have not progressed far in the season and the playoffs do you think that the big spenders will change their approach?
David, Passaic, NJ
Probably not. When you’re a big market team, there’s pressure to be a contender every year and the best way to do that is fix the problem quickly by throwing money at it. I do believe teams like the Red Sox and Yankees might be a tad maxed-out with their payrolls, but if they have a chance to solve a glaring need they won’t hesitate to spend it on a free-agent.

In the event the Red Sox are able to trade John Lackey by paying a majority of his remaining contract, do those dollars get included in the total team payroll when figuring out the luxury tax for 2012? What is the tax limit for 2012?
Angelo, Liverpool, NY
I don’t think they’re going to be able to deal him because the elbow issue will prevent that. Yes, the money would count against their payroll and luxury tax. Haven’t received the figure for 2012 yet, but guessing it’s in the $170 million range.

The Sox and Cubs have until Nov. 1 to determine compensation for Theo before the commissioner mediates, even though he is now officially a Cub. I understand that the Sox had all of the leverage with Theo under their control for another year until just recently, but hasn’t this development removed all leverage? Steve, Portland, Conn.
I’ve been writing for two weeks that the best and easiest way to resolve it would be for Theo to negotiate with Ben. They are friends, respect one another and they will come up with something fair. Neither party wants this to get to Bud Selig because Selig will determine fair value and neither side may like it. Andy MacPhail became Cubs president in 1994 and he did the exact same thing. He took the job and negotiated his compensation with Terry Ryan, the man who succeeded him. It went smoothly and everyone was happy.

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I’m surprised to read that the Sox or another club may need to consider locking up $12 million/year for 2 or 3 years to match what David Ortiz is hoping for. What’s your take?
Dave, Boston, Mass.
It won’t be three years, but it probably needs to be two. Based on his season, which statistically was one of the best in the American League this season, he’s likely earned it. If the Red Sox gave him a deal of two years at $24 million, I think that would be fair and it would make him happy as well.

Click the Full Entry button for more Q&A


What are the Red Sox’ plans for Andrew Miller? He seems to have big league skills, but can’t harness them. Can he be salvaged?
Ferde, Beverly, Mass.
Give the Red sox credit for trying to salvage something, and I suppose they could keep trying considering they have a $3 million club option on him. Since you can’t have enough pitching, this could be the way they go, but I just think by this point he is what he’s going to be. If it is, it isn’t much.
Why don’t the Red Sox consider Dennis Eckersley as a possible manager? He’s a great analytical mind and evaluator of talent.
William, Exeter, R.I.
Eck wouldn’t want to manage, coach, or anything like that. He’s very happy as an analyst.
If Andrew Friedman had phoned the Red Sox last week asking to be considered for their general manager opening, would the Sox have considered an interview even with Ben Cherington in their back pocket? Also, will the new GM be considered Larry Lucchino’s puppet?
Joe, Dartmouth, Mass.
Great question. I would think they would have listened and been very enthusiastic about hearing of Friedman’s interest, even with Ben Cherington in place. I don’t think Ben will be a puppet because Luchhino, while a great president/CEO and terrific at running a baseball team, knows his limitations as a baseball evaluator. For that, he needs Cherington and a good staff.
In light of the Theo/Cubs $18 million contract agreement, when and why did MLB begin announcing to the public contract amounts for both players and organizational employees?
Sean, Foster City, Calif.
MLB has not done that. The number was acquired by a reporter. It’s still MLB’s policy to not disclose that information.
I know there were several reasons for the Sox’ collapse, but one reason I don’t hear discussed is why Terry Francona allowed Tim Wakefield to start nine times before he got his 200th win?
David, Groveton, NH
They had no choice but to go with Wakefield given how poor their pitching depth was. Can’t blame them for that one. The problem is, they don’t have many young pitchers showing promise. I’m sure the decision whether to bring Wake back will be an agonizing one in that front office over the next few weeks.
Is Jeff Beliveau of Rhode Island in the conversation for part of the compensation for Theo? Will the Sox re-sign Rich Hill, and could he be expected to contribute later in the 2012 season?
Keith, Boxborough, Mass.

I don’t know whether Beliveau is one of the Cub minor leaguers sought by the Red Sox. He should be. He had a great year as a reliever and obviously has an excellent arm. Hill is definitely in Boston’s plans when he’s able to return – around the All-Star break – because he did do a terrific job in that specialist role.
What happened to Peter Woodfork, the Red Sox executive who left with Josh Byrnes?
Barbara, Lowell, Mass.
He works for Major League Baseball in Joe Torre’s baseball operations department.
Do you think the Red Sox will bring back Erik Bedard?
Chip, Menlo Park, Calif.
City/Town Menlo Park, CA
He’s a guy I wouldn’t want back. Spends more time on the disabled list than on the mound. Not very reliable. I suppose they could offer arbitration, but he’s not a guy they should seriously consider in my opinion.
There seems to only be a couple of major-league ready prospects in the Sox system (Kalish and Lavarnway) at a time when the team needs to start getting younger. Should the front office focus more on shorter free-agent contracts in the off-season and be more protective of prospects at the trade deadline for at least a couple of years?
Kemper, Nashville, Tenn.
Yes, probably so. I don’t see them spending on big-money guys unless they enter the Yu Darvish sweepstakes. I could see Michael Cuddyer being a target, but he’s 33 years old. There’s no doubt that Ryan Lavarnway should be with the major league team as either the primary catcher or backup. His bat is too good to keep on the farm. Kalish was hurt the whole year, so I can see more Triple-A time for him.
If CC Sabathia opts out of his contract, how hard do you think Boston will go after him?
Matthew, Kalamazoo, Mich.
I doubt it. The Red Sox wouldn’t want to pay him more than $23 million or give him a five-year deal. Sabathia won’t have too much leverage given his demands. Only the Yankees will pay him.
No starting pitcher reached 200 innings pitched this year. Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Marco Scutaro, and Jed Lowrie all missed significant time during the year with injuries. I think the stability and durability of a couple of guys like Michael Young and Mark Buerhle would do wonders for this team.
Wade, Goodlettsville, TN
Not sure why Michael Young would be available this offseason. He was obtainable last offseason and nobody got serious because of his enormous contract. The Rangers have no need to move him now. As for Mark Buehrle, love the guy and he would be a good investment, but you have to be careful with how many years you offer. Says he only wants to play in Chicago or St. Louis, which I don’t buy if he gets a better offer elsewhere. Two good guys right there, but I know the Red Sox have passed on Young on a few occasions where they could have traded for him.
And he is older than Youkilis.
With players earning big money on guaranteed long-term contracts and a union that will appeal any attempt to suspend or fine, what tools are really available to a manager to bring discipline to the clubhouse and enforce rules? It seems like the manager’s hands are really tied and he ultimately has to depend on the professionalism and pride of the players (which seems to be in short supply in some cases.
Ray, Newton, Mass.
You have to lay down rules as a manager and the players must abide by them. If they don’t, that’s insubordination and a violation of their contract. The union has a lot of power, but players have to adhere to the rules or there is punishment, which they can challenge until the cows come home.