Well, that was unexpected, huh?
In one day the Red Sox went from burdened with some underperforming big name players playing under even bigger contracts to a team standing on the precipice of a rebuilding project. It’s been a long time since the Red Sox cashed it in, but it was pretty clear a change of some kind was needed. Still, nobody – and I mean nobody – saw this coming.
At the trading deadline, the Sox were set on keeping their roster intact, having the “varsity” return soon and making a run at one of the two Wild Cards. Then the bottom fell out and the Red Sox found themselves out of the playoff race at the end of August with a roster full of players that the fans couldn’t stand.
Whether it was because of golf, chicken, injuries, beers or just plain underperforming – nobody cared. All day long fans call in to the two big Boston sports radio stations (WEEI and The Sportshub) to scream and rant. Mostly, the calls are stupid and consist of the stereotypical Boston sports fan railing against the people who sing Sweet Caroline and preaching about how pink hats should be banished to hell until the Red Sox are good again, or something along those lines.
But there was a trend that I noticed starting to occur. There were less calls blaming Bobby Valentine and more and more people were starting to finally assign the blame to the players and the ownership group. Valentine had his balls put in a glass jar on Larry Luchino’s desk – where they sat next to Ben Cherington’s and a picture of Lucchino and John Henry sliding on the tarp during a rainy off day – how was the team supposed to respect their manager’s decisions when anytime a player disagreed they could just go to ownership and complain.
A change was needed and the people who control the team – whether that is Ben Cherington, John Henry, Larry Lucchino or Wally the Green Monster – gave the fans what they, and the team, needed.
Now the Red Sox have a lot of money to work with (I still can’t believe the Dodgers took on 95% of the payroll. 95%!! Magic Johnson must have Cookie working a couple side jobs because LA is rapidly approaching Yankee land). Is this really the best free agent market to have duck boats full of cash in? No, not really. But the money, along with the influx of prospects, allows the Red Sox to target players via trade. The same way they got Adrian Gonzalez, and, hopefully, the way they get King Felix.
The added salary freedom also allows the Sox to actually have a chance at either re-signing Jacoby Ellsbury before his contract is up, or competing with any team that offers him in free agency.
Then there is the young core the Red Sox have suddenly stumbled in to. Will Middlebrooks may be the only one with extended success at the big league level (I’d love to throw Ciriaco in here but nobody, including the Red Sox, seems to be taking him as a very serious candidate to be a starter for the team after this season), but the players coming from LA have a lot of talent. Ivan De Jesus has hit right around .300 at every level of the minors and appears to be ready to make the full-time jump to the big leagues. Allen Webster is young kid with a big arm who, by all indications, will be a big league starter. He was the No. 2 prospect in the Dodgers system and figures to be highly ranked in the Red Sox system as well. The next two players are still to be named, but sources keep saying that they are Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands.
Apparently these two players didn’t clear waivers so they, most likely, will come to the Red Sox in the offseason. Sands may be the first baseman of the future the Red Sox will be no doubt searching for. Since the all-star break, Sands is hitting .383 with 13 homers, five doubles, 32 runs and 49 RBI. For the season, Sands is hitting .302 with 25 homers and 103 RBI. Those are some pretty serious stats.
De La Rosa won the 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and then promptly got Tommy John surgery. He’s back with the Dodgers now and all signs point to him being good to go for the future. Rocking a fastball around 100 mph and a good repertoire of pitches, the Red Sox have some serious young talent coming in to go with what they have already been growing on the farm.
Still, the Sox won’t be able to win right away with a roster full of young players and question marks.
There’s no doubt in my mind the Red Sox will be big players in the offseason even though the free agent pool isn’t very strong. Because the thing is, the Red Sox already have stars on their roster. The problem the past couple seasons has been that those stars have either a) been injured or b) underperformed.
If they can go out and address “needs” and not overpay for any big name free agent who visits Boston, then they should be fine next season. I can’t name half the players on the Rays every year, but you can count on them being there in the end. That’s because they do it the right way. Focusing on addressing needs and cultivating talent. Then when you have a player like Evan Longoria come along, you pay them. Hopefully, The Red Sox will be able to do that with Jacoby Ellsbury, because if you can lock down your centerfield spot for the next 5-7 years that makes things a lot easier when you’re in search of an outfielder.
Do I expect Big Papi to re-sign? Yes, I do. Especially since he’s probably not going to play again this season. Whether the Red Sox give him a 1 or 2 year deal is irrelevant. He’s still going to gripe and, as long as he’s healthy, he’s going to produce.
The first base/outfield class this year is actually pretty good for what the Red Sox should be trying to do. Also, it seems Cody Ross actually wants to come back so if the Red Sox go out and look for a quality player, at a quality price, they can add him to an outfield that already has two very productive players. At 1B, they already have that player in James Loney. The question will be does Loney want a long term deal going forward and will the Red Sox be willing to give him one. My guess would be no. But the market is ripe for the Sox to take an older player who can play multiple positions (Lance Berkman, Mike Napoli).