Blowing up the Bridge Year(s)?

Rovin Romine

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There was a lot of talk about 2013 being a bridge year - something to hold us over until the younger prospects arrived. 
 
Many of the off-season threads seem to want to trade prospects for veterans, perhaps to make another post-season run.  
 
With than in mind we have the following kids ready to cross the bridge, or recross it, or stay where they are.  ("Kids" being defined as cost-controlled players who have a good chance to contribute real value at the ML level, not classical "prospects" per se.)
 
SS - Xander
3B - Middlebrooks
CF - JBJ
C - Lavarnway
1B - Carp (arb 2014, FA 2017)
OF - Nava
 
SP/RP - Workman, Webster, Owens, Webster, Ruby, Ranaudo, Britton?
 
Others (in 2015?) - Cecchini, Swihart, Brentz
 
***
Lavarnway seems like a chip at this point - if they haven't given him the keys yet, nor moved him to 1B, it seems unlikely the Sox will really want to hold onto him if he has trade value.  (If no real trade value, he makes a decent insurance policy type catcher at AAA).
 
People seem down on WMB, but apparently the Sox want to hold onto him.  
 
***
So my questions are - who do we hold onto?  Who do we wait for?  How long do we wait?
 
 

Niastri

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In about 640 plate appearances, Middlebrooks has hit 32 homers and 32 doubles. He plays at least average defense and is scouted as a plus defender at third. His OBP is bad for this lineup and below average overall. Mostly this of because of strikeouts. He hasn't conclusively proven he can either stay off (or hit) any kind of quality breaking balks low and outside. There is hope after his post call up performance in the second half of the season that he can lay off or foul off these tough pitches, but he may be the hitter he had been so far. Even if he doesn't get any better, I still want him batting eighth for the Sox.

He has the ability to get very hot and help carry the team for stretches from the bottom of the order, while helping on defense as a positive on defense.

Middlebrooks' overall numbers being about 63 xbh per 162 games played. This includes his extended cold streaks, which will hopefully decrease with greater experience.

The Sox are perfectly situated to take advantage of his hot streaks with higher obp players in front of him, but while still limiting his damage when he is cold by leaving him at the bottom of the order.

I am rooting for he and X being the left side of our infield and his continued improvement as a hitter, while we enjoy his power from a stress free spot in the lineup.
 

BosRedSox5

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While it's important to have a strong farm system and build through your minor league teams... a benefit of having a strong farm is in trading. With a strong farm our scouting department is in a position to analyze the excesses we have and determine what makes sense to trade to fill roster holes now. I would definitely be in favor of the team acquiring some veterans as long as they are keeping a young core of home grown guys.
 

Plympton91

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For a team that can afford to spend up to the luxury tax limits in each of the major areas of operations, I've also seen this as a false dichotomy.  The Red Sox should always be maximizing the net present value of talent in the organization subject to a fairly constant discount rate, on the lookout for sensible free agent signings and trades in every year.  Last year shows that a supposed 'Bridge Year' for this organization is still capable of producing a championship if you spend the money on the right players and choose your trade targets and disposable assets appropriately.
 
I would be willing to move any of Britton, Webster, or De La Rosa (lack of command), or Brentz (too many strikeouts and subpar defense), or Ranaudo (fragility) for the right price.  But I wouldn't necessarily be shopping them actively.
 
I would like to see them make a real honest effort to retain Ellsbury at 2014 Fair Market Value, but other than that I am o.k. with letting the key FAs go.
 
The should figure out how to get the best possible long-term value out of the extra starting pitcher they have, whether that comes in the form of getting salary relief for Dempster, replacing some of the prospect value lost in the Peavy deal by flipping him, or making a blockbuster deal including Lackey or Buchholz. 
 
I think it just depends on how the market develops.  How can you not give them the benefit of the doubt after last season?
 

CaskNFappin

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I think expectations were so low, even for the front office, after 2012 that the moves they made and the narrative they offered were certainly indicative of a few bridge years.

This year changed that. We now know that we can keep pace with the best teams in baseball, and maintaining the status quo should be a minimum expectation. Thus, losing Ellsbury should require a major splash of some sort. They should also assess which players might not produce at the same level they did in 2013 (almost the whole team met or exceeded projections) and plan accordingly.

In the words of KRS One, the bridge is over. Put up a fight while Papi and Lester are still under contract, and maximize some of the minor league depth we have to repeat as champions. I can assure you that the Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Orioles, and even the Angels will not treat 2014 as a bridge year. Most of these teams will make vast improvements to their roster. Lets not be overly complacent....
 

Rasputin

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CaskNFappin said:
I think expectations were so low, even for the front office, after 2012 that the moves they made and the narrative they offered were certainly indicative of a few bridge years.

This year changed that. We now know that we can keep pace with the best teams in baseball, and maintaining the status quo should be a minimum expectation. Thus, losing Ellsbury should require a major splash of some sort. They should also assess which players might not produce at the same level they did in 2013 (almost the whole team met or exceeded projections) and plan accordingly.

In the words of KRS One, the bridge is over. Put up a fight while Papi and Lester are still under contract, and maximize some of the minor league depth we have to repeat as champions. I can assure you that the Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Orioles, and even the Angels will not treat 2014 as a bridge year. Most of these teams will make vast improvements to their roster. Lets not be overly complacent....
There's not enough no in the world for this.

Worrying about making a splash is something that stupid teams do because they think headlines are important.

Build a team that is going to be very good for as long as humanly possible. With the way the post season works now, it's the only way to maximize your chances of winning one or more world series.

That doesn't mean we don't ever make trades or anything, but it does mean that every trade needs to keep the eye on the long term, even if it is a half season rental.

It also means that you don't go replacing something just for the sake of replacing it and it means accepting that young players might struggle in their introduction to the majors. That's the way it is, live with it, it's good for you in the long run.
 

CaskNFappin

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When you lose an Ellsbury caliber player at the top of your line up, you can expect a pretty substantial step backwards. I'm not saying we blow up the farm for a guy like CarGo, but I am saying that going into 2014 with Carp at 1B, JBJ in CF, WMB at 3B, X at SS, and Nava platooning in LF/1B is extremely risky. All of these guys could take a step back or not develop quickly enough. This was a year of best case scenarios.....including a ridiculous team BABIP. Next year could be very different, and I'd be willing to bet a lot of us won't be happy being the 2013 SF Giants.

The clock is certainly ticking on Ortiz. Lester could leave too. I know it's super fun to fantasize about this juggernaut homegrown team of 2016-2020 and all, but it's possible it won't work out....especially without a dominant hitter like Ortiz (and I doubt many of his caliber become available under current market circumstances).

There is a TON of valuable pitching talent in this organization. When I say splash, I'm simply advocating to turn some of it into a player or two who is more than an Ike Davis type player.

I get the logic of why make a splash for the sake of it. By that same logic, why construct your entire roster from the clearance section, just because you presume other GMs are so incompetent that they might not care to make similar moves for their far-more-cash-strapped teams.
 

Jack Rabbit Slim

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CaskNFappin said:
When you lose an Ellsbury caliber player at the top of your line up, you can expect a pretty substantial step backwards. I'm not saying we blow up the farm for a guy like CarGo, but I am saying that going into 2014 with Carp at 1B, JBJ in CF, WMB at 3B, X at SS, and Nava platooning in LF/1B is extremely risky. All of these guys could take a step back or not develop quickly enough. This was a year of best case scenarios.....including a ridiculous team BABIP. Next year could be very different, and I'd be willing to bet a lot of us won't be happy being the 2013 SF Giants.

