30 Teams in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox Roundtable

As the second part of our baseball preview, we are working with members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance to offer 4 questions in a roundtable format.

Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux and Peter from Baseball Reflections.

Question 1 – Will the team re-sign Josh Beckett?

Jeff: I expect Boston to pass on re-upping with Beckett — especially since signing Lackey. Beckett should have a monster year playing for a contract, but his performance might make him to expensive for even the Sox — might he reunite with AJ in pinstripes??

Chad: I agree that they won’t re-sign him, but I think it will have more to do with injuries than on-field performance. I think the Sawks are leery about his shoulder and will pass on giving him the big money he’ll be looking for. I think the Angels will be the leading contender to sign him.

Jeff: Chad, I did not mean to imply that I expect Beckett to have a down year — actually, it’s just the opposite — provided good health, I think he’ll have a monster year, playing for huge $$$.

Warren: I agree that Beckett will excel this year, but the Sox should sign him unless they see enough potential for themselves to compete with the Yanks without him.

Russ: Will Red Sox Nation push the team to resign him if he has a monster year to keep him away from LAA/NY? I have a feeling the Sox will be huge players in the 2010 free agent class…especially if there is a repeat in NY.

Peter: I think the Red Sox will only resign Beckett if he stays healthy. I think they are concerned with his arm/shoulder health & like the Jason Bay situation, they’ll play it safe. Lackey may have been insurance for that as his injuries weren’t as much of a concern as they are with Beckett.

Question 2 – With the signings of Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro, are the Red Sox giving up on Jed Lowrie?

Jeff: I’m not sure they’ve “given up” on Lowrie…but their patience is certainly wearing thin — the Sox are in a “win now” mode, and are trying to do it with pitching and defense — the addtion of John Lackey, Beltre, and CF Mike Cameron prove that — Lowrie’s slow development has somewhat forced Boston’s hand in that regard, and his recent wrist injury certainly hasn’t helped — If he continues at this pace, he might find himself in Pawtucket….or traded.

Peter: Again, I think they’re being uber-cautious about injuries and Lowrie has given them good reason to be. How he rebounds this year will dictate how long of a stay Scutaro has in Boston. He may be trade bait come 7/31/2011 if Lowrie plays well & stays healthy this year.

Eugene: Since both guys are signed for the short-term, I think it was more of a subtle way of having Lowrie spend a little time in Pawtucket to develop a little more. He’s not going to be a great player, but he’ll be above replacement level. At this point, they want to get the best options on the field and he’s not it.

Question 3 – Can the Sox trade Mike Lowell?

Peter: I think they better! It really depends on how Lowell can play after this thumb injury. If he comes back & can hit, it sounds as if the Rangers might still be interested, but probably at a lower cost than Max Ramirez.

Matt: At this point, I don’t see why they would. I don’t think somebody will give them even a B-level prospect or a useful major-leaguer in return. If Lowell were likely to become a clubhouse cancer, there would be a reason to force a trade, but at this stage of his career I think he’ll embrace whatever role Francona gives him, just for the chance to stay with a contender (it’s not like it effects his salary). He’ll give the BoSox great insurance against injuries and exhaustion (much like Juan Pierre did for the Dodgers in ’09). I think Lowell will begin the season as the right-handed portion of a DH platoon (Big Papi really struggled against lefties last season) and will provide somewhat frequent days off for Beltre, especially, and even Youkilis. He’ll also pinch-hit for Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury in late-game situations, when the Red Sox are behind, a luxury afforded by the fact they’ve got Jed Lowrie and Jeremy Hermida available to play defense. 400 plate appearances may be stretch, if everybody stays fairly healthy, but I think they’ll find 300 for him.

Daniels: Exactly what Matt said.

Eugene: There may be an opportunity at mid-season. If a contender needs a bench bat for little more than a low level prospect, I see the Sox dealing him – especially if he’s healthy. The Red Sox have enough depth to be able to deal him and not feel the blow.

Question 4 – Where will the Red Sox finish in the standings?

Jeff: My expectations are for Boston to finish 2nd to the Yankees in the East and be in serious wild card contention — 95+ wins isn’t unrealistic — their vastly improved defense with that uber-deep pitching staff should keep them among the league’s elite — Victor Martinez is your dark horse MVP candidate.

Warren: Boston has been competing for the playoffs continually and this year should be no different, they should get the wild-card and get a 90-100 win season and be competitive with the Yanks for the division.

Daniels: I think 95 wins for the Red Sox this year is a stretch. They replaced Jason Bay with Mike Cameron. I enjoyed watching Cameron when he was with the Mets but, by May, the Fenway Faithful will be sick of watching him strike out with men on base. They likely downgraded Mike Lowell with the corpse of Adrian Beltre, who is a notoriously slow starter and will be getting booed out of Fenway before he has his normal 6 week stretch of awesome in June. Additionally, when you look at the Red Sox pitching, they’re spending $90M on a guy who’s a 3-starter at best. Meanwhile, they still have no idea what they’re going to get out of Dice-K, Buchholz, and Wakefield. On top of all that, it remains to be seen if Papelbon’s walk-the-ballpark-itis is just a temporary condition. A lot of things have to break right for the Red Sox for them to win 90+ this year. I don’t see it. I’d call 3rd for the Red Sox, behind the Rays and Yankees.

Matt: Wow. Daniels really not buying what Theo’s selling. Although I can understand some of his skepticism, I think Boston will get at least 90 victories in 2010 and, if I were forced to put money on the AL East race, which I would certainly prefer not to do, I’d pick the BoSox to win. The simple reason is depth.

The Yankees stayed very healthy last year, unusually healthy for a team built around thirty-somethings. What happens if Mark Texeira tweeks a hammy or A-Rod’s hip flares up again. Who is their backup first-baseman? Third-baseman? Second-baseman? Shortstop? Who’s their #6 starting pitcher, for that matter? One or two bad strokes of luck and the Yankees are a very, very different team.

Not so in Boston. Sure, on paper the Red Sox may not quite match up with New York (although they aren’t far off, either), but there are no irreplaceable players on the BoSox roster. The bench of Lowell, Hermida, Lowrie, and Varitek is the best in the AL. They’ve got at least three pitchers – Wakefield, Bowden, and Bonser – who most teams would be happy to slot into the backend of their rotation, but none will make Boston’s on Opening Day.

I think the three teams atop the AL East are fairly even and, in my opinion, that means the season will be decided by the GM, the manager, and the breaks. I think Boston has a leg up on the first two and is best prepared for the latter. But, come October, don’t ask me to pay up.

Daniels: The Yankees aren’t built with a lot of bench depth, by and large, because they simply don’t need it. Should they lose A-Rod and Texeira, their line-up simply drops to 7 guys with OPS+’s above. I’m sure we’ll get in to this more in the Yankee round-table, but an injury to the Yankee line-up just means their line-up becomes more normal… with mediocre hitters in the 7, 8, and 9 hole instead of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Randy Winn. Robinson Cano, a potential batting title winner, is hitting 7th on this team. 7th!!

The Yankees aren’t built on pitching and defense. They’re built to score 25 runs per game.

For the other 29 teams, click here.

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