By SBRForum.com

The Boston Red Sox have a number of offseason decisions to make and while the organization clearly needs help from the outside, they also need to make some important assessments internally too. One of those such choices that the Red Sox will have to make is to which catcher they want to use going forward: Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway.

On one hand, the Red Sox would love to keep Saltalamacchia’s power around because he hit 25 home runs in 2012. In case you’re keeping track, Saltalamacchia actually led the team in that category and only two other players (Cody Ross and David Ortiz) finished with more than 15 home runs. Without his 25 home runs, the Red Sox would have finished with just 140 on the year and only four other American League teams had less.

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By SBRForum.com

The Boston Red Sox have holes up and down the lineup, including left field, first base and the starting rotation. However, one of the trickier spots that the Red Sox have to decide upon is what to do at shortstop.

As of right now, they do have an option in Jose Iglesias. The 22-year-old Cuban has spent one year in the majors and has already proven to be an elite fielder. However, the problem is that the he batted .118 this season and at this point, the Red Sox – given how bad their batting order is – can handle having him take up one of the spots.

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Yesterday the Red Sox officially named John Farrell the clubs 45th manager in team history, and the club’s third in as many years. In his press conference on Tuesday he emphasized a desire to “hit the ground running”, start forming healthy relationships with players and gaining their trust.  Farrell has supposedly already reached out to many Red Sox players, including some current free agents such as Cody Ross and David Ortiz. He talked with Jon Lester about mechanical flaws he noticed from afar and the chemistry between Farrell and the Red Sox front office already looks notably more comfortable than his predecessor’s ever did. As for expectations, Farrell stated that there’s an opportunity for a quick turnaround and to get back into the playoffs as soon as next year.
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You can catch the whole press conference here.
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The hiring of Farrell is the biggest news in Red Sox Nation, but a few other stories are worth noting.
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On the free agent front:
  • The Red Sox and David Ortiz are closing in on a two-year deal that they look to finalize by Friday, according to ESPN sources. The deal is expected to be in the ballpark of $25 million, a price that Ortiz has long believed to have been seeking. However, conflicting reports surfaced yesterday suggesting that the deal being in “near-agreement” is a bit premature. Either way, all parties involved admit that there is mutual desire to work out a deal and that both are eager to get something done.
  • Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that the club is continuing to negotiate a deal with Cody Ross of whom they are “confident they will retain.”
More team news:
  • On Tuesday, general manager Ben Cherington said that the team feels confident that Jose Iglesias is major league ready, however, he didn’t express complete support and said that there will be an open competition for the spot during the spring. The internal options are pretty weak with Pedro Ciriaco seemingly being the only other internal option that could put up a fight.
  • David Carpenter, who was acquired in the Farrell deal, was reportedly not going to make the 40-man roster in Toronto. It certainly seems possible that Carpenter faces a similar fate in Boston.
  • Farrell mentioned John Lackey in his press conference, highlighting the impact he needs to have on the rotation next year. Lackey will be ready for Spring training, and Farrell hopes that he, Lester and Buchholz can regain form and pitch like the top-of-the-rotation players he feels they still can be.

By SBRForum.com

The Boston Red Sox had their worst season in 47 years and unsurprisingly, it cost manager Bobby Valentine his job. He was canned after just one year on duty and now the Red Sox have replaced him with former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

Fans, MLB odds makers and the media aren’t exactly sure what to make of the move. In many ways, it would be hard for Valentine to be any worse than Valentine was. Valentine clashed with coaches, criticized players and ultimately couldn’t get the team to perform to their potential. Continue reading »

The Boston Red Sox have agreed to terms with the Toronto Blue Jays on a deal that will make John Farrell the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. Farrell, who was the Red Sox pitching coach from 2006 to 2010, notched a 154-170 record during his 2 year stint as the Blue Jays manager.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports that Mike Aviles will be sent to Toronto to complete the deal. The Red Sox will get either a player or cash to complete the deal. Farrell’s deal is for three years. Stay tuned to Bloodysox.com for updates.

