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Lackey signing could put BoSox in deal mode

Dec 14, 2009, 5:15 PM EDT

lackey exit.jpgThis is the most stunned I’ve been by a Red Sox transaction during the Theo Epstein era. I like to think I’m usually on the same page with the Boston braintrust when it comes to which players to pursue. But I fully expected the Red Sox to come out of this winter with Matt Holliday, Jason Bay or maybe an Adrian Beltre/Mike Cameron combination, as well as some high-upside pitching. I didn’t see them anteing up for Lackey, not when next winter’s starting pitcher market is shaping up as vastly superior to this year’s.
But, as it turned out, no one else really stepped up for Lackey. Even though he was perceived as far and away the top free agent pitcher available, no one was willing to give him a better deal than the five-year, $82.5 million pact A.J. Burnett received from the Yankees last winter. So, the Red Sox took the plunge, even though Lackey has had some elbow problems two years running. What also makes it interesting is that they’ve seen the worst of Lackey. He’s 3-7 with a 5.25 ERA against the Red Sox lifetime and 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA at Fenway Park.
So, now the Red Sox have six starters: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield. That’s not surprising — it was a given that they’d add someone this winter — but that they’ve added a top-30 starter, rather than a Rich Harden-type question mark, would seem to make Buchholz more expendable. Of course, Roy Halladay is out now. But Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera are among the superstars that could yet be up for grabs.
My guess is that the Red Sox won’t go that route. If they do trade Buchholz, it could be for a fellow young stud. Milwaukee’s Mat Gamel, Cleveland’s Matt LaPorta and Texas’ Justin Smoak would be possible targets, though I doubt the last two would be available. In Chris Carter, Brett Wallace, Aaron Cunningham, Daric Barton and Sean Doolittle, the A’s have more corner bats than they can play and could put together a nice package.
But I think Buchholz stays and Wakefield either opens the season on the DL or in the bullpen. Buchholz is going to be needed in 2011 and beyond, and it’s easier to find cheap hitters that quality starters.
That’s what the Red Sox might do now. They should still have the cash to sign Adrian Beltre to play third base if they wish, but they still have the flexibility to put Kevin Youkilis in third base and they have Casey Kotchman at first and Jeremy Hermida in left, both of whom have flashed real potential in the past. Both won’t be starters on Opening Day, but one might.
My guess is that the Red Sox add Beltre to play third and pursue Jonny Gomes to battle Hermida for playing time in left field. It’d complicate things if the Mike Lowell deal doesn’t get done, but the Red Sox only stood to save $3 million with the swap anyway.

  1. dcfan-1212450 - Dec 14, 2009 at 5:40 PM

    As far as ESPN and Peter Gammons is concerned, Lowell needs surgery, making that deal as dead as can be.

  2. Dan - Dec 14, 2009 at 5:54 PM

    You have to remember, the Red Sox are in win now mode. If they can move Buchholz in a trade for Cabrera or better yet Gonzalez, that would be a no-brainer for Epstein. Buchholz is a promising young pitcher, but to get an Adrian Gonzalez would be impossible to pass up. He’s a perennial MVP candidate and one of the best fielding 1b in baseball. In the cozy confines of Fenway Park, he could put up some crazy numbers.

  3. Dan - Dec 14, 2009 at 5:56 PM

    Gonzalez is also dirt cheap right now

  4. JBerardi - Dec 14, 2009 at 6:31 PM

    I don’t think the Red Sox will be particularly compelled to trade Buchholz. Yes, they nominally have six starters, but one of them is Old Man Wakefield, who simply isn’t going to make 30 starts. And, I don’t think that Buchholz for Gonzalez/Cabrera adds as much value as simply keeping Buchholz and signing another corner infielder (Adrian Beltre and Nick Johnson come to mind).

  5. Alex - Dec 14, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    Gonzalez is dirt cheap? How so? I figured he was the face of the Padres and they’re asking a ton for him. Hmmm..

  6. Tom - Dec 14, 2009 at 7:14 PM

    He means that Gonzalez is dirt cheap salary wise. Still under team control.

  7. Tom - Dec 14, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    THEO… Give up Bucholz to get Gonzalez….DO IT NOW!
    PLEASE….PLEASE….. Get rid of him now he’s not the answer!

  8. G - Dec 14, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    7 starters, Papelbon step up or get out!

  9. joe burke - Dec 14, 2009 at 11:01 PM

    they need a big stick if Bay gets away, who are they going to get some punch & judy hitter

  10. bronxbomber5 - Dec 15, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    Hmmm… no comments yet about the BoSox “buying a championship”! Guess that only applies to NY.

  11. jbethames - Dec 15, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Hey bronxbomber5! Add app like the rest of you yankee fans..

  12. H R Coursen - Dec 15, 2009 at 9:44 AM

    Gonzales in Fenway — should be a great fit. But as RSox found out last year, you can never have enough starting pitching.

  13. Rickster - Dec 15, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    Yeah, let’s see how Lackey does in that little bandbox of a ballpark.

