Looking at our big contracts, many here feel we are in a bind until 2015 when we lose most of them. I, myself, said we would be "crippled" financially for 7 years once we signed CC. While I have not been proven wrong, we can still compete for a ring between now and 2017 (CC's last year) or 2018 (AGon's last year). I figure we will have about $28M to spend this winter (not counting Papi). That may be enough to fill enough holes for us to compete in 2013, but having more would increase our odds. Dumping salary is generally not the way to do it, as with the Youk trade, but let's look at each big contract and see what can/should/might be done (contract cost listed is avg salary or luxury tax number):
AGon: $22M to 2018- Along with most posters on this site, I was all for this trade and extension, but I did mention the fact that paying a top 6 1Bman$22M to be just marginally better than the #14-16 1Bman is not financially defendable, and that moving Youk to 3B at his age and increased fragility was a gamble. (I advocated trading Youk coming off his best OPS year of his career- while his stock was high.) That being said, I seriously doubt AGon is traded soon. We do have Mauro Gomez, Travis Shaw and numerous 3B & SSprospects that could be converted to 1Bmen, but none of these guys, except for maybe Gomez, will be ML ready for 2013. AGon stays for the time being.
Crawford: $20.3M to 2017- "Glorified platoon player", over-rated fielder and base-runner, overpaid by $8-12M a year depending on how you see his future? Many here say CC is "untradable". "Nobody wants him." This is not true. Nobody wants him at $20M/yr, but many teams would like CC on their team, especially NL teams or teams with OF needs, both immediate and/or long term. The 3 questions are:
1) How much of his contract do we have to pay another team to take him?
2) Is CC worth the differential of the above question?
3) Do we have a replacement LF'er in house, or can we find one on the market for less cost, and be a plus over keeping Crawford.
I think CC's need for surgery makes any trade unlikely. He probably should just get the surgery now, so he can recover earlier. I have mentioned trading CC to other teams in exchange for their shorter term salary dump player(s) like Barry Zito and pay part of CC's deal up to the end. Personally, I think we're better off paying someone $10-11M a year to take CC. We save $9-10M a year, and can easily find an inhouse solution that is not a drop off from what CC has given us thus far, but if CC rebounds might be worse. I say, try hard to move this guy, but don't pay over $13-14M a year. His future potential is worth more than $6-7M a year.
Beckett: $17M to 2014- Everyone seems to be jumping on the trade Josh bandwagon, but as with the CC situation, we need to weigh how much we will have to pay towards his deal with how much his future potential is (the 17 Million dollar question), and how can we replace him. With Lackey? With another high-priced FA that could be our next longterm bust? I think not.
Josh's attitude, conditioning, injury issues, and up and down seasons have been discussed enough already, but the fact is, Josh has has very decent to great seasons every other year coming into MLB in 2001. Is the odd-even year thing going to continue? If so, we should keep him for 2013 and trade him before 2014. He may still not earn $17M with a good season in 2013, but paying someone $7-10M/yr to take him off our hands, means we have to find someone at $7-10M who can match Beckett's odd year numbers, which to me, is highly unlikely. We don't really have any MLB ready prospects for 2013, and if anyone thinks this is a World Series rotation, think again:
I'd look to get good return in trade for Josh. I wouldn't give him away. I mentioned something like a Beckett, Ellsbury, Melancon, and Ranaudo (plus some cash to offset Beckett's deal) for Cuerto & Marshall deal, but who knows who wants Josh. I think management will look hard to dump Beckett, and he will rebound next year. Josh's replacement will not do better. Just my opinion.
Lackey: $13.8M to 2015 (counting $500K for 2015's injury option) With the injury option kicked in, Lackey is an interesting player going forward. He has a lot to prove, but I said the same about Beckett after last September and looking to 2012. I even wonder if he might retire rather than play for the minimum wage in 2015. Maybe a re-structuring of his deal this winter might help both parties. Lackey is not going to be traded this winter. Long shot for next ST, if he looks good, but if he looks good, we'll probably keep him. I'd certainly keep any trade door open, but it is highly unlikely he is dealt before 2013.
