The idea of the Red Sox making a trade for a bat -- particularly if the trade doesn't involve Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden -- is gaining steam. Here's what Peter Gammons had to say this weekend:
The Red Sox will scout out some potential bats, but right now they are not going to trade Clay Buchholz and won't discuss Michael Bowden (the two pitchers have a combined 1.04 ERA at Pawtucket) unless the bat they get is very young. The Nationals have let it be known that Nick Johnson is available, but Boston won't trade Buchholz. The Sox have looked at some outfielders like Ryan Spilborghs and Matt Murton, but the asking price continues to be their young starting pitching. If Ortiz is struggling come July, they may change their minds.
Nick Johnson. Ryan Spilborghs. Matt Murton. Other names are sure to follow. Aubrey Huff, if the Orioles decide they don't mind trading with a team in their division, could be a target. Austin Kearns is another possibility.
The idea of upgrading at designated hitter, should David Ortiz not emerge from his funk, is a good idea. But what are the Red Sox going to do with Ortiz? Cut him? Trade him? Use him as a once-a-week bat off the bench?
Actually, come to think of it, yeah.
The weekend off that Terry Francona gave Ortiz was the first sign that the Red Sox aren't going to spend the season blindly hoping Big Papi can recapture his past glory. He'll likely be back in the lineup on Tuesday against Toronto -- but if the Red Sox keep up in a tight pennant race and Ortiz keeps hitting .206, they're going to have no choice but to start to distribute his at-bats to others.
Rocco Baldelli made three starts at designated hitter at Seattle this weekend. It's unfair to read too much into Baldelli's 0-for-11 weekend, but you still can't expect that Baldelli could suddenly be a middle-of-the-order-type hitter Ortiz has been for so many years. Entering the weekend, he had just one extra-base hit in 24 at-bats so far this season.
Mark Kotsay, too, is a professional hitter -- but he's a guy who slugged just .403 a year ago and who hasn't slugged .450 in his last four seasons. He's a role player whose role was supposed to be to spell J.D. Drew in right field and Kevin Youkilis at first base (as well as Mike Lowell with Youkilis moving across the diamond to play third base).
Money isn't really the issue here. Roster spots are. The Red Sox have 13 roster spots available for position players: Eight for starters in the field, one for a backup catcher (George Kottaras) and one for a utility infielder (Nick Green now, Jed Lowrie later). That leaves three spots -- spots currently occupied by Ortiz, Baldelli and Jeff Bailey (who is keeping Kotsay's spot warm until he finishes his rehabilitation from offseason surgery).
If the Red Sox make a move for someone like Nick Johnson or Aubrey Huff, it'll cost David Ortiz quite a bit of playing time. But it's not going to cost Ortiz his job. Not only is it a bad baseball decision to cut Ortiz outright, it's a bad financial decision -- it would mean eating close to $20 million in salary for no good reason.
Kotsay and Baldelli, on the other hand, are making a combined $2 million (plus bonuses). Both contracts are eminently eatable. (Edible?) Neither player is exactly a middle-of-the-order power threat for a World Series contender, either.
Follow the logic:
1. The Red Sox need an upgrade at designated hitter.
2. The Red Sox can't fit another hitter on their roster.
3. The Red Sox aren't going to cut David Ortiz.
It isn't totally fair, but the worse Ortiz plays, the more likely it is that either Kotsay or Baldelli ends up being released to make room for a new designated hitter.