Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What Now?

Pedro's departure from Boston leaves a hole the size of the big dig in the Red Sox rotation. Schilling should make his thirty starts, despite reports that he'll miss a game or two at the beginning of the season while recovering from his ankle surgery. But after that, David Wells and Tim Wakefield are both old men, and I don't inspire the ol' confidence. This is a World Series winning team, but it looks increasingly likely that they'll start the season without a World Series winning starting rotation.

That doesn't mean they can't compete. You can't look at the guys that the Cardinals threw against Boston in the series and think that a Schilling, Wells, Arroyo, Wakefield and godknowswho rotation is any worse. So, lets look at some of the Red Sox options here:

Option 1: Compensate for loss of pitching with more offense
Also known as 'panicing' this option involves throwing $40Million or more at Edgar Renteria, trying to sign a big time first baseman like Carlos Delgado, and then identifying the best available free agent starting pitcher and making sure he ends up in Boston. It's looking like the Sox are after Renteria, and with good reason. But I don't think they'll freak out, at least not to the extent that their fans would like to see.

Theres certainly a place for Renteria on this team, and probably a place for Clement too, though there are reports that he's this close to signing with Anaheim. The Red Sox already have two pretty decent first basemen, at least with the bat anyway, so signing Delgado is unlikely unless they're looking to trade Mientkewitcz and Millar. Theo will definitely try some different things, but he's not likely to put the team in a bad position by over-compensating for the loss of Pedro.

Option 2: Greedily grab best pitchers still available on the market
This would be get Clement, Millwood or Perez. Once again, I don't think Theo Epstein will be chasing anyone who he feels doesn't fit with the Red Sox, either in terms of dollars or years. Many people seem to be high on Clement, and he can strike guys out, which is a valuable comodity, but he just turned 30 this past July, has a career ERA of 4.34, and has never pitched in the American League before. I'd be careful, and I think Theo is. A guy I might look into, as a stopgap, is Millwood. Last year he was the victim of some unfortunate defense by the Phillies. He didn't pitch great, but has a number three, which is where the Sox would slot him, he would fit in well, especially at minimum money. Maybe a one year, $4 Million deal.

This option shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I'm not someone who advocates overpaying for anyone and I'm happy that the Sox didn't overpay for Pedro, but at the same time they must realize that they need to cover the hole in the rotation.

Option 3: Try to make a trade
I know Epstein has been trying to get Tim Hudson, and maybe in a couple years this type of deal could be consumated, but right now all the decent prospects in the Red Sox system are too far down to help a major league team in the near future. This will prevent them from getting a guy like Tim Hudson, and most likely will prevent them from grabbing an AJ Burnett from Florida.

Option 4: Wait
This is probably closer to what the Red Sox will do. I'm sure they'll look at all the free agents, maybe even sign one, and I'm sure they'll explore a million trade options, but the hard truth is that there just isn't anyone very good out there right now that they can get. Things might change later, but for now this looks like the most likely option.

Still, there is one name that all Red Sox (and I imagine Yankees) fans should be aware of right now. Ben Sheets has one year remaining on his contract with Milwaukee. A year from now he'll be 27, which is younger than Clement, Pavano, Wright or Benson are this year. Last year with Milwaukee he gave up 0.98 WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched). In other words he allowed just under a baserunner per inning pitched. He also averaged over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) and walked just 1.22 per 9 innings (BB/9). Thats incredible, and don't think for a second that every big market team out there isn't getting ready to trade for him at the deadline, or sign him to a contract after next season, once Milwaukee realizes there isn't have enough money in the state of Wisconsin to keep him in Miller Park.

Theo knows that even the Yankees don't win the World Series every year. Whats more, he's got to keep the long term competitiveness of the Red Sox in mind at all times, which is why you won't hear any stories about the Red Sox doing something stupid and signing, oh, say, David Wells to a two year contract...

Wait, what?!?

No comments: