After being unceremoniously dumped from the playoffs in three games by the Los Angeles Angels, the Boston Red Sox are going to take a good, long look at their roster this winter.
Boston spent 2009 with the a payroll of $122.4 million, fourth highest in the Major League Baseball, but that obviously wasn’t enough to buy a title. One hole the Sox need to fill is shortstop. The Boston Globe is reporting that the team is interested in bringing back Alex Gonzalez, who has a $6 million club option but could be interested at working out a deal more reasonable for Boston. While Jed Lowrie has been a disappointment thus far, due to his near-constant injury woes. Lowrie will probably be given every chance to earn the job next year, but the team will need insurance (right now that looks like Gonzalez) in case he can’t stay on the field.
Another issue for the Red Sox is whether or not to bring back Jason Bay. The 31-year-old left fielder hit .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBI in his first full-season in Boston. He’s likely to be due a hefty raise on his $7.8 million salary from 2009. The question is whether or not the Sox want to invest what will certainly be more than $10 million and at least four to five years in Bay. If they decide Bay isn’t in their future, the Sox will likely turn their attention to the other big free agent outfielder on the market, Matt Holliday.
ESPN’s Keith Law and I agree on this one, the Sox should just bring back Bay. Yes, Holliday is two years younger, but he has way more holes as a hitter than Bay. Plus, Bay has proven he has the temperament to handle the pressure-cooker that is Boston baseball and he’s put up great numbers there. Bay has said he’s going to test the free agent waters, but with teams likely to rein in spending this winter, no one should be able to outbid the Red Sox.
Another pressing issue for Boston is how the team plans to use Mike Lowell going forward. He’s another oft-injured player. Should they try to make a move for another, more stable, third baseman?
The Sox are almost certain to exercise the $7 million contract option they have on Victor Martinez for next season. What will be more interesting is to see what the team does regarding captain, Jason Varitek. They hold a $5 million option on him and having him on the roster as the backup catcher might be good for the team as a whole.
There are also rumblings that Boston might look to move closer Jonathan Papelbon, while easing in Daniel Bard as the team’s new closer. I doubt this will actually happen over the winter, because of Papelbon’s popularity and the fact that there are going to be a ton of closers on the market already. If they move Papelbon, I think it will come during 2010 or next winter.
It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox ultimately decide to do. Last winter the New York Yankees went wild with spending, and you can’t argue with the results, they look great right now and were eight games better than Boston during the regular season. But this is a weak free agent class. There is no Mark Teixeira or C.C. Sabathia available.
Will Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein follow that model this winter in an attempt to get the Sox back to the World Series, or will he opt to save money for a better free agent class down the road?