Not sure if it’s the toughest thing Ben Cherington has to do this offseason, but finding fourth and fifth starters might be right up there on the difficulty meter.
Do you spend major dollars to pursue C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, or Edwin Jackson, clearly the cream of the crop? Or do you try to make a deal for Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill, rising stars who may be available for some of your top prospects? Or turn to the White Sox, who may make Gavin Floyd and John Danks available?
Could you get Anibal Sanchez back from the Marlins? The Astros have made it abundantly clear that Wandy Rodriguez can be acquired in a trade. The Twins would listen on Carl Pavano. The Red Sox are expected to be bidders for Japanese star Yu Darvish (18-6, 1.44 ERA).
With John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka tying up almost $27 million of payroll - and having Tommy John surgery - the Sox may not be so gung-ho about spending more big dollars on pitching. In fact, Cherington has said that he’s looking for good value options to add pitching depth.
The Sox will enter the 2012 season with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz as their top three. When their heads are on straight and they’re physically sound, that’s a solid front three. Buchholz appears ready to take on a normal workload in spring training after healing from a stress fracture in his back that curtailed his 2011 season.
With Lackey opting for surgery, he will be out the entire season. Matsuzaka is on track to return by the All-Star break or slightly thereafter.
So Cherington must now try to do what Theo Epstein did for many years: make sure he has six or seven starting pitchers who can offset injuries and allow for rest.
The in-house options for fourth and fifth starters are Tim Wakefield, Junichi Tazawa (also coming off Tommy John surgery), Felix Doubront, and Kyle Weiland. They also could move Alfredo Aceves to the rotation, and there has been talk about converting Daniel Bard to a starter, but he may have to close after the loss of Jonathan Papelbon.
You would think Cherington and his staff would pursue some of the pitchers they tried to obtain late last season. They finally added Erik Bedard, who proved to be less than durable, as his history has suggested. The Sox also went after righty Rich Harden and lefties Bruce Chen and Chris Capuano. They could give Andrew Miller another shot.
There are other fourth and fifth types out there such as Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, who are coming off good seasons for the Yankees. There are former Red Sox Brad Penny and Joel Pineiro. There are Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Aaron Harang, Jon Garland, and Paul Maholm.
This is where the skills of Sox executive Allard Baird come in. Baird will have a bigger role in the front office, according to Cherington, while Jared Porter will take on more of Baird’s old role in managing the pro scouting staff. Baird has been the source of a few good signings since he came to the Sox, including Aceves.
One pitcher who seems out of reach is Hiroki Kuroda, who declined a chance to be traded to the Sox last season because he didn’t want to play anywhere but Los Angeles, where he has settled with his family.
Basically, the Sox need about four pitchers this offseason - two to be the fourth and fifth starters and two for depth. That’s a lot of pitching to get, and you can’t afford a mistake because the competition is fierce.
Which is why when the subject of cutting ties with Wakefield comes up, the answer may indeed be no.
National League pitchers have to be adaptable to the American League. And all pitchers have to be adaptable to Fenway Park, which can be an intimidating place to pitch if you let it.
The Sox really haven’t been in this position in a while. Going into the season, they’ve pretty much known who their top four starters are; now that’s down to three.
The Sox are at a point where there aren’t top pitchers ready to come up from the farm system and take a spot. Tazawa remains a possibility, but it appears more likely that they’ll have to go outside to fill the spots.
They will look at injury rehab guys for the depth spots. The Ben Sheetses, Brandon Webbs, and Jamie Moyers of the world will be out there looking for a place to relaunch their careers. They’re worth a look as long as they’re not depended on to be one of the starting five.
Texas took that chance with Webb last season, and while he couldn’t make it, it certainly didn’t hurt the Rangers, who made it to Game 7 of the World Series.
This is an area where there’s more pressure to get it right than anywhere else on the field.
GOING TO BAT FOR LAMONT
Managerial candidate gets vote from Leyland
It’s no secret that Jim Leyland is a huge fan of Gene Lamont, his third base coach in Detroit.
Lamont, who interviewed with the Red Sox yesterday, has managed the White Sox and Pirates, posting a .496 winning percentage (553-562) in 1,116 games, with two first-place finishes for Chicago.
“Quite frankly, I’m puzzled as to what’s taken so long for Gene to get a managing job again,’’ Leyland said. “This is as good a baseball man as you’ll ever see.
“It amazes me that people have overlooked him, and not just because he’s on my staff, but he’s a man that knows the game inside and out and has seen everything. Great experience.’’
Leyland said he believes Lamont to be serious about Boston and Boston to be serious about him.
“The Red Sox aren’t into wasting people’s time,’’ said Leyland. “If Geno is interviewing, it means they have genuine interest, and for Geno to go in for the interview, it means he wants the job.
“This isn’t a guy who just wants his name in the paper as being interviewed. He’s very serious about the job and I’m sure the Red Sox are serious about him.’’
Leyland was not surprised to see his friend, Tony La Russa, resign after 33 years as a manager, 16 of them in St. Louis.
“Not at all,’’ Leyland said. “Tony felt it was time, and what a way to go out.’’
Asked about his own situation in Detroit, Leyland said, “My situation is so much different. After I embarrassed myself in Colorado, I was away from the game for six years. I had six years to really reflect on things, so I’ve come back refreshed.
“I love managing and I enjoy the Detroit Tigers. We have a good team and I think we’re going to have a good team again.’’
Asked whether the Tigers will be active this offseason, he said, “Not as active as we were in acquiring Victor Martinez last year. We needed someone who could hit in front of Miguel Cabrera and we got a good one in Victor, who is one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.
“Dave Dombrowski is working hard on trying to find what we need for next season and I have complete faith in that process.’’
FISHING FOR STARS
Looking for a splash, Marlins bait hooks
The renamed Miami Marlins will open a beautiful new facility in the spring.
And they are changing their image in another way: They’re trying to spend money.
According to major league sources, the Marlins plan to increase their payroll to more than $80 million and could go as high as $100 million.
So far, they have made offers to first baseman Albert Pujols, lefty Mark Buehrle, and shortstop Jose Reyes. Team officials have also met with Cuban defector Yoennis Cespedes, a center fielder.
Is this for show or for real?
The Marlins already made a splash with their new manager, Ozzie Guillen, which lends more validity to the theory that they are launching a new phase in their existence and owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to dole out a few extra millions to make it happen.
“I think it’s genuine, and they have to be taken seriously,’’ said one agent.
The Marlins are willing to move Hanley Ramirez from shortstop to third to make room for Reyes, and Ramirez has said he would move. That would give the Marlins quite an athletic left side of the infield. Reyes is said to be looking for a Carl Crawford type deal; most teams would likely go only five years for the oft-injured shortstop, but it would be in the $20 million-a-year range.
Buehrle, 34, is an innings eater; he has had 11 straight seasons of more than 200 innings. He is a Guillen favorite for that reason and because he pitches some of the quickest games in the major leagues.
Pujols leaving St. Louis for Florida would be the stunner. He would likely demand close to $30 million per season to go somewhere other than St. Louis (at least that’s the perception), so that right there would push the Marlins from a payroll in the mid-50 millions to the mid-80 millions.
If all three players accept offers? Then they would be north of $100 million. Not sure they’d do that.
Apropos of nothing
1. Head scratcher: Wouldn’t former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills have been a good candidate for their managerial opening?; 2. Why were teams afraid of Bobby Valentine, who seemed like the perfect choice for the Red Sox?; 3. If the Sox lose David Ortiz, many assume Kevin Youkilis would DH. Would Youkilis want to DH?; 4. How can Terry Francona not get the Cardinals job?; 5. Could we have a Duquette-Duquette management team (Dan and Jim) in Baltimore?
Updates on nine
1. Grady Sizemore, CF, free agent - The prevailing thought is that Sizemore could be had for a bargain price. Not so fast. He has a few teams pursuing him, including the Red Sox. But those talks are in very preliminary stages, and two things don’t make sense for Boston: 1. his injury history; 2. he’s a lefthanded hitter.
2. Michael Cuddyer, OF, free agent - He’s on the list for a lot of teams, including the Red Sox and Phillies, but he’s not the high priority in Philadelphia being portrayed by the media. A major league source said, “He’s about a middle priority. They’d love to have him, but the Phillies aren’t going to go crazy to make it happen, either.’’
3. Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins - Remember that funny feeling Mike Lowell got when the Red Sox were rumored to be going after Mark Teixeira, which would have moved Kevin Youkilis to third and Lowell, well, out? That must be what Sanchez is feeling. The Marlins have made Albert Pujols an offer, and Prince Fielder may be the next target. All of this leaves Sanchez, who had a very good season, as major trade bait should the Marlins pull something off. Sanchez, a righthanded hitter, batted .266 with 19 homers and 78 RBIs last season.
4. Jonathan Sanchez, LHP, Royals - Turns out the market for him wasn’t what San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean would have liked, so he took the best bat he could get, in the form of Melky Cabrera, who had a career season for Kansas City in 2011. Everyone knows the Giants need offense, and Sanchez was the one chip they were willing to deal for it. Cabrera hit .305 with 18 homers and 87 RBIs. He also has one of the strongest center-field arms in baseball (13 assists in 2011).
