Our staff at BSI has agreed to do a little series of “play GM”. Each of us will do a post and give our own personal take on what we’d do if we were in GM Ben Cherington’s shoes. The following post is my take on what I’d do this coming offseason if I were the GM of the Boston Red Sox.
Here are the ten things I’d addressed if I were Ben Cherington:
1. Do NOT give Jacoby Ellsbury a megadeal. Unless the market completely dries out on him, we’ve probably seen the last of Jacoby Ellsbury in a Red Sox uniform. Not to say I wouldn’t at least make an offer. But my personal offer wouldn’t be for more than five years with annual salaries no higher than $17.5 million per season. Under no circumstances would I bump the annual salary to an astronomical total to reduce the year total (Ex: three years $90 million). Setting all sentiment aside, it’s easier to put things in perspective. Ells has only had one full season OPS over .800 (the 32 homer season that he’ll likely never repeat). He has had two lost seasons due to injury and also missed September with a foot fracture. Most importantly: he’s a guy who makes his living with his legs. As we learned with Carl Crawford, speedsters don’t age well. Once Ells loses a step or two, it’ll have a negative ripple effect to his production (less steals, less ground covered in the outfield, already has a weak arm, OPS will drop due to less triples and doubles). Bottom line: Ells will likely get his Boras-esque megadeal this winter. It just won’t be from the Red Sox who already have insurance at leadoff and CF (Victorino and Bradley respectively).
2. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have an insurance policy in the outfield. Despite being comfortable with losing Ellsbury, there are questions about the offensive production of this outfield in 2014. Can a Gomes/Nava platoon repeat the same production? Will Jackie Bradley emerge as a hitter? With that uncertainty, the Sox should at least try to acquire another outfielder with a less expensive price tag than Ellsbury. I have two alternative plans for this step.
A. Make an offer for Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins have been insisting that Stanton is not available, so this is an unlikely scenario. But it still wouldn’t hurt to ask. I’d at least offer a generous package of Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront, Bryce Brentz, Ryan Lavarnway, Allen Webster, one of Ryan Kalish or Mike Carp, and Brock Holt as an exchange for the young slugger. But if the Marlins decline and/or ask for any of Xander Bogaerts, Bradley, Garrin Cecchini, Henry Owens, or Blake Swihart, I’d end talks and move onto Plan B.
B. Sign Carlos Beltran to a two-year $30 million deal. He has a good career OPS at Fenway, granted those numbers were from his younger days as a young Kansas City Royal. But he’s still a productive hitter and is still in search of a ring. His defense in right field is considered less than stellar. But if he’s patrolling the short left field in Fenway, he should at least be an average defender for at least one season (have him be the primary DH in 2015). Plus it’ll be fun to play a nice game of “Keep Away” from the Yankees, who are supposedly targeting Beltran (apparently already having three aging outfielders isn’t enough).
3. Address the catching situation. Having declined to offer Jarrod Saltalamacchia a qualifying offer, it’s obvious a $14.1 million salary for even one season is considered an overpay. At the very least, I’d make Saltalamacchia a two-year deal in the $16-20 million range. Chances are there will be a bigger deal for him elsewhere with no draft pick compensation being tied to him. If I lose out on Salty, I will try to sign a more seasoned veteran to a one year pact. Two names that come in mind are AJ Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz. Both are good at throwing out basestealers and provide solid offense with good contact (the former is still capable of above average power as well). If I miss out on these two, the last line of defense is finally letting Ryan Lavarnway show what he can do. If he falters, Christian Vazquez is now in Pawtucket and Blake Swihart isn’t far behind in Double A Portland.
4. Sign Grant Balfour. The big Aussie has said he wants to keep playing until he wins a ring. Technically he’s a closer and Koji Uehara has that job for 2014. But if I were to offer him a two-year deal in the $10-12 million range, maybe Balfour would gladly trade the save statistic for a better chance at a ring.
5. Address the first base situation. My first choice would be to re-sign Mike Napoli. But if Stephen Drew were to accept my qualifying offer, there wouldn’t be a place for him unless I were to trade Will Middlebrooks. Good news is Drew is a Boras guy and they tend to decline qualifying offers no matter what. With no first base prospect on the horizon, I can afford to offer multiple years for Napoli. I’d go two years $30 million with an additional $10 million in incentives for each year with a $15 million club option and $10 million player option for 2016. Should be enough to keep Napoli and his awesome facial hair around for a while. We shall see.
