Okay, I'm a little late to the party, but here goes. I want to try to emphasize a consistent theme, and it is this:
The Sox aren't on the cusp of contending. 2015 proved that. Therefore, they should use 2016 to try to maximize the value of what they have and look towards 2017 as the year to take another step forward.
Why do I think this?
1. Robin Ventura is not a good manager. Since he's back, I'm not that enthused about "going for it" only to see him continue to trot out a team with horrible fundamentals.
2. Sox only have two hitters with some proven abilities they can build on. Eaton and Abreu. Thompson may be a third, but we need at least a full year to find out. Cabrera is only a filler. It's likely that none of the rest will be on the team when we are good again. Just too many holes to fill, and not enough money to fill them. We can argue till we're blue in the face that the Sox should spend money (or fire Robin), but they just aren't likely to do it.
With too many holes, my emphasis would be for the Sox to get whatever value they can out of the players they already have. How am I going to do that?
First, I'm going to hope the guys who had bad 2014 campaigns bounce back and are tradeable at the deadline.
- Adam LaRoche. Eating his contract gives us nothing of value. If he bounces back, he could have trade value.
- Alexei Ramirez. $10 million is too high for his 2015 production, but would be a bargain for his All-Star 2014 season. Keep him, and then move him. Someone will at least pick up the end of his contract, and if he rebounds, he could get us a decent prospect even as a rental.
Second, I'm going to keep trying to develop marginal low-cost players to see if they turn into something.
- Avisail Garcia. We traded a valued asset in Jake Peavy to get this bum. Obviously we messed up. Still, he's cheap enough to give him at least a platoon role to see if his potential power can be found.
- Carlos Sanchez. Good fielder, he had one great month (July .828 OPS), a fair month in August, and otherwise was horrible at the plate. See if his July can be rediscovered.
- Frankie Montas. People question whether he can be a starter. Fine. Make him our closer. I would trade David Robertson and plug Montas into the bullpen. 6 cost-controlled years in the bullpen has much more value than trading him for whatever we could get for him now when he's ONLY potential.
- Erik Johnson. Lots of people want to trade him. Why? He's proven nothing yet. Give him Shark's spot in the rotation and hope he pitches well enough to increase his value. He might bust, but his upside is likely much higher, either as a keeper, or as a proven pitcher who would have far more value if moved next offseason.
That's the overview. It answers most of the questions below.
- Tyler Flowers, $3.5M. Tender. Makes our pitchers look good.
- Avisail Garcia, $2.3M. Tender. See above.
- Nate Jones, $900K. Tender. Could vie with Montas as closer once Robertson dealt.
- Zach Putnam, $800K. Tender
- Dan Jennings, $800K. Tender.
These are easy to me.
- Alexei Ramirez: $10M for 2016 or a $1 million buyout
Pick up. Hope for rebound, then trade at deadline.
Impending free agents
- Jeff Samardzija: $15.8M qualifying offer. Want the draft pick.
- Matt Albers: Made $1.5M in 2015. Re-sign. If he pitches as well and stays healthy, he could be dealt at the deadline.
- Gordon Beckham: Made $2M in 2015. Let go. Useless.
- Geovany Soto: Made $1.5M in 2015. Keep if he's cheap. Another possible trade chip.
We need someone to play 3B. I'm not sure who this should be. My criteria, however, is that they be signed for no more than 2016, and not cost us any draft picks. Do NOT go after any 30+ year old guys on two year deals, like we did with LaRoche.
Beyond that, I am NOT suggesting the Sox spend big bucks on any of the corner outfielders. I would say NO to all of these guys.
- Heyward. High WAR, but too much of it is in his fielding. Sox need POWER hitters if they are going to spend this kind of money. Trayce Thompson gives you a similar glove, for almost no money.
- Cespedes. Over 30. Turned it on for the Mets, who were in the race. Not nearly as good when he was on the Tigers. Would be a great addition of the Sox were close. We're not.
- Upton. Not yet over 30, but my problem is he's not GREAT at anything. Like a Cabrera signing, but a lot more expensive.
Trade David Robertson to the Nationals for the best prospect or prospects we can get. Here's a list. The Nats need a closer after Storen melted down, and Papelbon choked Harper at the end of the season. They have a deep system and are in a win-now mode. We ought to be able to find something of value there.
It's not that I don't like Robertson, but by trading him we free up $12 million/year, and open a slot for Frankie Montas to fill and build value.
I would trade Cabrera, except he doesn't have enough value yet. If he starts the year like he hit in July, I would plan to move him at the deadline too.
The Sox are not ready to contend, so don't go into the offseason thinking they are. We made that mistake last year, and it largely backfired, tying up money, and returning players who added marginal value (Melky, Robertson), or were deadweights (LaRoche).
Going forward, here is the core the Sox have to build around.
- Starting pitchers: Sale, Quintana, Rodon, Fullmer (coming), possibly Johnson, and others in the pipeline.
- Bullpen arms: Montas, Jones, and the young filler arms behind them.
- Abreu and Eaton
- Possibly Trayce Thompson.
- Eaton CF
- Ramirez SS
- Abreu 1B
- Cabrera LF
- Thompson RF
- Garcia/LaRoche platoon DH
- 3B - whoever we get as a stop gap
- Flowers/Soto C
- Sanchez 2B
- Bench: Garcia or LaRoche, Saladino, Soto, Shuck
- SP: Sale, Rodon, Quintana, Johnson, Danks
- BP: Montas, Jones, Petricka, Putnam, Duke, Jennings, Albers