Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Red Sox Mess

People are looking to pin the blame for the Red Sox organization being a mess. Does the blame lie with players like Josh Beckett who is viewed as over-paid, under-productive and out of shape? Is it Bobby Valentine whose managerial moves at times are questionable at best and whose personality really rubs many the wrong way? Is it first year GM Ben Cherington who hasn't made enough moves to right the ship? Is it ownership who seem too distracted by new shiny things like Liverpool soccer (LFC) to see the forest through the trees? For anyone paying attention the answer is clear - all of the above!

I get into details after the break. Be sure to read it all because I really buried the lede.

I've long said that Josh Beckett should have been traded. He should and will be placed on waivers and if anyone claims him - good bye! The front office should then start making other moves that will make this team likable again. Fans root for effort and character. The general perception is that this team doesn't seem to have much of either. Start by giving Cody Ross a multi-year deal (his swing was made for Fenway Park). He could probably be signed for 2-years at $4 million a year with a team option 3rd season. If contract talks with David Ortiz reach an impasse then Ross can easily step in and be one of the best DH's in the AL with little muss or fuss. It should also be pointed out that next year's team will be free from the Dice-K circus. If the Sox can rid themselves of Josh Beckett - then along with Dice-K's deal and Kevin Youkilis' salary coming off the books they would have roughly $38 million to use to help transform the club (if you add in Ortiz's salary that number jumps to over $52 million).

Bobby Valentine was hired to be fired. That should be clear to everyone at this point. The Red Sox looked at the available managers this past winter and the only two guys they thought worthy of being long-term solutions were not available. Dale Sveum wasn't about to replace his friend Terry Francona (and besides he had a competing offer from the Cubs which was a much better fit) while DeMarlo Hale was also too close to Francona and the September collapse to be hired. That's why ownership did a 180 degree reverse in course and hired Valentine. Bring him in for a year. Let him be a lightning rod and then fire him so you can bring in DeMarlo Hale or whoever would be a long term fix.

As an aside - the person benefiting the most from Bobby Valentine degenerating into Sideshow Bob Valentine is Terry Francona. Other teams will be shaking their heads and saying, "Tito I had no idea you had to deal with all that. Wow - you must have been doing a much better job managing under those conditions than anyone knew!" If things work out then Francona will be managing again in 2013 which could open up Bobby Valentine to take back his old job at ESPN.

The front office? Trading Youkilis to Chicago for basically nothing in return was a mistake. If you were going to give him away - give him to an NL team. Now Chicago will probably beat the Red Sox out for a wild-card spot and the Youkilis deal will be a big reason why. Here's a move I would have made - Cliff Lee for Josh Beckett (and a couple of minor prospects). If that was not reasonable - then just claim Cliff Lee when the Phillies place him on waivers. You know Philadelphia will try to get out from that contract (between $87 and $102 million next four years). The Red Sox can actually afford it because Dice-K, Youkilis and possibly Beckett coming off the books. And as I mentioned - if the Red Sox move on from David Ortiz that's another $14 million. They can afford Lee's contract plus other than Zack Greinke - there really isn't a pitcher of Lee's caliber on the market next winter.

As far as ownership - I think one story that has been underplayed in the media is the status of Larry Lucchino's contract with the Red Sox. Back in spring training there were a number of stories that the team was close to signing a multi-year extension with Lucchino. Whatever happened with that? Were those stories planted by Lucchino? Maybe John Henry and Tom Werner have had enough of Larry. Maybe they blame him for Theo Epstein leaving. Maybe they let him hire Valentine and now are letting him hang out to dry with that choice. John Henry is quick to point out that "Larry runs the Red Sox." By that same logic any problems with the Red Sox are Larry's fault. Getting rid of Larry Lucchino would be like a big get out of jail free card for John Henry and Tom Werner with the Fenway faithful. And if they replaced Lucchino with John Farrell - the move would be a homerun.

Everyone respects John Farrell. Give him the same title Theo Epstein has in Chicago. The Blue Jays would have to let him go for a promotion like that. Farrell could keep Cherington as GM (similar to Jed Hoyer's position with the Cubs). Bam! Problems solved.

Probably buried the lede here but don't be surprised if Lucchino ends up the ultimate fall guy for the mess the Red Sox find themselves in. Just remember where you read it first.