Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking at the Red Sox Position by Position Two Weeks before Winter Meetings

This post will check out the Red Sox at each position in regards to possible winter transactions and the incumbents who have a job all ready claimed.  Two previous posts this off season have concentrated on starting pitching, so we will look at the rest of the team, with a few additional notes on the rotation candidates near the end.  Sprinkled throughout are also mentions of ten deals or so from this winter that have impacted the Sox trade market all ready.

Bullpen-  Unlike the rotation, the re-signing of free agent Koji Uehara leaves the Boston bullpen with stable vets in key spots.  Koji will close with fellow countryman Junichi Tazawa the 8th inning specialist.  Edwin Mujica, who pitched much better post All-Star break in 2014 also returns.  The left handed side of the pen is less settled.  Tommy Layne and Drake Britton, both of who spent the majority of '14 in AAA, are the only incumbent lefties, after the July trade of Andrew Miller and the option declination  of Craig Breslow.  Miller and Breslow are not completely out of the picture.  Breslow could brought back on a cheaper deal than the option declined by the Sox, though I think the Sox will move on from the '13 ALCS star.  Boston would love to grab Miller back, as he is now a free agent with no draft pick attached. But Andrew was so spectacular for Boston and Baltimore in 2014, he may one of the hottest free agents on the market.  It is widely thought he will get a 4 year, $32M deal.  I cannot imagine Boston going there.  Since most of the free agent relievers connected to Boston other than Miler are righties ( Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson, Luke Hochevar) it may be that Layne and Britton are the Boston bullpen lefties, at least going into spring training.  

I believe any other hurlers to join the bullpen brigade will come from the plethora of young pitchers who have hit Boston in 2013-14.  Whoever is not traded this winter or loses out on a possible starting job should be in the pen.  The approximate order of likely pitchers to land in the pen are: Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Stephen Wright, Matt Barnes, Edwin Escobar, Anthony Ranaudo.  Also included in this pool are two pitchers from AAA who are all ready relievers: Alex Wilson and Heath Hembree.

Likely 2015 Opening day Bullpen: Uehara, Tazawa, Mujica, Layne, Workman, A. Wilson, Hochevar.

Catcher- Incumbents (from current 40 man roster): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Lavarnway, Dan Butler, Blake Swihart.  In reverse order, Swihart was just added to 40 man roster, and will be the everyday AAA catcher until at least July if not all year.  Butler may have a small chance of being the Boston backup receiver in 2015, but without a veteran ahead of him, that chance gets even smaller.  If not included in a deal, Butler also spends next year in Rhode Island.  Lavarnway, someone whom Boston  apparently had given up on, is inexplicably still on the team.  But if you want to stump your Red Sox friends at a holiday party, ask them who are the five most senior members of the current Red Sox roster, based on when they were most recently added to the 40 man roster.  The answer is David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz (okay so far, right), Junichi Tazawa is #4 and at number 5 is yep, Ryan Lavarnway, who was added to the roster in August 2011. 

Vazquez, all ready renowned for his pitch framing and incredible pop times to second to gun out would be base stealers, is the odds on favorite to be the regular Red Sox catcher in 2015.  The fact John Farrell loves him cements the deal. Only one small fly in the ointment before CV is anointed ( OK two things, he will need to prove he can hit enough to be a starting big league catcher), is if the Red Sox end up aggressively pursuing Cole Hamels from Philadelphia, could Vazquez be included in the deal?  Far-fetched? Philly has reported heavy interest in Swihart, who Boston is very reluctant to trade, as they are with Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts.  Would a package of Vazquez, Henry Owens, and Deven Marrero, Manuel Margot get Hamels or least get close?

The backup backstop spot is wide open and likely to come from outside.  With the Sox lacking left handed hitters the rumors have Sox pursuing a lefty hitter for the #2 catcher spot.  John Jaso of Oakland is effective lefty hitter, but not the most reliable defensive catcher,  Billy Beane likes to deal so Jaso in a real possibility. Two transactions that have all ready occurred this off season could affect the search.  The Tigers were rumored to non tender Alex Avila, but that did pick up his option.  Avila, another lefty hitter, has been the Motown starter for several years, but due to the buildup of injuries, including concussions, many teams view him as a backup from here on out.  For Boston to get  Avila now a trade is needed.  The Angels have traded catcher Hank Conger to Houston which led to rumors that current Astros receiver Jason Castro could be available in trade.  Castro, who once drafted by Boston, would fulfill the left handed hitting need, but he may sought by clubs looking for a starting catcher.  If none of the left handed hitting options pan out, the Sox could re-sign free agent David Ross, who while does not bat lefty, is a perfect mentor for Vazquez.

One last name, going back to the idea of dealing Vazquez to the Phillies.  In that deal the Sox would try to get catcher Carlos Ruiz (who the Sox pursued last winter when he was a free agent) included in the deal.  Ruiz could keep the seat warm for Swihart and then act as mentor/backup for Blake.

Likely Opening day catchers: Christian Vazquez, David Ross


Shaw will start 2015 back at AAA as the every day first sacker.  Shaw has never been considered a blue chip prospect, but he hits left handed and the man has power: 21 home runs last year at Portland and Pawtucket combined.  Nava and Craig are outfielders foremost (although defensively Craig is much better off playing first) who would back up Napoli.

Juan Francisco, the rotund corner infielder, was picked up on waivers this week from the Jays.  The pros: he bats left handed and has power, 16 jacks in '14 with part time at bats.  Cons: he is a crappy defensive player at either first or third.  He could make the team as a bat of the bench, if the Sox clear several members of the existing 1B/3B/OF logjam.  My best guess is that the Sox designate Juan for assignment during the winter to make room on the currently full 40 man roster, maybe signing him to a spring training invite, if he clears waivers.

Mike Napoli is very likely to be the '15 first baseman and will form the power core of the lineup with David Ortiz and Yoenis Cespedes. But there is a definite shortage of right handed power in the game, therefore there are whispers ( reported by Peter Gammons, for one) the Sox may listen on offers for Napoli.  They are also shopping Cespedes reportedly and if Yoenis goes, Napoli almost certainly stays. Another transaction that went down late this week changes somewhat the complexion of the Gammons report.  He said the Sox could deal Napoli for pitching and then sign Adam LaRoche for a lefty bat at first (especially if they fail to get a lefty hitting third baseman).  But Laroche has signed with the other Sox in Chicago.  But could the Sox replace Nap with a Craig/Nava platoon?

