Touching All the Bases

Barring an Offer the Red Sox Can't Refuse, Mike Napoli and John Lackey Should Remain Here

The Red Sox are going to field a team next year, you know.

Possibly even one that's in contention beyond Memorial Day.

It's pretty easy to forget now, with the season lost, the trade deadline three days away, and the sense that seismic shifts could be coming, that there are actually veterans on this roster who should maintain 4 Yawkey Way as their professional address next season.

Oh, sure, I do agree with the consensus that the Red Sox should be in sell-sell-sell mode. They're out of it -- hell, they've never really been in it -- and they have some enticing individual pieces who collectively contributed to a championship not so long ago.

Jake Peavy was the first holdover to go, taking his one win to the Giants, with two prospects coming to Boston in return.

(A.J. Pierzynski? Yeah, I know, he was technically the first to go. I'm pretending he was never here. Good luck to the Cardinals pitchers who have to adjust to him after throwing to the impeccable Yadier Molina.)

Peavy was a ghost of what he was during his Padres heyday, but he was important during the championship run as a stand-in for Clay Buchholz and a stand-up guy in the clubhouse.

Jonny Gomes, mashing lefties at an .315/.410/.450 clip, could be the next to go. Mike Carp and Felix Doubront want to be the next to go.

Stephen Drew's glove and once-competent bat could be a decent acquisition for a team like the Tigers. Don't know about you, but I'm starting to think the decision to re-sign him in May just isn't going to work out.

They are the likeliest suspects to be traded for prospects who will arrive with various degrees of hope. Moving Peavy, a free-agent at season's end who was blocking a couple of promising Pawtucket arms, was a no-brainer, and the two-prospect price was more than encouraging.

Other personnel decisions are not so simple, and the status of some players depends in large part on whether the Red Sox get a little bit on top of the going rate in return.

I'm not sure Koji Uehara gets moved since the Angels and Tigers, two logical destinations, solved their closer issues; I know I don't want to see him go, but he is a free-agent-to-be who turns 40 in April, and he has brought a huge return before at this time of year.

Andrew Miller, his career resurrected here, has 65 strikeouts in 40.1 innings and would bolster any bullpen, though I'd almost rather sign him long-term.

Then there is the most intriguing name of all, Jon Lester. I'm now resigned that he's not going to be re-signed -- the Red Sox, stubbornly adhering the the notion that long-term deals for 30-and-older players is bad business, refuse to recognize the exception they should be making.

No matter how it ends -- whether via free-agent departure in November or trade Thursday afternoon -- it's going to be jarring to see him pitching for a team other than the one for which he helped clinch two championships. He grew up here, thrived in the market, and became great.

He should stay longer. I wish they'd made him a going-rate offer to stay. Instead, they'll be listening to offers to send him on his way.

It is interesting to consider what the Red Sox might get in return, though if there's any legitimacy to the Matt Kemp stuff, it had better include the Dodgers paying a huge chunk of his salary and throwing in Corey Seager.

Acquiring Kemp at this point, with $107.5 million or so left on his deal and a .280/.347/.437 slash/line with nine homers in 410 plate appearances over the last year, is the last thing they should be doing. What, no interest in bringing back Carl Crawford too, just to completely undo the benefits of the August 2012 gift from the Dodgers?

Here's what the Red Sox should do: Retain Lester. Listen on everyone. Consider trading anyone if the return is irresistible.

Now, we know Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz aren't going anywhere. Same goes for the kids -- Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, etc.

But unless there's an offer-you-can't-refuse aspect to proposals for Mike Napoli and John Lackey, the Red Sox should keep them around, too.

Napoli hasn't had a great year -- the April finger injury sapped his power -- but he is signed at a reasonable rate (two years and $30 million beyond this year). He's a core player in their offense going forward.

And don't get the rush to capitalize on Lackey's $500,000 salary next season by trading him. It's highly unlikely he'll pitch at that number anyway -- I've suspected the Red Sox will lock him up for a couple of years beyond this one.

Plus, someone is going to have to stand at the front of that rotation and show all of the kids how it's done. Lester is unlikely to be here, and Clay Buchholz could use a few lessons himself.

It would be a surprise if the Red Sox don't trade a half-dozen players, give or take one or two, by 4 p.m. Thursday. But they can't go full-rebuild. They're already stocked with prospects to the point of redundancy, and the acquisition of more enhances the likelihood of a mega-deal or two.

They will acquire pieces for the future in the coming days. But the near future, 2015, also must be considered. Red Sox fans won't suffer two lousy seasons in a row particularly gracefully.

The bridge must lead to somewhere, and soon. And some of the veterans who are already here must be part of that journey.

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