Monday, October 4, 2010

Guesstimating the 2011 Red Sox Lineup

This was written just after the Red Sox regular season ended. Here is an updated version of this post now that Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are on the team.

Going into the 2010 offseason, the Red Sox are in an interesting position. On the one hand, they have an incredible amount of money coming off the books this year, with over $55 million thanks to the expiring contracts of David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, and everyone's favorite player, Julio Lugo. The Red Sox may be looking to pare down their payroll, however. The total salary for the 2010 team was $168 million, $45 million more than the 2009 team and $25 million more than the highest team salary with Theo as a GM. The Red Sox are also opening up massive holes in their lineup. Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, and David Ortiz were the first, third, and fifth most valuable offensive players by WAR on the team. Thanks to the excellent seasons Beltre and Martinez had, they won't be coming back for their 2010 salaries of $10 million and $7.7 million. Based on WAR from Fangraphs, and their valuation of a win at $4 million, below are values for the departing players.

Off books post 2010

Salary WAR Value
Beltre 10 7.1 28.4
Martinez 7.7 4 16
Ortiz 13 3.2 12.7
Varitek 3 0.7 2.7
Lowell 12.5 -0.3 -1.2
Lugo 9.25 N/A N/A

In case you didn't notice, all of those guys play offense. The Red Sox rotation is full right now, but that is a discussion for another day. So right now, with just the players under contract, how does the 2011 team shape up? Here is how I see it:

C ?
1B Youkilis
2B Pedroia
3B ?
SS Lowrie
LF Cameron
RF Drew
CF Ellsbury
DH Ortiz

INF Scutaro
OF Reddick
C Saltalamacchia
INF/OF Patterson

The lineup is very much up in the air. Theo suggested that Saltalamacchia might be in the mix for the starting catcher job, but I've left him at backup instead. Of course, we're talking about an injury prone catcher who had trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher last year. Now, to preemptively answer some questions...

Why is Scutaro a $5.5 million utility guy?

The simply answer is that Jed Lowrie was just that good in the second half, drawing lots of walks and showing good power (.287/.381/.526). Incredibly, based on Lowrie's VORPr (a per at bat version of Baseball Prospectus' Value Over Replacement Player statistic), Lowrie was the best offensive shortstop in the AL, not that he had much competition. I'm not a sentimental sort, but considering all he's been through he deserves a shot at a full time job. The front office remains very high on him and at 26 now is the time to see if he can stick as a starter. Also, Scutaro has an extensive injury history and his shoulder wore out this year, preventing him from playing much shortstop after the All Star Break. Given Scutaro's history of playing all around the infield, he's perfectly suited to being a super utility infielder makes more sense. However, given the injuries all around the infield for the Red Sox this year, I think it makes sense to try and hold on to Scutaro rather than trade him.

Why isn't Ryan Kalish on the team? He was the Red Sox' best outfielder in September!

I think that he is almost ready, but it makes sense to give him some more time in AAA and wait for an opening in the outfield. He should be playing every day, and that wouldn't happen in the majors right now. An injury or a really hot start to the season in Pawtucket could change that, though. A poor August dragged his overall numbers down, but he hit .263/.325/.474 in September, while playing some great defense and generally showing why scouts are incredibly high on him. He's only 22 and wasn't expected to see any significant time in the outfield this year. If there is a silver lining to the outfield injury cascade, it is we got to see a glimmer of Ryan Kalish's potential a year early.

Why is Julio Lugo's WAR N/A for 2010? Everyone knows he contributed to wins simply by not being there.

I think I'm going to miss having Lugo as a punching bag, although it is pretty low hanging fruit.

So what do the Red Sox need to do for 2011?

