Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Post-Crisp trade: Now what happens?

A breakdown of how today's Coco Crisp-Ramon Ramirez trade affects the Red Sox going forward:

Outfield: Jacoby Ellsbury, clearly, is the starting center fielder next season and for the indefinite future; he'll be asked play 150 games, hit .290 (and OBP .350), hit 30 doubles and 10 home runs, steal 40 or 50 bases and generally be a catalyst out of the leadoff spot in the lineup.

What this does, though, is force the Red Sox to go look harder for an outfielder who can spell Ellsbury and right fielder J.D. Drew, particularly against left-handed pitching.

"We'll cast a wide net," Theo Epstein said today in a conference call, "and we'll certainly look outside the organization. What would make sense for us is a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder who can protect us in center field and play against some left-handed pitching. There are a lot of different options -- we think that player will be easier to find than a good seventh- or eighth-inning guy."

That would seem to exclude internal prospects like Jeff Corsaletti, who hit .312 in 285 at-bats at Double-A Portland this season but who is a left-handed hitter who projects as a corner outfielder, and Jon Van Every, who hit 26 home runs playing center field for Triple-A Pawtucket but who is also left-handed. (Even Brandon Moss, dealt to Pittsburgh as part of the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay deal, wa sa left-handed hitter.)

"I think we'll go outside the organization," Epstein said. "We have some talented players on the way up, but most of them are left-handed, and I think a right-handed hitter would be the appropriate choice to fill this role."

Among the free-agent names on which to keep an eye:
* Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli, who would be an absolutely perfect fit if not for the health issues that sidelined him for most of the last two seasons;
* Willie Bloomquist, a 30-year-old utilityman who has hit better than .275 in each of the last two seasons for Seattle;
* Old friend Gabe Kapler, who hit .301 in 229 at-bats this season after spending a year managing in the Red Sox organization -- and he's still just 33 years old;

Bullpen: Ramirez flew way under the radar before today's trade -- "He very quietly had a tremendous amount of success of the last two and a half seasons," Epstein said -- and should fit very nicely with Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen at the back end of the Red Sox bullpen.

His addition will make the Red Sox bullpen not only one of the most talented in the league, but one of the youngest and most cost-effective. It also could make one of those arms expendable, which brings us to the...

Starting rotation: The Red Sox need a fifth starter -- or a fourth starter, really, ahead of Tim Wakefield but behind Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz both could fight for the job in spring training, and there's no ruling out the acquisition of another Paul Byrd type to give the youngsters a little more grooming time in the minor leagues.

But one name to keep in mind is 23-year-old Justin Masterson, who emerged as a shut-down reliever against right-handers in the playoffs but who pitched almost exclusively as a starter at Single-A Lancaster and Double-A Portland over the last two seasons. His numbers as a starter were solid but not spectacular -- he was 12-8 with a 4.33 ERA with Lancaster and Portland in 2007, and he was 1-3 with a 4.23 ERA in eight starts for Portland last season before he started to make the shift to the bullpen.

"It does give us the flexibility to start Masterson if, in our feeling, that's in the best interest of the ballclub," Epstein said. "In that way, Ramirez could potentially replace Masterson in that 'pen. Justin gives us great flexibility. If we him to start, that's what he'll do, and if we need him in the 'pen, that's what he'll do."

To get a reading on how the Red Sox feel about power arms starting or relieving, keep in mind the lengths to which they went to try to get Jonathan Papelbon into the starting rotation. Yes, Papelbon wound up as a closer, but that mostly was because doctors advised the team against a 200-inning workload. Masterson might be different -- he's not as big of a guy as Papelbon, for one thing -- but you have to believe Epstein and his staff would like to see the 23-year-old take a crack at the starting rotation.

Infield: Oh, yes, and there's some money freed up in the budget.

1 comment:

floydiansea said...

What we're overlooking here is how this will dramatically revamp the Royals, give them the boost they need to finally become a legitimate baseball team, and a force in the AL Central.

What's that? It won't?


Word: pespi