By Kevin Flanagan
The talk has been going on for some time now and will only get louder during the extended off-season that is ahead for the Red Sox. The length of time between meaningful games – some may be still watching but lets face it, no one but friends and family really cares at this point – is the direct result of general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of the Red Sox brass overestimating what they had in terms of developing players being able to contribute at the major league level this season, and the happenstance that led to assembling a group of overachievers in patchwork fashion two winters ago that resulted in a most surprising World Series Championship in 2013.
What has been a din of voices tossing out various scenarios that could somehow secure Giancarlo Stanton from the Florida Marlins during this summer of suffering for Sox fans, will most assuredly turn into caterwaul of clamoring as late summer turns to fall and fall to winter.
Red Sox Nation is thirsting for that next big thing and their hearts are set on the slugger from South Beach. To those who are looking to the rugged righty – with an upside so high the sky is the limit – for deliverance, I say this.
Heaven can wait.
For all their foibles, this current Red Sox ownership has proven over time that they are championship driven. Sure they want to sell you anything that isn’t nailed down – that is unless you are willing to shell out top dollar, then Larry will always talk – by their actions they have shown that they will do what it takes to put the best product on the field.
They haven’t always been right – the Adrian Gonzalez trade and the signing of Carl Crawford in December of 2010, are the most recent examples of the road to baseball hell being paved by good intentions – but starting with the deal that brought Curt Schilling to Boston in November of 2003, coupled with the signing of Keith Foulke as their closer that off-season, John Henry and company have been more than willing to do what it takes to assemble a team that can compete for a championship, especially when they have been humbled in the eyes of their fans.
Following the disappointment that was the 2006 season, the Red Sox reloaded by signing Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew and the king of the gyro-ball himself, Daisuke Matsuzaka from Japan that winter.
While no one is recommending that the Sox set their sights on the Far East to find an answer for the questions surrounding their starting pitching for next season, it would be wise for them to look to the farm to see if the assets they have could bring a top of the rotation starter they so badly need.
First, here’s a peek at what their lineup may look like starting the season next year. Assuming health – which is always a dangerous thing to do – the Sox order should look something like this: Rusney Castillo CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Yeonis Cespedes RF, Mike Napoli 1B, Allen Craig LF, Brock Holt 3B, Xander Bogaerts SS, Christian Vasquez C.
Debate the bottom third of the order if you will and the shortstop position, which is always in question with the Sox if you will (By the way, could somebody tell me why Brock Holt can’t be an everyday shortstop?), the fact of the matter is that is a potentially pretty potent lineup to deal with through the middle, and it only stands to lengthen out with the likes of a Holt or a head-on-straight Bogaerts at the bottom of it.
What the Sox need is pitching and instead of auctioning off the farm to get Stanton, the Red Sox would be best served to take the assets they have and acquire an ace (or two) this winter.
If the pundits are to be believed, the Sox have a stash of young players in their system that other teams covet. Names like Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Trey Ball are pitchers often spoken about as targets for other teams. Shortstop Deven Marrero and catcher Blake Swihart are talked about as top prospects in the game.
It would be wise for the Sox to deal some of these chips while their value is at its height. In case you haven’t noticed, their system has produced more flameouts than firebrands recently (i.e. Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts to name a few) and the only one that has performed well this season is almost certainly going to be part of a deal this winter, in Mookie Betts.
The whispers continue to surround the possibility of a deal for Cole Hamels from Philadelphia. It has been widely reported that the Phillies scouts have tracked the Red Sox for a long period of time this season and if general manager Ruben Amaro is pushed to the point of having to accept a reasonable price for his lanky lefty, the Sox should pull the trigger and quick.
Talk of Hamels being unhappy with first year manager Ryne Sandberg should only add fuel to the fire to get a deal done in the off-season as Philadelphia looks to dismantle an aging and unproductive roster. The Sox presumably have pieces that would help them begin the rebuilding process right away.
Recently another left hander has been mentioned as being available for trade this winter. In his piece on ESPN Boston last week, Gordon Edes states that the Sox may be able to put a package together to get the Chicago White Sox to deal Chris Sale to Boston.
The lefty would be a compelling piece for the Sox to acquire as he is only 25 years old and in his 5 seasons in the big leagues, he has never had an ERA over 3.07.
Then again there is the prospect – however unlikely it may seem – of reuniting with their former ace Jon Lester in November when the long time Red Sox becomes a free agent and all it would cost them is money. That is money that Larry Lucchino held tightly to his chest when he had the chance to re-sign Lester in spring training this season, however.
For the Red Sox the future is now. They have more than enough of offense to compete as currently constituted for next year and beyond.
While the prospect of Giancarlo Stanton pulling on the home white Red Sox uniform and launching bombs over the Green Monster seats next season is enticing, if it costs you all of your top prospects to do so and leaves no avenue other than free agency to improve your pitching staff, the Sox GM should stop and ask himself if it is really worth it?
Stars are fun to watch and great for the gate but in the end if your starting pitchers can’t get the opposing hitters out on a regular basis, what do you really have?
The answer is pretty much any Red Sox team between the years of 1919 and 2003, and I pretty sure nobody around here wants to go back to those days anytime soon.
It looks as if Ben Cherington may have finally built that “deep depth” he likes to talk about so much in his line up. It is now time to use the farm to harvest an ace.
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