The Red Sox need a Blast from the Past

Boston Red Sox fans certainly aren’t happy after a first round exit from the playoffs and watching the Yankees win their twenty-seventh World Series. The Sox are aging quickly and they’ve lost their identity from when they won it all in ’04 and ’07. Gone are the characters of year’s past: Pedro, Millar, Johnny Damon, and the man who must go unnamed. Now they are down to Victor Martinez and the fiery Dustin Pedroia. No more Cowboying up for this group of idiots. So how do the Red Sox get back on the winning track? They need a blast from the past.

The Red Sox have a big off-season coming up because they need to make a statement to counter what the Yankees did this year. Given John Lackey and Matt Holliday are no CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, but big moves can still be made. At the Trade Deadline, they inquired on Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez, and Felix Hernandez, but now it appears that only Halladay is for the taking. In order to land Doc, they will have to give up their two top pitching prospects Casey Kelly and Clay Buchholz, which is way too much for one year of Roy Halladay. Recently, the Padres said that they weren’t going to move Gonzalez and the Mariners are in no mood to move Hernandez. But there is one trade that Boston needs to make.

If there was one need for the Red Sox in the playoffs and late in the year, it was a power bat in the middle. Over the past year and a half, the Red Sox have been missing “that guy” who will always come up in the clutch. They need a clean up bat that hits above .300 for his career and averages over 30 homers and 100 RBIs per year. A player who, when he comes up late in the game with the bases loaded, puts the Fear of God in the opposition and their fans. A guy who can and will keep the clubhouse loose with his antics. To be more specific, a Latino slugger who has worn the number 24 for most of his career. The player on my mind is Miguel Cabrera, and not Manny Ramirez.

As most people know, Detroit is in the lowest point of the valley that is our current economic recession. Tigers’ ownership would love to cut their payroll, which would include trading high priced players like Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordoñez, and Cabrera, along with players who are owed a big pay raise, such as Edwin Jackson. Cabrera is owed $126 million over the next six years, so the Tigers would love to get rid of that contract, and the Red Sox could certainly take it. Plus, he is only 26 years old.

Boston probably doesn’t want to go forward with just Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz in the middle of their order. Cabrera is an elite talent who Theo Epstein should never pass up. Boston’s brass needs to do everything in their power to get Cabrera because if he can be had, they can’t let another contender such as the Angels or Yankees land him and he will make a gigantic impact in the middle of their order. Even if it will cost them a combination of hitting prospects such as Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, and Ryan Lavarnway, along with pitchers such as Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Felix Doubront, the trade needs to be done. Cabrera commands the highest respect from opposing pitchers, when he’s not getting beat up by his wife while drunk. He will be a staple in the middle of the Red Sox’ order for the next six plus years sandwiched between Martinez, Youkilis, and potentially another slugger or two.

After acquiring Cabrera, the next step for the Red Sox will be to fill the gap in left field left by Jason Bay. They currently have a decent option, in Jeremy Hermida, slated to start in left, but not an impressive one all the same. The top free agent options are lead by Matt Holliday and Jason Bay before there is a drop off to the likes of Vladimir Guerrero, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and Rick Ankiel. To me, Bay’s time in Boston is over. He didn’t accept Boston’s $60 million extension offer over the summer, and they didn’t make much of an effort to up his offer. This makes Matt Holliday their number one free agent target of this off-season.

Of course adding a top of the rotation starter like John Lackey would be great, but signing Holliday would be a better use of Boston’s money and draft picks. Holliday is another player who has career averages of nearly 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs and .300 batting average. One knock on the slugger is that he had a very unsuccessful stint in the AL, but the answers to his struggles are that he had very little talent around him in a poor hitter’s ball park and he changed his batting stance for the first five weeks of the season, and when he switched back, he was his old self. Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, compares his client to Mark Teixeira and wants a deal close to Tex’s 8 year $180 million contract. But most people around baseball believe that he will land a deal around $130-$110 million.

If the Red Sox’s negotiations with Holliday fall short of Boras’ needs, the player they should look at next is, believe it or not Johnny Damon. Damon will provide some speed and power to the Sox’ order and will act as a bridge to prospects Josh Reddick, Kalish, and Ryan Westmoreland. Boston fans will eventually forgive Damon for his “wrong doings”, but in return will likely ask for his beard back. Sure, Damon’s arm isn’t great, but he is great in the lockerroom and a great guy. He still has some speed and some pop. He set a career high in home runs last year and is far from done. He wasn’t offered arbitration by the Yankees, and it’s not like there are teams lined up to sign Damon.

