Now that Theo has finally officially joined the Cubs, and left in style, folks are starting to write about what needs to get done in the Red Sox offseason. Because of limited financial flexibility and two massive commitments last offseason, making a splash in free agency really isn't an option.
1. Negotiate with Theo Epstein for compensation for Theo Epstein.
This one is truly bizarre. Theo will be trying to argue he isn't that valuable, while Cherington will try and upsell his former boss on his own value. In the end, it will get done, but the rumblings are that none of the Cubs three major prospects will be involved.
2. Hire a new manager and coaching staff.
Lost in the chaos of the Theo departure is the fact that the Red Sox may have to hire an entirely new coaching staff. Curt Young lasted a single season in Boston, before returning to Oakland. Francona's two World Series titles still couldn't reach players.
3. Decide on the team options on Marco Scutaro ($6 million) and Dan Wheeler ($3 million)
Marco Scutaro was a 3 win player in 2011, according to Fangraphs. That puts his value at $12.9 million, and he put up $9.6 million worth of WAR in 2010 as well. A $6 million option seems like a no brainer to me, especially with Lowrie being injury prone and Jose Iglesias not ready for big league pitching. Dan Wheeler at $3 looks like an easy pick up too. He put up 50 innings of OK, but not spectacular relief. He's a bit over paid, based on value from either Fangraphs or Baseball Reference, but on a one year deal, it isn't a bad gamble to take. Bullpen depth was an issue, so letting go of a successful bullpen arm doesn't seem like a good idea.
4. Find someplace — San Diego, San Francisco, the moon — to send John Lackey.
No easy solution here. Sadly, sending John Lackey to space would be cheaper than paying the rest of his contract. Space tourism runs $20 million, Lackey has $45.75 million remaining. Maybe Cherington can send him to space twice.
5. Determine to what degree the team will fight to retain in-house free agents Jonathan Papelbon, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Erik Bedard, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.
J.D. Drew is as good as gone, at least in my mind. I think the time may have come to let go of Wakefield and Varitek. With Lavarnway looking like a major leaguer, there isn't the roster spot for Varitek. Also, if the failed clubhouse culture falls on anyone, it would be the captain. Wakefield may hang on for one more season, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them move on. The hard decisions will be Papelbon and Ortiz. A lot will depend on what kind of contract it takes for them to resign. I'd top out at a 2 year deal for Ortiz and 4 years for Papelbon, but I'd try with a three year deal first. Bedard won't make a big difference one way or another.
6. Determine to what extent the medical and conditioning staff needs to be overhauled given the injuries and issues of the last two seasons.
I'm not sure the medical staff needs to be overhauled. Aside from the issues with Ellsbury's ribs in 2010, I'm not sure any issue can tied to the medical staff.
7. Decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Mike Aviles, Daniel Bard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales and Jarrod Saltalamacchia before the Dec. 12 deadline.
Most of these players are fairly easy. Aceves, Albers, Bard, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Morales, and Saltalamacchia are all clearly going to be tendered contracts. Aviles will likely still fit in with the team as a utility guy, given his ability to play all the infield positions except shortstop. Rich Hill is coming off Tommy John surgery, so he may be a non-tender candidate. Andrew Miller has probably shown enough to warrant a roster spot, but his price tag will be about $3 million, so it isn't a small commitment.
8. Mend some fences with Carl Crawford, who was shuffled around the lineup all season by Terry Francona then heard that John Henry never wanted him in the first place.
Shuffling Crawford around the lineup is understandable. Crawford wasn't producing, and Francona is trying to win baseball games. Hearing that John Henry never wanted him in the first place is just bad business. If you have over $100 million invested in something, anything, you don't bad mouth it one year into a seven year deal. Period. Especially people. Frankly, I was appalled when Henry said that. In all of the coverage of the collapse, Henry had remained ever so slightly above the melee until that point. Absolutely no good comes out of bad mouthing the Crawford signing: Henry looks like a second guesser just trying to save face and a player who is being paid like the face of a franchise gets smeared. When compared to how Theo left down (see link above), you have to wonder about the ownership's professionalism and ability to effectively run the club.
Ben Cherington, your next few weeks are outlined. You're welcome.