For the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on what the Red Sox really need, not what some fans want.
The Fantasy Island checklist — trade for 1B Adrian Gonzalez and RHP Roy Halladay, dump the contracts of Mike Lowell and David Ortiz — is fun to talk about but is not grounded in reality. Halladay is likely to be traded, but Theo Epstein is not giving away the future as Amalie Benjamin explained today.
The Padres have no intention of trading Gonzalez; there is no market for Ortiz and only a limited market for Lowell. Next time you hear about a trade, picture yourself as the GM of the other team explaining the move to his fans. Most deals have to make at least some sense for both teams, not just the one you root for.
So here is a list of what the Red Sox actually could do this week:
Left field: The easy solution is to bring back Jason Bay. He performed well in Boston and the Red Sox would welcome him back. But there are alternatives. The acquisition of Jeremy Hermida from Florida gives the Sox the option of finding a right-handed hitter to use in a platoon. Somebody like, say, Xavier Nady. Or they could tangle with Scott Boras again and try to sign Matt Holliday.
Rotation depth: The Red Sox have Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz, a fine group of starters. Tim Wakefield is the No. 5 for now but they need a No. 5.5, a No. 6 and probably a No. 7.
This is the spot where Epstein could get creative by chasing a high-ceiling starter like Rich Harden, Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard. Or maybe the Sox take a monetary risk with Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman. He’s almost sure to end up in Boston or New York. Chapman has undeniable talent but may be a little flaky.
Bullpen depth: The Sox have already requested the medical reports on lefty Mike Gonzalez, who had a solid season for the Braves. With Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito gone, they need some help for the eighth inning to supplement Daniel Bard. Manny Delcarmen’s shaky second half plays into this equation, too. Don’t get caught up in the names. Relievers are largely failed starters and as such are prone to inconsistency. Set-up men who looked awful in 2009 could be gems in 2010.
This is also the spot on the roster that will change the most after Opening Day. They’ll invite a dozen arms to camp and see who shakes out.
Bench depth: Some work is needed here. The Sox bid Nick Green farewell and don’t seem interested in retaining Rocco Baldelli. A capable OF is needed to fill in when J.D. Drew has the inevitable shoulder/back/hamstring injuries that keep him out for a few days. They also could use a utility infielder, in only to give Jed Lowrie the chance to play every day in Pawtucket for a few months.
This is where they could look at players such as Adam Everett, Craig Counsell, Reed Johnson, Marcus Thames or Adam Kennedy.
Trade chips: I don’t see the Sox dealing away guys like Clay Buchholz, Casey Kelly or Ryan Westmoreland. If you’re going to sink the money and time into player development, you have to stick around for the rewards that come with having young, economical players on the roster.
But the Sox could make some moves. Teams like Casey Kotchman. Josh Reddick has value and Delcarmen still has a big arm.
The wild card, and this is pure speculation, is Jonathan Papelbon. With Bard a closer in waiting, why not trade Papelbon now and avoid the hassles of trying to sign him once he becomes a free agent? It’s something to think about.
Don’t forget, this is a team that won 95 games last season with Ortiz scuffling for half a season and dogged by PED talk, a rotation that included way too much John Smoltz and Brad Penny and a cast of backups at shortstop. The Sox need refining, not rebuilding.