The clock is certainly ticking on Ortiz. Lester could leave too. I know it's super fun to fantasize about this juggernaut homegrown team of 2016-2020 and all, but it's possible it won't work out....especially without a dominant hitter like Ortiz (and I doubt many of his caliber become available under current market circumstances).

There is a TON of valuable pitching talent in this organization. When I say splash, I'm simply advocating to turn some of it into a player or two who is more than an Ike Davis type player.

I get the logic of why make a splash for the sake of it. By that same logic, why construct your entire roster from the clearance section, just because you presume other GMs are so incompetent that they might not care to make similar moves for their far-more-cash-strapped teams.
 
Of course starting a handful of relative unknowns (not that I think they should or will fill every opening with a rookie) carries the risk of the team taking a step back, but taking the stance that a step back is unacceptable is how you wind up with an old, bloated roster like the Yankees (and until not too long ago Boston).  If you ever want to have young, inexpensive players on your team, you have to be willing to give them time to develop in the ML.  I think the mistake being made here is that the bridge is definitely not over.  The bridge wasn't spanning between championships.  The bridge is spanning between young, cost-controlled cores that will result in a 5 year stretch of constantly being a world series front runner, a la the Lester/Ells/Pedroia/Pap core starting in '07.  It would be great if that next core was established while guys like Ortiz and Lester are still here but mortgaging that core to add pieces around aging players is very short-sighted.  
 

Puffy

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Plympton91 said:
For a team that can afford to spend up to the luxury tax limits in each of the major areas of operations, I've also seen this as a false dichotomy.  The Red Sox should always be maximizing the net present value of talent in the organization subject to a fairly constant discount rate, on the lookout for sensible free agent signings and trades in every year.  Last year shows that a supposed 'Bridge Year' for this organization is still capable of producing a championship if you spend the money on the right players and choose your trade targets and disposable assets appropriately.
 
This is how I feel too. Somehow this notion of "bridge year" came to be synonymous with some sort of admission about not being a contender. I'm sure Theo regrets using the word and I don't think the term is a useful way of framing discussion about roster planning or balancing the short-term and long-term any longer. 
 

chrisfont9

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Omitted Matt Barnes. I don't have much to add except that if you're pitching Workman in high leverage innings in the World Series, you probably regard him as ML ready. So that's one for 2014, for sure. Ranaudo seems close. The remaining pitchers can either take their time, or in a few cases (Rubby, Webster? Britton) convert to relief and be ready to supplement the ML roster as needed.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Rasputin said:
There's not enough no in the world for this.
 
Thank you. (I was going to post a JPEG of a priest making the sign of the cross to ward off evil, but was afraid I'd be accused of gamethreading.)
 
The one thing that could tarnish the pure gold of 2013 is if it were to tempt Ben into taking his eyes off the long-term contention prize. That doesn't mean we should never trade prospects for players who can help us in the short term, but that should happen only where doing so fits logically into the long-term strategy--where what we're acquiring stands a solid chance of having as much ultimate value to us as what we're giving up, and doesn't constitute paying an exorbitant long-term premium for short-term results.
 
2013 should be a Get Out of Jail Free card for Ben, not a Back on the Chain Gang card.
 

Rasputin

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CaskNFappin said:
When you lose an Ellsbury caliber player at the top of your line up, you can expect a pretty substantial step backwards. I'm not saying we blow up the farm for a guy like CarGo, but I am saying that going into 2014 with Carp at 1B, JBJ in CF, WMB at 3B, X at SS, and Nava platooning in LF/1B is extremely risky. All of these guys could take a step back or not develop quickly enough. This was a year of best case scenarios.....including a ridiculous team BABIP. Next year could be very different, and I'd be willing to bet a lot of us won't be happy being the 2013 SF Giants.
Risky how? What's the worst case (non injury) scenario? That Bradley and Bogaerts have mediocre to bad rookie seasons and that instead of being in competition for the best record in the league and a World Series title, the team has to take a temporary step back and be merely decent? Oh the horror. When you consider that it is far from a given, and that it may be the price to pay to have Bogaerts and Bradley as dynamic forces on a team that has the potential to be one of the best in baseball for the better part of a decade, well, gee, sign me the fuck up.

The clock is certainly ticking on Ortiz. Lester could leave too. I know it's super fun to fantasize about this juggernaut homegrown team of 2016-2020 and all, but it's possible it won't work out....especially without a dominant hitter like Ortiz (and I doubt many of his caliber become available under current market circumstances).
Great googly moogly, if you think the counterargument is a fantasy about a juggernaut, you really are not paying attention. The point is to be very good for a long time, not to be super duper awesome good for a short time. The way the post season works, the best team in the game still has to go through three rounds of games to claim the title, and they're never more than about a 60-40 favorite in any of them. Getting more cracks at it is vastly more important than being the best when you get a crack.

There is a TON of valuable pitching talent in this organization. When I say splash, I'm simply advocating to turn some of it into a player or two who is more than an Ike Davis type player.
I dunno, Ike Davis looks like he could be pretty good to me.

You're talking about getting difference makers, and we all want those on the team, but those are the guys that you can't get cheaply. They're going to cost multiple valuable prospects. Meanwhile, there's a pretty decent chance Bogaerts is one of those guys in the near future.

I get the logic of why make a splash for the sake of it. By that same logic, why construct your entire roster from the clearance section, just because you presume other GMs are so incompetent that they might not care to make similar moves for their far-more-cash-strapped teams.
Nobody's talking about shopping in the bargain bin. We're talking about making judicial use of assets. I would like to see the Sox sign Brian McCann. That's hardly bargain bin, but it only costs money (and the one pick) and it certainly isn't making a splash for the sake of making a splash. It's targeting a specific need and retaining as much flexibility as possible.
 

The Boomer

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CaskNFappin said:
When you lose an Ellsbury caliber player at the top of your line up, you can expect a pretty substantial step backwards. I'm not saying we blow up the farm for a guy like CarGo, but I am saying that going into 2014 with Carp at 1B, JBJ in CF, WMB at 3B, X at SS, and Nava platooning in LF/1B is extremely risky. All of these guys could take a step back or not develop quickly enough. This was a year of best case scenarios.....including a ridiculous team BABIP. Next year could be very different, and I'd be willing to bet a lot of us won't be happy being the 2013 SF Giants.

The clock is certainly ticking on Ortiz. Lester could leave too. I know it's super fun to fantasize about this juggernaut homegrown team of 2016-2020 and all, but it's possible it won't work out....especially without a dominant hitter like Ortiz (and I doubt many of his caliber become available under current market circumstances).

There is a TON of valuable pitching talent in this organization. When I say splash, I'm simply advocating to turn some of it into a player or two who is more than an Ike Davis type player.

I get the logic of why make a splash for the sake of it. By that same logic, why construct your entire roster from the clearance section, just because you presume other GMs are so incompetent that they might not care to make similar moves for their far-more-cash-strapped teams.
 
Albert Pujols says hi.  Ellsbury is no Pujols but a smart organization like the Cardinals (I admire their approach even if they fell short this year) figures out how to overcome the loss of a Hall of Famer by bolstering  the team's performance in other areas.  It is smarter to spend money extending your own developed cost controlled players than overpaying the premium that free agents (most are on the verge of some measure of decline) will cost. Short term higher dollar contracts to older and less coveted but productively role playing veterans is another more effective approach. Beckett, Crawford and A Gonz say hi.  The Cardinals wouldn't have made the World Series without contributions from their many quality rookies and young players patiently given chances to adjust to the majors.  The same was true for the Sox with Iglesias and Bogaerts in particular opening eyes.  Middlebrooks, JBJ, Bogaerts and maybe Lavarnway are all lined up for what should be extended auditions that don't mercurially yank them out of the lineup at the first sign of a slump.
 
