Here is Part Two of the large Red Sox roundtable discussion from Monday afternoon. This one starts off in the middle of question three, stated below.
Marc Normandin: According to the Boston Globe, the Red Sox infield is in line for a major shakeup via free agency. Millar, Mueller, and Bellhorn all are supposedly leaving town, so who will replace them? Combine this with Damon's impending leave from Boston, and the Sox are in for an entirely new looking lineup. What are your ideas for what to do to fix the 2006 version of the Red Sox?
Evan Brunell: We have issues at: 1B, 2B, 3B, CF, let's run through them individually. I've always thought Konerko would be nice in a Red Sox uniform. He's going to want some money and years, but nothing that we wouldn't really cringe over handing out. I never really considered Lyle Overbay because I didn't think we'd have the pieces to trade for him, but now after thinking about it, he has a really good chance to come here, we could trade people. Moss, Youkilis (no 3B they have) and Overbay would be young enough, cheap enough, to make it work. So now I'm in the Overbay camp. But a lot of teams will want Lyle, so we have to assume we won't get him, which puts us back at square one. One thing I believe is certain, that Millar has gone. I have seen words out of Tito's and Theo's mouth that they want this team to become less "idiotic" and more ... not businesslike, but cultured, I guess? Just having fun but not being stupid like we were last year. So I think Millar is out. And the market for 1B is okay. Choi, Konerko, Overbay. I'd be happy with any one of these to be honest. I think Mark Bellhorn is gone, he's whiffing his way out of town. Say what you want about TTO... like it or not, Bellhorn isn't TTO enough to justify the Ks. But Pedroia OR Hanley won't start the season next year at 2B ... that's going too young too fast. That's rushing people. Plus, Curt has had a promise we will compete through his contract which ends after 2006. I'm not willing to put World Series dreams in the hands of Pedroia. He may deserve it, but we really should excercise SOME restraint when there are other options out there. That being said, one of them will be on the MLB roster next year, most likely Pedroia. It's just that he'll more than likely platoon with a FA acquisition. If Theo feels that no one out there would be willing to platoon that's good enough, we could bring Bellhorn back and platoon him at second. If we bring Bellhorn back, we don't need Bill Mueller at third, which brings me to third base. Mueller, or "Billy Ballgame" as people call him, or even "The Professional", is EXACTLY who Theo wants to have on the team, as I stated earlier in the 1B recap. He has fun, but at the same time is cultured. He stays quiet, he goes out there, and he quietly DOES HIS JOB. He moves runners over. He sacrifies himself both at bat and in the field for the good of the team. Mueller will be back, and that's not a bad thing, considering Youkilis is just not ready, nor I think, might not ever be ready, for a full-time 3B position. So a platoon is fine by me. If we dump Bellhorn, we still have flexibility. Mueller could move between 2nd and 3rd, switching off with Youkilis and Pedroia. And that brings me to CF, which I've been wrestling over the entire season, but I have finally come to my CF conclusion. We need Johnny Damon. The Globe published, it was either today or yesterday, comparative Damon statistics. At least I think it was the Globe. Facts are facts, statistically, Damon is one of the three or four best leadoff hitters...of all time. How can you replace him? You sure as hell can't with Juan Pierre, he doesn't have power there. Hanley JUST ISN'T ready as his year this year portends, he's 2 years away I think, for being ready to start in the majors. Chip Ambres could come up next year and be serviceable, yes, but he's another Dave Roberts in my opinion.
Marc Normandin: I have a funny feeling I know exactly who is front of him...Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Paul Molitor
Evan Brunell: Ty Cobb
Marc Normandin: I stand by my three
Evan Brunell: Well Ty was in that article listing, I believe it was in place of Molitor.
Marc Normandin: Makes sense, atleast they didn't lose Raines in the shuffle.
Evan Brunell: The only issue here is what Damon wants... the latest reports are anywhere from 4-6 years and 10-12 million, which is unacceptable for someone of his age. If we can squeeze three years and 10 million out of him, I say do it. And these are large numbers yes, but this is quite a man we have manning centerfield. Lest you forget, his last-place numbers for the Royals, I think it was 2000, were BETTER than Ichiro's ROY and MVP winning numbers his first season with SEA
Marc Normandin: Lest not forget I tend to ignore who the writers association picks for anything.
Dan Scotto: I fondly remember that as the year that Johnny Damon saved my fantasy team's outfield
Evan Brunell: So my final prediction: 2B: Bellhorn OR Grudzielanek OR another 2B/Pedroia, SS: Renteria, 3B: Mueller/Youkilis as backup, 1B: (my pick) Overbay, CF: Johnny Damon.
Dan Scotto: You know, if you sign Damon for 3 years, Ramirez is expendable in a trade for an Overbay.
Evan Brunell: Yes, he is. But...I think Youkilis is more likely to be moved. Hanley can always be moved to third. And MIL has no stud 3Bs in the pipeline.
Marc Normandin: HEY! Russ Branyan!
Evan Brunell: Yep. No young stud 3Bs.
Matt Kizner: I <3 three true outcomes.
Evan Brunell: I hate it.
