Red Sox roster: Who stays? Who goes?
We’ve been writing about 2015 since about May of 2014, but now — after this weekend’s Jeter-fest — the Red Sox season is really over.
There are no Derek Jeters on the Red Sox roster, but in trying to build a team for 2015, we take a look at which players are keepers and which should be moved in an offseason where there are likely to be a few additions through trades and free agency.
1B Mike Napoli — Napoli has one year at $16 million remaining on his contract. Finger, toe, and back injuries limited his production. He didn’t deliver as a middle-of-the-order hitter because of it. Two schools of thought here. To accommodate the plethora of outfielders, you deal him and use Allen Craig at first, or you hope Napoli’s power returns.
Verdict: Keep him. Righthanded power is hard to find.
2B Dustin Pedroia — Think intangibles here as a much as tangibles. Heart and soul, the face of the team, the toughness. You’d never be able to replace him properly, and for those who think he’s declining, listen when he says, “You haven’t seen my best days.”
Verdict: Keep him. Really, you’re talking about the best second baseman in the game. Yes, he’s fallen behind Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano offensively, but the rebound should be fun to watch.
SS Xander Bogaerts — Until he hits for average and power we’ll always debate his ability as a shortstop. Jeter and Cal Ripken’s defense and range weren’t much of a factor for most of the years they played because their offense was so good for the position. That’s what Bogaerts will have to do.
Verdict: Keep him. At 21, you don’t give up on him, unless you need to include him in a package that would bring you Giancarlo Stanton. Then I would deal him.
3B Will Middlebrooks — The team’s position on him is understandable. You don’t want to give up on a young, power-hitting third baseman. But he’s no longer a kid. He’s 26, and we keep waiting. He’s been slowed by injuries, no doubt.
Verdict: Trade him. Sometimes you take the chance that a guy is going to be better elsewhere. It doesn’t mean you have to give Middlebrooks away. Make sure you get a good return. But it says here Middlebrooks needs a change of scenery, free of the bad times here, to be what he wants to be.
3B Garin Cecchini — Since coming up in September, Cecchini flashed an excellent glove, counter to what the organization felt was his weakness. He is intriguing in that he’s a lefthanded bat who can go the other way, which is valuable at Fenway.
Verdict: Keep him. The Sox are looking for a lefthanded-hitting third baseman, and if free agent Pablo Sandoval gets too expensive, Cecchini could be the fallback guy.
C Christian Vazquez — He’s your catcher. If you’re the Sox, you hope he can hit in the .250 range, shut down the running game, and handle pitchers well. He does those things already, minus the hitting.
Verdict: Keep him. When Blake Swihart comes up from Pawtucket, this will turn into a competitive catching tandem. Swihart, a potentially better all-around catcher, will challenge Vazquez by midseason.
C David Ross — Ross, a free agent, is a solid backup. You keep him in this role unless you’re looking for a lefthanded complement to Vazquez or an offensive catcher, which was attempted last offseason when they signed A.J. Pierzynski.
Verdict: Keep him. Ross is too valuable as a team leader, pitching guru, and mentor to young catchers.
DH David Ortiz — He remains one of the best hitters in baseball, earning every penny he’s ever made from the Red Sox. At some point, Ortiz will get old and unproductive, but for now he’s still at the top of his game. And if it wasn’t for the shift, he would have hit .300.
Verdict: Keep him. Still one of the most-feared hitters in the game.
LF Allen Craig — A baffling demise at age 30. There’s a general feeling he’s going to get back to what he was, the best hitter in baseball with runners in scoring position and a guy who produced two 90-plus-RBI seasons. Did his foot injury ruin his swing and ability to generate power? He’ll have the offseason to get things right.
Verdict: Keep him. It would be unwise to trade a guy like this at low value when he could become a feared hitter again.
CF Rusney Castillo — He got off to a slow start but finished strong, flashing some power, stealing bases, and making a couple of good catches. The 4.2 speed down the line wasn’t impressive, but Castillo can steal bases.
Verdict: Keep him. You have to see what he can become.
RF Yoenis Cespedes — We list him as a right fielder because this is where we think he ends up in Boston’s outfield, but while flashing a strong throwing arm, his defense has been nothing to crow about. Cespedes drove in 100 runs, so you probably put up with his quirks. One interesting thing he said is he isn’t sure yet whether he wants to remain in Boston or become a free agent after the year remaining on his contract.
Verdict: Keep him, but if during talks this offseason he decides he doesn’t want to entertain a long-term deal, trade him.
OF Shane Victorino — Victorino is a proud man and he hated missing most of this season. If anyone is determined to make it back it’s Victorino, a Gold Glove right fielder with the type of contagious, upbeat attitude this team sorely missed.
