For the early part of the year, pitching was undoubtedly the problem for this team. Up until late July, the Red Sox had one of the most powerful and dynamic offenses in the league even through dealing with countless injuries throughout the season. All that changed when David Ortiz hurt his ankle rounding second base on a home run ball. For all practical purposes, he’s been out for the rest of the season, and the results have not been pretty for the Red Sox offense. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting ways that the Red Sox can contend in 2013– starting with the offense, then going to pitch, and finally management.
1) Re-Sign David Ortiz- In the second half of this season, it’s been as clear as ever that the Red Sox need Ortiz healthy to have an effective lineup. It would be foolish for them not to re-sign the designated hitter, giving him what he wants– a multiple year contract. They should sign the 36 year old Ortiz for a 2 or 3 year contract worth $10-15 million a year. Even though he is getting older, Ortiz has proven that even at his advanced age, he can still hit with the best of them. At the time of his injury, he had batted .318/.415/.611 with 23 home runs and 60 RBIs through 90 games. Ortiz should be back in 2013, playing designated hitter and batting third on Opening Day.
2) Re-Sign Cody Ross- Since Ortiz has been out, it’s been up to the other veterans on the team to carry the offense and Ross has certainly been part of the mix. The veteran outfielder is currently batting .267/.326/.481 in his 126 games in 2012. The 31 year old Ross is perfect for Fenway Park as his pull-hitting ways have led to 22 home runs and 34 doubles for the Red Sox. Without further additions, Jacoby Ellsbury will be the only proven outfielder guaranteed to return in 2013. Having Ross manning right field in 2013 could be a huge step forward for this offense.
3) Acquire A New First Baseman- I’ve got nothing against the youngsters that have played for the Red Sox this year, as both Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias are probably big pieces of the future in Boston. However, chances are that Mauro Gomez and James Loney are not and with first base being a premium offensive position, the Red Sox are going to need some help if they hope to contend. The free agent market is weak, but guys like Mike Napoli, Adam LaRoche, and Lance Berkman could help quite a bit.
Although he could get a very large contract considering this weak market, I really like Adam LaRoche. Throughout his career, he’s been a very good, underrated player and that has continued in 2012, as he’s put up a .271/.343/.510 slash line to go with 33 home runs and 100 RBIs for the division-leading Nationals. LaRoche could play pepper with that Green Monster, considering his opposite field power and he could be a great fit for the Red Sox. Allegedly, he’s a good guy who could help an ailing clubhouse and I’d be thrilled if the Red Sox could snatch him up on a 2-3 year contract worth around $10-12 million annually.
Even if the Red Sox can’t catch the big fish in LaRoche, though, they’ll still need to pick up another first baseman. One guy I especially like is Mike Napoli, as the Red Sox could probably pick him up on a short, cheap deal like 1 year/$5-8 million after a down year in 2012. Following a career year in 2011 that saw Napoli bat .320/.414/.631 with 30 home runs, he’s fallen to .227/.343/.469 with 24 home runs and 56 RBIs. However, a move to Fenway Park would likely boost the righty’s numbers and he could even pitch in at catcher.
4) Acquire A Left Fielder- The trade of Carl Crawford has opened up a slot in left field that isn’t likely to be filled by an internal option. Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish are decent backup options, but neither is a starter on a contending team. If the Red Sox plan on contending and following my guidelines, they should go to either the free agent or trade market.
The free agent market is top heavy with Josh Hamilton and Ryan Ludwick, but beyond them, there’s not much to look at there. However, one underrated player that’s put up a very respectable 2012 season is Jonny Gomes. In 97 games with Oakland, he batted .262/.377/.491 with 18 home runs. Formerly a defensive butcher, he’s made progress this year and while still below average, isn’t terrible. He provides a good OBP guy who, as a right-handed power hitter, could get Cody Ross fever and hit very well in Fenway.
However, on the trade market, the Red Sox could likely net themselves a very good player if they payed the right price. Alex Gordon is a good player who fits all the right categories: he could potentially be traded, he’s not so elite that they would have to deplete their farm system, and he’s a very good left fielder. Gordon had a ton of hype heading into his major league career, but didn’t really get going until 2011, when he batted .303/.376/.502 and won a Gold Glove. He’s been good again this year, going .294/.368/.455 with 14 home runs. The Red Sox could probably get him for two or three good prospects.
If the Red Sox were to make all of these moves, I suggested, here’s how their lineup would look next year: Napoli C, LaRoche 1B, Pedroia 2B, Iglesias SS, Middlebrooks 3B, Gordon (vs righties)/Gomes (vs lefties) LF, Ellsbury CF, Ross RF, Ortiz DH. The Red Sox could twist that into a pretty solid lineup of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, LaRoche, Middlebrooks, Gordon, Ross, Napoli, Iglesias. Now, if that’s not a contending lineup, I don’t know what is.