The very rich Yankees have won the World Series. A friend of mine, a Yankees fan, wrote "I wonder what Theo Epstein is thinking?". This, in turn, got me thinking. Theo is probably thinking that if he had $75-$80MM dollars more that he could have had Sabathia and Texeira...and another rolling rally through Boston.
However, he doesn't. What he does have is a team with aged veterans and lots of questions.
Let's get the easiest area out of the way first:
Many will feel comfortable entering the season with Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Matsuzaka and Wakefield as the 1-5. They have depth at Pawtucket. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing them add John Lackey (who is available). Their inconsistent offense would be carried by a front three of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey. I don't care about an overload of pitching. The Sox should not be comfortable rounding out their rotation with Buchholz (who may or may not develop), Wakefield (who misses longer periods of time each year), and Daisuke (no one can say for sure that he is going back to 18 wins).
The pen should good enough to start the season with Bard getting a full season's shot as the eighth-inning guy and Papelbon still closing games. The Sox should pick up the option on Wagner. He was very effective as a power lefty out of the pen, and can be used in many save opportunities giving Papelbon some rest.
At the catching position you have Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek. Tek did not play at all in the playoffs which means that the Sox are looking to Martinez as the primary catcher. But Martinez is not going to catch every game next year. Will Tek be happy with this as a backup? He'll get his time behind the plate, but probably 60 games at the most. However, behind the plate appearances for Varitek would increase if Lowell continues to be hampered by his injuries. Youk slides to third, Martinez plays first, Tek catches.
Bay entered the free agent pool today. That's a problem. Damon is probably not getting re-upped by the Yankees, and Bay could be wearing pinstripes in a month or two. Bay is probably the best bat available on the free agent market. The Yankees proved beyond a doubt last year that they will throw tons of money around (amounts with which no one could compete...by the way, the Yankees spent $97MM more than the Phillies on payroll this year. In their 2008 championship season, the Phillies spent just under $98MM. To demonstrate the gap in the two WS teams this year, that would be like the Rays spending $1.5MM for their total salary last year against the Phillies).
If Damon doesn't resign with the Yankees, is there a chance he returns to Fenway in LF? A two-year contract might get it done.
Gonzales is gone. The Sox love Lowrie, but he might be damaged goods at this point. He is too injury prone to count on as the everyday guy as SS. Marco Scutaro is available, and the Sox should target him.
Youk and Pedroia are fine at first and second. Drew and Ellsbury in RF and CF, respectively, should be ok. There lineup still lacks punch and consistency with Tek, Lowell, and Lowrie.
These are your everyday guys. Matt Holliday is available. If they aren't going after Bay, they better get Holliday. Abreu resigned today, so he is off the market.
Chone Figgins is also a free agent, and a multi-position guy. Primarily a 3b, but flexible. You start to get a NL feel to this team with Figgins and Ellsbury at the top. Is that a bad thing?
What I am hoping the Sox do NOT do is follow their current trend of retreads (see Penny, Smoltz, Baldelli). Texeira to the Yankees is a division changer for years to come. Without Bay, there isn't a difference maker on the Sox. And despite Bay's numbers, he didn't "feel" like a difference maker.
All the other teams in the East have holes. Tampa couldn't hold on to Kazmir, they have to try to get a deal done with Crawford (which means they probably won't be huge players in the FA market this offseason). Toronto isn't getting better. Baltimore is a mess. But this doesn't guarantee a post-season birth for the Sox. Out west, the Rangers will be very good again this year, and the Angels are poised for another strong season. The Sox cannot expect that 95 wins gets them in. Too many other teams will be in the Wild Card running. They need to change enough where they can make a run at the division.
So, what do they do? That is the question...