Starting Rotation

2012 Positional Recap 

In 2012, Red Sox starting pitchers amassed a 5.19 ERA, good enough for fourth last in the majors. Only Cleveland, Minnesota and Colorado had poorer rotations. The rotation has gradually performed worse and worse over the past three seasons, and certainly has played a big role in the team’s lack of success. Red Sox starters went 48-72 this season, finishing under .500 for the first time this millennium. Red Sox starters pitched 4 shutouts this season, the fewest in the majors and 7 less than the year before. No starting rotation allowed more earned runs than the 2012 Red Sox rotation and only three rotations walked more batters. Their .272 batting average against was 5th worst in the majors, and again, was the franchise’s worst in recent memory.

No regular starter had an ERA under 4.5 this season. No regular starter had more than 11 wins this season. Red Sox starters had a combined WAR of 9.1 this season, which is less than half of the collective WAR they had in 2010, 2009 and 2007, and most of the decades prior. Overall, there is an easy argument to be made that this was the worst Red Sox pitching staff in my 23 years of living.

Individual Production 

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

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It’s not likely to change the organization’s 2013 season but the Red Sox have made their first official move of the offseason. The Sox claimed reliever Sandy Rosario off waivers. Rosario, 27, has been working in the Marlins farm system since 2004. His big league record is not much to look at (10G, 7.2IP, 13ER, 22H, 3BB) but he has a good strikeout rate in the minors (403K in 391IP). Rosario posted a nice AAA line this season and could be maturing into a decent middle reliever as he approaches “baseball prime.”

To make room for Rosario on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox DFA Che-Hsuan Lin. This comes as no real surprise; the Sox had numerous opportunities to give Lin playing time this season and bypassed him at almost every turn. Lin is a gifted defender but his bat never developed to the point that he could be justified in an AL lineup. Lin could catch on quickly as a fourth outfielder with a National League club if he does not return to the organization.

By SBRForum.com

The Boston Red Sox have a number of holes to fill on their roster but among the top priorities should a power bat in the middle of their lineup. There is one player who could alleviate those concerns and give the power a boost if the Red Sox are willing to open up their checkbooks: Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton figures to be atop many teams wish list this offseason as the Texas Rangers outfielder crushed 43 home runs and batted in 128 RBI’s. He’d fit in well in the Red Sox order with David Ortiz.

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Outfield

2012 Positional Recap

Collectively, the Red Sox outfield last year a disaster. Over 162 games, the three outfield positions posted a combined 4.3 WAR. Only the Indians, Mets and Astros saw less production from the three outfield positions than the Sox did. They were third to last in wOBA (.308), third to last in slugging, second to last in home runs (39)…and the list goes on.

Obviously injuries played a huge role in the disaster that was the 2012 Red Sox outfield, but for the team to see more success next season, many issues in the outfield must first be addressed and fixed.

While only collectively accounting for about 1/4th of the outfield playing time, Ryan Kalish, Marlon Byrd, Nate Spears, Brent Lillibridge, Jason Repko, Lars Anderson and Che-Hsuan Lin all had a negative WAR last season. Cody Ross was the only Red Sox outfielder to play in over 90 games last season (he played 130). Daniel Nava logged the second most games played with 88, Jacoby Ellsbury missed exactly 88 games, and Ryan Sweeney and Scott Podsednik were the only others to play in over 60 games. The Carl Crawford experiment came to an abrupt end after only playing 31 games for the Red Sox this season and posting a 0.4 WAR. Darnell McDonald was also relied upon for major innings this season, and continued to play as poorly as he seemingly always has.

