A Hundred Fifty Million Dollars for This
Feel free to read “this” either uninflected as if followed by a colon, or in italics with a full sneer.
The Sox have pretty much completed their 25-man roster. There’s a small chance they’ll trade Ellsbury, and there’s a good chance they’ll trade a catcher and a reliever (or relievers) to clear up some logjams. They might add a 1B/LF type for the last spot on the bench and let Jerry Sands have another year in AAA, and they could add a platoon LF in place of Nava or Kalish. With some guesses at arbitration contracts, I have the Sox luxury tax payroll estimated at a little under $150M (~$155M in 2013 payroll). This is what that money bought:
IF Napoli, Pedroia, Drew, Middlebrooks, Ciriaco
OF Gomes/(Nava/Kalish), Ellsbury, Victorino, Sands(?)
I figure that barring trades we’ll see a spring training competition between Nava and Kalish for the role of caddying for or splitting time with Gomes in left. (Kalish makes more sense on a roster construction level, since he can back up CF and RF if needed, but Nava’s cromulent platoon bat is a pretty sure thing, while Kalish hasn’t been any good for two years.) As the roster is currently constructed, Lavarnway is headed for Pawtucket again. It’s hard to see what more he has to learn in AAA, so I’d expect a trade here.
SP Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Lackey, Doubront
RP Bailey, Uehara, Tazawa, Miller, Breslow, Melancon, Aceves
There’s a real pile-up in the bullpen, where Clayton Mortenson, Franklin Morales, and Scott Atchison are all out of options as well. Dan Bard has options, but if he comes back pitching like Dan Bard again, he obviously gets a job in spring. One of Aceves or Morales is likely to be traded. I don’t really know what they’ll do with the rest of those guys. Scott Atchison was non-tendered despite a 1.58 ERA, and while you have to imagine someone will give him a guaranteed job, it hasn’t happened yet.
Either Aceves or Morales will be the long man and 6th starter. Rubby De La Rosa is next on the depth chart. I would expect the Sox to pick up another Aaron Cook type depth play, though hopefully they won’t need this one.
That roster looks like 86 wins to me. Obviously the Red Sox have a strong recent history of underperforming pre-season expectations. It’s a real test of Cherington and Farrell whether they can fix whatever exactly has been ailing the club for the last few years. If they can’t, there isn’t really any point in projecting anything, because the Sox won’t win. I can understand the case for Dale Sams style pessimism of “they’re terrible until they prove they aren’t.” But for me, I’d still say that the null hypothesis should be regression to the mean and the Boston Red Sox should start behaving like a normal professional baseball organization again.
I’ve said the goal for 2014 should be 90+ wins. In the next offseason, depending on what happens with Ellsbury and the arbitration guys, the Sox should have a minimum of $20M to spend for 2014 (probably more like $30-40M). That isn’t enough to justify great confidence in a 90+ win team in 2014. I can definitely see the case for Jittery McFrog style pessimism here, that the Sox have failed to position themselves as true contenders for either 2013 or 2014. I’m willing to wait and see. 2014 is still a ways off, and given the cost in talent or dollars for front-line stars, I don’t see a path to 2013 contention that I would have preferred the Sox to take.