Impact, good value, bang for your buck.
These are some of the terms you’ll be hearing from the Red Sox over the next couple of months. This rebuilding process could be longer or shorter, depending on what the Sox do and how they go about doing it.
Ben Cherington wants more Cody Rosses and Vicente Padillas and fewer Carl Crawfords.
So what do you do for this lineup? Remember the days of patient hitters wearing down pitchers? The Red Sox need to get back to that.
They need a pure middle-of-the-order hitter.
They need someone who can hit — I know this is old-fashioned — for average, and they need someone who can produce a strong OPS.
Who could that be?
A name that was out there over the summer for a while probably would fit the bill: Joe Mauer.
The Twins may not be in a rush to deal him, but Mauer satisfies the “pure hitter” component for a lineup that used to have it in Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox will likely go all out to re-sign David Ortiz, who also adds that element.
Defensively, Mauer would be the part-time catcher/part-time first baseman. They could then use Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway as the other catcher, and at first base, they could find a righthanded hitter to platoon with Mauer.
Mauer has six years and $138 million left on his contract. Would Minnesota take on some of that? He also had a full no-trade, but Boston was one of the teams he seemed interested in before signing his mega-deal with the Twins. He also lives in Fort Myers, Fla.
Ross started taking ground balls at first base in anticipation of a possible platoon. And also keep this name in mind: Justin Morneau. The Twins first baseman may be available, with one year at $13 million remaining.
Option 2: Can’t get the pure hitter? Then bid for Nick Swisher.
The free agent switch hitter’s personality would be welcome in a drab clubhouse. The Red Sox miss that high-end character guy who adds levity.
Swisher seems to be looking for more than the Sox want to spend, but if the money isn’t out there elsewhere, maybe he will take less. He isn’t that pure hitter type, but he is a good hitter with power and the ability to produce clutch hits. He’s also a decent right fielder and can play an average first base.
Option 3: Add a power righthanded versatile bat like Mike Napoli.
The catcher/first baseman had an off year in Texas, and given the Rangers’ disappointing ending — a loss in the wild card — there might be changes.
Napoli, who will be 31 on Oct. 31, could be part of that catcher/first base platoon. The Sox could even keep both Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway and use Napoli/Salty as the platoon.
Napoli had a disappointing season, hitting .227 with 24 homers and 56 RBIs. He managed an .812 OPS after a 1.046 OPS a year ago, when he hit 30 homers, knocked in 75 runs, and batted .320. He has a career 1.107 OPS at Fenway, with 7 homers, 17 RBIs, and a .306 average in 62 at-bats.
Another first base consideration would be Adam LaRoche, who played briefly for the Red Sox in 2009 and had an excellent season in Washington, where he will likely decline a $10 million mutual option.
Option 4: Sign B.J. Upton and trade Jacoby Ellsbury.
This suggestion will make many people crazy. Ellsbury is beloved by the pink hats in Boston, and there might be a mutiny if Cherington trades him. But if they believe they can’t re-sign him, then a deal could be in the offing.
Don’t know if it could happen, but trading Ellsbury to Texas for shortstop Elvis Andrus does make sense. With Jurickson Profar on the scene, the Rangers could address their own needs and protect themselves in case they lose Josh Hamilton in free agency.
Whether the Rangers want a player who has had problems staying healthy — and one who flashed 32-homer power in 2011 and then nowhere near that in 2012 — is another issue. But it could be worth their while, especially in Arlington, where hitters love to hit.
The thought of Upton, who hit 28 homers and stole 31 bases for Tampa Bay this season, makes many cringe as well. Another Tampa Bay guy?
His five tools have never really come out all at once, but he is a righthanded hitter with power and speed, plays a good outfield, and is 28, a year younger than Ellsbury.
The Sox are also high on Jackie Bradley Jr., who could be a year or less away, and they feel that Ryan Kalish, once he is over his shoulder issues, could be the player they thought he was.
Option 5: Sign Josh Hamilton.
The feeling among baseball people is that, considering his personal issues, a high-profile market like Boston or New York would be bad for him. But the Dallas area isn’t exactly low-profile. It has a tough media and fan base. Believe me, Hamilton hasn’t been able to hide there.