Chris Young, Hanrahan and possibly some other similarly cost effective veterans are usually available at reasonable prices to fill a team's transitional gaps. Although the moves didn't excite most fans when they were made, Cherington almost flawlessly unloaded his albatross contracts for supposed superstars (A Gonz, Crawford and Beckett).  He then replaced all of them with less glamorous but more reasonably priced role playing contributors like Nava, Gomes, Victorino, Napoli, Drew, Ross, Carp, Doubront and others.  More important than making a big splash, the Sox need to keep and acquire the right combination of competitive role players out to prove their worth rather than any more complacent overpaid big names.  The best teams are those that maximize contributions from their supporting casts rather than relying too heavily on just their stars.  The combined production next year from the combination of Bogaerts and JBJ can reasonably be predicted to approach, match or exceed the combined production of Ellsbury and Drew this year.
 
Middlebrooks can adequately contribute to the team with just his defense and power although his plate discipline is less than what the Sox optimally desire.  He can keep working on this deficiency with enough at bats.  If Napoli and Salty leave too, their losses aren't insurmountable either.  Combinations of Lavarnway, Nava, Carp, role playing free agents or trade acquisitions not yet known and upcoming prospects ought to minimize any loss to the team's performance.
 

Merkle's Boner

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I'm most intrigued with what they decide to do with the glut of pitchers. Within a year, maybe two, all of these guys will be ML-ready. I don't see them having all of Barnes, Rubby, Webster, Workman, Ranaudo, Britton, And Owens on the roster. So who they decide to use as trade chips, and how they package them, will be fascinating.
 

chrisfont9

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Merkle's Boner said:
I'm most intrigued with what they decide to do with the glut of pitchers. Within a year, maybe two, all of these guys will be ML-ready. I don't see them having all of Barnes, Rubby, Webster, Workman, Ranaudo, Britton, And Owens on the roster. So who they decide to use as trade chips, and how they package them, will be fascinating.
Well they seem to be at rather varied stages of development, so the pressure to promote guys might not create chaos with the ML roster, which will be losing Peavy and Dempster within a year, then probably Lackey in two years, along with the usual bullpen turnover.
 

Manramsclan

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Merkle's Boner said:
I'm most intrigued with what they decide to do with the glut of pitchers. Within a year, maybe two, all of these guys will be ML-ready. I don't see them having all of Barnes, Rubby, Webster, Workman, Ranaudo, Britton, And Owens on the roster. So who they decide to use as trade chips, and how they package them, will be fascinating.
 
I imagine that "the glut" won't be necessarily resolved by who they decide as trade chips but more realistically by attrition. I advocate keeping all of those pitchers hoping that one or two of them become better than major league average starters, and one or two of them are useful bullpen pieces. Realistically, there is a better chance of getting one of each (starter/late inning reliever) by keeping all 7 of them than by "deciding" which should go.  I'd rather let their talent and development decide who should stay.  
 
The Red Sox have bought themselves time with the Dempster and Peavy acquisitions, and to a lesser extent the extra year on the Lackey contract. I suggest they use it.
 

Drek717

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SS - Xander: I don't see how he isn't the starting SS for pretty much all of 2014.  Yesterday on MLB radio on Sirius XM they were talking about if there was a better all around raw talent in baseball than Puig, which turned into a Puig/Trumbo debate.  I think this time next year you'll see Bogaerts added to that discussion.  He hits for average, power, has plate discipline far beyond his years, and if he can hold up from a range standpoint has all the other tools to be a damn good shortstop.  He has prime years Nomar potential, and you can't worry about failure when that is the potential pay off.
 
3B - Middlebrooks: Honestly, not too different of an argument as Bogaerts.  He had a pretty aweful post-season (most hitters did in fact) and his August 2012 (very small sample) to June 2013 numbers make you want to puke.  But the first few months of 2012 and the last two of 2013?  That's a guy who is incredibly valuable at 3B assuming his defense rebounds.  I'm of the opinion that he likely wasn't close to 100% for a large portion of the 2013 campaign, hence why the lateral mobility and quickness we saw at 3B in 2012 was oddly abscent in 2013.  The Steamer projection for WMB next season is .260/.307/.460.  If he's that guy with league average or better defense at 3B he's pretty worthwhile.
 
More importantly, what do you do otherwise?  Sign Drew for too many years and move Bogaerts to 3B?  That devalues Bogaerts and I don't see how going by raw offensive production Drew is a better bet than WMB.  Drew's offensive value is tied to his ability to play SS.  If Bogaerts can play SS and WMB can play 3B (which it looks like both of them can at at least a league average level) there is no value in signing Drew to a multi-year deal for the Sox.
 
Beyond that, there is a realistic chance we can make a run at Chase Headley for only cash next winter.  San Diego isn't shopping him and instead trying to extend him because his value is down after his first half of 2012, but reportedly aren't close to striking a deal.  If the Sox are in it and WMB or Cecchini aren't holding up 3B at the deadline then make a run at Headley, otherwise give WMB and Cecchini the year to see what they've got and if we're still unsure at 3B next winter then make a run at Headley when he'll only cost money (and a draft pick).
 
CF - JBJ: If Ellsbury comes back, which I'm not ruling out as I think his market might not be as strong as we all thought it would be, then JBJ gets an extra year in AAA and is the first OF up when needed.  If Ellsbury leaves then I'd like to see the FO give him the CF job and see what he's got.  That said, if you can get Beltran on a 2 year deal I do that all day and have Bradley basically spell all three OF spots with regularity to keep Victorino and Beltran fresh all season long.
 
C - Lavarnway: I would personally like to see the Red Sox roll with Lavarnway and Ross to at catcher for 2014.  They haven't moved him to 1B yet so either they don't hate his defense that much or they don't think he's athletic enough to even play 1B, which seems unlikely.  If Salty can learn game calling over an off-season I don't see why Lavarnway can't and I also don't see how Lavarnway could be worse than Salty at pitch framing and throwing out runners.  In fact, Lavarnway's three worthwhile good sized AAA samples have his CS% at 36%, 32%, and 40%.  Salty's first cup of coffee in AAA saw him at about his ML career average of 27% and his biggest sample there, 2010, was horrible at 17%.  For comparison David Ross, a solid defender against the run, was at 35% for his slightly over one season of AAA ball before getting called up to the majors.
 
In addition to that Lavarnway's offensive skill set suggests that given a healthy sample size to adjust to ML pitching could result in him being an incredibly productive hitter compared to other catchers.  His minor league walk rate has always been >10% (except his first season of low A where it was 9.8%).  In the majors that has been 5.8%.  I would expect that to trend significantly upward.  His ML level K% is also higher than his mL numbers by quite a bit, another area where we're likely seeing a small sample size and lack of familiarity hiding his true talent level.  Up until this last year in AAA when he had much worse BABIP than normal for his career his BA has been incredibly stable at every level in the ~.285-.295 range.  He was at .299 this year in his small ML sample.  His power numbers have regressed from his 2011 season when he hit 34 home runs across AA, AAA, and the majors, but he hasn't fallen off the map completely in that regard and has continued to show good doubles power, so there is some good potential there.
 
