Saturday, August 19, 2006

Toast

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2006 Boston Red Sox season ended today. Losing three in a row by lopsided scores will do that to you. The Sox are now 3.5 games out and have a very good chance of being swept. As I mentioned a few posts ago, it's just that they've lost too many players to stay afloat. So let's start thinking ahead to 2007 - and see who is likely to be vanishing this offseason:

Mark Loretta: Gone. He's a very talented player, providing solid defense and better-than-expected offense, but he's a free agent and the Sox have the highly regarded Dustin Pedroia coming up to fill the roster spot.

Trot Nixon: Also a free agent, he's got talent and he's a fan favorite, but he's going to be too pricey and he breaks down every year. Unless he takes a steep discount, to stay here, he's gone. Wily Mo Peña is the right fielder of the future (with possible help from Eric Hinske).

Matt Clement: He won't walk away and retire - there's too much money on the table (2 more years) for that. But he's toast. Too much of a headcase to pitch here, and damaged goods now on top of it. He'll be shipped with cash to the National League where he can pitch to Triple-A batters. The worst free agent signing of the Theo Era.

Keith Foulke: He's lost his arm, the fans can't stand him, and he's only got an option year left on his contract. I think he'll quietly go away after the season. He may come back to finish his deal if he pitches well over the next month, though.

The two Alexes (Cora and Gonzalez): One of them will leave in the offseason - probably Gonzalez. He's played well enough to earn a multi-year deal, and probably won't get it here.

Gabe Kapler: He'll be back, I think. He's a great team guy, a decent defensive player, he's fairly cheap, and he's a fan favorite. I think he's in the Tim Wakefield "as long as he wants to play here, and he's got the skills to do it, he can stay" category.

Tim Wakefield: He'll return, if only because he doesn't want to go out this way. I think he'll play two more years.

Curt Schilling: If he can get to 20 wins this season, and pitch two more quality years, he goes into the borderline Hall category. He'll keep playing, and he'll do it here. One year left on his current deal, I think.

Julian Tavarez: Gone. Don't let the door hit you in the kiester on the way out, either.

Mike Timlin: His mouth still writes checks his arm can't cash anymore. I think he's done.

David Wells: Done. Retirement time.

The biggest off-season needs? Pitching, of course (we need a starter and lots of bullpen help), and a reliable 5 hitter. There should be enough cash freed up with some of these departures to make some medium-impact signings in the free agent market. Between that and the continued maturation of the rookie pitchers, the team should contend next year as well. My major hope is that Jonathan Papelbon can move back into the starting rotation where, long-term, he belongs. Papelbon can be the anchor of the rotation for the next ten years if all goes well.

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