How do you fix the Red Sox? That is the question.
Everybody has ideas. I’ve read them from readers through e-mails and comments. I’ve heard players, coaches, scouts, and general managers put their two cents in from afar. Some of them make sense. Others, such as “eat contracts and fire everybody,” don’t.
We can agree that something is broken when a team with a $200 million payroll is the worst in the American League this season, and could wind up finishing last three out of the last four years.
So, where do we begin?
1. We can start with a subject harped upon in this space for months — the absence of an ace. Although 2015 may be a lost cause, this is a need beyond this season.
You can’t assume Eduardo Rodriguez is your ace in 2016. You can’t put that kind of pressure on a 22-year-old pitcher feeling his way through major league lineups, because like Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, and Xander Bogaerts, there will be adjustment periods. Rodriguez, like any young pitcher (other than Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw), will likely have to go through them.
If you wait until the offseason, you will have to pay more than Jon Lester’s $155 million contract for Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, or David Price. Price, who would be the most ideal choice for Boston, is expected to surpass Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million contract.
The Red Sox will shed the contracts of Shane Victorino ($13 million), Mike Napoli ($16 million), and Justin Masterson ($9.5 million), that’s $38.5 million freed. But where will it be spent? After paying Rick Porcello about $20 million a year to be their ace, and on the hook for $135 million for Cuban players Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada, would they invest in another big-money pitcher? They’d better.
The sensible thing would be trading for Cole Hamels, whose contract is set (4½ years at about $112 million), which the Phillies may help subsidize. Mild-mannered off the mound, Hamels brings Lester-like toughness. He’s having an outstanding year.
The Phillies know Boston won’t give up Betts, Swihart, or Rodriguez, but a package of center field prospect Manuel Margot, lefthander Brian Johnson, and either Bryce Brentz, Bradley or Deven Marrero (all players the Phillies like) could get it done. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro’s job security is on the line here.
The good news for the Red Sox is Hamels likely won’t go to Houston or Toronto, but would welcome Boston or Texas in the AL and Los Angeles, St. Louis, or San Diego in the NL.
2. Trade Clay Buchholz. Buchholz is definitely on a few teams’ wish lists. He has options of $13 million and $13.5 million the next two seasons, which is manageable even for a mid-market team like Minnesota and certainly for a team like Detroit. There are teams watching him, including Kansas City, San Diego, and Toronto.
3. Slow down on Cuba: Castillo is 27 years old. His signing hasn’t worked out yet, and if it doesn’t that $72.5 million would have been better spent elsewhere. Moncada is a different story at age 19 and still in need of development, but even the Yankees didn’t believe he was worth the $63 million outlay.
4. Hire a president or “chief of baseball,” which is Tony La Russa’s title with the Diamondbacks. One veteran GM thought one of the major problems with the Sox was the diminished role of Larry Lucchino because every GM needs someone who will question his moves. Someone like Andy MacPhail would be terrific, but he’s being wooed in Philadelphia.
5. Hire a true baseball adviser, someone 180 degrees opposite of Bill James, so you have that yin and yang. Hire a guy whose judgment you really trust on evaluating baseball talent. It really seemed to work when the Red Sox had the late Bill Lajoie working with Theo Epstein.
6. Analytics aren’t going away. They become more sophisticated by the day in helping teams build rosters. Just dig deep into whether you have the right balance of analytics and the human element in the scouting of a player. Study the Giants, they seem to get it right more than most.
7. The Boston factor. The Red Sox do their due diligence on players fitting the environment, but they haven’t always hit it right. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were completely wrong for Boston. Hanley Ramirez might be, as well.
8. Find a permanent spot for Brock Holt. While the super-utility stuff is useful, Holt will tire out, as he did during the second half of last season (.219). A bold move would be to say he’s the starting right fielder.
9. At the trade deadline, get whatever you can for Masterson, Napoli, Ryan Hanigan, Victorino, Koji Uehara, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, and Alexi Ogando. They can fill roles for contending teams and would get the Sox some mid-level prospects in return.