So if Ryan Lavarnway has the potential to put up a slash line next year of ~.270/.350/.420, which seems pretty reasonable if his BABIP and walk rates are more in line with career norms, how isn't that incredibly good value for a pre-arb catcher?  The offensive potential, to me at least, demands that he gets a legitimate shot at establishing himself in the majors.  With Ross as the veteran stabilizer, Butler as a solid #3 option already on the 40 man and ready to ride the Pawtucket shuttle, and Vazquez likely making the step up to AAA anyway this seems like the ideal time.  We basically have three young catchers who all project to be ML ready within the next 12 months.  Of them one is an offense first guy with some defensive questions (Lavarnway), one is a defense first guy who had the projection of a strong #2 C until his breakout offensive performance in AAA last year (Butler) and the other is considered one of the elite defensive catchers in all the minor leagues who really took a step up at the plate with his first meaningful crack at AA last season on the heels of kicking the shit out of fall and winter league ball (Vazquez).  I see no reason to block any of these guys when the worst case scenario is rolling with Vazquez for the second half of 2014 on a la the 2004 Cardinals when they brought Yadi Molina up at 21 and let him learn how to hit at the ML level while reaping the rewards of his elite defense.
 
Given a little luck this might actually result in the Sox finding two good long term back stops out of the three before Swihart is even ready, removing the need for a FA acquisition next winter to replace Ross.  I don't see how anyone could be anything but excited about the catching potential in this organization, and I see no reason to block that with a veteran.  Lavarnway is first up, Butler on deck, and Vazquez is in the hole behind him.
 
1B - Carp (arb 2014, FA 2017): If Napoli will take a two year deal this is where I'd rather spend some money and get veteran stability.  I think Carp has real value going forward, but Napoli has been a key veteran leader on this club, was a very impressive defender at 1B for his first season there, and is a more known quantity.  Napoli's K% was higher than any other ML season while it and 2012 (when he wasn't 100% much of the season) are substanially higher than his career norms.  I think there is a reasonable chance that settling in to 1B full time and being able to focus more on his offense could result in a nice rebound there at least in the short term.  The added bonus wrinkle to bringing back Napoli?  He actually hit better away from Fenway this past season, which based on his career Fenway track records screams "FLUKE" to me.  If he's capable of a ~.860 OPS away from Fenway I think it's entirely possible we see the Fenway bump materialize for him next season, resulting in even better production from him in 2014.
 
All that said, I'd work some roster gymnastics to keep Mike Carp around.  If Nava regresses, Ortiz finally loses the battle with father time, or Napoli's hip explodes you'd be incredibly hard pressed to find a better offensive option than Mike Carp and that comes with even greater potential upside.  It'll make roster construction a little awkward, but I think you have to try and find a way to make it happen as long as Carp is cheap and your core power hitters are questionable due to age and a worisome hip condition respectively.  Long term I think Carp is an ideal replacement for Ortiz or Napoli, based on who hangs it up first, if the farm hasn't produced a better power alternative by then (which is entirely possible).  The one wrinkle here is if the FO could find a team willing to send a decent prospect for Carp once the Sox have locked up Napoli.  If so I'd probably take it and give Carp's role to Alex Hassan.  Seems unlikely though.
 
OF - Nava:  I see no reason to deviate from the Nava/Gomes platoon.  It was incredibly productive last year at a bargain bin price.  This is how you maximize the value of Fenway's short LF.
 
SP/RP - Workman, Webster, Owens, Webster, Ruby, Ranaudo, Britton?: I'd move one of the extra SPs, two if they sign Hudson, and have the majority of the youngsters competing for the 6-10th starter jobs, knowing that at least two of them will see significant work.  That said, I move Britton straight to the ML bullpen as I think he'll end up there ultimately anyway and his peripherals suggest a guy with the potential to be a dynamite LHRP who can pitch to both sides of the plate.  I also would also have Workman in the 'pen as well.  He might ultimately have more value as a SP but he was nails in the bullpen throughout the playoffs, he has strong command, and he can go multiple innings in relief.  That has significant value as well.  I'd reconsider his role after 2014 if we aren't feeling good about Webster, RDLR, Ranaudo, Barnes, Owens, etc. for the rotation openings we'll have available then.  Webster, Barnes, Ranaudo, and Owens obviously stick on the starter track.  RDLR gets the first half of the year to show that he's discovering his command before I'd move him to the bullpen and look to move him quickly to the majors.
 
Others (in 2015?) - Cecchini, Swihart, Brentz: Brentz missed a bunch of time last season and took a bit of a step back offensively with the  move to AAA so I'd plan to have him repeat the level for a full season.  Hassan and Castellanos both get the call up to the ML club sooner than him for me.  Ultimately I'd hope he has a strong 2014 in Pawtucket leading to him replacing Gomes as Nava's platoon partner for 2015 and when Victorino's deal then expires hopefully move him to RF if he is defensively capable of handling it.  He'll be in direct competition with Hassan and Castellanos for both the 2014 platoon job and the 2015 RF job, with one of the losers getting the 5th OF job as a consolation prize.
 
Swihart's future would be more or less entirely determined by how the 2014 catcher "try outs" go.  If two of the three guys emerge as legitimate ML catchers that likely removes any vacancy for Swihart and if he performs well in 2014 at AA he might have some very good value as a trade chip.  If only one or none of the guys we can try out in 2014 establish themselves then Swihart remains part of the Red Sox long term plan.  My personal hope is that by about 2016 the Red Sox catching position features two home grown talents sharing time at C, with the potential to also share the DH spot if they can both hit respectably well.  That should reduce the wear and tear that catchers normally experience.  The wrinkle with Swihart is his athleticism however.  If his offense matures, WMB flames out, and Cecchini either stalls or fails to stick at 3B I could definitely see moving Swihart to 3B if someone takes over the catching job full time before he's ready.
 
Cecchini is a guy I'd just let continue to do his thing.  If WMB takes over 3B then Cecchini would be looked at as the eventual 1B, LF, or DH replacement.  Maybe RF if his transition to the OF would allow it.  His contact and plate discipline are exceptional and he's got a big frame.  I wouldn't be surprised if he matures into a similar hitter as Youkilis in his prime years.  He's out-pacing Youkilis by a year while putting up similar splits at each step of the way.  Much like Youkilis I think he could see significant power growth once he makes it to the majors and also go from being a middling 3B to a gold glove caliber 1B.  His ETA also fits perfectly with the team's needs.  If WMB flames out Cecchini can finish developing as a hitter at 3B where the positional value will cover for some early growing pains.  If WMB takes over 3B long term then Cecchini gets an extra year or so of development (and likely actually see a real AAA season) before taking over in place of Napoli.
 
All in all I see a farm system that is currently lined up to meet the ML club's needs quite well positionally if the top prospects stay healthy and continue to mature, so I see no need to trade any of that.  It is too hard to fill SS, 3B, CF, and C via free agents or trade to give up guys who might fill those positions at bargain prices for 6+ years.  After 2014 we should have a better picture as to who is expendable here.
 
The pitching depth is where I would be flexible with making trades.  Not only is the MLB roster set 1-5, I'd say the AAA roster likely is as well with Webster, RDLR, Ranaudo, Barnes, and Steven Wright as your 1-5.  That also ignores Owens who is clearly on a fast track to the majors if he keeps pitching like he has and will start the year in AA.  On top of that the low minors are flush with guys like Johnson and Diaz who both could make the jump to AA next season with promising prospects in Ball, Stankiewicz, Buttrey, Callahan, etc. all on their way up.  The SP pool has a ton of good arms on their way up so thinning the AAA herd isn't the end of the world.  My only issue with it is that I don't know what position I'd even want to trade for.  I'd rather roll with our own prospects and see how the first half of 2014 goes.  Maybe the SP depth becomes a valuable commodity if we need to trade for something at the deadline.
 

