Sox Answer to “Who’s on First?”–Might like Mike or Ike
By Earl Nash
What is Larry Lucchino’s answer to Abbot and Costello’s question: “Who’s on First?” ?
Larry The Boss won’t find an answer in-house; he has no MLB-ready 1b prospects in the farm system and former Dodger 1b/OF Jerry Sands and Mauro Gomez may not be ready yet, except as a platoon.
This leaves Lucky Larry two options: buy a FA or trade.
The Sox could trade with the Mets for Ike Davis, or with the Cubs for Brian LaHair.
262012: .227/.308/.462/.771, 32 HR, 90 RBI, 1.6 WAR
The Mets have apparently decided that Lucas “Doo Da” Duda is their future First baseman.
Davis had a Jekyll and Hyde season in 2012; his first 70 games were a disaster at the plate and some say the reason was too much tinkering and alteration with his unorthodox batting stance; in Act Two, the remaining 92 games, he turned into Albert Pujols, blasting 26 of his 32 homers. His defense ranges from average to above.
In his limited time in the big leagues, he’s shown good patience at the plate and thus the potential to become an above-average offensive first baseman. He was a plus defender in 2010 at first before being slightly below average in 2012. Davis turns 26 in March, and he would be under team control through 2016.
He shows generally good patience at the plate, but struggles against LHPs with a .216 BA; he hits .266 vs. RHPs and has a career BA of .252, but he projects for 28 HRs and 89 RBIs for a full season [http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/davisik02.shtml] He could platoon with Mauro Gomez or Jerry Sands.
Also, his contract is locked in at $507,000 annually until 2017: Earliest Arb Eligible: 2013, Earliest Free Agent: 2017. If he can hit as well as forecast, he would be an extraordinary bargain.
The son of relief pitcher Ron Davis and a product of the excellent program at ASU, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 1st round (18th pick) of the 2008 amateur draft.
What do the Mets need in trade?
1. Someone who can go for long relief, a set-up man, and a dominant closer.
2. 4th OF.
While the Mets would love to have Ellsbury, the Sox must get a #1 starter in any Ellsbury deal and the Mets will not trade Santana. The best matchup might be a pen man off the Sox current roster and a LHP prospect; say, Melancon or Bard and either Drake Britton or Brian Johnson.
Theo Epstein has former Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo planted at 1b and is willing to trade Worcester-born, 30 year-old Brian LaHair. After nine seasons in the minors LaHair surfaced for a year with the Mariners  and went to the Cubs for 2011-12.
LaHair will hit about 10 points better for average than Ike Davis, say .262 vs. .252, Davis will far surpass Brian in power, say vs. 28/89 vs. 17/47 and they are about even on D.
With Jeff Samardzija his likely Opening Day starter in 2013, Epstein is looking for starters, but so are the Red Sox. With Gold Glove candidate and Stone Bat nominee, Bret Jackson in CF, aging David de Jesus in RF and “Sorry” Soriano in LF, Theo is seeking OFs.
LaHair might be worth an OF prospect in a trade with the Sox, but “Thiefo” Epstein may eat Ben’s lunch and trade him a walrus and a Carpenter for Jacoby Ellsbury, if Cherington tries to deal for LaHair.
Kevin Youkilis, 34
2012: .235/.336/.409/.745, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 1.3 WAR
OK, we might make a case that Youk would be a perfect 1-2 year bridge to the Red Sox Future First baseman, if the Sox had one. Unless you are willing to agree to start transitioning SS prospect Xander Bogaerts to 1b, now, there is no point in bringing Youkilis back for a sunset encore.
Kendrys Morales, 29
2012: .273/.320/.467/.787, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 1.8 WAR
With Pujols ensconced at Bag One and Trumbo as his backup, who also DH and play OF, the Angels would love to unload Kendry. Again, if you only need a one-year transition to Bogaerts, Morales is your man. If you have no Future First baseman in hand, then Morales is not.
It’s the Cody Ross Syndrome: you hire the guy in the last year of his contract. He gives you a great season and makes himself an attractive [and expensive] FA. Morales is arbitration eligible for 2013; so you would be paying about $3 million to give Morales a year to prove himself and go FA.
Carlos Peña, 34
2012: .197/.330/.354/.684, 19 HR, 61 RBI, 0.9 WAR
In his prime this Northeastern alum compensated for his .200 BA with some HRs and he had the best walk rate among major-league first basemen in 2012. But his power has plummeted from a league-leading 39 homers in 2009 to just 19 in 2012. He can’t hit LHPs.
If, after having a down year in 2012, Napoli was looking for a 1 or 2-year contract to prove that 2012 was an aberration, then the Sox have a potential bridge to Bogaerts in 2014.
Napoli missed 54 games, plunging to.227-24-56, but the Sox Killer still had a “career week” with .389, 4 homers and 10 RBI in just five games against the Red Sox.
A year in the Red Sox batting order would allow Napoli to return to his career average stats:
.259, 22/85, 83 Rs, SLG .507
Also, consider how Napoli might serve as a backup and tutor for Salty and Lavarnway.
If Napoli can swing a multi-year deal, the Sox would need to scrape the bottom of the puddle for other candidates, or accept that they are stuck with Only The Loney, or a Loney/Sands, or Loney/Gomez platoon at First base.
Without a phenom 1b prospect on the horizon, the Sox need to convert Bogaerts to First, now and sign a FA to a 1-2 year deal, or make a trade for Ike Davis.
image: http://www.sportsposterwarehouse.com/detail_ALLU-01__644.html, photoshop version Earl Nash.