Dear Tim Wakefield and Johnny Damon,
What did they expect?
Anyone with even a passing interest in the Red Sox had to know that a certain semblance of change was in the air for this offseason, the departure of the general manager the lone shocker in a series of moves aimed at fielding a more complete, and yes, possibly cheaper team for 2006 and beyond.
But heck, this much?
Waving goodbye to Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar was no surprise for sure, as was the team’s interest in trading Manny Ramirez. Tony Graffanino wasn’t expected back either, so with the exception of the surprising Edgar Renteria deal this morning, an entirely new infield was in the cards, a fact Wakefield seemed shocked about when talking to the Globe’s Gordon Edes and Chris Snow yesterday.
''What the heck is our team going to look like next year?'' he asked.
Good question. Hey, Dontrelle, you wanna field this one?
Turnover, yes. But this is no fire sale like they’re having in Miami, where you can get your own All-Star for a nickel and a handshake. Still though, it’s certainly difficult for players and fans alike to envision their former World Series champs without a majority of the guys who raised that trophy in St. Louis, where come to think of it, the stadium doesn’t even exist anymore. Change moves on folks, you either adapt, or become a nostalgia act. Why run the risk of another bad year from Renteria when you have a suitor now? Renteria was dealt to Atlanta this morning for top prospect Andy Marte. Last season in Triple-A, he batted .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs. Also presumably included in the deal was an apology from dubious Red Sox fans addressed to Tony La Russa. Turns out, he knew all along his former player couldn't cut it in Boston.
Heck, in Atlanta, nobody cares. He'll thrive.
And yes, we realize the Red Sox presently do not have a shortstop, but that’s no excuse to begin any sort of Nomar brigade. Capiche? Not. Happening. Ever. Ditto. Roger. Clemens. So. Stop.
Of course, the questions come into focus: Yeah, but are they moves for the better, or one made simply to ensure the EMC Club is filled to capacity on a nightly basis? Larry Lucchino admitted that Manny Ramirez likely wouldn’t be dealt this week due to the complexities of any deal. Granted. But it’s also nice and convenient that 2006 tickets go on sale this weekend, and the prospect of still seeing Manny in left might open a wallet or two at Christmas at Fenway.
Doug Mirabelli was the first roster player traded yesterday when he was shipped to San Diego for second baseman Mark Loretta. Wakefield expressed regret in seeing Mirabelli go, of course, he was the catcher Wake had created quite the rapport with over the years. But when you can get a player of Loretta’s caliber for a backup catcher, who doesn’t make that deal? No-brainer. Then again, we all thought that about the Josh Beckett trade, but now there seems to be plenty of concern over Josh Beckett’s health. John Henry told Rob Bradford he would initially rather have signed Overrated A.J. Burnett than trade for Beckett, and Peter Gammons reported the other day that the hurler’s MRI came back so bad that the Sox wanted to cancel the deal.
By the way, the beltway four-pack is just $180.
As for Damon, who bemoaned the loss of players, massage therapists, team doctors, and the hot dog vendors who went back to college, it’s up to him, Scott Boras, and Jon Heyman, as to whether to come back to Boston. Damon seemed to take a not-so thinly veiled shot at Matt Clement yesterday via Boras crony Heyman, stating, “There were a lot of changes last year, which never should have happened. Pedro and Derek Lowe could pitch on the big stage.”
Well, Clement could be one of the departed as well. So could Trot Nixon and Ramirez. David Wells, too.
That leaves just David Ortiz and Jason Varitek as everyday players who have not been rumored to be headed elsewhere.
Odds are we could be looking at a completely revamped lineup next season. Now THAT is surprising. A new infield, sure, but there is the definite possibility that there will be an entirely new outfield as well if Ramirez and Nixon are dealt, and Damon listens to the Heyman whispers filling his head. Depending on what happens to possible trades involving Wells, Clement, and Bronson Arroyo, the starting rotation will have three new members, possibly including Jonathan Papelbon.
And after all this, the bullpen, the main reason you’re not out buying “Faith Rewarded II” as a stocking stuffer today has yet to be addressed more than getting an add-on to the Beckett deal in Guillermo Mota. Boston re-signed Mike Timlin, but outside of Jermaine Van Buren, the team has yet to significantly upgrade its problematic ‘pen. Sure, they keep trying to pry Scott Linebrink and Akinori Otsuka from San Diego, but have yet to succeed in doing either. That’s why their decision to decline arbitration to Mike Myers yesterday was so utterly confusing. Bill Lajoie explained they already had a one-batter pitcher in Chad Bradford, that they couldn’t afford two. OK, great, but based on how bad your bullpen was in 2005, you can’t afford NOT to have all possible options at your disposal.
Come on guys, you could afford it, live a little.
Oops. Sorry, Dontrelle.
Then again, maybe that is a small sampling of what is really going on here. Thus far, the moves this team has made yielded solid returns. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking though that a main objective of what the front office is trying to accomplish over the next few seasons. Andy Marte will cost a heck of a lot less over the next three years than Renteria. Loretta is here on a one-year deal, after which Dustin Pedroia will play for pennies. After ’06, Foulke’s deal is up, as is Curt Schilling’s. Unless both convincingly return to their ’04 form, this is likely their final seasons in Boston, leaving gaping holes at the top of the rotation and back of the bullpen. By then, Manny, Damon, Nixon, Clement, and Renteria might all have joined Millar, Mueller, Wells, and Mirabelli in making room for the next generation.
What’s the team going to look like in 2007? Ask Dontrelle Willis. I’m sure he can let you know.