It’s time for a series of bold [and quite likely stupid] Red Sox predictions for 2015:
One of the new Red Sox starters will make the All-Star team: Everybody thinks the Red Sox need an ace. Therefore somebody will pitch like an ace. It’s almost bound to happen. Enjoy your trip to Cincinnati, Rick Porcello.
The Sox will trade for a starter before spring training: No, not Cole Hamels or a particularly big name, but somebody with at least a chance of breaking into the rotation.
The Sox still have plenty of trade chips and they need starter depth that goes beyond prospects. Joe Kelly has yet to throw more than 124 innings in a season, Clay Buchholz has gone on the DL at least once for five consecutive years, and Justin Masterson has a variety of health issues.
Assistant GM Mike Hazen and bench coach Torey Lovullo will go to another organization as a package deal: It’s overdue for Hazen to get his own organization to run and Lovullo is a prime candidate to become a manager. Both are smart, personable guys with the ability to blend analytics with on-field practicality. Whether it’s Philadelphia or some other team in need of a change, they’re ready.
A pitcher other than Koji Uehara will lead the Red Sox in saves: Everybody loves Koji. But two years and $18 million for a 40-year-old who lost his job in August? That seems like a lot of risk at a time when bullpens are the purview of 25-year-olds throwing 99 mph.
Maybe Uehara will defy the odds, but the Red Sox could eventually turn to Edward Mujica or Brandon Workman.
Shane Victorino will get traded during spring training: The Red Sox can’t sit Rusney Castillo after giving him $72.5 million. They can’t sit Mookie Betts, who is one of their best players and the leadoff hitter. That leaves Victorino, a proud (and vocal) veteran entering the final year of his contract, on the bench. If he shows in spring training that he’s physically capable of playing, trading him makes sense. The alternative is fitting three righthanded hitters into two slots and that’s just not going to work.
Mike Napoli hits 25 homers and has an OPS over .875: The first baseman played essentially the entire season with a left ring finger that was pointing the wrong way. A healthy Napoli in a contract year means big numbers.
There will be a significant shift in the Red Sox front office: This is total speculation, but change is inevitable. Influential partner Michael Gordon could take on a more public role with the nudging of new commissioner Rob Manfred. Gordon’s spot on the committee MLB put together to study the pace of game issue speaks to his sway.
A few other thoughts:
■ Did you know Red Sox limited partner Bruce Rauner is the Governor-elect of Illinois? Maybe he can ban Jon Lester from the state and send him back to the Sox.
■ With the new year upon us, the Scott Boras Hype Machine will soon crank up and the chase for Max Scherzer will be on. Boras traditionally waits out the market with his best clients in the belief that better deals can be found closer to spring training.
It’s easy to suggest the Red Sox as a landing spot for Scherzer, and several in the national media have. The Sox need a No. 1 starter and he’s that. But let’s look a little closer at the situation.
The Red Sox drew a line at $135 million for Jon Lester. It’s fair to say Scherzer will get considerably more than that.
Lester turns 31 on Jan. 7 and Scherzer turns 31 in July, so their age is pretty comparable. Scherzer has thrown 356 2/3 fewer innings than Lester, so there’s less wear on his arm. Is there $50 million worth of less wear? Probably not.
Lester has a career 3.58 ERA, 121 ERA+ and 3.58 FIP. Scherzer has a career 3.58 ERA, 117 ERA+ and 3.39 FIP. That’s about as comparable as it gets.
Over the last three seasons, Lester has a 3.65 ERA, 111 ERA+ and 3.49 FIP over 98 starts. Scherzer is at 3.24, 127 and 2.94 over 97 starts. So Scherzer has been better in recent seasons, no question.
But that three-season stretch for Lester includes his awful 2012 season under Bobby Valentine. Lester, who relishes calm and order, looked about ready to throw him himself off the press box roof most of that season.
Boras would surely be aghast at this notion, but Scherzer and Lester have very similar resumes.
The difference for the Red Sox is institutional knowledge. Lester was in their organization from 2002-14. They’ve seen every x-ray and MRI since then, they know his family and friends, and they know he can pitch in Boston. Scherzer is much more of an unknown in that regard.
It also would be hard to explain to fans being outbid for Lester but outbidding everybody else for Scherzer.
The guess here? Scherzer to Seattle.
■ There are assorted ways to calculate a team’s payroll. The payroll for the 25-man Opening Day roster is certainly indicative of which teams are spending the most. But the figure that matters is the payroll calculated by MLB for luxury tax purposes.
This amount takes in the 40-man roster based on the average annual value of each player’s contract along with medical, insurance, and other costs. The Associated Press tabulates that figure as an average of $11.65 million.
The Red Sox also owe the Los Angeles Dodgers one final payment of $3.9 million from the trade made in 2012.
Add it all up and the Red Sox are already over $200 million for 2015, well above the threshold of $189 million. That means any salaries they take on at this point would be further taxed.
That is not a prohibitive figure. The Red Sox have been over the cap before and principal owner John Henry, who also owns the Globe, indicated in November that they could well do that again.
The question is to what degree they would continue to go over the cap? Trading for Hamels, for instance, would add $24 million to the payroll. Would the Red Sox jump from $185.9 million in 2014 to in the neighborhood of $225 million? That seems like a stretch.
■ There is a decent chance Pedro Martinez will set a record for the highest percentage of Hall of Fame votes ever received by a Red Sox player. The high mark is 94.6 percent by Carl Yastrzemski in 1989. Believe it or not, Ted Williams received only 93.4 percent in 1966.
■ Changes are badly needed in the Hall of Fame voting process. A member of the BBWAA gets to vote after 10 years of membership, which is fine. But inexplicably, they retain the vote forever whether they cover baseball or not or are even active members of the BBWAA.
That makes little sense. A 10-year retention period would suffice given that voters would be deciding on players they presumably saw play. Beyond that, such voters only dilute the electorate.
I covered college basketball for 13 years and for several seasons was a voter in the AP Top 25 and for the Wooden Award. That ended when I stopped covering college basketball. I still follow college basketball but only as a casual fan.
Yet I could stop covering baseball tomorrow and retain a vote for decades. That makes no sense.
It’s also imperative that the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame insist that all votes are made public. As journalists, we expect accountability from the players, coaches, managers, and executives we write about. It’s inexcusable to then turn around and make our ballots private. Our votes should be readily available to the public and our choices scrutinized.
■ Finally, here’s to better baseball to watch in 2015. Thanks for reading.