As the Red Sox prepare for baseball’s winter meetings in Florida next week, the Hot Stove continues to heat up. The slowest portion of baseball’s offseason is over and now that everyone is stuffed with turkey and taters we can look for the usual flurry of moves during and after the annual get-together.
The Sox still have a little bit of housekeeping to tend to before heading to Disney World. Here is the latest look at everything going on leading up to the biggest event of the offseason in our weekly edition of Red Sox Lineup.
1. Thursday marks the last day for the Red Sox to tender offers to unsigned players still in their arbitration years. That short list includes Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hideki Okajima and Taylor Buchholz. Often times teams will look to get something for players they know they do not want to keep, or to go to arbitration with, so deals are made in the final few days before this deadline. Okajima is the one on the chopping block after a rough 2010 season. He made $2.75 million last year and with a good amount of relievers available on the free agent market the Sox may choose to let him go rather than pay him any raise he would get off that figure.
2. Let’s get hypothetical here. Say Adrian Beltre signs with Toronto during the winter meetings and Felipe Lopez gets a deal in Seattle or someplace where infield depth could be needed. Now, if the Sox have done nothing by that point the fans will not necessarily be pleased. But such a scenario would give the club three first-round picks (including their own) and three picks in the sandwich round, all in what figures to be a talented draft. This all changes if and when Boston signs some highly rated free agents and has to cough up a pick of its own, but the club figures to wind up on the plus side in terms of draft picks. On a side note, due to its heavy dose of ranked free agents, Tampa Bay could end up with as many as 10 picks between the first and supplemental rounds, a hefty haul for an organization already boasting a quality farm system.
3. There were no surprises when Beltre and Lopez declined arbitration offers. In fact, 33 of 35 ranked free agents around baseball did so, with relievers Jason Frasor and Frank Francisco the only ones to choose the arbitration process. What that means to the Sox is simple: the free agency pool remains flooded but each of those who turned down the process would cost Boston a draft pick if the club signs them. Also, many free agents are looking at a player-friendly market that could elicit big deals from teams like the Red Sox. Demands will remain high.
4. Remember when the Los Angeles Dodgers began to look like a retirement complex for Red Sox players and coaches? Hideo Nomo went the Boston to LA route in 2001, Derek Lowe came in 2005 and Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller joined the Dodgers in 2006, the same year that Grady Little became the manager. All of them, except maybe Lowe, were past their prime. Los Angeles, which has been a pretty active club this offseason, has now been linked to both Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon, two more recent Red Sox players looking for a little love in La-La land.
5. If you own a Twitter account you might have already noticed this, but rumors are through the roof this time of year and the percentage of those which actually come to fruition seems to drop each offseason. Throwing names at a wall and seeing what sticks has become commonplace in the biz, and frankly it’s fun to follow. Just beware of the sheer volume of it all, and if you want, follow my straight dope during the winter meetings right here.
6. Yet, despite all the rumors, all we have to show for the Sox’ offseason is the additions of Taylor Buchholz, Andrew Miller, Jordan Parraz, Brent Dlugach and three minor leaguers to the 40-man roster. Be patient, folks. It’s early. Sort of.
7. It was revealed this week that Zack Greinke might be willing to play in a major market environment, despite the fact that 15 teams are on his no-trade list and Boston and New York are likely among them. It presents an interesting debate on both sides. Would a guy who seems better suited to a less-stressful environment perform well in a place like Fenway? Would the Red Sox want to take on such a risk? Give me 500 words on the matter and turn it in by Friday.
8. Near the end of May or early June I appeared on a radio show and the host asked me who I thought was the Red Sox’ MVP so far. I said Kevin Youkilis. He said Manny Delcarmen, and as crazy as that seems it was not that bad a selection at the time. Delcarmen was lights out through the first two months of the season and it looked as if he might’ve regained the form that saw him be so successful earlier in his career in Boston. My how times have changed. Hidden beneath Delcarmen’s fast start was a very low BABIP, which suggested he was rather fortunate. He began to struggle once balls found holes (or the bleachers in center), was shipped to Colorado and the Rockies will reportedly decide to not tender him an offer this week. They may still look to re-sign the Hyde Park native but at a friendlier price than what he would’ve received in arbitration. Delcarmen received $905,000 last year. It was hard to imagine during that radio talk last spring that he would not be worth a healthy raise from that figure once the offseason rolled around, but that’s now the case.
9. While the focus right now is just on filling out rosters, it’s never too early to start thinking about the actual games. That became a bit easier this week when the Red Sox released their spring training schedule. Get those trips to Fort Myers planned now, and note that the Yankees are back on the schedule this year.