Joshv02

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Jul 15, 2005
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CaskNFappin said:
(and I doubt many of his caliber become available under current market circumstances).
With a plea to that people not take this out of context (no, not all of these players are "the caliber" of Oritz, and yes, I see the word "many" in the above quote): Over the last 3 years, there are about 45 top ten hitters in their respective leagues (less than 60 b/c of repeats, eye balling top 10 in offensive WARP and comparing with top 10 in RCs).  Among that group, I count 9 players who were, at one point, fairly cheaply obtained from another organization:
 
Chris Davis
Shin-soo Choo
Ben Zobrist
Jose Bautista
Josh Donaldson (though you could quibble with my description, I tend to think of him as a fungible piece in the Harden deal)
Edwin Encarnacion
Aaron Hill (though, again you could quibble)
Mike Napoli (obviously, not the Red Sox acquisition)
Ortiz (!)
 
We can quibble over the gradations -- how cheap was it to trade Ben Broussard in the middle of a career year from a loosing team; what was Aubrey Huff worth, should we go back to include Uggla, Victorino, Hamilton -- but, there always have been diamonds found in the rough, and there always will be.  It isn't easy, but it will happen to another team in the next few years, and then again, and then again.
 
Humans don't stop making mistakes just because now they also give millions of dollars to 22 year olds. 
 

Merkle's Boner

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Apr 24, 2011
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Manramsclan said:
 
I imagine that "the glut" won't be necessarily resolved by who they decide as trade chips but more realistically by attrition. I advocate keeping all of those pitchers hoping that one or two of them become better than major league average starters, and one or two of them are useful bullpen pieces. Realistically, there is a better chance of getting one of each (starter/late inning reliever) by keeping all 7 of them than by "deciding" which should go.  I'd rather let their talent and development decide who should stay.  
 
The Red Sox have bought themselves time with the Dempster and Peavy acquisitions, and to a lesser extent the extra year on the Lackey contract. I suggest they use it.
The problem with waiting is you potentially destroy value.  Their unrealized potential is what creates value in the trade market.  It is certainly the safer way to go, because you are assured of not trading away the best of the bunch.  I really don't know how to rank these guys in terms of value, but I sure as hell know they have value to other teams, and I would imagine for some of them that value will diminish over the next few years.  If the Sox don't see Ranaudo, as an example, being a part of their rotation within the next few years, I think they have to see what they can get for him now, because I'm sure other teams can envision him in their rotation.
 
IMO, each of Barnes, RDLR, Workman, Ranaudo, Britton, and Webster, could be a starter in the ML at some point next season.  That doesn't mean they all will be, but I sure as hell know they won't all be starting for the Sox.  Young, cost-controlled starting pitching is one of the most valuable assets a team can have, and I imagine packaging two of them can bring back a pretty healthy return.
 

ivanvamp

captain obvious
Jul 18, 2005
6,104
What areas are the Sox likely to see some drop-off in offensive performance, and where could they see some improvement?
 
C - Salty (118 ops+, 2.9 bWAR), Ross (86 ops+, 0.7 bWAR); Sox catchers put up a .787 ops (#3 in MLB).  I thought that re-signing Salty would be a no-brainer, but it's looking like it's a real possibility that they'll move on.  Maybe Ruiz?  As much as Salty struggled in the postseason, the fact is that replacing a 118 ops+ and 2.9 WAR at the position won't be easy.  Ruiz has posted an average of a 117 ops+ and 3.0 bWAR the past three seasons, so if that's the play then I think all it would be for is a cost savings, theoretically, but the expected production wouldn't be really any of an improvement.  The only option here would be McCann, but even McCann's last 3 seasons have given him a 108 ops+ and 1.9 bWAR on average.  So it's going to be very difficult to replace Salty with something more productive, and I like McCann. Consider this position, at best, to be no loss, no gain.
 
1b - Napoli (129 ops+, 4.1 bWAR), Carp (140 ops+, 1.3 bWAR); Sox 1b put up an .841 ops (#7 in MLB).  Here's where I would have liked to have seen them try for the potential masher in Abreu, but that didn't work out.  So at this point there probably aren't many quality alternatives that can produce what Napoli did.  Despite all his various struggles this year, a 129 ops+ and 4.1 bWAR is solid, especially given the relatively inexpensive cost for that production.  And Carp spelled Napoli very nicely.  I honestly see no reason why this can't work out again in 2014…maybe Carp doesn't quite do what he did, but I'd also expect Napoli to perhaps turn some of those career-high 38 doubles into a few more homers.  But again, I don't see any real loss or gain, so long as they re-sign Napoli, which I think most of us expect to happen.  But if they don't, then this becomes a potential hole.
 
2b - Pedroia (116 ops+, 6.5 bWAR).  He's one of the best in the game, and even though he didn't hit for many homers, his overall production was solid.  As his thumb heals, I expect more power moving forward, so honestly, this is one area where I think the Sox can see marginal improvement.
 
3b - Middlebrooks (88 ops+, -0.1 bWAR).  Sox' 3b had a .683 ops last year, good for 21st in MLB.  This is one area where I expect to see significant improvement, even if all it is is Middlebrooks playing there all season.  The Sox' 3b line for the season was:  .242/.288/.395/.683, 20 hr, 79 rbi.  Middlebrooks hit .227/.271/.425/.696, with 17 hr, 49 rbi in just 348 ab.  Project those numbers over, say, 600 ab, and you get 29 hr, 84 rbi.  So I think just Middlebrooks alone improves the offense.  And if he does improve, as I expect he will, he could put up 30+ hr, 90+ rbi, and an ops of .800 or better.  So I think 3b can be a place where the Sox see an upgrade.
 
SS - Drew (111 ops+, 3.1 bWAR).  Sox' SS had a .771 ops, good for 4th in MLB.  On the one hand, it seems like it would be very difficult to replace this production, but this is one area where I think they can.  Two reasons:  First, if Drew stays, then I think he'll do better himself than he did last year.  But if he goes, then I think Bogaerts has the potential to improve substantially on these numbers, despite being a rookie.  However, it's also possible that they turn the job over to him and he experiences what most rookies do:  some struggles.  And that means that they don't match last year's SS production.  This one could go either way.
 
LF - Nava (128 ops+, 2.9 bWAR), Gomes (111 ops+, 1.2 bWAR).  Sox' LF were 3rd in MLB with a .790 ops.  So that's going to be hard to replace.  Will the same guys put up the same numbers if you just keep this platoon in place?  it's possible.  Here are their career splits:  
 
  • Nava vs. RHP:  .292/.390/.443/.833
  • Gomes vs. LHP:  .277/.377/.502/.879
 
So it's not unrealistic at all for me to think that if they just leave LF as it is, they could even potentially get better production out of that position.  It's an ideal platoon situation - both guys seem to understand their roles and seem to be ok with it.  That said, they could potentially upgrade here by gong after Choo or Beltran.  We'll see.
 
CF - Ellsbury (114 ops+, 5.8 bWAR).  This one will be the most difficult position to deal with.  Ellsbury is a very good player, but he's going to cost a fortune.  Do the Sox pay the price?  Even if they do, there's no guarantee that Jacoby will reproduce these numbers again.  He had a terrific season.  But what are the options if he leaves?  You could move Victorino to CF and sign a corner OF (Beltran, Hart, Choo, etc.), but that seriously weakens the defense (and Ellsbury had a 1.9 dWAR last year) in two spots, and the offense has to give you a 114 ops+ again just to make that part even.  I don't see it happening.  They could simply slide JBJ in there, and while I think it makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons, it's almost certain that in 2014, at least, he won't be putting up these Ellsbury-type numbers.  So I expect a significant drop off in CF production.
 