One Napoli rumor involves a pitcher I mislabeled somewhat in the trading for pitching post.  Seattle covets Napoli and one rumor is Nap for pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.  I had called Iwakuma a pitcher Seattle would not trade, but in fact he is a free agent one year from now and may be available for Napoli who also has one year to go on his contract.

Likely Opening day 1st baseman:  Allen Craig/Daniel Nava ( just a feeling I have).

Second base-  Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt, Jemile Weeks, Sean Coyle

Coyle after an outstanding year at Portland will head to AAA for '15 if he is not traded in a package.  For example, Coyle is from Philly, I hear they have a team there who scouted the Sox system extensively throughout 2014.

I think the Sox may have found something useful in Weeks and if he can play short at all (not sure he can), he could be the utility infielder on this team if Holt isn't.  Holt probably should listed elsewhere because barring a Pedroia disaster Holt is not playing much here.

Pedroia is without question the man here.  Best case scenario he is finally healthy for a whole campaign, and his power resurfaces.  At minimum Pedey can earn another Gold Glove and provide a respectable level of offense.

Opening day second base:  Dustin Pedroia

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Holt

Other than Pedroia at second and David Ortiz at DH, Xander has the biggest lock on his position.  If Bogaerts can build on his productive September he will be counted on to provide right handed power, especially if Cespedes and /or Napoli are traded.  Bogaerts will have at least all of 2015 to show he is a MLB caliber shortstop.  One year                                                                                                                 
from now, Deven Marrero may enter the discussion if he can hit at Pawtucket like he did at Portland in'14 and in the Arizona Fall League, not like he did at Pawtucket last year.

Likely Opening day shortstop: Xander Bogarts backed up by Brock Holt.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Red Sox Maineiacs Hot Stove Live Chat

Live Blog Red Sox Maineiacs Hot Stove Live Chat
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Twenty Questions Hot Stove Edition

As cold weather prepares to swing in Maine this week, the Hot Stove begins to heat up literally and figuratively. How about a round of 20 questions, pertaining to the Red Sox? Feel free to post your answers in the comments section below:

1. Only partially Sox related: Did the Deacon give any insight to the Duffer for his BDN letter to Ben Cherington?
2. Let's Go to the Zoo: Would you give Pablo "The Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval a 5+ year deal?
3. Ace in the Hole: Who will be the Sox "ace" in 2015: Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, Cole Hamels, or Clay Buchholz?
4. A Man in a Gorilla Suit did What: Will Theo Epstein and the Cubs be a thorn in the Red Sox side this winter?
5. Our Pitching Staff...is mediocre: Assuming the Sox do not get Lester, Scherzer, Shields, or Hamels, what pitcher(s) are the Sox most likely to add to bolster their 2015 staff?
6. Our Pitching Staff...is oye: Which "kid" pitchers who auditioned in 2014 (Webster, Ranaudo, De La Rosa, Workman, Barnes) are most likely to be in the 2015 rotation?
7. Koji Time: After watching Koji Uehara struggle to the finish line in 2014, do you feel confident with him as the closer in 2015?
8. If Not Koji, how about Mujica Time: Is Edward Mujica the Sox closer if Koji cannot answer the bell?
9. Call to the Pen: Do the Sox re-sign Burke Badenhop?
10. Call to the Pen, Part II: Who makes up the 2015 Red Sox relief corps?
11. Jenny Dell is nice to look at: Does Jenny actually go through with it and tie the knot with a career .237 hitter? Is that .237 hitter still a member of the Red Sox in 2015?

Sidebar, I saw a recent Tweet from Jenny Dell at a Bruins game with her girlfriends. Lo and behold standing next to Jenny was an MCI alum whose parents live down the street from me. I'm thinking it is only a matter of time before Jenny is strolling the streets of Pittsfield!

12. At the Hot Corner: Who is the Red Sox 3rd baseman in 2015: Brock Holt, Will Middlebrooks, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Headley, Garrin Cecchini, recently retired Kevin Youkilis, Cousin Jason?
13. Yoenis live once: Do the Sox trade Yoenis Cespedes this winter? If so, what is the return?
14. Nava miss an opportunity: Does OBP machine Daniel Nava make the 2015 Sox roster?
15. Glut-tony for Punishment: With a glut of OFers, where do Cespedes, Nava, Allen Craig, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Bryce Brentz, and Alex Hassan begin 2015?
16. Backstop: What do the Red Sox do with Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart?
17. Backstop Backup: Who is the Sox #2 catcher to start 2015?
18. A side of Chili: What impact will new hitting coach Chili Davis have on the Sox offense in 2015?
19. The Manager's Desk: After a World Series title and a last-place finish, what do we make of John Farrell's managerial skills?
20. Shortstop: Devin Marrero has had an excellent Arizona Fall League and been dubbed by many industry experts as Brandon Crawford II. Given this information many view Marrero as a nice trade chip. Let's go the other way, given Marrero's skills would you shop Xander Bogaerts?
Bonus: Which members of the last place Red Sox 40 man roster is not expendable?

I hope you all got an extra cord put away, it appears that the Hot Stove will need to be stoked frequently this winter. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Red Sox Pitching Trade Targets

In the last post we reviewed some available starting pitchers on the free agent market.  Now we will scour  the rosters of the other major league teams for the front line starter, or two, needed by Boston.

First check out these names:

Trevor Cahill
Johnny Cueto
Doug Fister
Scott Kazmir
Ian Kennedy
Mat Latos
Mike Leake
Rick Porcello
David Price
Jeff Samardzija
Jordan Zimmerman

This are among the names of starters that will be free agents one year from now.  Some of pitchers may well re-sign with their current teams in the next year, but if not they may be available in trade this winter for less than you may expect with only the one year of control remaining.

We will go through each division looking for possible trade targets for the Sox.  We will examine the names above and many others looking for these candidates for the 2015 Red Sox rotation.

AL East

There may be a target or two here ( RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle are on that next year free agent list for example) but no one in the AL East is going to trade a top flight pitcher to Boston.