Ortiz: ($15.575M in 2012) Arb? Extension? Walk? This is at the top of the Sox off-season flowchart of moves along with possibly the keep or trade Ellsburydecision. With only about $28M to spend and so many holes to fill, an argument has been made by several posters that spending over half of our 2013 acquisition budget on a DH is foolhardy, especially when we have guys like Lavarnway, Gomez, Nava, and maybe a returning Ross who fit the DH profile wonderfully. The lack of clutch hitting by Papi over the last 3-4 years is also an issue, although many blame the lack of proper line-up protection as the main reason. Clutch or not, Papi is a big driving force of our offense, and replacing his numbers is near impossible. The question is, is a step down from Papi to Lava worth a $15M savings that can be applied to other positional upgrades? If we were able to get a Braun or Upton (via trade) or FA Josh Hamilton instead, would that make it worthwhile to let Papi walk or offer arb and hope he declines (getting draft picks)? I can see both sides to this argument, and it may end up being Ben's first big defining choice.
Dice-K: Free Agent. Nothing more to be said.
Pedey: $6.75M to 2014 w/ $11M option for '15 ($0.5M buyout)- His cost is minimal, even if he never regains his MVP form. Pedey's not going anywhere before 2013 and probably ever. Moving a 3B or SS prospect to 2B could be a future option, but I think Pedey is a 2B fixture in Boston.
Ellsbury: ($8.05M in 2012): Last arb this winter. The big decision. I happen to think there is close to a zero chance Ellsbury plays for Boston in 2014. If my psoition is valid, it comes down to this: how much is 1 year of Ellsbury and likely 2 comp picks after he walks worth? How much will he get in his last arb year? Not having a big 2012 will help keep that cost down, but I think the Sox have to look at total value:
Ellsbury + his 2013 contract cost+ 2 draft picks in 2014
Whatever we can get in trade, possibly in a bigger package deal.
I'm thinking the latter might make more sense, but it would probably mean lessening our chances for 2013, but improving our chances beyond 2013, unless we involve a 3rd team in the trade and bring back a MLB ready player who helps us at another position, such as starting pitcher (#1-2 slot type) or a RH'd clean-up hitter type. Hard to guess what Ben will do, but I think Ellsbury will be traded before next season begins (when the comp pick value would be lost).
Lester: $6M to 2013 w/ $13M option for '14 ($0.25M buyout)- Before this season, I seriously doubt anyone thought Lester's $13M option for 2014 was going to be too high. Now, it's a real possibility we decline the option after we see what Lester gives us in 2013. Trading Lester could happen, but I think moving Josh is a higher liklihood. Lester has more trade value, especially because of the 2014 option and not Josh's guaranteed money. I think Jon stays in Boston next year, but chances are good either him or Josh is gone.
Buchholtz: $7.5M to 2015 2/$13M option for '16 ($0.25M buyout)- Buch is not going anywhere, unless in a package deal that nets us a bonafide ace. His cost is low, His upside is big. He needs to stay healthy. Not going anywhere soon.
Others who may get big arb raises in the near future:
Salty: ($2.5M in 2012) Last arb this winter. Could see Salty traded, especially if Papi returns. If Papi walks, we could see a Lava (DH/C), Salty (C), and Shoppach (C) roster.
Bailey: ($3.9M in 2012) 2 arb year left. Bailey should be our closer next year, which will improve our pen by returning Aceves to his rightful role: short-mid set-up man.
Overall: say we save
$10M/yr x 2 by dumping Beckett
$10M/yr x 5 by dumping CC
and not bring Papi back, we'd have about $50M to spend and this for a beginning roster:
DH/C: Lava (Gomez/Nava)
IF: Punto (Ciriaco if not the FT SS)
LF: _____ (Nava)
OF: Kalish (Bradley/Brentz?)
SP: Morales/Mortensen (Stewart)
RP: Miller (Mortensen if not SP) (Carpenter)
If we trade Ellsbury and fill in one of these gaps, we'd have about $60M (depending on how much the player we get for Jacoby costs) to fill these holes plus the new CF hole caused by Jacoby's departure. Maybe we could take a chance and try Bradley in CF to open the 2013 season. That would allow us much more money to spend on filling the other open slots.
All is not lost for 2013 and beyond, but with these big contracts and the new CBA rules, we will have to get more creative, be more pro-active, and take some chances on fast-tracking prospects.