When pitchers and catchers have their first workout, you know things are going full force. Many of the positional players are also in Fort Myers for spring training, so this is obviously a team that wants to put last season’s collapse behind them.
In this week’s mailbag, we have a lot of different inquiries, including about Kevin Youkilis and his role, possible pitching depth issues, and the mindset of Josh Beckett.
Here we go:
Q: What are your thoughts on a deal that would send Kevin Youkilis to the Marlins, who need a third baseman, for Hanley Ramirez, since we really need a shortstop?
Rob, Webster, NY
A: I’m not dismissing the possibility of the Red Sox and Marlins hooking up on a deal. The Marlins would want a boatload for him, and if Youkilis was in the package, you’d have to think about it. The one fly in the ointment is that the Marlins have the right idea moving Ramirez to third base, because as he gets older and bigger, he’s not suited for shortstop in the long term.
Q: Would the Red Sox be smart in pursuing David Wright? He’s not 30 until after the season and until last season (excluding his first season) he had played at least 140 games each year. Furthermore, if the Mets don’t get off to the start they want, they may be looking for someone to take him.
A: Not sure there’s much difference between David Wright and Kevin Youkilis right now. Both are very good when healthy, have had their share of injuries, and are now getting back to health. When healthy, Youkilis is a fine middle-of-the-order OPS hitter.
Q: After witnessing the Beckett interview this year, what kind of shape does he seem to be in?
Vince, Albany, NY
A: Seems to be in decent shape, much like he was at this time last year. Things got away from him after that. He obviously put on 15-20 pounds during the season. He still had his best WHIP and an ERA of 2.89.
Q: According to Fangraphs, Mike Aviles has a career 12.4 UZR/150 at shortstop, which is much better than his numbers at second and third base, so why are people questioning his defense as a shortstop?
Lin, Taipei, Taiwan
A: I think it’s just because he’s a heavy-legged guy and it has been a while since he was a starting shortstop. Now he’s older. His range is better than Marco Scutaro’s, but is he an everyday guy? He’ll have to answer that.
Q: Could you please tell me why the Red Sox are playing games by offering an invite to Jason Varitek to come to spring training when they know it’s a waste of time? Couldn’t they just find a coaching job for him in the minors, where I think he could be a big help to not only the catchers, but also the pitchers that are on the way up in the system?
Ron, Attleboro, Mass.
A: Why would Jason want a coaching job in the minors? He’s either going to retire or hook on as a backup with another team. He’s made a lot of money. Don’t think he’d coach in the minors.
Q: If Jacoby Ellsbury has another solid year like he did in 2011 and you were Red Sox GM, what type of contract would you offer him if he hit free agency?
Matthew, Kalamazoo, Mich.
A: The Matt Kemp deal -- 8 years, $160 million.
Q: I’m interested in Ryan Westmoreland. Prior to his illness and surgery, he was considered a top prospect and future Red Sox outfielder. Considering all the “ifs” involved, what is the timetable for his return to full action and how would he be considered presently in the Red Sox plans?
Rick, Brunswick, Maine
A: No timetable. He’s a great kid and it’s a great story. But he’s a long way off from being all the way back.
Q: With Josh Beckett having one of his better seasons in Boston (and his career for that matter), can many people honestly have an issue with the clubhouse stuff? Accountability is one thing, but those couple September stinkers shouldn’t ruin what was otherwise a good season.
Kyle, Naugatuck, Conn.
A: He did have a good season. But a couple of stinkers at the end, his weight gain and his antics have put him in a negative light. He’s supposed to be the leader and he didn’t act that way. He’s got a lot to prove again.
Q: Why does Bud Selig get so much praise from the owners (and $22 million a year) when he does not even have the spine to make a simple compensation decision.
Allan, Newton, Mass.
A: Owners love him because his direction has made their business profitable. They like the direction his leadership is taking them in. As for the compensation issue, it’s not easy because he’s going to tick off one side or another.
Q: I have been a proponent of going after Josh Hamilton for years and since Texas has declined to talk about extending his contract, would there be any interest from Boston? Also, I was opposed to getting Adrian Gonzalez because of what a position change could do to Kevin Youkilis and his longevity. Has his upside been worth the changes and money?
Tom, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine
A: As far as Hamilton is concerned, obviously teams would tread slowly and cautiously. He may not get the lavish 5 to 8 year deal because of his issues. On a shorter term? Absolutely. He’s one of the most gifted baseball players in today’s game and he would be an absolute monster for the Red Sox. Not sure moving to third base caused Youkilis’s problems. Don’t forget that third base is his “natural” position. He actually feels more comfortable there than at first base. Could he be Boston’s long-term DH after Big Papi?
Q: Do you think the Red Sox will do something for Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek at Fenway?
John, Utica, NY
A” With Dr. Charles Steinberg back as one of Boston’s executives, you can bet there’ll be an elaborate ceremony for them, since those types of themes are right up Steinberg’s alley. Obviously we had the Wakefield press conference in Fort Myers, but because Tim will be around Boston a lot with his charitable appearances, I’m sure he’ll be around for a ceremony. I would think the same for Jason Varitek, but as of this writing, no word on what he’s going to do.
Q: Dice K is already throwing off the mound. Although he is often maligned in the press, he has always been a bulldog on the mound and a key to the 2007 championship. How early can he reasonably join the starting rotation this year?
Ben, Kensington, Md.
A: I think All-Star break is realistic. Could it be sooner? Sure. What usually happens with Tommy John recovery is the pitcher starts feeling great about 8-9 months into recovery and thinks he can beat the world. Then things like mechanics and rhythm have to be reacquired. He has to find his secondary pitches, etc., and that takes another 2-3 months. That’s why it’s usually one year after surgery that a pitcher really starts to feel like himself in every aspect.
Q: How will this pitching staff adjust without the presence of Jason Varitek?
Jackson, Falls Church, Va.
A: I think initially there will be more reliance on the pitcher himself to correct his own issues. Obviously there’s a pitching coach, and Bob McClure appears to be a very capable coach. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has begun to take on that role as someone who can help detect problems, etc. That role will evolve. Backup Kelly Shoppach is also a veteran catcher who caught that very good Tampa Bay staff, so he’ll become a force with that as well.
Q: Are the Red Sox done making moves?
Jermaine, Flint, Texas
A: I wouldn’t think so. They’re probably still monitoring the Roy Oswalt possibility. Maybe they’re keeping an eye on Hanley Ramirez to see whether they would actually make a huge bid for him by giving up major prospects. I’m sure they’ll have their eye on possible available trade situations like Gavin Floyd with the White Sox or Matt Garza with the Cubs.
Q: Is David Ortiz worth $14.5 million?
A: To the Red Sox he is. He had one of the best offensive seasons in baseball last season. He’s still a major hitter in their lineup. You’re paying Adrian Gonzalez more than $20 million a year and Carl Crawford about the same. So at $14.6 for one year, I think he’s still worth that.
Q: Do you see any way the Sox can do anything with their pitching staff, and how do you think Valentine will come out of this? He has not impressed me.
Bob, St Albans, Vt.
A: If he hasn’t impressed you, you’re in the minority. I think he’s very impressive. The pitching staff will take shape if Daniel Bard is able to make the conversion to the starting rotation. There’s no question they need another starting pitcher, but the Yankees did well last year with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. The Red Sox could find that Aaron Cook, or Vicente Padilla, or Carlos Silva gives them a decent fifth starter much as Julian Tavarez provided that for them in 2007.