10. If things continue to go badly and the team is lethargic and not responding to John Farrell, you have to make a change. I don’t believe this is Farrell’s fault, just as it wasn’t Bud Black’s fault in San Diego. The Padres, in fact, just fired one of the best managers in the game. Farrell would also be terrific in Boston’s front office to help reshape this organization. Then you’d have to decide on a new manager, where again, you’d have to find someone with a little more toughness, such as former Seattle and Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, who knows Boston and is a former AL Manager of the Year. Alex Cora would be terrific with a huge Latin influence on the team. Former Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler, currently the Dodgers’ director of player development, would be another candidate to consider.
Big honors await Martinez in July
Pedro Martinez will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, and Craig Biggio. Two days later, he’ll have his Red Sox jersey No. 45 retired in a ceremony at Fenway Park prior to the game against the White Sox.
Martinez is one of the most popular players in Sox history, spending seven dominant years in Boston. His starts, like those of Roger Clemens before him, were events. They were filled with Dominican flag-waving fans whose enthusiasm will never be forgotten in an era that remains one of the most exciting the team has ever known. Martinez, who pitched for the Dodgers and Expos before his Sox career, and the Mets and Phillies after it, has been overwhelmed with emotion over the Hall of Fame attention he’s received.
Martinez, who went 219-100 with a 2.93 ERA in his career, won three Cy Young Awards and was selected to eight All-Star Games. He got to Boston in 1998 when then-GM Dan Duquette sent pitching prospects Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. to the Expos. Duquette is such a huge part of Martinez’s career because he first acquired him from the Dodgers when he was GM in Montreal, and then acquired him from the Expos for the Red Sox. Hard to imagine Martinez could be traded two times.
He struck out 3,154 batters in 2,827 innings. His .687 winning percentage ranks second among modern major leaguers behind only Yankees great Whitey Ford (.690).
Martinez has been working for the Red Sox as a special assistant to the general manager. He appears mostly in spring training, working with young pitchers. He’s also an analyst for MLB Network and works for his Pedro Martinez and Brothers Foundation providing educational opportunities for children in the Dominican Republic and US.
Now the Sox need to think about a similar honor for Wade Boggs, who owns the best Fenway Park batting average in history and wears a Red Sox cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Apropos of nothing
1. Braves president John Schuerholz tried to move the team to Naples, Fla., for spring training, which would have given the area three teams, but it didn’t work out. Schuerholz says the Braves will consider the Sarasota area after they move out of Disney.
2. Best wishes to “Maniacal One” Chuck Waseleski, who has provided obscure but telling facts to the Globe’s Red Sox coverage since 1983. Waseleski is recovering from leg surgery that will likely keep his contributions sidelined for the rest of the season.
3. We talk about things going wrong with bad teams. How about the Phillies’ bullpen phone being off the hook so manager Ryne Sandberg couldn’t get anyone up Wednesday night? (Right fielder Jeff Francouer pitched two innings and threw 48 pitches.) Or Indians manager Terry Francona being stuck in the clubhouse bathroom Tuesday night and not being able to get out while Michael Bourn was arguing a third strike with the umpire? Francona, who admitted he had a bathroom accident while trying to get back on the field, came out and gave it to the umpire after never having seen what happened, and later he pointed out to reporters a spot on his pants where he had urinated on himself.
4. Watch for Texas to make a move for a pitcher. ColeHamels could be the target, though Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija also have some appeal.
5. Just thinking out loud, but remember Frankie Rodriguez, the Red Sox shortstop/pitching prospect, and Casey Kelly, another Sox shortstop/pitching prospect? Did both exceptional athletes make the wrong positional decision? In both cases their hearts seemed set on shortstop but the Sox pushed them toward pitching. Kelly, who went to San Diego with Anthony Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, has been slow to develop and had Tommy John surgery. He’s pitched one inning at Triple A El Paso this season and has made six big league starts, all in 2012. Rodriguez, 42, lasted seven years in the majors with a 29-39 record and 5.53 ERA for four teams.
6. The Pablo Sandoval Instagram violation, which carried only a warning letter from MLB, was the first the league has had regarding cellphone use in the clubhouse. The punishment is progressive. If he does it again, he would be fined, and then suspended.