His recent attempt to beat his addiction to chewing tobacco caused some controversy. Team president Nolan Ryan thought he chose the wrong time — late in the year, when his performance in important games was affected.
The Red Sox don’t want to get into mega-contracts again, so the Braves or Giants may be a better fit for Hamilton. But let’s dangle his stats in Boston’s face and see if the Sox can resist one of the top five hitters in the game.
He hit .285 with 43 homers, 128 RBIs, and an OPS of .930. He faded in the second half: .259, 16 homers, and 53 RBIs (but even that’s not so bad). According to Bill Chuck, Hamilton had the best “isolated power” (a stat derived from subtracting hits from total bases and dividing by at-bats) at .292, followed by Edwin Encarnacion and Miguel Cabrera at .277.
I know, stay away. Not a good fit for Boston. Sure. But if he’s out there for a while and you haven’t done much to improve your team . . . what a splash.
Option 6: Trade for Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
He’s a good outfielder and lefthanded bat. He’s one of those players the Red Sox could seize on. Play him in right and move Ross to left.
Option 7: Pitchers. Among the choices would be free agents Jake Peavy, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Ryan Dempster. Trades could be made for Matt Garza and Josh Johnson. James Shields may be available, but the Rays aren’t going to deal with Boston.
The Red Sox need someone of significance to add to their rotation. The prevailing thought is that Greinke either stays in Los Angeles or goes to Texas. Garza could be had, but would the Sox give up the prospects? Johnson would be the best choice given that he’s 28, a proven commodity, and has the ability to be a No. 1 starter.
Peavy, who will have his $22 million option with the White Sox declined, seems to be over his injury bug. If he doesn’t stay with the White Sox, he could be a three-year solution for the Red Sox or some other team.
Two-time National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum had a miserable regular season — 10-15, 5.18 (though 3.83 since mid-July) — and the Giants would listen. Could some other team straighten him out? Lincecum, 28, will earn $22 million in the final year of his contract.
Others worth looking at: Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, Chien Ming-Wang, Gavin Floyd.
Apropos of nothing
1. Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler should be considered for Boston’s opening but won’t — because he doesn’t have major league experience. Yet he can manage players who go up to the majors. Strange restriction.
2. Bobby Valentine received what he termed “incredible” messages from, among others, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jose Iglesias, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Cody Ross, and Jacoby Ellsbury. “It was really amazing, some of the things,” said Valentine. “I really appreciated it and I’ll never forget them. It was great being around those guys. Great people.” Valentine also said he got a great visit and note from Vicente Padilla, who thanked him for resurrecting his career.
3. Valentine on Will Middlebrooks: “I expect big things. The ball sounds different when he hits it. He’s got some kind of power.”
4. Don Orsillo and Buck Martinez were superb calling the Detroit-Oakland series for TBS.
5. Next season, Wade Boggs’s No. 26 should be retired, right?
6. Thinking out loud: Why wouldn’t the Dodgers take on Alex Rodriguez? The Yankees would gladly eat some of the contract. With Carl Crawford joining them in May (or sooner) after his surgery, the Dodgers will likely not re-sign Shane Victorino, saving a few bucks (not that money matters).
7. Astros scout Paul Ricciarini on Brad Ausmus: “I recognized 18 years ago that Brad was going to be a major league manager someday.” By the way, Ausmus was 25 at the time.
8. So many Fox Business stories about John Henry possibly selling or taking on a limited partner. Sox keep denying. Could there be something to it?
Apropos of something
James Shields remains the Rays’ biggest trade chip now that he’s in an option year at $9 million and likely unaffordable after that. After a season in which the Rays might have made the playoffs had they had one more productive bat in the middle of the lineup, the feeling — at least on the outside looking in — is that they will finally bite the bullet and trade pitching to get offense.
They need a starting shortstop and catcher, and with B.J. Upton likely leaving in free agency, they will move Desmond Jennings to center and try to find a corner outfield bat.