6. Keep my veteran pitchers intact. Aside from possibly dealing Doubront in a package for Stanton, I would refrain from dealing any of my returning veteran starters. There are currently six guys vying for five spots in Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy, and Ryan Dempster. In addition to those six, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton are two bullpen candidates who are capable of starting. Not to mention the club has prospects Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, and Rubby DeLaRosa in Triple A and Henry Owens in Double A. Pitching depth shouldn’t be an issue for the club in 2014, but then again, you can never have enough. The biggest thing to avoid here is making a deal just for the sake of making a deal. I would prefer to have all of these guys in Fort Myers come late February. If an injury occurs, I have fallback options. If another club becomes desperate, I have a better chance of receiving a better return for an expendable piece.
7. Non tenders: Andrew Bailey and Franklin Morales. Bailey will still be recovering come Opening Day. Just can’t tender a multi-million dollar salary and a roster spot to a guy who’s currently hurt. In the case of Morales he’s expendable. There are enough lefty relievers on the roster right now and he’s better suited as a starter, an opportunity he’ll be more likely to receive elsewhere.
8. Tenders (not counting club control guys who aren’t arbitration eligible yet as all will be retained). Junichi Tazawa, Mike Carp, Andrew Miller. Tazawa did very well in a relief role in the regular season and got some big outs in October, he’s a no-brainer. Ditto Mike Carp who provided some big hits off the bench and is a good insurance policy at first base and left field. In the case of Miller, he provides a strikeout rate as a lefty specialist out of the pen. He’s coming off a season ending injury, but he’s worth the risk more than Franklin Morales.
9. Prospects to protect from Rule 5 draft. Garin Cecchini (3B), Anthony Ranaudo (RHP), Bryce Brentz (OF), Luis Diaz (RHP). Cecchini, the club’s number three prospect according to soxprospects.com is a no-brainer. Could very well be the most complete hitter at the hot corner the club has produced since Wade Boggs. Also has very good speed. Great plate discipline and K/BB ratio. If he can continue to improve his home run numbers, there’s no more need to trade for Alex Gordon as we now have our own. Ranaudo’s another no-brainer. After a lost 2012, he reemerged as a top pitching prospect in 2013 and should see some time with the big club at some point in 2014. Though his stock dropped a bit in 2012, Brentz is still an intriguing prospect. A power right-handed bat with an excellent throwing arm. His plate approach however may prevent him from being with the organization long-term. But at the very least, he’s worth holding onto for now. Diaz has had a steady climb up the ladder so far. He should begin the year in High A Salem, which is somewhat of a low level for a guy on the 40 man roster. But already being 6’3″ and 230 lbs at age 21 with a mid 90s fastball as a starter, a rebuilding club could take a chance on him as a reliever. Given that possibility, and the fact that he’s ranked ahead of three current 40 man members in the soxprospect rankings, he’s worth carrying if there’s an opening.
10. Notable prospects not being added to the 40 man roster. Michael Almanzar, Keury DeLaCruz, Brock Huntzinger, Keith Couch, Kyle Stroup, Matthew Price, Chris Hernandez. Almanzar put up a .760 OPS in Portland last season. There have been concerns about his defense going forward (at age 22) and his overall dedication. I would risk the possibility of losing him. After a head-turning 2012, DeLaCruz appears to have topped out. A .698 OPS in high A isn’t worthy of a 40 man spot. Huntzinger, Hernandez, and Couch have all reached Triple A, but are on the older side as far as prospects go and seem to be up and down relief pitchers if they ever make the majors. Stroup and Price have neither gotten past High A and are just relievers at this point. Almanzar and the three Triple A pitchers are the most likely to be taken, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if all of these players remain in the organization for 2014.
This concludes my list of what I’d do if I were Ben Cherington. However, I am not Ben Cherington and he probably has an offseason agenda that doesn’t look exactly like mine. In the meantime, I’m really excited for the offseason to get underway.