A future state of mind
The hardest part is acceptance.
To see it is one thing. To see it and realize that the end of the road has come is another issue altogether. But once you realize that David Ortiz’ best days are behind him, you’ll be the first to inquire about the team’s plans to replace him, if you haven’t already.
Ortiz finished a three-game set against the New York Yankees having hit in eight of his last nine games, which included a seven-game hit streak and three home runs in the last five, giving him four long-balls on the year.
Sure, it’s a positive sign. It’s a sign that maybe Ortiz’ career didn’t just come to the sudden end that most of you were predicting, and that he still has something left in the tank. But even with this recent stretch of “better” baseball from Ortiz, you can’t deny the big picture: Big Papi’s decline is in full swing.
Much of the talk surrounding his lack of production includes replacing Ortiz right now, with someone like Washington’s Nick Johnson being the most reasonable type of acquisition.
The Nationals’ rumored asking price of Manny Delcarmen a few weeks ago is clearly too high, and not something the Red Sox should do. But if they can somehow get Johnson for a lot less, then of course, it’s something they should pull the trigger on.
The problem with giving up a lot to get a replacement for only this season is that there’s always the chance Ortiz does snap out of this funk, and takes off running with his recent stretch of big hits and positive at-bats. Nobody’s saying Ortiz is going to hit 30 home runs, but if he starts to come around in a more consistent fashion, it’s in the Red Sox’ best interest to let him continue to produce and boost his confidence.
If that happened, and you did give up a major piece to acquire Johnson, then Johnson would be the one on the bench more often than not, and you would have given up a big part of the bullpen to acquire what, a utility infielder?
So with the team winning while all of this is going on (two games ahead of the Yankees for first place in the AL East after Thursday’s three-game sweep), the only major move the Red Sox should be thinking about is the one they need to make in the offseason. With Ortiz on his way out, it’s time to start thinking of a future replacement, not a band-aid for the rest of this season, especially when there’s potential for the cut to heal on its own.
Did you say, the future, Danny?
Indeed I did, so let us now look into the future. All the way into the year 2010 (sorry Conan, I had to do it).
Figuring that the Red Sox will re-sign Jason Bay at some point (the outfield looks locked up with Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew) the biggest offensive name that will be available this winter is outfielder Matt Holliday.
Holliday, 29, will be dealt before July 31st. That’s the only reason Oakland traded for him this past offseason. Athletics GM Billy Beane knew Holliday would be in high demand during his contract year, and will give him up for the right price at any time.
That price would be in the form of top prospects. It’s the way Oakland does business, and it will work once again this summer.
But big-market clubs, like the Red Sox, should hold off on giving up their top prospects for Holliday’s services, for one reason, and one reason only: Scott Boras.
Boras is Holliday’s agent, which means regardless of what team he’s traded to this summer, that team will have to deal with the fact that Holliday’s plans will include testing the free agent market, if not to sign with the team of his choice, then to force his former team to pony up even more money.
So it would be foolish for Theo Epstein to deal some of his top prospects to acquire a guy that isn’t guaranteed to even be with them next year. If the Red Sox want Holliday bad enough, they can sign him to a long-term deal in the offseason, and hold onto the prospects for another potential deal.
But is Holliday the long-term replacement for Ortiz? And where would he play?
Holliday saw a decrease in production last year with Colorado in a somewhat shortened season (139 games), finishing the year with 25 home runs and 88 RBI, but did hit .321 and had an on-base percentage of .409.
Many wondered if leaving Colorado would affect his home run power (34 home runs/114 RBI in 2006; 36 home runs/137 RBI in 2007). In only 54 games with Oakland, it’s still too early to tell if that’s the case. Holliday has eight home runs and 37 RBI this season with the Athletics, and is batting .287 with an on-base percentage of .385.
If the Red Sox are serious about acquiring another power bat for the future, then Holliday would be the guy. He could be the DH if the Red Sox decide to do something with Ortiz, who is owed $12.5 million next season, followed by a club option in 2011 at the same price.
Or the Red Sox could hold onto Ortiz, keep him closer to the bottom of the batting order as the DH, and do something more interesting, filling more than just one hole this offseason.
That other hole at the top of Boston’s priority list is at the shortstop position. Talk of a deal to replace the trio of Julio Lugo, Nick Green, and Jed Lowrie has trumped the Brad Penny trade talk in recent days. It has even been reported that the Red Sox are making “diligent” efforts to acquire that replacement in recent weeks. From a rumored return of Orlando Cabrera, to adding a 42-year-old veteran in Omar Vizquel, it seems the Red Sox front office is sick and tired of having this position hurt the team both in the field and at the plate.