AL Central

Tigers-  Detroit has both David Price and Rick Porcello on the '16 free agent class above, but if they lose Max Scherzer as expected in this winter's free agency, they may be looking to add pitching not trade it.  If the Tigers would listen to offers,  Porcello might make a more attractive target due to his age of 26 and likely a lesser package of players in return than Price.

Royals-  The AL champs will be looking to add pitching to replace James Shields.

Indians- Despite the emergence of Cory Kluber, Tito's team also could still use more pitching.  Danny Salazar would be an interesting target, but I doubt he is available despite his off 2014.

White Sox- Red Sox fans have dreams of getting Chris Sale.  The other Sox have less than a zero per cent interest in dealing him.  They will trade John Danks, another lefty.  The Red Sox should have the same less than zero per cent interest in acquiring Danks.

Twins-  Only Phil Hughes would illicit any interest, and the idea of bringing Hughes back to the AL East is chilling.  Although it would be a hoot to have the former Yankee phenom blossom in Boston instead of the Bronx.

Possible AL Central targets:  David Price, Rick Porcello

AL West

Angels- Despite winning the West the Halos are still looking for pitching themselves.

A's- Billy Beane went all in for 2014 acquiring starters Jon Lester, Jason Hammel ( both free agents now) and Jeff Samardzija, a free agent a year from now. Scott Kazmir will also be a free agent in a year.  The A's prospect cupboard is lean due to some of these deals, especially sending number one prospect Addison Russell to the Cubs.  Between this need to replenish and Beane's always being at the ready to deal,  Samardzija  and to a lesser degree Kazmir are very likely Sox targets.  Samardzija is 30, older than it seems he should be after his years playing football at Notre Dame.  Kazmir, 31, is in his "third" career, first a young phenom with  the Rays, when he was one of the AL's best.  Then his career cratered and he was back in an independent league.  Finally in his third stage he pitched for Cleveland in 2013 and Oakland this year, starting for two teams that went to the wild card playoff game.

Mariners-  Seattle needs offense and there are some rumors they would like to acquire Mike Napoli.  But the M's seem to have pitchers they won't deal ( King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma),  guys you likely wouldn't want ( Chris Young) or younger pitchers Seattle may or may not deal for Napoli,                     ( Roenis Elias, Taijuan Walker , or James Paxton.)  If Seattle would trade Paxton for Napoli, the Sox should seriously consider it.

Rangers-  Unless Texas decides to shop Yu Darvish or Boston wants to a flyer on Derek Holland, if the pitching starved Rangers would even deal him, there is not much here.

Astros-  There is one attractive option here in lefty starter Dallas Kuechel.  Only 27 years old, Kuechel had a 12-9 record with an ERA of 2.93 in 200 innings.  But eventually the lowly Astros have to stop trading all of their good players.  I think they keep Kuechel unless Houston decides it cannot abide a star player named Dallas.

Possible AL West targets: Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel, and maybe James Paxton.

NL East

Nationals-  Despite their division winning 2014, Washington may be looking to deal.  Two very attractive trade targets are on our opening list of free agents from a year from now: Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister.  Fister has had success in the American League with Seattle and Detroit, and in 2014 had an outstanding 16-6 record with an ERA of 2.41 ( fourth in the NL) .  Despite the presence of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez,  Zimmerman was the Nats ace.  But that same presence of Strasburg and Gio, would allow Washington to deal one of these starters, sign the other and still have a formidable rotation.  The Sox have the players to make a deal here, but one issue might be the Nats most pressing need is a second baseman.  So unless the Sox will trade Mookie Betts for Zimmerman, for example, the talks may be protracted.  The word in the industry is that the Sox hope to keep Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Blake Swihart.  Either way Washington is a team I am sure Ben Cherington is calling often.

Braves-  Atlanta has attractive, young pitching like Alex Wood and Julio Teheran, but they are not likely available.  Instead the Braves are said to be shopping outfielders Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers.  Despite Boston's outfield crush of about ten guys, do not be completely shocked if Jason Heyward is the starting right fielder for Boston next Opening Day.  On the other hand Kate Upton has a better chance of playing in Boston's outfield than BJ Upton.  Justin Upton's chances fall somewhere between Kate's and BJ's.

Marlins-  If the Sox decide to pull an under the radar pitching trade and go for a younger talent rather than a big name ace, Miami has "about a dozen" big time arms according to a recent column by Peter Gammons. Among the names who all ready have some big league time are Jarred Cosart, Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Brad Hand, and Andrew Heaney.  Last winter, the Marlins expressed an interest in Will Middlebrooks, could that be the start of a deal?  Now if Miami just had any offensive players Boston would be willing to trade for.

Mets- This is one of the few teams with pitching to trade.  With 2013 rookie star, Matt Harvey returning  from injury, he joins vet Bartolo Colon, '14 rookie Jacob DeGrom, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler,  and upcoming rookie Noah Syndergaard.  Lefty Jon Niese who will be 28 next year is the most available according to reports.  I think the preferred Sox target (assuming Harvey, DeGrom, and Syndergaard are not available) is Zack Wheeler.  Wheeler is only 24 and was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA and 187 K's in 185 innings in 2014.   The one name most connected to the Mets from Boston is Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mets are looking everywhere for a power hitter for the outfield ( as well as a shortstop).  I think it is possible you could get Niese more or less straight up for Yoenis.  Wheeler would take Cespedes and probably two more good prospects.  Maybe as Cousin Jason suggested a package of Cespedes and Deven Marreo, and then another lesser pitching prospect.  If Cespedes was signed for three more years instead of one, you may be able to discuss Harvey or DeGrom, I would be happy to come away with Wheeler.

Phillies- With Cliff Lee injured (and old), there is only one target here.  The frequently rumored to Boston ace, Cole Hamels.  I agree that Hamels is the most similar pitcher in the game to free agent Jon Lester.  And I get the point that Hamels  has four years $96M left on his deal, which about what the Sox would have liked to sign Lester for.  There are two problems, maybe both are surmountable.  First, Lester is a proven Boston commodity, he can pitch and win here.  Hamels is not.  But I will give you that Philly is no picnic to thrive in either and Cole has.  And he has pitched well in October back when the Philies were good.  The second, much bigger problem, is the price of acquiring Hamels in players needed to be traded.  Ruben Amaro, the Philadelphia GM, is the most out of touch, hard to deal with GM in the game.  Last July he reportedly asked for the Cubs top three prospects for Hamels.  In other words a package of Bogaerts, Betts, and Swihart or Henry Owens would be comparable.  That deal will not happen.  The answer to this problem may be Pat Gillick.  The long time baseball man has been installed as Phillies president.  Gillick has all ready said the Phillies are rebuilding for at least the next two years.  Maybe the Phillies would listen to a package of something like Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Sean Coyle, and younger prospect or two.

Possible NL East targets: Jordan Zimmerman, Cole Hamels, Zack Wheeler, Doug Fister, Jon Niese, any Marlins young starter.

NL Central

Cardinals- I hear St. Louis has a veteran starter with post season success who is pitching for the major league minimum in 2015.  Maybe we could get him.  Cards have lots of young arms, but no one specifically rumored to be on the block.

Pirates-  With Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez free agents, the Buccos will be looking to add pitching not trade it.

Brewers-  Two or three years ago, every week a Matt Garza to Boston rumor floated.  But his 8-8 '14 campaign in Milwaukee means Garza would only be a fifth starter type and the Sox have those.  Yovanni Gallardo, at age 29, would be the prime target here.  After winning between 12 to 17 games each year from 2009 to 2013, Yovanni went only 8-11 in '14. But his ERA of 3.51 was actually the lowest of his career. He has also been durable with between 30 to 33 starts in each of the last six seasons.  He could be a #2 starter at least in Boston.

Reds- This is the mother lode of potentially available top starting pitching.  In the Reds five man rotation they have signed one starter to a $100M contract a year ago, Homer Bailey.  All four of the other starters are free agents after the 2015 season: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon.  Simon is a 35 year old who unexpectedly joined the Cincy rotation in 2014, and at his age not a trade target.   On the other hand Leake and Latos  are both just 28, which would make both attractive to the Sox. But Leake is not an ace per se.  Latos was traded to the Reds from the Padres at a young age for a big package of top Cincinnati prospects.  Latos has suffered some injuries which lowers his value, but it is not out of the question he could a front of the rotation type guy.   Cueto is the real prize here. He was a 20 game winner in 2014 with an ERA of 2.25 ( second best to Clayton Kershaw in the NL), and 242 strikeouts in 243.2 innings pitched.  His WHIP was 0.96.  Cueto is only a year older than Leake and Latos at 29.  Trading for Cueto would be the deal most comparable to trading for Pedro Martinez back in the 1990's. Like the Mets, the Reds have a rumored interest in a power hitting left fielder, namely Yoenis Cespedes.  Normally acquiring Cueto would cost a bundle in players.  But the Reds will not be able to sign Cueto, Latos, and Leake with Bailey all ready at $100M and first baseman Joey Votto with a deal at more than twice the size of Bailey's.  That may be all the major deals the mid-sized market Reds can afford.  And with Cueto a year from free agency his price should drop some.  There was a report this week from a Reds beat writer that Cincy would keep all the pitchers and go for it all in 2015 and let them walk as free agents if need be.  I doubt that is a smart way to run a mid sized team, but if true, the red Sox will line up next winter to sign Cueto as a free agent.

Cubs- The only connection to Theo's Cubs and Boston on the pitching front may be competing to acquire the same guys. Lester, Shields, Hamels, et al.

Possible NL Central targets: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Yovanni Gallardo, Mike Leake, Matt Garza

NL West

Giants-  The only player the Sox and their successors as World Champs will compete for is Pablo Sandoval, no pitching coming from San Fran.

Dodgers- No one available in LA either.

Padres-  30 year old Ian Kennedy is on the one year from now free agent list. He won 13 games with an ERA of 3.63 in 2014 and while he could help fill out the Sox rotation, he is not the ace they need.  Some one who could develop into the ace they need soon is the under the radar ( for East Coast fans, at least) Tyson Ross.  Ross who turns 28 next April, was 2008 A's draftee. Ross pitched three years in Oakland before being traded to San Diego before the 2013 campaign. His four year record from 2010 to 2013 was 9-26 before blossoming last year with a 13-14 record with a 2.81 ERA and was a member of the NL All-Star team.  He started 31 games for the Padres with 195 strikeouts.

Rockies-  Unless the Sox want Franklin Morales back nothing here.

Diamondbacks- One intriguing name from our opening 2016 free agent list: Trevor Cahill.  Cahill was a young star for Oakland when he was unexpectedly dealt to Arizona two off seasons ago.   After winning 53 games in four A's seasons, he has had two poor seasons since his trade: 8-10 and 3-12 in 2014.  Cahill would be a big gamble but if picked up cheaply could be a comeback candidate.

Possible NL West targets: Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill

So after this exercise here is a list of twenty possible Red Sox trade targets for this winter.  The list is in an order based on desirability to the Red Sox and their realistic availability ( according to various reports).  And a bit of the potential cost thrown in the order as well.

1.   Johnny Cueto
2.   Jordan Zimmerman
3.   Jeff Samardzija
4.   Cole Hamels
5.   Mat Latos
6.   Zack Wheeler
7.   Doug Fister
8.   Tyson Ross
9.   David Price ( unlikely to be available, but too good to leave off list)
10. Rick Porcello ( same as Price)
11. Yovanni Gallardo
12. Scott Kazmir
13. Ian Kennedy
14. Mike Leake
15. Jon Niese
16. Dallas Kuechel
17. Marlins Young Pitchers
18. Trevor Cahill
19. James Paxton
20. Matt Garza

While I do believe the Red Sox will be aggressive in free agent pitching market, it is much more likely one or two of the new Red Sox arms come from this list or some other unexpected trade this off season.









Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Red Sox Shopping List of Free Agent Starting Pitchers

 Having culled through the list of starting pitchers on this winter's free agent market, I have come up with a ranking of the best fifteen names.  Here are those pitchers with  comments pertaining to possible Red Sox interest.

Tier One

1.  Jon Lester, LHP Oakland.  Nothing has changed in my mind since last spring training, Lester is still the guy who makes the most since for Boston to drop their biggest contract offer onto.  They know he can handle the Boston scene and produce in October.  Can they sign him now that he was traded away in July? Everything said by the Sox and Lester since the trade leads one to believe a deal can be made. But will the Sox offer be blown away by a bigger spender?  The two suitors mentioned most often- Yankees and Cubs- have been dropping hints (misdirection?) they will not spend on pitching this winter.  The Yanks because they are all ready drowning in big $$ deals and the Cubs, as theorized by Buster Olney and others, may wait until next winter when David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman, and others hit free agency.  If the Yankees and Cubs sit out the Lester sweepstakes it improves Boston's chances but teams like Seattle ( who really needs hitters more) and the Tigers ( to replace Max Scherzer) still loom, to name just two.  If the Lester offers get to the rumored 7 year 180M territory, the Sox will look elsewhere.  One last plus for Boston, Lester could not be given a qualifying offer (QO) due to his mid season trade.  So the team that signs Lester will not lose a draft pick.

2. Max Scherzer, RHP Detroit. The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner is probably the number one guy on most team's list, but to me Lester would make more since in Boston.  Max turned down 6 years 144M this spring from Detroit. He is said to be gunning for a 200M contract.  He will not get it in Boston.

3.  James Shields, RHP Kansas City.  If Lester gets priced out of the Boston market, Shields is the most likely Red Sox free agent addition.  Shields would eat over 200 innings for the Boston rotation, and would fill the #2 spot.  But despite his Big Game James moniker, he is nor really a number one ace.  The AL Champs Royals did place the QO on Shields, so the signing team forfeits a draft pick.  Since Boston has a top ten pick (#7) next June, its first round pick is protected meaning Shields ( or other pitchers on this list with a QO) would cost a second round pick.

Tier Two

4. Brandon McCarthy, RHP NY Yankees.  McCarthy was traded from Arizona to New York in July. In Arizona he was 3-10 with an ERA over 5.  After joining the Yankees, he was 7-5 with a 2.86 ERA. McCarthy has always pitched well when not injured, but he has been injured a lot.  If it is true New York will skip bidding on the top three above, keeping McCarthy will be their first goal.  I think he stays in New York, but if the Yankees change direction the Sox will show some interest.

5. & 6. Francisco Liriano, LHP Pittsburgh and Ervin Santana, RHP Atlanta.  I have listed these two as an entry because both of their stories from a Boston point of view are nearly the same.  First, both hurlers have the QO attached to them.  There have been whispers that if the Sox get shutout on the top three, either of these two could be Sox targets.  Both pitchers have spent time in both leagues with up and down seasons in each. If either (both?) would sign for a two year deal between 20-30M total Boston might go for that, but I find it hard to believe Boston would give up a second round draft pick for Liriano or Santana.

7. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP NY Yankees.  Kuroda fits on this list talent wise, but in reality it seems (the same as last winter when he was a free agent), Hiroki will only sign with the Yankees, Dodgers ( his first MLB team), or return to Japan to pitch or retire.

8. Justin Masterson, RHP St. Louis.  This is the most likely name on the entire list to sign with the Red Sox.  Justin broke in with Boston.  He has a familiarity with Boston and John Farrell.  He was traded in July so like Lester, he by rule could not have a QO, so no draft pick compensation needed.  And Boston can get him from the bargain bin due to his terrible, injury plagued (non-arm) 2014 season.  Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA.  But in 2013 for Cleveland he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 193 innings pitched.  Masterson. also won in double digits in 2011 and 2012.  There are two schools of thought on the type of deal Justin is looking for.  One thought is a one year revive his career deal, the other theory is a 3 year deal for around 36M.  I think Boston would jump at either, especially the one year deal.

9. Jake Peavy, RHP San Francisco.  Peavy's performance with the World Champs after being traded from Boston likely will earn him a new two or three year deal.  But it will likely be in the NL and certainly will not include a return to Boston.  Thanks for the 2013 memories, Jake.

Tier three

10. Edinson Volquez, RHP Pittsburgh.  As a 24 year old with Cincy, Volquez looked like a superstar with a 17- 6 season.  But Volquez will be 32 next July, and has never matched that 17 win campaign due to injuries and inconsistency.  2014 may well have been his best season since then, he was 13-7 with a 3.07 ERA for the NL wild card Pirates.  If the Red Sox get completely shut out on the better choices above, I suppose they could take a flyer on Volquez. But I think he is better suited for the NL.

11. Brett Anderson, LHP Colorado.  If the Red Sox could wave a magic wand of good health over Anderson, he would jump to the top of this list.  Anderson, who has pitched mostly for the A's is still only 27 years old.  And the lefty has a career ERA of 3.73.  But he has been a repeat of former Oakland hurler, Rich Harden, when healthy a great young pitcher but he is so rarely healthy.  Not out of the question the Sox would sign him to a short term incentive laden deal.

12. Jason Hammel, RHP Oakland.  Hammel pitched well enough in early 2014 to be traded to Oakland with Jeff Samardzija. He could be useful to fill out the back of a rotation, but Boston is shopping for front end candidates. It is more likely Boston starts 2015 with Samardzija than Hammel.

13. AJ Burnett, RHP Philadelphia.  AJ turned down a player's option to become a free agent and forfeited 12.5M from the Phillies.  Burnett may have a year left in his arm, but he cannot thrive in the AL East.

14. Brandon Morrow, RHP Toronto.  The Blue Jays declined to pick up Morrow's option placing him on the market.  Another pitcher who looked the part of a future ace in his younger years in Seattle, but Morrow is another injury prone guy.  Two months or so ago, there were whispers of Red Sox interest in Morrow if the Jays cut him loose, due to John Farrell's time with him in Canada.  Brandon, who was born on July 26, 1984, still has time to salvage his career as starter or in some team's bullpen. It could be in Boston, but he is not likely to be the ace the Sox need.

15. Ryan Vogelsong, RHP San Francisco.  Ryan has been useful to a team that has won multiple World Series titles.  That is about all you can say about his attractiveness on the free agent market.

There are few other starting pitching candidates on the free agent list ( Kevin Correia, Scott Feldman, Colby Lewis for example) but if the Sox find any rotation help it will likely be high on this list.  Or in a trade or two, which will be the subject of the next post coming soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- Post season Edition

As the World Series unfolds and the minor league seasons are nearly two months in the rear view mirror, it is time to rank the prospects on the fertile Red Sox farm.  First two notes that have a direct bearing on our current top ten.  Three more players have graduated as prospects because they are no longer rookie eligible.  They are Mookie Betts ( the #1 prospect for most of 2014), Allen Webster,  and Christian Vazquez. Later on this off season, we will do a ranking and discussion of the numerous graduates of the last year or so.   All three of these players have been in our top ten, so this ranking will look different than the rest of 2014.

Additionally after much back and forth, it has been decided the RSM rankings will include Rusney Castillo, the recent Sox signee from Cuba. Some rankings do not include Castillo because  the 27 year old has a number of pro seasons in Cuba under his belt.  Others do include Rusney because he will be rookie eligible in 2015, and RSM decided to follow this route.  Castillo, like other prospects, still does need to prove his ability to play in the majors.

The lines we will refer to for hitters are HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.  The team(s) listed after the player are the teams he mainly played for in 2014.  The number in the { } is their August 2014 ranking.

Here are the current top prospects for the Boston Red Sox as ranked by the Red Sox Maineiacs.

1. Blake Swihart, C - Portland-Pawtucket  {3} After knocking on the door to #1 for months, the graduation of Mookie leads to Swihart grabbing the top spot.  In his first year at AA at age 22, Blake's offensive improved more and more as the year progressed.  His final line at Portland was 12/55/.300/.353/.840.  He was promoted to AAA in time to play in 18 games for the Paw Sox with a line of 1/9/.261/.282/.659.  He will begin 2015 back at Pawtucket to get more AAA exposure.  The dynamic of the two young Sox catchers Swihart and Christian Vazquez will be fascinating to watch.  Vazquez has all ready proved to be a Gold Glove caliber big league catcher with a questionable bat.  Swihart is an outstanding hitting prospect, but at each minor league stop his defense has gotten better and better.  Blake, as does Vazquez, throws out around 50% of would be base stealers.  Toss in the fact Swihart is a switch hitter, and very capable from each side of the plate, and it will be an interesting decision.  Will the Sox trade one of the young catchers this winter?  Several pundits suggest the Sox consider Swihart the most unlikely prospect to be traded, even more the Betts or maybe Bogaerts. And Vazquez is penciled in to be the Sox starting catcher in 2015.  I think both catchers will be in Fort Myers, and before 2015 is over Swihart will join Vazquez in Boston.

2. Rusney Castillo, OF - Pawtucket-Boston {NR} The only decision harder than whether to rank Castillo at all, is where to put him.  Rusney looked very impressive in his short September audition.  Especially considering he had missed about  1 1/2 years of playing time while extricating himself from Cuba.  He showed home run power, although the scouts feel he has only 15-20 HR per year pop, and he is athletic and fast ( although he did not look as blazing fast as advertised, I thought). With the current Red Sox outfield jumble, anything is possible, but I think that one of the spots is Castillo's to lose.  After getting some at bats in winter ball, it will be fun to see just what the Sox have here.

3. Henry Owens, LHP - Portland-Pawtucket  {2} Owens slips behind Blake Swihart (and newcomer Castillo) for one main reason.  With little to separate the top few players, Owens's lack of dominance at AAA cost him.  His line at Portland was a dominant 14-4/2.60/126-47/1.12 in 20 starts.  Owens did not pitch poorly at AAA, but his line was 3-1/4.03/44-12/1.16 in 6 games.  As I said, very respectable AAA numbers, but I think the 4.03 ERA shows Owens could use another half season or more at AAA. There is still every reason to believe Henry Owens will be a strong starter in the majors.

4. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP - Portland  {11}  Rodriguez was of Baltimore's top pitching prospects and he was the return when the Sox sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles at the July 31 deadline.  Eduardo's big seven spot jump up our rankings are attributable to two things.  First when the August rankings were posted Rodriguez had just been acquired and he was not completely familiar to Sox Nation.  Secondly, and more importantly, Rodriguez caught fire after joining Portland from Bowie.  For the Sea Dogs he made 6 starts and pitched 37.1 innings.  His line was 3-1/0.96/39-8/1.02.  Rodriguez has electric stuff, and he is considered to be a top of the rotation big league pitcher. As a matter of fact it is about a 50-50 split among big league scouts on who is a better prospect: Henry Owens or Eduardo Rodriguez. And if the Red Sox truly are looking for impact trades, yet want to keep Bogaerts, Betts, and Blake Swihart, the way to entice other teams may start with the Sox inventory of left handed pitching.  That may mean either Owens or E-Rod lead a trade package (not to mention the Sox have three more left handed starters in our Top 15).  It may just be possible the addition of Rodriguez may make Owens expendable in a big deal.

5. Rafael Devers, 3B - DSL Red Sox- GCL Red Sox {6} This 17 year old began his pro career this year by destroying the Dominican Summer League to the tune of 3/21/.337/.445/.984 in 28 games.  He also had 6 doubles and  3 triples.  He was promoted to the Gulf Coast League ( unusual for an international signee of 17) and continued to hit. In 42 games the line was 4/36/.312/.374/.858.  But the numbers are really secondary, the scouts all rave about his approach and easy power.  They are especially impressed because Devers shows opposite field power, unusual for a youngster.  The last international prospect of Devers' ilk was Xander Bogaerts.  Xander was 18 when he played in the DSL and the next year skipped the GCL to play at Greenville at 19, and then at age 20 he split a year between Salem and Portland.  Unless the Sox keep Devers in extended spring until June to play at Lowell, Greenville is the most logical place to begin 2015 for Devers.  He would be a year ahead of Bogaerts pace.  Can Devers make it to Hadlock Filed in 2016 at age 19?  Something to keep a long term eye on.

6. Manuel Margot, OF - Greenville-Salem {10} The speedy plus defender has always been considered a potential five tool player.  But the power was just presumed as Margot hit only 5 home runs in his first two pro seasons combined.   But in 2014 at age 19, Manuel began to show the power with 12 home runs.  His combined line at his two class A stops was 12/59/.293/.356/.818 in 420 AB. Margot also had 25 doubles, 5 tripes and 42 stolen bases. Margot may begin 2015 back at Salem, but he is very likely to see Portland next season.  Unless.....again Margot is the kind of player the Red Sox could load into a big deal without touching the top of the top of their farm.  But if he is not traded Margot could land on top of this list in his own right by this time next year.