  14. summerof67 - Dec 15, 2009 at 11:42 AM

    I am alone in thinking this, but I would trade Papelbon instead of Buchholz. Josh Bard is near ready as a closer, seems more under control, and with some help from the coaching staff could be ready to step up. Trading Paps would yield a thunderstick, which Red Sox still need, and some prospects. But what do I know? Theo gets to make the call; all I do is whine. :-)

  15. ScribeGT - Dec 15, 2009 at 11:56 AM

    Sox have a formidable rotation, but a few concerns:
    1) They now have to give Beckett the money they gave Lackey, or better, or lose him next winter.
    2) As solid as the rotation looks on paper, Wakefield is an injury waiting to happen, Bucholz was shaky last year, Dice-K was a mess, and Lackey has never been able to pitch in Fenway.
    3) They have no offense, plain and simple. They are going to lose a lot of 2-0 and 3-1 games. Their offense amounts to Pedroia, Youk, and Martinez, since no one else in the line-up can hit. You’re got getting Gonzales without giving up your three top prospects, so don’t hold your breath waiting for that. You can gamble on Johnsom, but he is tailing off and has injury problems too.

  16. CommonNow - Dec 15, 2009 at 12:30 PM

    Lackey is not the total answer.
    Whoever said “Bosox are in WIN NOW MODE” must be watching a different off-season then I am.
    Without pulling in TWO big bats then I stand behind this prediction: The Bosox win 90-92 games and mis-out on the wild card this year to a surprise contender. Injury excuses will abound. Beckett will leave for a Boatload of $ elsewhere in the offseason.
    Excepting some big pick ups this winter the future does not look bright for the Bosox.

  17. Talex - Dec 15, 2009 at 2:11 PM

    I love it!
    The Red Sox are trying to buy themselves their third “bought” championship in 6 years! Bravo!!!!!

  18. Fecteau - Dec 15, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    OK… Now that we allegedly have Lackey and Cameron, I wonder if the Sox would still sign Bay and trade Ellsbury instead? Imagine an outfield of Cameron, Bay, and Drew… Because I would be hard pressed to believe that the Padres would pass on Ellsbury, Buchholz, and a lower end prospect or two for Adrian Gonzalez.
    Yes, the cost would be high, but if we get him and sign him right away, it will most definitely be worth it. He had 40 home runs in San Diego last year, with very little assistance in the offense. (the two best home run hitters on the team after A Gone were Kouzmanoff and Headley, with 18 and 12, respetively)
    I also had him on my fantasy team and it seemed like every home run was a solo. With the Sox getting on base better than the Padres, he should have any problem getting 120-150 RBIs…
    Come on, Epstein, look at this lineup batting order. Tell me this isn’t a championship team along with the starting rotation, bullpen, two solid closers, (Bard and Paps), not to mention the intangibles…
    1.M Scutaro
    2.D Pedroia
    3.V Martinez
    4.A Gonzalez
    5.J Bay
    6.K Youkilis
    7.D Ortiz (interchanged with maybe V Mart and Lowell?)
    8.JD Drew
    9. Varitek
    NOW DO IT Theo!!! I KNOW YOU CAN!!!

  19. Bob148 - Dec 15, 2009 at 4:19 PM

    Theo you are a genius. I only hope the fans understand what you have completed.
    I have a question can Lowell play first? Has his injury had any effect on his hitting? I know he can’t run any more but that could improve as he heals.
    Switching the two corner players, assuming Lowell can still hit and field first well enough, would make the team more solid without giving away any more prospects.
    Later on during the year when The Padres see the string running out on Gonzalez you should be able to make a deal much easier than now and still keep your chips in a pile.
    Get Beltre for safe keeping and rotate Lowell in and out of the line up at first and DH. While letting Youk trade off between first and third as an everyday player.
    For the 3 mil. Lowell might just be able to carry enough weight to make him much more viable mid year for any trade before the deadline. If Ortiz has another year of playing poorly we still have Lowell to become the DH assuming that his health can stand up to the situation.
    Between the defense and the pitching staff the Sox should more than competitive. Maybe not as strong as the Yankees on paper but I saw what the Yankees did in the late 40s and 50s with a weaker hitting team and strong defense with very good pitching that combination wins.
    I don’t wish Bay any harm but I think he has been a stupid little boy being lead around by the nose with illusions of grandure he is still only a 260 hitter and in some parks his home run and RBI totals will go backwards.
    The Yankees might bite but I think that they are weary of him and that last year was a fluke. His demenor will lessen as his totals slide and the Boston faithful will be rewarded by your patients.
    Theo, there is more to convey if you read this, draft young Ben Gamel. Everyone who has seen him thinks he is a can’t miss and if you do that make sure that he finishes his first year in college so that he can mature a little more. I heard he auditioned for you already and every major club has been having him back for a second time. Spring training would be a nice place to have him audition again.
    In the name of Baseball, motherhood and apple pie, I remain.
    Bob N

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