Making a move to add one of the aforementioned shortstops would again be nothing more than a “band-aid” acquisition. After the season, it’s time for Epstein to add a player who’s going to put an end to the everyday question that is the Boston Red Sox shortstop.
And there are options. Look no further than Florida’s Hanley Ramirez. Originally traded to the Marlins after the 2005 season in a deal for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, Ramirez is one of the game’s top players at the early age of 25. It was even rumored that the Red Sox made a play for Ramirez this past offseason, after losing out on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes.
Ramirez would fill the hole at shortstop for years to come, and would also provide that power bat needed after this season.
Several players the Marlins would most certainly inquire about are Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Daniel Bard. Any way you look at it, in order to land Ramirez, the Red Sox would have to part ways with Ellsbury and Buchholz, at the very least. And at this point, it’s a deal that the Red Sox would be wise to pull the trigger on, if proposed.
The Red Sox shouldn’t have a problem letting go of Buchholz or Bowden, but Ellsbury’s current value to the Red Sox is greater because he’s actually a part of their major league club right now.
If the Red Sox would be willing to deal Ellsbury, then it would open up that spot for Holliday to sign, meaning Ortiz would remain the DH and play out the rest of his contract.
But if the Red Sox were willing to deal Ellsbury and sign Holliday to play center, why not first try to kill three birds with one stone?
Not catching my drift? Not only do the Red Sox need a new franchise shortstop and another bat for the middle of the lineup, but they also need a legitimate leadoff hitter.
Ellsbury has recently been moved from the leadoff spot to consistently hitting eighth. And if Terry Francona wanted Ellsbury back in that leadoff spot, he would have put him back there on Sunday, instead of moving him to the No. 2 spot behind Pedroia just because the newest No. 2 hitter, Drew, had the day off.
He was moved out of the leadoff spot because his .332 on-base percentage ranked 23rd among leadoff hitters in the majors, so he clearly has work to do at the plate if he wants to be an everyday table-setter for the Red Sox.
With that in mind, and while we’re talking about Ellsbury being thrown into a package for a future shortstop, while making room for Holliday, and wanting a legitimate leadoff hitter with more speed on the base paths than Pedroia, why not revert back to a trade I proposed this past offseason.
That’s right, I’ll say it again. Why not try to trade for Jose Reyes?
If the New York Mets suffer their third consecutive collapse, it will be time for them to somehow break up the “Big Three” and try to acquire some starting pitching to help out their one-man gang, Johan Santana.
Give the Mets a package of Ellsbury, Buchholz, Bowden, and Lowrie. And in return receive Reyes, then sign Holliday. The Red Sox would acquire an everyday leadoff hitter, a franchise shortstop (who’s only three months older than Ellsbury), and a bat to replace Ortiz. The Red Sox would answer three big holes while only giving up one player who’s currently making an impact with the major league club.
Buchholz and Bowden are top pitching prospects with a lot of value. They would undoubtedly be able to step right into a major league rotation, and more specifically, the Mets’ rotation, behind Santana.
At the same time, it remains to be seen when Buchholz and Bowden will be a part of Boston’s long-term plans. The Red Sox may even be reluctant to showcase the two arms for an extended period of time at the major-league level because of the risk that comes along with doing so.
Instead of risking a disaster, and decreasing their trade value (Buchholz already took a hit after going 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA in 15 starts with Boston last year), the Red Sox should package both Buchholz and Bowden with Ellsbury and Lowrie to try and acquire Reyes.
If pulled off, the Red Sox would once again have an opening for Holliday. Imagine the 2010 lineup:
That’s just one scenario, based on the fact that Francona would want to throw in a lefty in between the two and five spots in the order. Either way, that looks a lot better than having Ellsbury in there, with Buchholz and/or Bowden still in the minors, waiting for their shot, wasting their trade value.
Big Papi is showing signs of a comeback of sorts. But as much as he recovers, it’s too late to hide from the glaring truth. Ortiz is on the decline. Beginning to replace him this offseason is a good start. And while they’re at it, why not fill in a few more holes.
The Red Sox have the young talent and money to pull off something like this, even if they have to pay Ortiz $12.5 million next year to hit seventh and DH. But by now, you should have accepted it.
The hardest part is over. It’s time to move on.