RF - Victorino (119 ops+, 6.2 bWAR).  Let's face it:  the guy had a great 2013 season.  Even in the postseason, where he really struggled, he still had some of the biggest hits of all.  At his age, I do not see him reproducing these numbers.  He won't have to to still be a very good and valuable player, but nonetheless, I expect a drop off here.  And there's really no way to replace that, unless he's moving to CF and another guy slides into the RF spot.
 
DH - Ortiz (160 ops+, 4.4 bWAR).  Again, it'll be very hard to replace Papi's bat, even with David Ortiz himself.  Will he put up this line again:  .309/.395/.564/.959, 30 hr, 103 rbi?  It's possible, especially if he plays that extra month that he sat out last year.  But it's not likely.  Why?  Here are his last four seasons, which are his resurgence years:  137 ops+, 154 ops+, 173 ops+, 160 ops+.  The 173 came in just 324 ab.  I know he's hitting lefties much better the past few years, but averaging all that out comes to a 154 ops+.  So I expect him to be good, and the best DH in the league, but I still think it's totally reasonable to expect a drop off from last year.  
 
So offensively, there aren't many places to improve, really.  And that's not terribly surprising, because they aren't built around a couple of mega stars and then bit players, so you can't just say, look, if they replace the bit players they'll be amazing.  They had excellent contributions up and down the roster, so it's hard to see too many places where improvement is reasonable to expect.  
 
I think you live with the decreased production at CF and C, hope that you get more out of SS and 3b with some combination of Drew/Bogaerts/Middlebrooks, hope that Pedroia hits for more power, that Napoli returns, and that Gomes and Nava do what they do, and you figure you're looking at roughly the same number of runs being scored.
 
And that leaves the pitching.  I think we can expect more from the pitching.  Lester seems to have just turned a corner (if you can say that given his first 4-5 years in the majors), so I expect a better 2014 out of him.  I hope Clay gives them more innings.  I think Lackey will be just fine.  And I think we can expect more from Doubront.  Moreover, I prefer Peavey in the #5 slot over Dempster, but I think Tanaka or Hudson would improve that spot even more.  So I think the starting pitching can be improved pretty quickly as well.  As for the bullpen?  Well it'll be impossible for Koji to repeat his historically great 2013 season, but even a "normal" Koji has produced a 2.42 era, 0.83 whip, 10.4 k/9 (his career averages).  So if "all" he gives them is that, that's pretty great.  And I think Taz and Workman will improve and hopefully Miller stays healthy.  So I think the bullpen can be even better.
 
 
Long story shorter, I think the Sox can be very good next year without blowing up the bridge, but I wouldn't be shy about trading away a few of their assets if they can make a real improvement somewhere.
 

Montana Fan

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Nice breakdown Drek! Always look forward to reading your posts. I like the path Ben C is taking the Sox on and hope that it will continue along the lines you're suggesting.
 

chrisfont9

Member
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Drek717 said:
 
SS - Xander: I don't see how he isn't the starting SS for pretty much all of 2014.  Yesterday on MLB radio on Sirius XM they were talking about if there was a better all around raw talent in baseball than Puig, which turned into a Puig/Trumbo debate.  I think this time next year you'll see Bogaerts added to that discussion.  He hits for average, power, has plate discipline far beyond his years, and if he can hold up from a range standpoint has all the other tools to be a damn good shortstop.  He has prime years Nomar potential, and you can't worry about failure when that is the potential pay off.
 
3B - Middlebrooks: Honestly, not too different of an argument as Bogaerts.  He had a pretty aweful post-season (most hitters did in fact) and his August 2012 (very small sample) to June 2013 numbers make you want to puke.  But the first few months of 2012 and the last two of 2013?  That's a guy who is incredibly valuable at 3B assuming his defense rebounds.  I'm of the opinion that he likely wasn't close to 100% for a large portion of the 2013 campaign, hence why the lateral mobility and quickness we saw at 3B in 2012 was oddly abscent in 2013.  The Steamer projection for WMB next season is .260/.307/.460.  If he's that guy with league average or better defense at 3B he's pretty worthwhile.
 
More importantly, what do you do otherwise?  Sign Drew for too many years and move Bogaerts to 3B?  That devalues Bogaerts and I don't see how going by raw offensive production Drew is a better bet than WMB.  Drew's offensive value is tied to his ability to play SS.  If Bogaerts can play SS and WMB can play 3B (which it looks like both of them can at at least a league average level) there is no value in signing Drew to a multi-year deal for the Sox.
 
Yeah, I think WMB's potential value, if he develops, as a Troy Glaus replica is too great for the Sox not to explore further. Obviously he has some developing to do, and there has been endless discussion about what the numbers tell us is likely in that regard, but that kind of power? You don't want to give up too quickly.
 

KillerBs

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Nov 16, 2006
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Merkle's Boner said:
The problem with waiting is you potentially destroy value.  Their unrealized potential is what creates value in the trade market.  It is certainly the safer way to go, because you are assured of not trading away the best of the bunch.  I really don't know how to rank these guys in terms of value, but I sure as hell know they have value to other teams, and I would imagine for some of them that value will diminish over the next few years.  If the Sox don't see Ranaudo, as an example, being a part of their rotation within the next few years, I think they have to see what they can get for him now, because I'm sure other teams can envision him in their rotation.
 
IMO, each of Barnes, RDLR, Workman, Ranaudo, Britton, and Webster, could be a starter in the ML at some point next season.  That doesn't mean they all will be, but I sure as hell know they won't all be starting for the Sox.  Young, cost-controlled starting pitching is one of the most valuable assets a team can have, and I imagine packaging two of them can bring back a pretty healthy return.
 
This is an important point, but I am not sure it applies to the young pitchers. The value of Ranaudo, Webster, Britton, Barnes, delaRosa etc, all stand to increase if they domininate in Pawtucket next year. This is not to say they all don't have considerable trade value now, only that I do not think there needs to be any impetus to deal them this off  season because there is no obvious place for them on the ML team in April 2014.
 
That being said, the task here is to deal from areas of excess to fill areas of need, and aside from young catchers, our other potential surplus is in young (nearly) ready for prime time young pitchers.
 
The concern re decreasing the trade value of a young player by blocking them with a vet is, I think, a more valid point re Lavarnway and Middlebrooks. The ship may already sailed in this respect re Lavarnway. It seems his trade value has plummeted in the last 12 months, in part due to the Sox apparent reluctance to let even be a #2 catcher at the ML level and in part due to his  dissapointing year at the bat with PAW.  Today, he stands as an example of how not to intergrate top propsects onto the ML league team or otherwise maximize their value.  
 
On WMB, the key decision is upon us. If the Sox do not have enough faith in him to give him the FT 3B job out of spring training, then his value on the trade market will also decline precipitously. 
 

Rovin Romine

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Rovin Romine said:
With than in mind we have the following kids ready to cross the bridge, or recross it, or stay where they are.  ("Kids" being defined as cost-controlled players who have a good chance to contribute real value at the ML level, not classical "prospects" per se.)
 
SS - Xander
3B - Middlebrooks
CF - JBJ
C - Lavarnway
1B - Carp (arb 2014, FA 2017)
OF - Nava
OF - Hassan
 
SP/RP - Workman, Webster, Owens, Ruby, Ranaudo, Britton, Doubront, Morales, Barnes
 
Others (in 2015?) - Cecchini, Swihart, Brentz
 
I added a few pitcher names.  Thusfar the general consensus seems to be that nearly all of these players are worth hanging onto, with the possible exception of Lavarnway.  
 