Updates on nine
1. Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox — Teams tried last season and in the offseason to pry Sale from the White Sox. And it appears they’ll try again. Sale has been on an incredible strikeout pace (five straight starts of 12 or more), but my White Sox sources continue to tell me that this lefthander isn’t for sale. Last place or not, the White Sox see him as the cornerstone of their franchise.
2. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers — He is likely playing his final few months of baseball, but he’s still a threat and one who would help a contending team such as the Mets, who have made inquiries. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Giants or Padres got involved. Ramirez entered the weekend hitting only .210, but he has flashed a little power (seven homers) while knocking in 24 runs. The feeling is moving to a contending team would help get his game back.
3. Francisco Rodriguez, closer, Brewers — The Brewers are in Toronto this weekend and it’s no secret that the Blue Jays have interest in K-Rod. The Jays need a closer. Jonathan Papelbon seems to be the biggest prize, and even though the Phillies could assume a lot of Papelbon’s prorated contract this year and some of the $13 vesting option next season, the sense is Toronto is looking for a cheaper option and one in which they wouldn’t have to give up lefthander Daniel Norris.
4. Koji Uehara, RHP, Red Sox — Teams are watching him closely to see if there might be any injury concerns that would dissuade them from making a bid for him at the trade deadline. The one issue, of course, is Uehara’s $9 million 2016 salary. As one American League evaluator put it, “There’s always going to be a holding of your breath to commit to him, but he’s still very good. Boston would have to pick up some of the salary. But I think teams will definitely inquire and make a push for him.”
5. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies — He makes so much sense for the Rays (with James Loney on the DL) or Angels. The Phillies are ready to swallow a lot of the remaining money on Howard’s contract — about $50 million — if they can get something reasonable in return.
6. Trevor Cahill, RHP, free agent — He cleared waivers on Friday, now we’ll see which team gives him a chance to regain the All-Star form he had in Oakland. Cahill, 27, has been without consistency in his delivery for a couple of years. He’s had no arm or elbow issues and is the type of pitcher who needs to pitch a lot to get back into a positive rhythm. Cahill won 18 games in 2010 and has pitched 200 or more innings twice. His last two years have been abysmal — a 3-15 record with an ERA of more than 6.
7. Terry Francona, manager, Indians — He had an interesting take on the controversial All-Star fan voting, which had eight Royals in the AL starting lineup. “What we have to realize is that the way the system is now, this is not the baseball world saying who is the best at every position,” said Francona. “The All-Star Game was made for the fans, and that means they get part of the vote. Since those are the rules, I commend the Royals fans. I think if you talked to the Royals, even they would admit they probably don’t deserve to have eight All-Stars. But this is the system.”
8. A.J. Pierzynski, C, Braves — He is in his 18th season as the primary catcher for his team and the Braves are extremely happy with his performance both offensively — where he’s hovered around .270 — and defensively calling a game. The only thing he doesn’t do well is throw, but Pierzynski is likely to continue his career in Atlanta. He’s caught 1,805 games and has 1,908 hits, a .281 batting average, and a .995 fielding percentage, seventh best all time for catchers.
9. John Hart, GM, Braves — Some questioned his moves at first, but he’s managed to rebuild while maintaining a fairly entertaining team that is in contention in the weak NL East. Hart got the Padres to assume Melvin Upton’s contract. He’s trying to get someone interested in third baseman Chris Johnson now that Juan Uribe is the Braves’ regular there.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Chris Archer has made six starts this season without allowing an earned run, the same as his total from last season; Adam Wainwright led the majors last season with 12.” Also, “The Diamondbacks lead the majors with 214 hits when swinging on the first pitch of an at-bat; the Red Sox have the fewest with 127.” . . . Happy birthday (on Monday), Willie Harris (37).
White Sox ace Chris Sale joined Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers in baseball history to fan 12 or more hitters in five straight starts when he whiffed 14 Rangers on Friday night. Martinez also fanned 12 or more in four consecutive starts on two other occasions. Sale goes for his sixth straight Wednesday against the Twins. Here’s a look at the three pitchers’ performances: