Recently, I took a look at how the 2007 Blue Jays might spend their money this winter. Let's give the Red Sox the same treatment.
Under contract for 2007:
Expected 2007 payroll: $120-140MM (Olney)
C - Jason Varitek - $9MM
1B - Kevin Youkilis - $0.4MM
2B - Dustin Pedroia - 0.3MM
3B - Mike Lowell - $9MM
LF - Manny Ramirez - $18MM
CF - Coco Crisp - $3.5MM
RF - Wily Mo Pena - $2.5MM, Eric Hinske - $5.625MM
DH - David Ortiz - $12.5MM
SP - Curt Schilling - $13MM
SP - Josh Beckett - $6MM
SP - Tim Wakefield - $4MM
SP - Jonathan Papelbon - $0.35MM
SP - Matt Clement - $9.5MM
SP - Jon Lester - $0.35MM
RP - Julian Tavarez - $3.1MM
RP - Craig Hansen - $1MM
RP - Manny Delcarmen - $0.35MM
RP - Craig Breslow - $0.3MM
The Red Sox have about $100MM committed by my estimate; you can add in a few more million in case they hang on to Hee Seop Choi or Carlos Pena.
The team's decision with Jonathan Papelbon will be interesting because it will determine the area of pitching on which they need to focus. If he goes to the rotation, the team can get by without a major free agent signing. I'm assuming Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, and Papelbon enter spring training healthy. The team could use spot starters like Kyle Snyder to fill the fifth spot until one of Matt Clement or Jon Lester is ready to step in.
Taking Papelbon out of the bullpen leaves us with Julian Tavarez and a cast of even bigger question marks. The free agent market offers no reassurances. The Red Sox can bring back guys like Keith Foulke, Chad Bradford, Alan Embree, or Mike Timlin, but those are expensive gambles. They can risk millions on Danys Baez, Eric Gagne, Bob Wickman, or Joe Borowski. As I mentioned before, a trade for Brad Lidge might make sense in this scenario. Boston is going to have to stockpile relief pitching depth somehow. One outside the box solution would be to go after Japanese closer Hirotoshi Ishii.
I figure the club can go with Dustin Pedroia at second base to save some cash, making shortstop the only obvious remaining hole. Alex Gonzalez would be no worse a solution than he was last year. Otherwise there's Craig Counsell or maybe overpaying for Julio Lugo. The answer here won't be pretty.
As far as trades go, speculation has been that the Red Sox will attempt to unload some of Mike Lowell, Coco Crisp, and Matt Clement. This is where Theo Epstein has the chance to be creative and find some relievers for cheap. Crisp and Clement would be selling low, so the Red Sox could wait until they show something in '07 before making a deal.
Lowell's had a nice bounceback season; he's been a touch above league average for his position. Given a weak free agent 3B class the Red Sox might get some value back by taking on a portion of his $9MM salary. The Sox could use Kevin Youkilis at third base and then try some combo of Hinske, Choi, and Pena at first. The Twins, Angels, Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, or Padres could match up in a Lowell trade.
If ownership really does want to expand the payroll past $120MM, they could make another attempt to bring Roger Clemens in as a midseason reinforcement. Buster Olney, for one, sees this happening.
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