Now that you’re done unwrapping all those Red Sox T-shirts, DVDs, and caps, here are some notes, observations, and opinions on the team gathered over the last few weeks:
• Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has been posted and is available to all 30 teams. The cost is a $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles and what is sure to be at least a $100 million deal for Tanaka.
There is no sign yet that the Red Sox are interested. They’ve obviously steered away from high-priced free agents for the last few years and already have a deep group of starters along with several promising prospects in Triple A.
The Sox also would face avid competition from the Yankees, who are desperate for starters. A side issue would be to what extent signing Tanaka would impact an extension with Jon Lester.
• Had a chance to spend some time with Jose Iglesias at David Ortiz’s charity event earlier this month. Iggy was genuinely surprised, and a little hurt, when he was traded.
“I’ll always be proud I was with the Red Sox,” he said. “I learned so much from David and [Dustin] Pedroia and all those guys. They were like my family when I first came over here.”
The Red Sox made the right move trading Iglesias. They had depth at the position and the acquisition of Jake Peavy stabilized the rotation and allowed Brandon Workman to take an important role in the bullpen. But Sox fans will miss seeing Iglesias play over time. The Tigers are a great fit for him.
• Let’s say Stephen Drew is unsigned a few weeks from now. What a hammer the Red Sox have. They don’t necessarily need Drew but still could make good use of him. They can offer him a one-year deal, take it or leave it. If he balks, they’ll take the draft pick when he finally signs with another team.
The only way the Red Sox lose is if Drew waits until after the draft to sign, and that is unlikely.
• For the moment, the Red Sox look like the favorites with Drew. But don’t underestimate the value of that draft pick. Talented young players are the greatest commodity in baseball and adding talent to an already deep farm system could trump the idea of retaining Drew for a year or two.
The Red Sox also have to be curious to find out whether Xander Bogaerts can play shortstop. Because if he can, that bat at a premium defensive position is a huge advantage.
• In case you missed it, the Red Sox were $225,666 under baseball’s luxury tax threshold of $178 million last season. The Sox had the third-highest payroll in baseball behind the Yankees ($237,018,889) and Dodgers ($236,872,242).
To put that in perspective, the Red Sox paid $1.82 million per win and the Yankees $2.79 million. When you toss in the benefits gained by staying under the limit, the Red Sox are in a strong position moving forward.
The Astros had a total payroll of $29,270,160.
• There were wedding bells for a few Red Sox this winter. Congratulations to Ryan and Jamie Lavarnway, Jackie and Erin Bradley, and Craig and Kelly Breslow.
• The Philadelphia Phillies are desperate to trade Jonathan Papelbon, who has two years and $26 million left on his contract with a vesting option for 2016. Papelbon averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings from 2007-12. It fell to 8.3 last season. His fastball tailed off as the season went on and averaged 92 miles per hour. It was 94.8 in 2010.
Teams need closers, if only because managers seem to favor that model of bullpen management. But paying big money for closers is bad business. Better to gather up good arms and let the bullpen settle in over time.
• Speaking of closers, here’s a prediction that Koji Uehara does not save 30 games next season. Uehara will be 39 on April 3 and is coming off a season that saw him appear in 86 games and throw 88 innings.
Uehara appeared in 37 games and threw 38 innings for the Rangers in 2012. The heavier workload is going to have an effect and John Farrell will have to manage accordingly.
Whether it’s Junichi Tazawa or Edward Mujica or somebody else (don’t sleep on
Cuban righthander Dalier Hinojosa), the Red Sox will need depth at that spot.
• The Red Sox lineup looks worse today than it did in October. Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are gone and Ortiz is older. Even if Drew returns, the Sox won’t be as explosive because Ellsbury did so much that helped the offense.
But the drop-off may not be as dramatic as you think. Bogaerts could have a Manny Machado-type impact on the lineup over a full season. He’s that good. The Red Sox also will get more production from Pedroia, who played all of last season with a torn ligament in his left thumb. He slugged .415, the worst mark of his career.
Shane Victorino presumably will be better absent the assorted injuries he had. If Drew doesn’t return, the Red Sox also will get more out if Will Middlebrooks than they did last season.
The Red Sox scored 853 runs last season, 57 more than any other team. There’s wiggle room there.
• It’s always a fun to catch a game at Pawtucket. But if you go this season, you’ll see a lineup and rotation full of prospects instead of the usual cast of Triple A veterans.
The Pawtucket rotation could be Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, and Drake Britton along with guys like Chris Hernandez and Steven Wright.
The lineup will feature players such as Christian Vazquez, Bryce Brentz, and Alex Hassan. That’s why the Sox promoted Double A manager Kevin Boles to manage Pawtucket and added a fourth person to the staff in Bruce Crabbe. Many organizations add an extra coach in the lower levels. But the Sox have development going on in Triple A.
• Nice stretch for John Henry and Tom Werner. Liverpool, despite a 2-1 loss against Manchester City on Thursday, has become a contender in the English Premier League and could earn a place in the lucrative Champions League with a top-four finish.
Funny how the halfwits who used to complain about Fenway Sports Group owning a soccer team are quiet now.
• The Red Sox don’t seem too intent on signing any more notable free agents. But Jesse Crain is an interesting name given his connections to Juan Nieves and A.J. Pierzynski.
• In a market where Phil Hughes was worth $8 million a year, the Red Sox could get a nice return for Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster or John Lackey if they choose.
Lackey ($15.25 million), Peavy ($14.5 million) and Dempster ($13.25 million) each have a year left on their deals. All three would be good pickups for a contender, particularly a National League team.
The Red Sox hold an option on Lackey for 2015 at the league minimum because he missed the 2012 season with an elbow injury, so he is essentially signed for two years at $15.75 million.
• Finally, here is the Christmas card the Red Sox sent out: