Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...
Team name: Boston Red Sox
Record: 90-72, 3rd place in AL East, 7 games back
Manager: Terry Francona
Best hitter: Jacoby Ellsbury -- .321/.376/.552, 46 2B, 32 HR, 39 SB
Best pitcher: Josh Beckett -- 13-7, 2.89 ERA, 193 IP, 52 BB, 175 K
2011 SEASON RECAP
Here's guessing you've heard plenty about the Red Sox's 2011 season, so let's be brief. After stumbling to a 2-10 start, the Sox rebounded to go 81-44 over a 122-game stretch, then things completely imploded in September as Boston fell out of the postseason entirely, losing the wild card on the final day of the regular season.
While clubhouse dysfunction has ruled the news lately, the Red Sox's problems went deeper than that, as lack of pitching was a major problem that completely fell apart in September. Daisuke Matsuzaka fell to Tommy John surgery early on, pressing Tim Wakefield into year-long duty. Injuries were also sustained by Josh Beckett and trade-deadline acquisition Erik Bedard. Kevin Youkilis played in just 10 games after August 17, and J.D. Drew was a vanishing act from July 20-Sept. 24.
The Red Sox are a good team, chemistry issues aside. There isn't much wholesale changes to be done, although there are several items of importance the Red Sox will have to address. The club could be looking at vacancies in right field, shortstop, DH and closer, so Boston has its hands full. It will also have to address the back of the rotation. A busy offseason awaits, but the core of the team is intact.
Erik Bedard, SP
J.D. Drew, RF
Conor Jackson, OF
Hideki Okajima, RP
David Ortiz, DH
Trever Miller, RP
Marco Scutaro, SS ($5 million team option, $3 million player option)
Jason Varitek, C
Tim Wakefield, SP
Dan Wheeler, RP ($3 million team option).
- There's a ton of different directions the Red Sox could go, especially with a new GM and manager on the way, but one thing's for sure -- the Red Sox need to bring in a strong presence somewhere next year. Whether that's a new closer, a starting picher or right fielder, Boston can't afford to stay pat after the horrendous collapse it experienced in September. Some options include not signing Jonathan Papelbon and investing that money elsewhere, whether that be in C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish for the rotation, or signing Jose Reyes to play shortstop, although that's an avenue fraught with risk.
- While Papelbon hasn't seemed terribly interested in staying with Boston in the past, the team needs to bring him back if they can. Papelbon has proven he can handle the ninth inning in Boston and is the type of ferocious competitor the team needs to emphasize in the wake of a dysfunctional clubhouse. A fallback would be Ryan Madson. Boston could also save money and promote Daniel Bard to closer, but then it needs to invest in a setup man, and it will be much easier to find a closer than it will be a setup man.
- It will be difficult for Boston to play on the trade market because of a lack of upper-minors depth, but the club should be discussing John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin with the White Sox and try to find a fit for at least one of these players. In a perfect world, Danks would be a great fit for Boston and the White Sox may be more motivated to move him than Floyd given Danks is nearing free agency while Floyd has signed an extension.
- If Quentin is a no-go, there aren't many right-field candidates on the free-agent market Boston might be interested in, but a flier on David DeJesus makes sense, thanks to having Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick as insurance. Kalish or Reddick should win the backup outfield job. If the Sox could pull it off, a trade of Andre Ethier would be a nice get, but that addresses Boston's strengths, not weaknesses. Shouldn't the team be worrying the most about its pitching? The Red Sox need to come away this winter with a starter capable of being called a No. 3, whether via free agency or the trade market.
- Speaking of Ortiz, bring him back. Look, Kevin Youkilis probably best belongs as a first baseman or DH, no doubt. But a pairing of Ortiz at DH and Youk at 3B is way better than anything the team could get by moving Youk to DH and looking for a third baseman, of which there wouldn't be much available. The team simply has to gameplan for Youk to miss 25-40 starts and deal with it. The only way this would work is if Youkilis was sent out for that coveted starting pitcher. The Marlins are on the hunt for one -- perhaps Youk for ex-Sox farmhand Anibal Sanchez?
- Pick up Marco Scutaro's option. Scoot was on fire down the stretch and easily earned his $5 million club option. He can return as a shortstop, allowing the team to use Jed Lowrie as trade bait or insurance for Youk. Mike Aviles is also hanging around.
- Trade John Lackey. It almost doesn't matter where. He's been a massive disappointment in Boston and is not the same pitcher he once was. His constant bad attitude isn't helping the club and he needs to be considered a sunk cost. A popular trade is moving him to the Giants for Barry Zito, and while that would be a better alternative to keeping Lackey, there has to be another option for the Red Sox than having to take Zito, right? OK, maybe not.
- Allow Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek to part. It will be tough for Wake and Sox fans alike not to have Wakefield around to try to get the all-time Red Sox record in wins, but Wakefield hasn't been a strong pitcher for sometime now and over the last few seasons has changed from a consummate team player to one who has increasingly gotten more selfish as retirement nears. Likewise, Varitek's impact on the team has dipped sharply. The two players departing would send a signal to the clubhouse that no one is safe and get more capable players in the fold. Wakefield's departure would also free up Alfredo Aceves to be the top option out of the bullpen to spot start.