7. Brian Johnson, LHP- Salem-Portland {5}  The fact that Johnson slipped back two spots is no knock on him at all.  In fact, you make a very good case for Johnson as high on this list as #2.  Johnson in fact had the best numbers of any pitcher in the Sox system in 2014. His combined A-AA line was 13-3/2.13/132-39/0.97.  Johnson also was recalled to Pawtucket to pitch in the Governor's Cup playoffs and helped the Paw Sox to that championship.  And just as impressive as his numbers was an uncanny ability to pound the strike zone and repeat his delivery pitch after pitch.  Johnson will begin '15 at AAA and there is a real possibility that with a fast start there (or maybe even a great spring camp) Johnson will surpass all of the young starters who auditioned in Boston in 2014 an grab a rotation spot for the big club.

8. Matt Barnes, RHP - Pawtucket-Boston  {13}. Barnes is perhaps the most mercurial prospect on this list.  His career outcome could range from top of the rotation starter to bullpen ace (closer?) to not having a substantial MLB career.  Barnes gets more swing and misses in the strike zone than any of his AAA compatriots.  As he did in Portland in 2013, Barnes did not overly impress in the first half season at Pawtucket.  But a much better second half lead to a line of 8-9/3.95/103-46/1.29, not a bad AAA debut season at all. This earned Matt a September call up to make his big league debut.  Barnes was used exclusively in the bullpen for 9 innings, in which his ERA was 4.00.  There is some speculation that Barnes could spend 2015 in the Sox bullpen to add another power arm, but still with an eye to have Barnes be a starter in 2016 and beyond.

9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Pawtucket-Boston {4} Ranaudo falls down the Top Ten due to his somewhat lackluster big league innings during his MLB debut.  Anthony was voted the International League Pitcher of the Year with a line of 14-4/2.61/111-54/1.20.  Over three different recalls, Ranaudo made 7 starts for Boston with a MLB line of 4-3/4.81/15-16/1.40.  The knock on Ranaudo at the big level was the lack of a put away pitch which not only led to the more walks than strikeouts, but also contributed to the 10 home runs allowed. I think it is possible Ranaudo's stuff seem to lag in Boston because of fatigue.  The most innings pitched in one season by Ranaudo had been 139 in 2013 and 127 in 2011.This year Anthony pitched in 138 AAA innings and 39 more for the Red Sox, totaling 177.  It will be up to Ranaudo in spring training to show his stuff can be better at the highest level, as he should be competing for a job in the Sox rotation with other kids, mostly Allen Webster.

10. Garin Cecchini, 3B-LF - Pawtucket-Boston {14}.  Garin moved back up into the top ten based on an improved end of his AAA campaign and some impressive at bats and plays at third base for Boston in September. Known for his on base prowess, Cecchini's BA was only .263 and his OBP .341 at AAA.  It is likely Garin needs entire full season at Pawtucket.  But with a stronger second AAA year, Cecchini could still force his way into the Sox third base ( even if the Sox pursue Pablo Sandoval as rumored, the Panda could move to first or DH after 2015) or left field picture.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Red Sox A-Z

This is not a complete three season recap of the worst to first to worst Boston Red Sox.  This is an exercise that first came to my mind while creating some all time teams earlier this year. Check the RSM archives for the Nick Esasky All-Stars ( May '14) and the Oh Brother All-Stars ( June '14).  The thought came to me that there has never been any big leaguer whose last name starts with X.  From there I realized that left 25 other letters, to a baseball fan 25 can only mean a baseball roster.

So this is an all time Red Sox 25 man roster team made up of one player for each letter of the alphabet. I will bypass the biographical info and simply present the alphabetical list and then the same names in roster format.


A. Tony Armas
B. Wade Boggs
C. Roger Clemens
D. Bobby Doerr
E. Dwight Evans
F. Jimmie Foxx
G. Nomar Garciaparra
H. Bruce Hurst
I. Jose Iglesias
J. Jackie Jensen
K. Ellis Kinder
L. Jon Lester 
M. Pedro Martinez
N. Mike Napoli
O. David Ortiz
P. Jonathan Paplebon
Q. Paul Quantrill
R. Dick Radatz
S. Vern Stephens
T. Birdie Tebbetts
U. Koji Uehara
V. Jason Varitek
W. Ted Williams
Y. Cy Young
Z. Bob Zupcic

Now the 25 man roster by positions.

Starting Pitchers

Cy Young
Pedro Martinez
Roger Clemens
Jon Lester
Bruce Hurst

Closer

Dick Radatz

Relievers

Koji Uehara
Jonathan Paplebon
Ellis Kinder
Paul Quantrill

Starting Nine

C  Jason Varitek
1B Jimmie Foxx
2B Bobby Doerr
SS Nomar Garciaparra
3B Wade Boggs
LF Ted Williams
CF Jackie Jensen
RF Dwight Evans
DH David Ortiz

Bench

C  Birdie Tebbetts
1B Mike Napoli
IF Vern Stephens
IF Jose Iglesias
OF Tony Armas
OF Bob Zupcic

Just a couple of quick notes.  Jackie Jensen, my starting center fielder, was in fact an All Star right fielder for most of his career, but did play some in center.  I decided to start Jensen over Armas, who also was more of  right fielder until he came to Boston and played center due to Dewey Evans manning right.  I also ended up with no true backup second base man, but I think Iglesias could handle it.

So here is my attempt at this exercise, I encourage others to give it a whirl.  There are many, many other good candidates.  For example after putting together this squad, even attempting to put together a true all star roster, I realized five of the seven Red Sox players with their numbers retired are not here.

If you do try, unless you want relief pitchers Daryl Irvine and Uggie Urbina on your team ( and you may), you are going to have Jose Iglesias and Koji Uehara.  There are only two I's and U's in the all time Sox roster.  The choices are limited for Q and Z as well, but there are other choices availabl

Thanks for reading the Red Sox A-Z!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Some Signs of Life Amid the Wreckage of 2014

Despite another disappointing AL East last place finish, the second in three years, there were some encouraging signs.  Here are a few positives from the long season to bring into 2015.