Individual Production

(I’m omitting McDonald, Anderson, Lin, Repko, Lillibridge, Spears and Byrd. All of them either won’t be back next year or didn’t play a significant amount of games last season. More importantly, they were all awful, and you don’t need to see a few statistics to see that)

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

I’m not certain that a single assumption can be made about the 2013 Red Sox outfield. The safest assumption would seem to be that Jacoby Ellsbury will be patrolling center field. However, there is a significant case to be made that the Red Sox should look to move him. We wrote back in July why the Red Sox should look to trade Ellsbury at the deadline, and much of the same reasoning keeps the notion worthwhile now in the offseason. Ellsbury does have more value than almost everyone else on this roster and is set to reach free agency and a huge payday after the 2013 season. The Red Sox team salary kerfuffle — which many felt was a reason Theo Epstein bolted in the first place — isn’t as convoluted as it once with after the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Perhaps keeping Ellsbury is more contractually viable with Carl Crawford gone.

Should the Red Sox entertain moving Jacoby Ellsbury?

I’m not going to state my case as to what I think the Red Sox should do with Ellsbury, but I think there are some clear pros and cons to each argument. If he his dangled by the Red Sox brass it would be reasonable to expect plenty of teams expressing interest. The Rangers could be interested especially with the uncertain returns of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and the impending free agency for players like Nelson Cruz and Michael Young (both enter free agency after 2013). He could be a nice long-term option for the Rangers, and the Rangers have shown little aversion to spending. The Braves could be interested if Michael Bourn bolts. Perhaps the Reds, who get little to nothing from the lead off spot, would make a play for him. Maybe a team like Seattle, Philadelphia or Washington make a play. There assuredly is a market for Ellsbury, and it will be up to the front office to properly gauge that.

Internal options: Internally there are plenty of options, granted few with tremendous amounts of long-term appeal. Ryan Sweeney, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Che-Hsuan Lin all will be in play, but as I stated earlier none of them took a solid advantage of their significant playing time this year. Cody Ross was one of the biggest bargains in baseball last season and very well could be lured back, for a sizable pay raise of course. Top outfield prospect Jackie Bradley could be ready for the majors later on in the 2013 season. The same could be said for Bryce Brentz.

An improvement in terms of health could make a world of difference for the outfield corps, but it’s hard to imagine a huge upgrade in production unless the Red Sox look externally. There is plenty of depth internally for the Red Sox, but no real top level talent after Ellsbury. It is very possible that the team starts next season with an outfield of Sweeney/Ellsbury/Ross with some combination of Nava/Lin/Kalish on the bench, but how much of an improvement would that lead to? Probably not much.

Free agent options: There is a decent amount of outfield talent hitting the free agent market this offseason; the most talented of them all being Josh Hamilton. Hamilton would provide the star power, but the cost of which doing so probably isn’t it worth it, especially for a team that is suddenly trying to be a bit more responsible fiscally. There are question marks with Hamilton, and he isn’t exactly young any more. The notion of signing him seems counterintuitive to me.

Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and BJ Upton would all provide tangible upgrades to the corner outfield positions, but much like Hamilton, none of them seem to be a great fit. Bourn had a sensational year, and much of his value comes from his defense in center field. So long as Ellsbury is around, it would make little sense to splurge on Bourn. Bourn would be a solid replacement if Ellsbury were traded, but his payday will be in the same range as what Ellsbury’s will be, and if the point is to be fiscally responsible and cautious, signing him again would again seem counterintuitive. Upton’s youth and potential (can it still be called that after 7 seasons in the majors?) are likely intriguing, but the reality is he has not played elite baseball in quite some time now. Some team will surely offer him a long and massive contract, and it should not be the Red Sox. Swisher seems like a more ideal fit (he can play in the outfield, first base and DH), but he again will command a long contract with a high AAV.

After that trio there are the likes of Melky Cabrera, Shane Victorino, Torii Hunter, Ryan Ludwick, Jonny Gomes, Delmon Young, Scott Hairston, Juan Rivera, Grady Sizemore, Angel Pagan and so on.

Trade possibility: Perhaps the Red Sox look to make a trade. Shin-Soo Choo and Justin Upton were both supposedly being actively shopped last season.