Just like last season, they're looking at importing a lot of hitters. The bidding will be pretty fierce on Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Beltre, but I'm hoping that with $40 million in expiring contracts, not counting Ortiz' option, that the Red Sox can make a run at an outfielder and resign Beltre. I think Carl Crawford would be a perfect fit with the goals of the front office to be younger, more athletic, and play good defense. Just like Beltre at third base, Crawford's glove in left field is consistently head and shoulders above all other defenders. As a left handed line drive hitter he should be able to pepper the Green Monster with double after double. MLB Trade Rumors recently asked readers to “crowd source” Crawford's free agent contract, and the end result was a relatively reasonable 5 year, $70 million deal ($17 Average Annual Value). Considering Crawford's age, I might guess that he gets a 6 or 7 year deal, though. A similar exercise with Adrian Beltre estimated a 4 year, $52 million deal ($14 AAV). Those two contracts would add $31 million a year in salary, but would land two of the top free agents on the market and two of the very best defenders in all of baseball. I think that if there is an inefficiency in the free agent market today, it is with defense. The Cameron signing didn't work out due to injury, but it doesn't disprove the underlying theory. Signing Crawford and Beltre would require letting Martinez walk. It hurts to say it, but if you're going to bet on a player into his 30s, you're probably better off not banking on the catcher.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the Red Sox have a lot of expiring contracts following the 2011 season as well. The recent two year deals by Cameron and Scutaro will be ending, freeing up $13.25 million, JD Drew's mistakenly maligned 5 year, $70 million contract also be ending, and Papelbon will be a free agent and will presumably be taking his services, complaints, and his $10+ million salary elsewhere. That gives the Red Sox the flexibility to go after free agents now or wait until next offseason when some of the biggest sluggers in baseball including Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Adrian Gonzalez hit free agency.


  1. The trouble with signing Crawford instead of Martinez is that the Sox have young outfielders who could step up and play well in the outfield. I think that at times he could struggle, Kalish should be able to contribute both offensively and defensively, while the Sox have absolutely no one to fill in at catcher, unless you really want to count the guy with the yips and two or three shoulder surgeries. The only thing scarier than that is the list of FA catchers other than MArtinez:
    Paul Bako, Chris Coste, Toby Hall, Paul Lo Duca, Mike Rabelo, Mike Redmond, and Shawn Riggans. Oof. In that case, would you propose the Sox trade for a catcher?

  2. John Buck actually isn't a terrible option at catcher, should the Blue Jays decide to go with Arrenceiba. But I think kicking the tires on Napoli and Ianetta would be in order. If they manage to resign Beltre and pick up Crawford, they don't need a great catcher. Resign Tek and have him split time with Salty.

    The thing with the outfield is that signing Crawford would likely bump Kalish and Reddick to AAA, but remember that both Drew and Cameron are free agents following the 2011 season. It would be a log jam in the OF next year, with a Cameron/Drew platoon in RF?, but it would only be a one year issue.

  3. Also, Google fail. My posted list of FA catchers was from LAST season, not this season. The current list is as follows, taken from MLB trade rumors:
    Rod Barajas (35) - Type B
    Josh Bard (33)
    Henry Blanco (39)
    John Buck (30) - Type B
    Ramon Castro (35) - club option
    Ramon Hernandez (35) - Type A
    Gerald Laird (31) - Type B
    Victor Martinez (32) - Type A
    Bengie Molina (36) - Type B
    Jose Molina (36) - $1.2MM club option
    Miguel Olivo (32) - $2.7MM mutual option with a $500K buyout - Type B
    A.J. Pierzynski (34) - Type A
    Yorvit Torrealba (32) - $3.5MM mutual option with a $500K buyout - Type B
    Matt Treanor (35)
    Jason Varitek (39) - Type B
    Gregg Zaun (40) - $2.25MM club option with a $250K buyout

  4. I think a mix of Varitek and Saltalamacchia could be good enough, given the strength of the lineup elsewhere. Or they might be able to swing a trade. It sounds like Napoli is almost a non-tender candidate, so the Sox might be able to swing a deal for him. You wonder if the Angels might deal him for an advanced pitching prospect like Bowden.

    The possibility of having such an athletic outfield is really enticing for me.