Dan Scotto: I still think that the league will undervalue Branyan wherever he is. People get scared of too many Ks.
Evan Brunell: you put the bat on the ball...
Marc Normandin: ...and hit into a double play like Renteria.
Evan Brunell: No listen...you have a TTO guy and a regular guy and 100 Pas. This TTO guy could K 100 times
Matt Kizner: Or homer 100 times
Marc Normandin: Or walk 100 times
Evan Brunell: The regular guy could get an out 70 times
Matt Kizner: Its consistency vs. upside. With the potency of the sox lineup, ill take upside
Evan Brunell: But that 30 times he gets a hit...let me get you a link. The comments are fascinating in this link; an argument on TTO. Too statistical for me to comprehend, but you guys will. Fourth Outfielder You can see that overall, a K negates more runs than a batted out
Marc Normandin: Didn't James Click just say the opposite?
Evan Brunell: Read the comments, I think it's MFD that says it. Here it is: K -.301out, no K, no errors -.302. And its MGL, not MFD. Anyways, that's an interesting article/comment to read
Marc Normandin: I stick with James Click's theory: "Strikeouts do have a marginal cost when it comes to offense. The problem with evaluating them is that the price is so marginal that even between the most extreme teams and players, the difference is negligible. While the Reds would certainly like to have those 13.6 runs they "lost" by striking out so many times, the strikeouts come part and parcel with the kind of players the Reds have, the kind of players that are case studies for the positive relationship between isolated power and strikeout rate."
Dan Scotto: I think that my view on it is with a guy like branyan, the strikeouts are worth the upside. A guy like Jose Hernandez really isn't...
Matt Kizner: Is that how you feel about Jose Reyes too Dan?
The Rotund 1B: I'm actually a Reyes skeptic. I don't like the Ks, but the lack of plate discipline is what scares me; he goes up to the plate absolutely clueless at times. Great physical talent. Anyway... Mets chat is another day.
Marc Normandin: I'll do this in order of position to keep it clear. To be honest I was not sure what I wanted out of first base yet, but with Dan Scotto mentioning Lyle Overbay it appears that I have found my prize. Oddly enough though, the Brew Crew might want to part ways with Fielder depending on how Overbay's success goes. The same way we think of parting with Hanley, you know? As for second base, I like the idea of Pedroia getting promoted, but get him some Triple-A time first. The man can hit, and the David Eckstein comps drive me out of my mind. I wish we could move our shortstop, but we all know how I feel about that.
Evan Brunell: Marc is starting to rub off on me on Renteria.. Dude just doesnt hit XBH. I started turning on him when I read he has the 3rd (or 4th?) most career singles of all active hitters. I don't want that, I want 45 doubles.
Marc Normandin: Third base I want Youkilis to start, but if Bill Mueller can continue to be effective and the Red Sox have no luck on the first base market they might want to consider moving Youkilis to first for a year and letting Mueller play one more season. Centerfield is the big question mark though with Damon's impending free agency. I wrote an article awhile ago saying we could live without Damon in the future. Sadly, 2006 and 2007 come before the future. Well the distant future anyways. If Damon could be locked up with a one year deal with an option than I would love to have him back, but I do not see it happening.
Chip Ambres is hitting very well in Triple-A right now, so he might have earned a shot as at least a seat keeper in centerfield until Hanley Ramirez can figure himself out. I don't want to pay him $15 million a year for two years. Maybe if Hanley grows his hair out longer he'll gain unnatural hitting abilities and luck with the ladies. In a way this is what I've wished for, turning over the Sox infield and outfield, but I'm not sure if the sytem is ready for the overhaul. Pedroia seems ready enough given some Triple-A time, and getting Lyle Overbay for his prime years at first base would work out for the best I think.
Evan Brunell: A while ago, I wrote an article on if the Sox should rebuild or not. It was a contentious issue, and the fact still remains: when do we rebuild? The Yankees this year have shown what happens if you do nothing, and while our minor leagues are still healthy, the fact remains only a small percentage make it to the majors, and an even smaller percentage become starters. The accepted consensus is that we can compete to 2006, maybe 2007 - 2008. But at what point do we rebuild, if at all? Our guys are getting old, they make a lot of money, and the minor league system is starting to bear fruit. If we go to massive rebuilding, it'll be 3-5 years before we get back to the playoffs. If we don't, we risk a Yankee implosion. If we can work it to have the minor leaguers come in and help pick up the slack when ready and the Sox sign the key free agents to compete, that would be the best alternative. But not everyone agrees that is the best alternative. So the question: When, or should, the Red Sox rebuild?
Marc Normandin: When? Last winter. I don't mean a massive overhaul of the system, I just mean not making a bad signing or two. Renteria is a waste of $40 million with Hanley, Pedroia, etc. in the minors. If we had not done that
Matt Kizner: Agreed. The Renteria signing was the worst signing. That money was our big name young arm money, especially with Hanley and Pedroia in the wings.
Evan Brunell: Then who plays short? Cabera? He was what, $36 million?