 

The Red Sox clearly have the depth to stand pat this offseason in the outfield, but doing so might not be the best move. There are plenty of avenues the team could go down, and if the front office decides it wants to continue spending, outfield seems to be the logical place where that can happen. Whether or not they should look to throw around money is an entirely different question…

So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see starting in the outfield next season?

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise.

Shortstop

2012 Positional Recap

Mike Aviles held down the fort at shortstop this year, and probably did better than most expected. What probably left Red Sox feeling the most salty this season was how well Jed Lowrie performed in Houston in addition to how poorly Mark Melancon played this season. While Lowrie did go down with an injury later in the season, in 97 games he accumulated a solid 2.5 WAR while hitting .244/.331/.438 and belting 16 home runs.

The shortstop position posted a 2.1 WAR this season, ranking 20th in the majors. Mike Aviles played in 136 games this season, and Jose Iglesias in 25. Aviles played at a below average level and the 31 year-old doesn’t figure to play a large role in the club’s future plans. It is certainly possible that the Red Sox won’t enter the 2013 season with Aviles on the roster and if that’s the case, the team might look to move him rather than non-tender him.

Individual Production

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

I don’t envision Aviles returning. While Jose Iglesias did little (offensively) to suggest that he’s ready to be an every day MLB shortstop, I think he’ll be given every opportunity there is to open the season as such. He can hit better than .118 and he’ll eventually cut down on the strikeouts. Defensively he was every bit as good as anyone could have hyped him up to be. His value defensively might be as high as any other middle infielder in the majors. Brendan Ryan might be a good comparison in terms of what Iglesias could realistically provide next season. Ryan has as inept of a bat as really anyone else in the majors, but his defense is so strong that he still posts strong WARs (5.5 fWAR and a 6.9 rWAR the past two seasons). Ryan hit under .200 last season with an OPS of .555 and there is no way to ever mistake anyone into thinking he was an asset with the bat. However, Brendan Ryan’s WAR according to baseball-reference.com (3.3) would have ranked second on the Red Sox last year had he played for them. The value in Iglesias’ defense is difference making, and it very well could be a significant enough asset to counteract his weak bat. If the team can get similar production from Iglesias as the Mariners do from Ryan, it will be serviceable.

Iglesias’ defense is as good as advertised, but is his bat too much of a liability?

Aviles losing out on the job probably makes him expendable, as the Red Sox now have Ivan De Jesus who can fill the utility infielder role, along with Pedro Ciriaco. De Jesus has zero options left and is the more impressive minor league career than Ciriaco. Ciriaco and De Jesus could both be kept for the bench, but I think this also opens up Ciriaco to a trade.

Internal options: There is a great amount of depth internally even beyond Iglesias, Aviles and Ciriaco. The organization’s top prospect, Xander Bogaerts, is a shortstop. His ETA probably isn’t until sometime in 2014, and the club will be in no real rush to hurry the 20 year-old. 2012 1st round pick Deven Marrero projects to remain at shortstop as he climbs towards the majors. 19 year-old and 2009 international free agent Jose Vinicio is very raw, but has tremendous natural tools that, with some physical development, could see him evolve into a strong major league shortstop.

Free agent options: If you aren’t too thrilled with the prospects of Mike Aviles or Jose Iglesias starting at shortstop next year, you probably aren’t alone. Unfortunately, externally there aren’t many options. Stephen Drew has a $10M mutual option that probably won’t be picked up. Jhonny Peralta has a $6M option and it is uncertain whether or not that will be picked up. After that, there isn’t really anyone that figures to be a significant enough upgrade. The remaining crop are 30-something-year-old veterans who provide nothing that Mike Aviles doesn’t already.

Trade possibility: The Red Sox could always look to trade for an upgrade at short, but it seams most plausible that they will enter the 2013 season with an internal option starting at short, be it Mike Aviles or Jose Iglesias. A few names that could potentially be available: Yunel Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera both have been noted as possible trade candidates.

So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see starting at shortstop next season?

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise. 

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