“Texas would be a decent trading partner,” said a National League general manager. “The Rays could pick up someone like Elvis Andrus and someone else for Shields. The Rangers will look for pitching. With shortstop phenom Jurickson Profar fully developed, they have a shortstop surplus. They could move Profar to second and use [Ian] Kinsler in the outfield, but if they can get a top pitcher still around 30 years old, why not do it?”
Some baseball officials haven’t ruled out the Rays dealing Cy Young candidate David Price to fill a couple of positions.
It’s odd to some that with such a good pitching staff, the Rays haven’t had a good solid catcher to help the staff. Jose Molina was overused and may be over-the-hill offensively and — surprisingly — defensively.
The Rays also need better production at first base and DH. Luke Scott and Carlos Pena didn’t exactly pan out.
“It just seems they’re wasting some good pitching talent by not supporting them with enough offense and a better defense,” said the NL GM.
Updates on 9
1. Shohei Otani , 18, Japanese pitching prospect — Here we go again. He is 6 feet 4 inches, about 200 pounds, throws almost 100 m.p.h, and is the next best thing in Japan. While Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t work out, the Sox have a lot of hope for Junichi Tazawa. They are expected to get asked a lot about Tazawa this offseason if they’re trying to make a deal for a significant player.
2. Joe Torre, commissioner’s office — Talk is still strong that he would consider managing again, and why wouldn’t Boston appeal to him? Torre had been pretty much hired after the Red Sox fired John McNamara in 1988, but Joe Morgan derailed that. Torre has always had an affinity for Boston. So far, he has refused to answer any questions about the possibility, especially with the postseason under way.
3. Mark Loretta, special assistant, Padres — The former Red Sox second baseman is pretty close to Brad Ausmus. If Ausmus gets the Red Sox managing job, you wonder whether Loretta would be on the coaching staff. Ausmus also has a relationship with Sox bench coach Tim Bogar and Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey.
4. John Farrell, manager, Blue Jays — He keeps saying he is the manager of the Blue Jays, but as colleague Pete Abraham notes, he never comes out and says he’s not interested in Boston. While we understand the familiarity with a few pitchers still remaining on the staff, players like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury never had much interaction with Farrell. Also, Toronto’s prospect talent base seems to be greater than Boston’s. While the Red Sox appear to have more resources, the Jays may be ready to spend. So is the Boston job better?
5. Matt Stairs, NESN analyst — He has been a baseball lifer and would love to continue being one. He would love to manage or be a hitting coach, and some teams have bandied about his name.
6. Luke Scott, DH, Rays — The Rays will have an interesting decision to make on Scott, who has a $6 million option or can be bought out for $1 million. Overall, he was a disappointment, but sported an .845 OPS the second half.
7. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox — Word is, he might accept a two-year deal for $26 million-$28 million if offered. The sides are talking and hope to have a deal before free agency. But if the Sox can’t go two years, Ortiz may very well roll the dice and see if the Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays, or Rangers bite. The Yankees are trying to get younger, so they may not be interested, but . . . Ortiz at Yankee Stadium?
8. Cody Ross, RF, Red Sox — The Sox are trying to hash out a multiyear deal, but Ross will have a fertile free agent market if he chooses to wait. We’ve mentioned before the Yankees and Phillies, but the Braves, who offered Ross a two-year deal last season, also would be major players. Ross wouldn’t mind a Western team, as he resides in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Diamondbacks have excess in the outfield, but Ross’s old team, the Giants, may have interest with Melky Cabrera out of the picture.
9. Ryan Madson, RP, free agent — He’ll be a free agent again after missing the season with Cincinnati. There are reports already linking him to the Phillies, who let him loose to sign Jonathan Papelbon last winter. Madson may want to explore the market.
From the Bill Chuck files: “How good could Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler be if he cut down on his strikeouts? In 2011, his batting average was .266, but his batting average on balls in play (BAbip) was .354. This season, he hit .300, and his BAbip was an MLB-leading .390.” Also, “Not only did Marco Scutaro have a terrific season hitting .306, but he was the most difficult batter in the majors to whiff, striking out once every 12.7 times at bat.” . . . Happy birthday, Boof Bonser (31), Midre Cummings (41), Frank Duffy (66), and Tommy Harper (72).Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.