That sort of brings me to the crux of why the path forward for the Sox is tough to chart.  I'm not an expert on service time and when the arb years kick in on any given player, but it seems we're approaching something of a crunch - we can stash everyone at AAA for however long, but sooner or later we'll want to call players up or trade them.  
 
I think pitching will largely sort itself out.  If you have a bunch of young cost controlled starters, you can always play them, trade them, or dump the underperforming vets (subsidized trade option for this.)  People always need pitching, and even if you DFA your #5 or #6 starter, you're doing it because you've got a better (essentially free) option in house which you can't afford not to play. 
 
I'm a little concerned with the tack the front office might go with their starters though.  Assuming all those guys listed above cross the bridge and give us good production, we'll be near league minimum salary (or under 2 mil a slot) for:
 
C   Ross (Lavarnway)
1B Carp (Hassan)/
2B Pedroia 
SS Xander
3B WMB
LF Nava/Gomes
CF JBJ
RF Victorino
DH Ortiz 
 
That would be the new core you spend around.  The big question mark seems to be 1B, DH (power bats). 
 

IdiotKicker

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Nov 21, 2005
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The other thing to point out is that young players are not simply valuable because they're cheap.  If their production is weak, you end up having to overpay for wins elsewhere on the diamond if you are still trying to be a contender.  So playing a young guy simply because he is cheap and cost-controlled doesn't necessarily do a ton for you.  Young players are most valuable when they provide surplus value, because then you do not need to seek wins on the open market.  That's why Xander is such a huge piece going forward.  It's that the surplus value he will produce, particularly in his first 2-3 years has the potential to be a huge boon to the franchise.  Lavarnway on the other hand, given his production the last couple years, may end up not providing the necessary production, which could mean having to go out and give up other cost-controlled assets later on in order to acquire someone with adequate production.
 
A guy like Lavarnway may be more valuable to a team with greater payroll limitations.  And in those situations, I'd recommend moving prospects in order to pick up improvements where you really need them.  But for the Sox, with the desire to be competitive each year, arb/pre-arb guys and low-level free agents need to produce surplus value.  Look at the 2004 and 2007 teams.  The 2004 team had Millar, Mueller, Bellhorn, and Ortiz producing 9 WAR for about $10M.  The 2007 team got 7.6 WAR from Pedroia and Youkilis for less than $1M.  So if Ryan Lavarnway can produce somewhere north of 1.5 WAR next year, I am all for it.  But if that value isn't there, it simply doesn't make sense if you want to have a championship caliber team.  There may be a place for him on another team, but given the goals of this franchise, I don't know if he's the best fit next year.  In short, while some franchises can develop players over longer time horizons, the Sox simply do not have that luxury in most cases.  It's not ideal, but that is the tradeoff you have for wanting to compete every year.
 
Looking at other pieces in this way, here's what I would do:
 
I start Xander and JBJ with the team next year.  I think both of them have the ability to provide tremendous value over the next few years.  JBJ doesn't scare me at all, we all remember how badly Pedroia sucked at the start of '07.
 
I look to make Cecchini, Swihart, and Vasquez the core of the next group I'm bringing up.
 
I'm open to the idea of moving Rubby, Barnes, Webster, and Hassan, as I think they have the potential to contribute early on in their careers, but with less certainty.
 
I look to make Owens, Brentz, and Ranaudo key pieces in any trade.  I do not think their skillsets present the case for an early positive contribution.
 

67WasBest

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This franchise is in a position to do what few others can.  They can compete annually, maintain a reasonable salary structure that places them well below the LT cap, and have the prospect base to consummate any deal they choose.
 
When this position is applied to the Rule of 3rds that Theo spoke of so often, it points to a team adding few new players this off season.  My ideal add would be Jason Castro at Catcher.  Assuming one of the top rated prospects would be required, or a mid level pitcher with Lavarnway, the team would look like this to start 2014
 
Victorino RF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Napoli 1B (assumed as a foregone conclusion based on all the reports)
Castro C
Bogaerts SS
Nava / Gomes LF
Middlebrooks 3B
Bradley CF
 
The 6 starters return and Workman starts in Pawtucket waiting for the inevitable call to backfill someone.
 
That team can compete, and with the kids, can make about any deal required at the deadline. 
 
Should the net loss of prospects for 2014 be two for Castro, and one for a mid season add, they would end 2014 with a net zero impact to the system because they will have added 3 of the top 50 prospects with their draft picks.  Should they decide to deal a starter for a prospect before the season starts, they could actually finish 2014 with 1 more prospect than they have presently. 
 
Of course, if Stanton is available, make the package required (likely 4, possibly 5 prospects), and get it done.  Then deal Nava and a pitcher to backfil the prospect list.
 
Really have to like how they are positioned right now.
 
Edit: spelling
 

Super Nomario

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Drek717 said:
The more important point though is that my argument isn't to roll the dice on Lavarnway, it's to let Lavarnway, Butler, and Vazquez compete. Lavarnway gets first crack obviously but I could see Vazquez wowing in ST and taking over from day one. He and Butler are considered strong defenders across the board so even if Lavarnway isn't up to the task we have two other young catchers and David Ross to go with as well.
I'm interested in what you mean by "compete." Are you basing it off spring training results? Are you really going to let Vazquez skip AAA entirely if he looks good and Lavarnway and Butler scuffle? What if he pulls a JBJ, looking good in spring but then getting off to a lousy start? How long do you run with him? What is it going to do to your pitching staff if your starting catcher has to be demoted after a couple months and another young guy has to try to learn on the fly? It's one thing to say, "one of these guys will probably be good enough"; it's another thing to be confident in your ability to find out which one it is before his negative performance has had an impact on the 2014 squad.
 
I don't have a problem with this in the outfield, letting JBJ compete with Gomes and Nava and FA X or whatever, but this approach at catcher seems like a big risk. And I'm a lot more bearish on these guys than you are; I don't think Lavarnway is a 50/50 proposition to be a decent starting C and I'd put Butler and Vazquez quite a bit behind that.
 
Drek717 said:
I just see no reason to spend resources (money or prospects) for a catcher when we have a AAA bottleneck as is and short of overpaying for McCann (in money and years) or Salty (in years most likely) none of the other options are particularly better bets.
A AAA bottleneck is a good thing to have, not a problem to be solved, and trying to solve it at the expense of the major league squad seems like a backwards approach to me.
 

Drek717

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Dec 23, 2003
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The Boomer said:
 
Who among the 4 Sox free agents comes back is uncertain.  The Sox might bring back 1 or 2 (but probably not all 3) if the prices are right.  If not, they will let some or maybe all of them walk and go with their other options.
 
I'm of the opinion that they aren't particularly interested in Drew and that Boras is the source for the few media types claiming they still are.  The Sox have talked up Bogaerts' ability to stick at SS all year, if he doesn't start there he won't be moving there in 3-4 years time.  If they think he can play SS and want to maximize his value based on his ability to play SS while not blocking WMB and Cecchini off from their most valuable positions permanently he's got to play SS in 2014.
 
I think they view Napoli as their biggest target simply because he won't command too many years, likely will see similar or better production should the expected Fenway bounce arrive for him in year 2, the only in-house options are Carp (reclamation project) and Hassan (also plays the OF corners) and his offensive impact is second to only Ellsbury of the FA crop at a fraction of the years.
 