Cabrera is the closest thing resembling a shortstop the Red Sox have had since '04, so why not bring him back?

Cabrera is the closest thing resembling a shortstop the Red Sox have had since '04, so why not bring him back?

The next order of business for the Red Sox is short stop. Jed Lowrie hasn’t been what they expected since they called him up because of injuries, in fact, no short stop has been up to snuff since they traded away Nomar Garciaparra at the 2004 Trade Deadline. They have gone through Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Rentaria, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Nick Green, and Gonzo again. There are no young studs on the free agent market, so they will most likely be signing a veteran to bridge to highly touted prospect Jose Iglesias. but there are solid veterans Miguel Tejada, Marco Scutaro, and Orlando Cabrera. So far, Scutaro has been the most closely linked with the Red Sox, but he is the worst of the three. Scutaro is 34, and until two seasons ago, he had never had more than 455 at bats in a season, hit above .270, double digit homers, 45 RBIs, or 5 steals. He is just a utility man who picked up some slack recently. The Red Sox nearly acquired Miggy two years ago and Cabrera played on the ’04 World Series team. All three shortstops are type A free agents, which if signed will cost their new teams a first round pick, but because of a clause in his contract, the Twins can’t offer him arbitration. This puts the Red Sox in prime position to bring back their former teammate who can don his number 44 no longer worn by Jason Bay.

At this point, The only things left for Boston would be to acquire some pitching depth and bench help. For the pitching depth, and more specifically starting pitching, the Red Sox have recently looked at injury prone veterans like Brad Penny and John Smoltz. Why do that again when the Sox can turn to old friend Pedro Martinez? Ben Sheets and Rich Harden would also be nice aditions, but they have can never stay an entire year healthy. The Red Sox don’t really need to spend big bucks on a starter when they have a rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Tim Wakefield. Pedro is a cheap low risk-medium reward option for the Sox that they should consider.

Lastly, for a look at their bench, the Red Sox are pretty deep at the moment. If they sign Holliday and trade for Cabrera, they will have proven starters Jeremy Hermida, Mike Lowell, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek, and Casey Kotchman off the bench. If the situation arises that they can move one of them, specifically Lowell and Kotchman, there are several players who would be great replacements. Since back-ups won’t make a major impact, it’s a good idea to take a big swing on a high risk medium reward player, such as Sox legends Kevin Millar and Nomar Garciaparra.  Nomah and Millah are free agents with no compensation required if acquired and. They both can play first and Nomar is more versitile, as he can play just about every position in the infield.

Here is a look at what the Red Sox 2010 man roster should end up looking like:

CF:  Jacoby Ellsbury – $450K
2B:  Dustin Pedroia – $3.5m
C:    Victor Martinez – $7.7m
1B:  Miguel Cabrera – $20m
LF:  Matt Holliday – $18m (est)
3B:  Kevin Youkilis – $9.1m
DH: David Ortiz – $12.5m
RF:  J.D. Drew – $14m
SS:  Orlando Cabrera – $6m (est)

OF: Jeremy Hermida – $3.5m (est)
3B:  Mike Lowell – $12m
SS:  Jed Lowrie – $415K
1B:  Casey Kotchman – $4m (est)
C:    Jason Varitek – $3m

SP: Josh Beckett – $12m
SP: Jon Lester – $3.8m
SP: Daisuke Matsuzaka – $8m
SP: Clay Buchholz – $415K
SP: Tim Wakefield/Pedro Martinez – $3.5m/$2m (est)

CL: Jonathan Papelbon – $10m (est)
RP: Daniel Bard – $400K
RP: Hideki Okajima – $2.5m (est)
RP: Ramon Ramirez – $1.5m (est)
RP: Manny Delcarmen – $1m (est)

Payroll: $169 million

These moves could very well lead the Red Sox to their 9th championship, but they could also lead to a missed playoff appearance. I’m sure Theo Epstein has a plan in mind whether that is mortgaging their future to land Roy Halladay or another stud, or they could sit back and wait for Lowell and Ortiz’ contracts to come off the books. Either way, nearly all sports fans know that the Sox will have a bright future for years to come.

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