In the simplest terms, with regard to the starting lineup of the 2010 Boston Red Sox, the impact seems obvious. Adrian Beltre is in. Casey Kotchman is out. So continues Theo Epstein’s winter construction of the Golden Glove Bridge.
Whether or not you like Adrian Beltre, you’re missing the point. He’s better than Kotchman. In the long term, the investment is minimal. At the very least, the Red Sox have added defense and more power to a lineup that badly needed some of the latter, though the ramifications of the Beltre signing could affect the Sox on multiple levels, beginning with:
Beyond that, here is something to consider: Lowell might be a better full-time option at DH over Ortiz, assuming he can stay healthy. Last year, Lowell had an .867 OPS against lefthanders while Ortiz posted one of .716. The difference against righthanders was not nearly as great as one might have thought - .828 for Ortiz, .784 for Lowell – which cannot help but make one wonder if Ortiz could be competing for a job in spring training.
Of course, if Ortiz hits righthanders like he did in the latter stages of 2009 – he had a .946 OPS against beginning June 1 – then the Sox might have to give serious consideration to a platoon. That could put a great deal of pressure on manager Terry Francona to appease a pair of proud veteran players who generally are accustomed to playing everyday.
Furthermore, Jacoby Ellsbury should score quite well defensively in left field. And we all know that J.D. Drew can handle right.
Ah, but only if the Sox still had an elite defensive catcher.
Get the picture? Factoring in defense, what the Red Sox could be getting here is a younger Mike Lowell – with better speed.
As a result, the Red Sox’ projected lineup now looks something like this, leaving room for some platooning and pinch-hitting depending on left-right matchups:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, LF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. Ortiz/Lowell, DH
6. J.D. Drew, RF
7. Adrian Beltre, 3B
8. Mike Cameron, CF
9. Marco Scutaro, SS
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Jed Lowrie, IF
Jason Varitek, C
Jeremy Hermida, LF
At the moment, one obvious problem is that the Sox have too many players (5) on their bench to accommodate a 12-man pitching staff, which has been their preference under manager Terry Francona. Unless the Sox carry just 11 pitchers, someone from the group of Lowell, Kotchman, or Ortiz will need to be trimmed from the roster.
One obvious question here is whether the Beltre acquisition will affect the Sox’ financial flexibility and, thus, their ability to add players during the season. The team could save some money by executing another trade for Lowell – they would have saved $3 million in the deal with Texas - or even moving Kotchman, who is eligible for arbitration and will end up with a salary of roughly $3 million.
Also, consider this: If Kotchman ends up going to arbitration, his salary would become non–guaranteed until late in spring training.
Here’s why: If Beltre has a good year and leaves, the Sox can either re-sign him or shake hands and part ways. In Beltre, Lowell, Ortiz, Varitek, Julio Lugo, and Josh Beckett alone, the Sox will have in the neighborhood of $45-$55 million to spend next winter depending on where they set their payroll, leaving them great flexibility for what projects to be a far better free agent class than this one.
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