Marc Normandin: Barry Larkin would have been coaxed to play before retiring for a one year deal. Jose Valentin was available. Look at his errors last year and you see a defensive liability...look at his range and other saber-stats and he is actually good, and better than Renteria...and undervalued, cheaper, the Moneyball portion of the Red Sox game. Notice DePodesta signing him
Evan Brunell: Well obviously, last winter is too late. So when do we do it now?
Marc Normandin: As soon as possible. We are going to have to at some point. If we can go through a transition stage where we can catch some breaks or add a player at the deadline and pull out a wild card, we might as well.
Evan Brunell: So right now, if we could, we should trade everyone? Manny, Schilling, Renteria, Damon, Nixon, Ortiz, etc? No transition stage, where minor leagues come in while key FA help out?
Marc Normandin: Think of it this way...Baltimore is a threat this year, and this year only. Next year they should not be a threat, since their minor leagues are almost bare. Its do or die for them and that offense. I see the Orioles pitching staff improving due to experience but their offense taking a hit. And for the most part, free agents seem to shy away from Baltimore. The Blue Jays may be better, but not that much better. New York has even more money to worry about yearly, so their slide could continue if nothing intelligent is done there. I think Boston needs to use 2006 as a year to acknowledge that the division will be at its weakest, and a weaker, young Boston team could use the year to gain experience while competing at the same time.
Dan Scotto: I don't think it needs to be all at once...if they really wanted to rebuild, Ortiz is very movable next year based on his contract, and he'd probably net a lot, depending on who you dealt him to. I'd like just sensible prospect usage and solid signings... i don't see any reason why they need to take a huge step backwards at any point. I wouldn't trade Ortiz unless the price was really, really high, because there's no real need to. The most important thing, though, is not to fall into the "Yankee trap," which is to fall in love with your World Series teams and fail to recognize key weaknesses... like centerfield. The Sox have a very deep farm system, deep pockets, very good players...I like the idea of overhauling the infield next year.
Marc Normandin: Oddly enough I think it would be interesting to see what the market demand for Johnny Damon would be. I am not saying deal him...but what if ya know? Schilling is not the future of this rotation. Clement, Arroyo, Miller, Papelbon...etc. The future is now, and it needs to be slowly brought up bit by bit, I'd love to start in 2006. The pressure on repeating as World Champs is not something the front office should pay attention to; we'll see what they are made of when they have to make some tough decisions. I don't think revamping the infield would be a huge step backwards; by the end of the year the team could be extremely good. I would enjoy some more Millar/Mueller type signings combined with sensible prospect usage as Dan said. There is no need to spend on a player like Renteria anymore
Evan Brunell: As you might have noticed during previous questions, I promoted the usage of minor leaguers mixing in with major leaguers - as in Pedroia and Bellhorn platooning, Mueller and Youkilis, and so on and so forth. I think the way this team is currently constructed, we could still compete while going through a tinkering. Maybe not "The Best Team In Baseball" but we could still have playoff aspirations as Marc says. By getting weaker (but younger and potentially better, and CHEAPER) as the division weakens. Schilling is gone after next year, a money drain, no matter how good he is. Renteria will be gone before you know it and will allow the Red Sox to conservatively use Hanley and Pedroia (and don't forget Machado) as they should. But as Schilling leaves, Wells, Manny, we can still sign that one impact bat or arm that can lessen the damage of the loss while allowing us to compete and also bring in the minor leaguers to compete. For example, after Curt Schilling and David Wells leave, we could sign a good pitcher. Just for the sake of naming someone although he wont be a FA, let's do Ben Sheets. So we sign Sheets and call up Papelbon, and now our rotation is Sheets, Clement, Arroyo, Miller, and Papelbon. I think that's the correct way to go - not an absolute rebuilding, not an absolute contender.
Marc Normandin: I think Clement is not given enough credit by the general public; he can be our ace, and even without a bloody sock can probably perform better than Schill's 2004 regular season...Did I just commit blasphemy?
Evan Brunell: If this was October 2004, yes
Dan Scotto: i'd say so.
Evan Brunell: But ...I'm thinking you mean regular season. You just can't replicate Schilling's postseason.
Marc Normandin: I'm pretty sure the birds outside my house stopped chirping...yeah I did mean his regular season.
Evan Brunell: Well he didn't have a bloody sock in the regular season, so the birds can chirp again.
Marc Normandin: I was referring more to the constant talk of Schilling being better than he is as an everyday pitcher. Schilling is great, but won't be forever, and his peripherals did fall last year, although no one said much about that.
Dan Scotto: Schilling was very good last year, but there will be a point where the run ends...
Marc Normandin: Granted, him at less than 100% effectiveness still beat everyone but Johan Santana in the AL, but as Dan just said, that time is not forever.
Evan Brunell: There will be the day when Schill falls, when Manny falls, but can we handle still competing when they do?
Marc Normandin: Honestly? Yes I do. We survived after Vaughn left by using Daubach and Mike Stanley. If Duquette can do it, Theo & Co. surely can
Dan Scotto: That depends on how the next few years goes... but i think it's possible.
More roundtables for teams will be coming in the future, and as I said before, plenty of guest writers and a few well known online personalities as well will be in the mix