Verdict: Keep him. He’s got one year left at $13 million and he’s well worth the salary if he returns to 2013 form.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr. — He’s hit so well at every level except the majors, which leads you to believe at some point he’ll figure it out and do enough to augment his spectacular defense.
Verdict: Keep him. He doesn’t have any trade value, so use him as an extra outfielder who can come in for defensive purposes. It may not hurt to send him to Pawtucket for a half a season to work on his hitting.
OF Daniel Nava — One of the great stories of perseverance. Nava got back on his feet after a horrible start and demotion to Pawtucket. But he’s a switch-hitter and the Red Sox are short from the left side.
Verdict: Trade him. Nava has value. The Royals and Giants had interest at the deadline but the Sox wouldn’t deal him. He’s an ideal National League player because he could come off the bench as a pinch hitter.
Utilityman Brock Holt — Boston’s best rookie took baseball by storm after finally getting his chance to contribute. A guy who can play anywhere on the field, Holt is also a valuable lefthanded bat who can lead off. He allowed John Farrell to give his starters at any position, except catcher, a breather.
Verdict: Trade him. Sounds like blasphemy, but Holt’s value has never been higher.
Utilityman Mookie Betts — Since he really has no position, unless the outfield situation is solved or third base is settled, Betts could settle into a utility role if Holt is moved. Betts can play second base, and he’s proven he can play center field very well. It’s hard not to want to have his quick bat in the lineup. Also, a very good leadoff hitter with a good on-base percentage who would bring some power to the top of the order.
Verdict: Keep him. The temptation will be there to deal him, and judging by conversations with scouts around the league, he’s the Red Sox prospect teams want most in a deal. You could use him like Holt and move him around until a permanent position opens up.
RHP Clay Buchholz — Such an up-and-down career. He’s won 17 games in a season, pitched a no-hitter, and dominated for the first half of 2013. He’s 30 years old and has never pitched 200 innings, and you just wonder why because he’s so talented. Don’t think he can be your ace.
Verdict: Trade him. You don’t give up a proven major league pitcher for nothing. But if the Red Sox sign or trade for a couple of pitchers, it might be intriguing to see what you could get for him.
RHP Joe Kelly — More than meets the eye in a small, athletic package. He has good velocity and good offspeed stuff. At 26, there’s plenty of good days ahead.
Verdict: Keep him. Right now, he’s the only sure thing in the Boston rotation.
LHP Craig Breslow — Breslow has a $4 million club option for 2015. He didn’t have as good a year as in 2013, but relievers go in cycles. The Sox like Breslow a great deal, he fits in well, and he can pitch tough innings.
Verdict: Keep him. The money is really a drop in the bucket for the Sox, given how comfortable they are with him.
RHP Burke Badenhop — He’s a free agent, but the Red Sox want to keep him, liking his ability to induce ground balls.
Verdict: Keep him. He obviously can pitch in this market and fits a role very well.
RHP Junichi Tazawa — Tazawa has proven to be a dependable setup man and will return in that role next season. Tazawa has told Japanese reporters that he would like to become a starter, but it doesn’t appear he will get that opportunity in Boston.
Verdict: Keep him.
RHP Brandon Workman — The Red Sox think his poor season (1-10) was born of fatigue from a year ago, but the reliever/starter debate will rage on.
Verdict: Trade him. Workman could be an extra piece in a deal, though teams likely won’t be knocking down the door for him. The Red Sox like his stuff and makeup more than other teams.
RHP Allen Webster — Webster performed well in a couple of non-pressure starts at the end of the season, giving hope that he’d finally figured things out at the major league level. He could compete for the No. 5 job in spring training.
Verdict: Trade him. If teams saw something at the end of the season, then maybe there’s value in dealing him and weeding out one of the young pitchers, since there are so many with lefthanders Henry Owens and Brian Johnson around the corner.
RHP Rubby De La Rosa — There was some consistency in his outings for a while, but his innings total was a career high and he looked tired at the end. One of the biggest debates in the Red Sox front office this winter, reliever or starter?
Verdict: Keep him. He could be a late-inning power reliever.
RHP Edward Mujica — After a tough first half, Mujica showed he could be a backup closer, which is why they signed him.
Verdict: Keep him. Hard to trade him.
RHP Koji Uehara — Despite the September downturn, the Red Sox want him back as their closer. He’s a free agent and the Orioles will bid hard. Do they make Uehara a qualifying offer (more than $15 million)?
Verdict: Keep him. Then try to re-sign Andrew Miller to be a setup man/co-closer and go from there.