Thursday, November 1, 2007

Decisions, Decisions....

The season is over, there's a fresh World Series trophy in Boston and the celebration is over and the talk of dynasty is ready to begin. The Red Sox face some really tough decisions with regards to their approach to free agency this year. Some people will be moving on, some will be actively shopped around until they find a home elsewhere and some currently have nothing but question marks.

Let's start with the easy one:

Tim Wakefield: There's some controversy surrounding Tim Wakefield and whether or not the Red Sox will pick up the option on his contract for another year. This is almost a foregone conclusion in my mind. Regardless of what else happens, Tim Wakefield is just too good a bargain to pass up. He's the longest tenured Red Sox player on the roster by a wide margin, he can be a starter or help out in the bullpen and the fact that he's a knuckleballer makes his age/health minor considerations. Regardless of what happens with other pitchers on the staff, Tim Wakefield is an excellent insurance policy and will contribute.

Curt Schilling: I initially believed Curt would be staying in Boston and finish out his career with the Red Sox, but some recent news gives me good reason to doubt that this will be the case. News outlets are reporting anonymous sources within the organization think resigning Schilling to another year is unlikely, Curt has filed for free agency and has reported a number of teams he'd be interested in pitching for and Curt has written goodbye letters to a number of his teammates.

What do I think about Curt Schilling's situation? Putting aside the sentimental value of seeing Curt wrap up his career in a Boston uniform, I could easily go either way. Pro: Curt has only asked for one more year and has expressed no interest in a long term deal. Con: Curt wants the same salary for what is admittedly not the same product the sox wanted when they initially signed him. Pro: There is a real lack of quality pitching on the free agent market. Con: The Red Sox can sign Tim Wakefield and have a pretty good rotation of Beckett, DiceK, Bucholz, Lester and Wakefield; Schilling might get in the way of some promising prospects. Pro: Schilling showed some flashes of brilliance from his old self with the near no-hitter in Oakland and some dominating performances in the playoffs. Con: Schilling had a mediocre regular season at best and took a DL stint, at his age durability is a real concern.

Either way, I'm infinitely grateful that Curt seems to have no interest in playing for the Yankees. Seeing him finish his career in pinstripes would be a slap in the face to the Boston fan base that loves him, and he knows and acknowledges this.

Mike Lowell v Alex Rodriguez: Two weeks ago I would have been strongly in favor of signing Mike Lowell, but some things have changes since then. Alex Rodriguez basically gave the Yankees front office the finger by opting out of his contract and getting Texas off the hook for a large portion of the subsidy they promised the Yankees when they picked up A-Rod's contract. Now, the Yankees need a quality 3rd baseman and are unwilling to talk to Alex Rodriguez. What this does: Drives up the price of Mike Lowell and brings down the price of Alex Rodriguez. There are a very limited number of clubs that can afford A-Rod's services and still field a competitive team. I also think Rodriguez's decision to leave New York is the result of the transition they'll be going through with a new manager and likely losing some key members of the team to free agency. I think A-Rod wants to play for a serious title contender, the Yankees aren't likely to be able to offer this next year. This narrows down the list of potential homes for A-Rod considerably. My guess: Boston or the Angels. So, to summarize, Alex Rodriguez is young, just won the MVP award and will probably have to take less money than the Yankees would have paid him.

Mike Lowell, on the other hand, is coming off of an unprecedentedly good season. He had never hit above .300 in his entire career and this season he hit .324. His highest RBI total prior to this season was 105, this season he hit 120. This year was clearly a late career renaissance for him while in a contract year. I don't expect him to maintain these numbers once he's settled into what will likely be his last contract at age 33. If Mike Lowell is going to be in a Red Sox uniform again it's not going to be cheap, and it probably won't be worth it.

I hate to say it, but you might actually get more bang for your buck with Alex Rodriguez. The X factor? Clubhouse chemistry. When asked about A-Rod v. Mike Lowell Jason Varitek refused to comment, essentially saying that he felt that he wasn't the person to ask, but pointed out that he knows Mike Lowell is a big part of their clubhouse chemistry.

Coco Crisp: This guy needs to be moved, he was a good center fielder, but not good enough to let Jacoby Ellsbury rot in the minor leagues for another year.

Julian Tavarez: Julian Tavarez is very similar to Tim Wakefield. He's cheap and has great versatility and durability. Should Curt Schilling move on I think Julian would make an excellent 6th starter/long reliever in the event somebody in the starting rotation gets hurt.

Bobby Kielty: We could use a 4th outfielder, not sure this is necessarily the way to go though. I hear there are some solid prospects in the Red Sox minor leagues that could provide as a solid 4th outfielder.

Julio Lugo: The dream scenario in my mind actually involves Julio Lugo being sold off to another team with the Red Sox eating about a third of the money for his contract and bringing in Alex Rodriguez to play his original position at shortstop. This is farfetched and extremely speculative though. In all likelihood we're stuck with Julio Lugo next year. If it's any consolation, Lugo's batting numbers were almost all below his career average, I could see him bouncing back nicely in his second year.

Doug Mirabelli: We tried getting rid of Dougie before, but then we realized that nobody else could catch Tim Wakefield and a million passed balls per game wasn't good for business. This time we do have Kevin Cash, who caught Wakefield effectively during Doug Mirabelli's DL stint. I'd prefer to see Cash playing rather than Mirabelli. Of course if Wakefield isn't coming back then there's no need for Dougie whatsoever.

Should be interesting to see what the Red Sox front office puts on the field for 2008.

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