Salty only returns if he takes a very team friendly two year deal.  I think they've made it clear that they do not value him highly enough to stall the arrival of Vazquez and Swihart on his behalf.  Some team will give him 3-4 years at more money per year than the Sox would have entertained at 2.
 
Ellsbury is the wild card to me.  If he ends up getting a Jose Reyes 6/$106M deal or something similar I think he's back in Boston and they'll let Bradley get some extra AAA seasoning before replacing Victorino long term in RF.
 

Merkle's Boner

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While I'm a card-carrying member in the Xander at SS Club, I do realize there is a "less than zero" chance he ends up not being capable defensively at that position, necessitating the need to move him elsewhere. I don't want them to allocate major resources to Drew, but they do need a defensive-minded backup who can step in if it's becoming apparent Xander doesn't have the defensive chops for SS. Is a Johnny Mac that guy? Would we be comfortable with him getting 300 or so plate appearances? I'm not so sure and it makes me wonder what they're thinking for that utility position, given the chance it gets a lot more action than it has in some years.
 

Hagios

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Dec 15, 2007
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chrisfont9 said:
This is kind of a dilemma. In soccer, they just loan out developing players to teams where their development years can be tolerated. In baseball, you get the extremes like the Yankees (completely intolerant of development) and the rebuilding teams or the small-market teams (Rays, I suppose, though they only seem to bring up guys who are primed). The Sox want to be a team which reaps the rewards of careful development, but are they really capable of being patient with a guy like Lavarnway, who might suddenly become an impact player in 2015 or so? They certainly weren't willing to stick it out with Lowrie.
 
That's exactly right. To make it more concrete, suppose you have a team of young cost-controlled players who are, on aggregate, worth about 50 to 55 WAR and a total payroll of $90 million. But unlike the Rays, your team budget approximately $170 million. How do you get an extra 10 to 15 WAR for that money?
 
This makes me think that young cheap 2 WAR position players are worth less to the Red Sox than they are to the Rays. If you want to improve your team you do it by replacing a 2 WAR player with a 4 WAR player. That also seems to bear on the JBJ vs. Ellsbury debate. Ellbury seems reasonably safe to average 4 WAR over a five year contract even if you are skeptical of his age. So if you think JBJ will only be a 2 WAR guy then he probably isn't worth it to the Red Sox. I suppose you could argue that the money saved on JBJ could be put elsewhere, but players are not fungible commodities and there are only a few ways to do this. (Pitchers are more fungible).
 

lxt

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Sep 12, 2012
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Rovin Romine said:
 
There was a lot of talk about 2013 being a bridge year - something to hold us over until the younger prospects arrived. 
 
Many of the off-season threads seem to want to trade prospects for veterans, perhaps to make another post-season run.  
 
With than in mind we have the following kids ready to cross the bridge, or recross it, or stay where they are.  ("Kids" being defined as cost-controlled players who have a good chance to contribute real value at the ML level, not classical "prospects" per se.)
 
SS - Xander
3B - Middlebrooks
CF - JBJ
C - Lavarnway
1B - Carp (arb 2014, FA 2017)
OF - Nava
 
SP/RP - Workman, Webster, Owens, Webster, Ruby, Ranaudo, Britton?
 
Others (in 2015?) - Cecchini, Swihart, Brentz
 
***
Lavarnway seems like a chip at this point - if they haven't given him the keys yet, nor moved him to 1B, it seems unlikely the Sox will really want to hold onto him if he has trade value.  (If no real trade value, he makes a decent insurance policy type catcher at AAA).
 
People seem down on WMB, but apparently the Sox want to hold onto him.  
 
***
So my questions are - who do we hold onto?  Who do we wait for?  How long do we wait?
 
 
If there is a way to leave things as they are and remain competitive I'm all for it. Other than catching there is a great deal this team can do with what they have. A tweak here or there to strengthen the bench (versatile utility IF) and maybe adding an experience short relief arm is all that could be needed.
 
The core veterans (Papi, Pedroia, Victorino, Lester, Uehara) provide a solid foundation from which the prospects can be given an opportunity to prove themselves and learn. The versatility of the positional player provides enough flexibility to cover for a player who struggles and needs sometime to reorient themselves. The same could be said for the pitching staff. There are several players who can fill holes throughout the staff (for example, Workman as a starter, LR or locking down the 8th).
 
Now, if someone offered a CarGo, Stanton, Tulowitzki or Wright as some have suggested here and on other forums then I may consider letting a few of the prospects/players go. However, it is not a requirement.
 
Give them next year to prove themselves and then decide what needs to be done. At a minimum give them until the trade deadline, they'll be player available that can be added to fill a hole that has developed.
 
With a real catcher this team has the potential of winning 92 games, with some luck 95. If everything goes arye then we settle for 86 wins and a great deal of knowledge of what is needed and where we need to do it.
 

JakeRae

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Merkle's Boner said:
While I'm a card-carrying member in the Xander at SS Club, I do realize there is a "less than zero" chance he ends up not being capable defensively at that position, necessitating the need to move him elsewhere. I don't want them to allocate major resources to Drew, but they do need a defensive-minded backup who can step in if it's becoming apparent Xander doesn't have the defensive chops for SS. Is a Johnny Mac that guy? Would we be comfortable with him getting 300 or so plate appearances? I'm not so sure and it makes me wonder what they're thinking for that utility position, given the chance it gets a lot more action than it has in some years.
Defense doesnt magically get harder in MLB. If his minor league defense says he is capable of playing short, he is capable of playing short. Even if he starts to bulk out and slow down to where he has to move,that is unlikely to be an overnight process. I can understand worrying about offense and pitching translating, but defense is different. Bogaerts is the starting shortstop next season for the entire season unless he gets hurt.
 

Tyrone Biggums

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Aug 15, 2006
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Rovin Romine said:
There was a lot of talk about 2013 being a bridge year - something to hold us over until the younger prospects arrived. 
 
Many of the off-season threads seem to want to trade prospects for veterans, perhaps to make another post-season run.  
 
With than in mind we have the following kids ready to cross the bridge, or recross it, or stay where they are.  ("Kids" being defined as cost-controlled players who have a good chance to contribute real value at the ML level, not classical "prospects" per se.)
 
SS - Xander
3B - Middlebrooks
CF - JBJ
C - Lavarnway
1B - Carp (arb 2014, FA 2017)
OF - Nava
 
SP/RP - Workman, Webster, Owens, Webster, Ruby, Ranaudo, Britton?
 
Others (in 2015?) - Cecchini, Swihart, Brentz
 
***
Lavarnway seems like a chip at this point - if they haven't given him the keys yet, nor moved him to 1B, it seems unlikely the Sox will really want to hold onto him if he has trade value.  (If no real trade value, he makes a decent insurance policy type catcher at AAA).
 
People seem down on WMB, but apparently the Sox want to hold onto him.  
 
***
So my questions are - who do we hold onto?  Who do we wait for?  How long do we wait?
 
The guys in my opinion that are non starters in a trade discussion are Swihart Owens and Xander. I really like the way that Swihart has developed his game and Owens looks to be the only pitcher in our organization that could potentially be that ace.

As far as the guys that you trade there are different levels. For example you only trade someone such as De La Rosa (I'm still extremely high on him), Bradley and Cecchini if you're being overwhlemed and can use them in a package to get an established star such as Stanton. Players like Barnes Betts Lavarnway and Webster could go either way at this point. They've had mixed results and in Betts case he was the only one who showed dramatic improvement this year.

It's almost impossible to write out a lineup card for 2016 or say who will be in the rotation by that time. Prospects flame out and get traded all the time.