In 10 days, Red Sox pitchers and catchers will report to spring training. With a chance to get an early start, Jon Lester, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway are reportedly among the players already in Fort Myers.
One way or another, David Ortiz will join the group soon. With his arbitration hearing slated for Monday, the Red Sox will aggressively work to lock the iconic designated hitter to a contract — a multi-year deal is Ortiz's wish — before the deadline.
While the outcome unfolds over the next few days, let’s take a look at this week's mailbag.
Where's [Ryan] Kalish? [Jose] Iglesias has fallen to #10? And [Ryan] Lavarnway isn't #1? MLB.com dropped the ball.
–Jim Dawson, Providence, R.I.
According to Major League Baseball, a player loses rookie — or prospect – status when he exceeds at least 130 at-bats in a season. Since Kalish recorded 163 at-bats in 2010, he wouldn’t qualify as a prospect anymore, which is why he wasn't included in MLB.com's Top-20 Red Sox prospects rankings.
Iglesias likely slid down because of his slow development on offense. A .235 batting average in 2011 would have that effect. Now, after Xander Bogaerts slugged 16 homers and had 45 RBIs last season, the 19-year-old shortstop is nipping at the heels and could threaten Iglesias' bid for shortstop of the future.
As for Lavarnway, I think his defense hindered him from a higher spot. He's major-league ready offensively, but he still needs to show progression behind the plate. But Will Middlebrooks is well-rounded, which helped his ranking.
Reading your article on the possible Rookie of the Year candidates. Why is Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals not mentioned?
–Shawn Regular, Edmonton, Canada
Really good question, Shawn. Honestly, I was really considering sliding him into the mix, but we've witnessed how cautious the Nationals can be with prized prospects. The team took its time with pitcher Stephen Strasburg and gradually eased him into the majors.
I'd be shocked if the Nationals rushed Harper into the majors before September. It could happen, but I anticipate they'll shuffle him between Double-A and Triple-A and get a gauge for their young superstar.
As a result, I elected to keep Harper out because he may not have rookie eligibility for the 2012 season.
Ben Cherington likes cheap low-risk starters this offseason. How about sending $3 million and two lower level prospects to the Reds for Homer Bailey? The Reds made it clear that they wanted to clear cap space for Roy-O. Do you see this happening?
–Jack Delaney, McKinney, Texas
For starters, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty recently expressed he wasn't optimistic about signing Roy Oswalt. Even if the Reds wanted to clear cap space to ink the 34-year-old, it wouldn't make sense for the Red Sox to trade for Bailey.
Why would the Red Sox prematurely abandon hope for Oswalt? Clearly, Oswalt is mulling his offers and would prefer Texas or St. Louis because of the proximity to his home in Mississippi. But if he really wants a chance to shine as a starter, Boston is a legitimate option.
Oswalt makes more sense than Homer Bailey, so I expect the Red Sox to keep chasing until he makes a decision. If Oswalt opts for another team, the Red Sox could potentially explore the trade market.
Didier, I was pretty bummed to see Edwin Jackson sign elsewhere. And with the Roy Oswalt talks not 'gaining any traction' do you think we're content with our rotation? Who else is out there and if we don't make another addition wouldn't it make sense to re-sign Wakefield? Just for security purposes alone?
–Evan Miner, Folly Beach, S.C.
At this point, I think there's no choice for the Red Sox but to be content with the current rotation heading into spring training. As we all know by now, the team is going to bank on Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves and a cast of veterans to duke it out for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the rotation.
Considering the circumstances, one last look at Tim Wakefield wouldn't really be a bad idea. A few weeks ago, Ben Cherington said he had another conversation lined up with the knuckleballer.
But I doubt he'll return. There's a report that emerged on Thursday saying Wakefield intends to make the final decision on his future by this weekend, and it just doesn't bode well for one last hurrah in Boston.
Based on the pitching staff we have currently, who's in the best position to be behind the plate? [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] with direct experience with last year's bullpen or [Kelly] Shoppach, the new guy with experience elsewhere?
–Savvy Lodge-Scharff, Eliot, Maine
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the guy. For the first time since his rookie year, Saltalamacchia showed flashes of the potential that made him a first-round selection in 2003. He provided a boost on offense, uncorking 16 homers and 56 RBIs while splitting time with Jason Varitek in 2011.
So he deserves the chance to build on that momentum. He has the experience with last year's staff and will continue to develop that chemistry during his second full year in Boston and with that crew.
Kelly Shoppach was signed more as an insurance policy with a cannon arm.