5. Alfredo Aceves, RHP, Red Sox - He wants to be a starting pitcher and is expected to push for that role this offseason. Terry Francona thought Aceves was too valuable to remove from his bullpen role, but a new manager may think differently. Aceves has always been accommodating, often saying that all he wants to do is pitch, but he’d rather do it every five days. If the Red Sox don’t make a lot of pitching moves, that may be the case.
6. Dave Martinez, bench coach, Rays - Some are surprised that Martinez has not been interviewed for any of the three managerial openings after a lot of hype that he could be a top choice given his association with Joe Maddon. Maddon is one of those puzzled by this turn of events. If it’s lack of experience, well, the Red Sox just interviewed Sandy Alomar Jr., who has no managerial experience.
7. Bill Smith, executive, Twins - Looks like the “new’’ Minnesota front office is really the “old’’ Minnesota front office. Terry Ryan has returned to retake the general manager’s job from Smith, who had it for four years after Ryan resigned. Now Smith will likely return as a special assistant to Ryan and Wayne Krivsky, another former Twins executive who has returned. In essence, this is the front office that regularly produced playoff teams in Minnesota.
8. Yoennis Cespedes, CF, free agent - Teams are lining up to watch his workout next week in the Dominican, including the Red Sox. The Cuban defector is entering his prime at age 26 and is a five-tool player according to a National League scout who says, “He’s a kid you’ll probably move to the corners. He’s got good righthanded power and he can run and play defense.’’ Cespedes hit 33 homers in 90 games. He is seeking a deal for about $30 million over six years - similar to the one signed by fellow Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman with the Reds.
9. Carlos Beltran, OF, free agent - There are strong indications that the Red Sox will be in on Beltran, a switch hitter who would really help their offense and right-field defense. The Giants are trying to re-sign him, but they did make the Cabrera deal. It’s not known how much Beltran likes San Francisco, where he hit well but got injured. He is on record as saying he would like to play for the Red Sox.
From the Bill Chuck files: “Over the last five seasons, the three leading home run hitters are Ryan Howard (204), Prince Fielder (200), and Albert Pujols (195). Howard and Pujols were 27 years old at the start of the five years, while Fielder is 27 at the end.’’ Another factoid, “Over the last 10 seasons, Albert Pujols is the only batter with over 400 homers. Pujols has hit 408, while Alex Rodriguez is next on the list with 388.’’ Also, “Here’s an easy one: Who has the most hits over the last 10 seasons? Ichiro Suzuki, with 2,186. Here’s a hard one: Who is second? Buy yourself a treat if you knew it was Michael Young with 1,965. Here’s one I didn’t expect: Over the last 10 seasons, Orlando Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez each have 1,608 hits.’’ . . . Happy 53d birthday, Dan Petry.
Tony La Russa retired on top in more ways than just winning the World Series. Of the 10 managers in big league history with at least 2,000 victories, La Russa stacks up favorably in the categories that make all of them (eventually) Hall of Famers.
Connie Mack: PIRATES, ATHLETICS - 3,731 wins, .486 win %, 9 pennants, 5 titles, 5 100-win seasons.
John McGraw: ORIOLES, GIANTS - 2,763 wins, .586 win %, 10 pennants, 3 titles, 4 100-win seasons.
Tony LaRussa: WHITE SOX, ATHLETICS, CARDINALS - 2,728 wins, .536 win %, 6 pennants, 3 titles, 4 100-win seasons.
Bobby Cox: BRAVES, BLUE JAYS - 2,504 wins, .556 win %, 5 pennants, 1 title, 6 100-win seasons.
Joe Torre: METS, BRAVES, CARDINALS, YANKEES, DODGERS - 2,326 wins, .538 win %, 6 pennants, 4 titles, 4 100-win seasons.
Sparky Anderson: REDS, TIGERS - 2,194 wins, .545 win %, 5 pennants, 3 titles 4 100-win seasons.
Bucky Harris: SENATORS, TIGERS, RED SOX, PHILLIES, YANKEES - 2,158 wins, .493 win %, 3 pennants, 2 titles, 0 100-win seasons.
Joe McCarthy: CUBS, YANKEES, RED SOX - 2,125 wins, .615 win %, 9 pennants, 7 titles, 6 100-win seasons.
Walter Alston: DODGERS - 2,040 wins, .558 win %, 7 pennants, 4 titles, 2 100-win seasons.
Leo Durocher: DODGERS, GIANTS, CUBS, ASTROS - 2,008 wins, .540 win %, 3 pennants, 1 title, 2 100-win seasons. - SEAN SMITHNick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.