So with College Football taking its customary 3 week break and the NHL and NBA just a couple months into their seasons, most of the sports world’s focus is on two things; the final quarter of the NFL season and Hot Stove talk. With the Pats looking more like a MASH unit than a team trying to get into the playoffs, much of the focus here in the northeast is on what the Red Sox are cooking up for 2009. While the Yankees just handed out over $200 million in contracts for two pitchers, the Red Sox have been very quiet making minor moves such as acquiring pitchers Wes Littleton, Ramon Ramirez and Junichi Tazawa. Middle relief certainly was the Achilles heal of the team last year, however most of the talk about the Sox off-season has been centered around whether or not Boston will land slugger Mark Teixeira (pronounced, however the hell you want) and what they will do to make room for him in the everyday line-up.
While Boston finished 3rd in the bigs in runs scored, there is concern about the injuries that hampered David Ortiz and Mike Lowell–not to mention the Mackey Sasser like production the Sox are expected to get out of the catching position. The big concern is with Mike Lowell who had season ending hip surgery and will be 35 come February. Lowell, who was perhaps the biggest reason the Sox won the 2007 World Series as his production helped to mask a 20 HR-88 RBI season from Manny, has two years and roughly $25 million remaining on his current deal and his status for 2009 is uncertain, though reports are he is progressing very well.
The concern is the lack of depth behind Lowell within the organization as well as the lack of 3B available on the market, especially since Casey Blake re-signed with LA–which reminds me, it is just terrible that Manny cannot find work, just terrible. The thought seems to be among Red Sox management that they could sign Gold Glove winning 1B Mark Teixeira and shift Kevin Youkilis to 3B, where he played 36 games in 2008 while filling in for Lowell. This would protect Boston should Lowell not be able to go come the start of the 2009 season. Should Lowell show in Spring Training that he is healthy enough to play everyday, the Sox could ship him elsewhere for prospects or possibly fill another need that could arise in March–like maybe Josh Beckett adhering to the David Wells diet and training method.
While that would seem the plan Boston is going with (obviously contingent on their signing Teixeira (pronounced, however the hell you want), many Sox fans, most of whom think that real baseball and PS2 baseball are the same thing, have come up with some of their own ideas on what the Sox should do, and listeners of WEEI or WJAB have had the um, “privilege” to listen to these ideas–most of which are the brainchildren of a mixture of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, Marborlo Reds and cough syrup.
IDEA #1–TRADE DAVID ORTIZ, DH MARK TEIXEIRA, KEEP YOUK AT FIRST AND LOWELL AT THIRD
Um, okay, where to begin with this. You would rather keep a 34 year-old everyday player, coming off of hip surgery, over a 32 year-old DH who has been arguably the most clutch hitter in the game over the past 6 years? I know that DH-ing is very tolling on the body, far more so than playing third base everyday, but I think that Ortiz may be able to produce at the same level as Lowell. Why do I think this? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because Ortiz’s .876 OPS in 2008 (his lowest since coming to Boston) is right up there with Lowell’s career best .880.
IDEA #2–TEIXEIRA AT FIRST, MOVE YOUK TO SECOND, DUSTY TO SHORT AND KEEP LOWELL AT THIRD
Ah, PS2 anyone? Now I know that Youk has a career FP% mark of 1.000 in his two career games at 2B, but I don’t think 2B is his spot. Somehow I get the feeling that cromagnon man would have a little trouble turning double play. And while Dusty, like a lot of big league 2B, played SS in college, I think there was a reason why Boston converted him to a second baseman in the minors. I mean, one would think that if Dusty showed a lot of potential as a SS the Sox may have kept him there and not moved him to 2B, just a hunch. But then we just look at the fact that this move would displace two Gold Glove players from their primary spots to positions they have not played in several years–yeah, exactly.
IDEA #3–TEIXEIRA AT FIRST, MOVE YOUK TO LF AND BAY TO RF, PUT DREW ON THE BENCH.
I will admit, I am not the biggest Drew fan, but when healthy, he can produce, which is one problem with this suggestion. And the other would be, um, oh yeah, and who the hell thinks Boston will put $14 million player on the bench? Paging Dr. Coffee, Dr. Allen’s Coffee. After that move, I really do like the idea that Youk would move to LF–which is both the easiest and most difficult LF to play in MLB— a position he has played 18 times in his big league career. Oh, I am sure that he would be “willing” to move to LF as some callers state, but I was willing to QB the Pats after Brady went down–neither of which is a good idea, though seeing how many dents Youks’ dome would put in the Green Monster while trying to chase down balls and ignoring the warning track would be interesting. Can we thank the creator(s) of Sox Appeal for this one?
IDEA #4–TEIXEIRA AT FIRST, YOUKILIS TO CATCHER, KEEP LOWELL AT THIRD
Enter the cough syrup. I know that Varitek was down right awful last year–especially in the clutch–but I would prefer not to see every other pitch hit the back stop. Youkilis was not even the Sox emergency third catcher last year–that fell to Alex Cora. Bet the guy who came up with this gem probably has an infield of Puljos, Howard, Ortiz and Manny on his PS2, hasn’t lost a game in 7 seasons and Robatussin is his favorite food group.
IDEA #5–TEIXEIRA AT FIRST, YOUK TO THIRD, LOWELL TO THE BENCH AND ROTATE 1B, 3B, DH AMONG 4 PLAYERS
Now this idea sounds as though it emanates from a fairly sober person. However, while it would be nice to have some veteran security should Ortiz get off to another terrible start as he did in 2008 and/or have problems with the wrist in 2009 by putting Lowell or someone else at the DH spot, it is doubtful the Sox will go into the season with the plan of keeping a $12 million player on the bench and not deal him when his value may not get any higher over the next two years. Now, this may be plausible should Lowell not be ready to go until mid-summer or should the Sox be unable to deal him for some reason other than his health, but doubtful Boston would not try to find a much cheaper bench player.
Mike Lowell earned the admiration of Sox fans for his performance in 2007, but the fact remains he will be 35 next year and was severely hindered by injuries in 2008. By signing Teixeira and moving Lowell, the Sox get younger and, more importantly, get much better offensively. Given Youks’ solid play at third and Lowell’s diminishing sklls due to age and injury, it is tough to argue that this scenario hurts the Sox in the field so much (if at all) that Theo should put the brakes on this one.