1. Xander Bogaerts.  I know, I know Xander Bogaerts' (along with fellow rookie, Jackie Bradley, Jr.) failure of a rookie season was supposedly the biggest reason for the Sox bust.  First of all, Bogaerts did not meet the nearly unreachable expectations of Red Sox Nation.  But, Bogaerts had the season that should have been expected for a rookie, actually slightly above average.  Xander hit 12-46-.240-.297-.356.  The average for all MLB rookies in 2014 was .236-.290-.355.  There were a group of rookies, including Xander, who hit 12 or 13 home runs.  The only MLB rookies who hit above 13 home runs were:

Jose Abreu           36
George Springer   20
Jonathan Schoop   16

However, Springer hit .231 and Schoop hit .209.  The only rookies who surpassed Bogaerts in both home runs and batting average  were Abreu and the Mets Travis D'Arnaud ( who basically matched Xander with 13 HR and .242 BA).

One other positive for Bogaerts is he now has over 600 plate appearances in the bigs.  This should more than make up for any perceived lack of ABs in AAA.  Of course it was disappointing to see Bogaerts have such an extended slump from early June ( when he was fifth in the AL in OBP) through all of July and August.  But the showing of Bogaerts and fellow rookie, Mookie Betts at the top of the order in September was very encouraging.

2. Mookie Betts.  Speaking of Mookie, he demolished AA and AAA at the age of 21( same age as Bogaerts) to the tune of 11-65-.346-.431 with 33 stolen bases.  He then put up very strong rookie numbers for Boston, 5-18-.291-.368 with 7 more bags taken.  The minor league second baseman is still learning all of the nuances of playing the outfield, but his speed and instincts have made him acceptable out there all ready.  No matter what his defensive position, there is one thing for sure, Betts is a leadoff hitter, a dire need going forward for Boston.  Betts would bring everything Jacoby Ellsbury brought to the leadoff spot, with maybe the potential for somewhat more power, and a tick or two less in the stolen base department.

This of course leads to the central question about Mookie Betts.  Is he the key trade chip this winter or is he a key piece of Ben Cherington's "next great Red Sox team"?  Personally at this point I would not trade Mookie for any pitcher, ace or otherwise( OK, maybe straight up for Chris Sale or Steven Strasburg, etc., maybe).  If the Marlins make Giancarlo Stanton available, then we'll  talk.  I think the Sox keep him and try to make a trade package from the other long list of Red Sox prospects.

3. Dustin Pedroia.  The positive for Pedey, is that he WAS hurt.  Because if his power game had deteriorated as it has and he had been perfectly healthy, that would be a giant red flag.  If the surgery on his hand lets him return to 80% or better, of his past offensive game, Pedroia is still a very good player because of defense.  I would like to see Pedroia slide down to 6 or 7 in the lineup and leave Betts and Bogaerts at the top.  There has been some talk of the Red Sox quietly shopping Pedroia to free up second base for Mookie.  This has been shot down by many reports, including Rob Bradford, who reported that Pedroia received a full no-trade clause in his long term extension signed in 2013. But what  deal would Dustin consider accepting?  A recent report from Cleveland stated the Indians may be thinking about moving Jason Kipnis to the outfield if they could find a better defensive second sacker.  Could the Sox deal Pedroia to a reunion with Terry Francona, and acquire a young Cleveland pitcher or two, not named Kluber??

4. Joe Kelly.  One of the two players acquired from St. Louis for John Lackey.  Allen Craig the other player traded to Boston has been a failure at the plate so far. ( for the stat of the week, Craig hit .128 for the Sox, John Lackey hit .133 for the Cards!). But Joe Kelly has been very impressive in his two month stint in the Boston rotation.  Kelly has almost certainly cinched a spot in the middle of the 2015 rotation. He throws hard with a fastball often in the mid to high 90's.  Joe was 4-2 with an ERA of 4.11.  Kelly may not be the ace the Sox need, but he should be a very useful starter for years to come, as the Sox control his contract through 2019.

5. The 2014 Pawtucket rotation.  All of the early season AAA starting rotation received an extended audition in Boston, except Matt Barnes ( who did make his MLB debut in September in the Sox bullpen).  Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, and to  lesser extent, knuckle baller Stephen Wright  all pitched in the Boston rotation for a longer time than was expected when leaving Fort Myers.

The conventional wisdom among the media and fans is that all of these hurlers essentially failed because they did not put up eye popping numbers and more importantly, none of them exhibited a put away strikeout pitch.

I would not argue that logic, but I do think some of them (especially Ranaudo and Workman may have been out of gas by late August and September).  But without delving to deeply into the stats, I would suggest that if none of this group is an ace, they all ( even Wright) did show the ability to be a back end of the rotation starter or a helpful bullpen arm.  Not being aces may not be what the fan base wants to hear, but there is value in developing fourth and fifth starters and power arms for your bullpen.  Even though, Rubby was probably the most consistent starter in the group, I still think he has power closer written all over him.  Do not be surprised if De La Rosa is the 2015 closer.

The other positive about this entire group is they pitched well enough to entice other teams around the majors.  Just check out the lack of starting depth for some teams around MLB.  If the Sox packaged two of these arms, as two MLB starters at minimum wage, you could have the start of an impressive big trade package.

6. Christian Vazquez.  The young catcher with the cannon for an arm, took the starting catching job in mid season and never let go. Vaz not only threw out over 50% of would be base stealers, but his work behind the plate, pitch framing, etc. was raved about by all including his manager John Farrell.   The only question is his bat, but even there Christian is better than perceived.  The average AL catcher in 2014 hit .240 with a OBP of .300.  Vazquez hit .240 with a .308 OBP. There is almost no doubt at all Vazquez is the 2015 Opening day catcher.  Normally, there would be no doubt he would be the Sox catcher for the next decade, but another catcher Blake Swihart hit AAA in August, and he is considered a much better hitter and he also throws out runners at a high %.  If the Sox decided to keep Betts and Bogaerts, would Swihart be the big chip in a big off season deal?

7. Rusney Castillo.  Just a brief mention about the 27 year old Cuban outfielder, who made a brief appearance in Boston after signing in late August for  7 years (including 2014) and 72.5 million dollars.   Rusney appears to have a power ( 20 HR type) speed combo (although not as blazing fast as first advertised).  Castillo had not played for well over a year while he defected from Cuba, so next spring may really show what the Sox have here.