The new face of Boston?
The post-season isn't even over and rumors have begun circulating. Why? Because New York and Boston are out of the running and they've got some of the deepest pockets and the most to prove.
As for the Red Sox, I'm betting they're gonna resign Timlin, I'm betting they're going to bring up rookie Dustin Pedroia to play second and platoon him with either Alex Cora or Tony Graffanino (I'd hope Graffanino but for budget reasons, they'll probably keep Cora).
Hanley Ramirez will most definitely start the season in AAA and will probably be up before the All-Star break.
Manny Ramirez on the other hand... urgh... I'm hoping he stays but I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up playing for the Mets, they've got the money and he and Pedro have always been close.
Johnny's gone. Let's just be honest. And he's most likely heading to the Bronx. I know that the Cubbies want him (hell, lots of people want him) but the Yankees are the only type of person to sign that large a contract for that long a period without thinking, "hey, 37 year olds don't make the best center fielders" (which is how they ended up with Bernie Williams playing the way he did this year). The problem is with him and Matsui in the outfield (if they sign him), that'd be a huge chunk of payroll just for two of your nine starters; they'd figure to make about ten million apiece. As for who the Sox would get to replace him? Who knows. They might try to get Torii Hunter from the Twins but things between the Sox and Twins aren't on the best of terms, besides they'd have to give up two prospects for him and I don't think the Sox are willing to do that.
The Sox are going to try and keep Mueller and either move Youkilis to first or platooning with Billy at third. The problem is that the Sox are going to offer him arbitration and try to keep him for one year and there is going to be at least one team that's willing to offer him a more lucrative two-year deal. I'd say that Billy might turn them down to stay with the team but the team will look so different that I don't know if he'll feel that loyality.
Millar is gone and Olerud is just a maybe, staying as a back-up first baseman at best. The Sox are going to try and persuade Konerko to leave the White Sox (especially if they need a slugger to replace Manny) but he wants to stay in the south side of Chicago. I think how much money they offer him as well as how the White Sox do this post-season will be a huge factor in whether or not he comes a calling to Boston. The more likely bet is that we try to steal Aubrey Huff away from the Devil Rays; he had a mediocre season but the guy is a good player and well worth acquiring.
I think the Sox are gonna try to tighten up their pitching but prospects look bleak. AJ Burnett is the top prospect and he ain't looking like such a good deal. I'd expect that the Sox try to acquire a number two/number three type guy who they hope can blossom, much in the way of Matt Clement. Also, I'd look for the Sox farm system to come up big with guys like Papelbon, who'll probably start in the bullpen but may move to starter, that is if he doesn't take over the closer role.
Which brings me to Foulke. He says he's good and he does have one more year left on his contract but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets traded either in the off-season or right at the trade deadline. I will always remember him fondly for what he did (lest we never forget, he fielded the final out that got us that Series title) but he fell so far last year and his price tag is a bit too high to allow for that kind of performance.
As for how the rest of the bullpen shapes up, that's up for grabs. Most of the good guys that are coming available want to closers, not set-up men and certainly not middle relief. I want to see Tom Gordon back in a Red Sox jeresy, I really do but if he doesn't want to be Rivera's set-up guy then he doesn't want to be anyone's set-up guy.
The only people who I think have job security at the moment are Edgar Renteria at short (he'll play better next year than he did this year but I doubt he'll ever hit that golden boy status that we were promised when he signed), Trot in right, Varitek behind the plate and Big Papi at DH. Other than those three, I think the nine everyday positions have just turned into a game of musical chairs.
I haven't given enough thought to pitching to go out on too far of a limb but I'm betting Schilling comes back and comes back big. He won't be as dominate as he once was I think, but I think he'll be the ace. Also, I think Wells will return despite his mumblings of retirement. Wakefield did too well this year and signed too nice a contract to not become part of that starting rotation. I think the team has nursed Arroyo along nicely and that he'll make the cut, but unforutnately he's also the perfect trade bait. The Sox might try to move him for a good pitching arm but I tend to think that the Sox management will take the bird in its hand rather than root around for two in the bushes. That fifth spot very well might go to Papelbon, I really believe it. The kid's got the goods. However, I'm more willing to bet that they're gonna try and acquire someone else to put in and just know that they can rely on Papelbon to take over mid-season if he needs to.
As for Wade Miller? Gone. His contract is up and so is his time in Boston unless he's willing to cut one hell of a deal and even then he'd be put in a long relief role. Odds are he'll cut some fringe team a decent one year deal and try to make himself a better market pick up for the 2007 season.
Of course all this is just guesswork, especially since the Sox haven't even managed to resign Epstein back as the GM. I have confidence that they will though and the next move the Sox brass will probably do is sign Francona to a longer contract, he's done too well for them not to be rewarded.