Talkin Red Sox with The Bottom Line

As Yankee fans we think we know everything about the Red Sox. Unfortunately what we think we know is that it’s going to be another 86 years until they win another World Series. In reality, not only do the Red Sox have a chance to win the American League East this year, but they’re not going away thanks to the fact that they’re being run by one of the better front offices in baseball.

So I reached out to Rob Munstis of The Bottom Line, a Red Sox blog, to get a better idea of what to expect from the team we love to hate. Rob’s answers were great, he seems to really understand the intricacies of the team and gives us a pretty good glimpse of the State of the Sox. So even though this is kind of a long interview, that is a good thing.

Thanks to Rob, we really appreciate it. Now on to the interview:

Bronx Baseball Daily: I’ve heard Theo Epstein call this next season a “bridge year,” what are your thoughts on that?

The Bottom Line: Much like Yankee fans, Red Sox fans want to see a World Series contender take the field every season. But we’re also smart enough to know that you need a solid farm system to build a balanced team – regardless of how many millions the owners have in their pockets.

Theo probably chose the wrong words when he used the term “bridge year” because many fans assumed he planned to build a roster full of rookies and bargain bin players that would be lucky to win 80 game in the AL East. But what Epstein meant was that he needed to build a bridge from the current crop of talented youngsters like Ellsbury, Lester, Pedroia and Papelebon to the next generation of prospects like Jose Ingelsias, Casey Kelly and Ryan Westmoreland.

In the end, he spent money on John Lackey and found bargains in Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre, building a run prevention team that still has enough pop (I think) to finish second in the East and go to the playoffs.

BBD: It seems like the Red Sox seem to be placing a lot of importance on defense, what are your thoughts on that and is the fan base going along with it or are they concerned?

TBL: The additions of Beltre and Scuturo will improve the weakest links in the defense from 2009, but adding Mike Cameron instead of signing Jason Bay or Matt Holliday is still a hot topic here in Boston. I’d say the fan base in equally divided right now.

Personally, I think overpaying for Bay or Holliday, instead of Lackey, would have kept the team more balanced, but I still think this team can score 850+ runs. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say… and the opening series against the Yankees will be a good test. If the Yankee outscore the Sox, say 20-8 and win the series, Sox fans will not hesitate to throw Epstein and his run prevention scheme under the bus. But if the Sox win the series and hold the Bronx Bombers in check, it will prove that pitching and defense can beat a stacked offense… but we’ll still have 159 more games to play.

BBD: Evaluate their offseason, good? Bad? Did they leave any holes unfilled?

TBL: The offense will finish in the top 10 in runs scored and top 5 in OPS. Will they out-slug the Yankees? No. But they will hit enough to make the playoffs and that’s when good pitching evens things out. If they left a hole, it is in left field. As I said before, I would have given my $80 mil’ to Bay or Holliday, not Lackey, but I understand when they passed on both players. If the offense is really struggling come July, they have the prospects to make a big trade for a bat, but would Theo throw in towel on 2010 before overpaying in talent to rent a big bat?

I think he’s ballsy enough to try…

BBD: Is the offense going to be enough? Is the pitching going to hold throughout the season?

TBL: The offense will be good enough, not great, but good enough.

The pitching staff has the potential to be one of the best in history. Lester and Beckett will lead the way. Matsuzaka has a lot to prove and early reports from camp say he’s in great shape. Buchholz is still a question mark in my mind, but Wakefield protects us there. Lackey is my concern. He’s a proud guy that will want to prove he deserves the contract he got, but he has been injury prone recently. The bullpen is deep and I think, when all is said and done, the Sox will post a top 10 ERA in 2010.

BBD: What are the keys to the 2010 season? What will cause them to fail, what will cause them to succeed?

TBL: Key 1 – The pitching has to hold up. The 2010 team is based on run prevention. This offense won’t be able to hit their pitchers out of jams very often.

Key 2 – David Ortiz. If he doesn’t bounce back with a solid COMPLETE season, the back end of this lineup won’t be able to compensate. The Red Sox also don’t really have much choice, but to let him fight through any struggles… who’s gonna pay $6M to rent a broken DH come July?

Key 3 – Don’t watch the scoreboard. The Sox can’t afford to chase the Yankees and they can’t be caught looking over their shoulders for the Rays. If they play their game, they will be in hunt come September.

BBD: Will they regret losing Bay?

TBL: Did letting Bay walk cost them a legitimate shot of the World Series? No. Will they miss his bat on occasion? Yes. In Pittburgh, Bay was the offense… but he didn’t make or break the Boston lineup any more than he would the Yankee lineup.

BBD: Why didn’t they make a harder push for Matt Holliday?

TBL: The Red Sox reportedly offered Holliday a 5-year, $82 million deal, but he (and Scott Boras) wanted more. The Sox weren’t willing to give him the 7 x $120M the Cardinals eventually gave him, so they offered the $82M to Lackey. Like Teixeira, it looks like we never really had a shot at Holliday, unless we were willing to break the bank… I think we overpaid for Lackey, but the Cards overpaid for Holliday IMO.

BBD: What is the current plan with Mike Lowell?

TBL: The Sox are telling the media that they plan to use Lowell at 1B as well as 3B and DH, but the reality is that the Sox don’t have room for him. Due to their splits, I like the idea of him as the righty DH and Ortiz as lefty DH, but both I don’t see either player adjusting to a part-time role very well. The trick here is getting Lowell some time during ST to prove that he can still play the infield… but the Sox need to focus on getting Beltre (3B) and Scutaro (SS) used to working together.

There are still a few teams that could use a veteran 3B/DH and Texas may still be willing to complete the trade for Max Ramirez if both players prove they are healthy in ST, but this is very much up in the air right now.

BBD: Will David Ortiz continue to decline or is he someone who can be counted on in 2010?

TBL: I think Ortiz will have a solid season, now hat the steroid issue and his father’s death are behind him, but he won’t be a 40 HR, 130 RBI guy… I expect 30 HR, 100 RBI and a solid OPS if he logs 500 at-bats.

That said, as I mentioned above, Ortiz is a key factor this year. If he falters, the Sox will be in trouble offensively.

BBD: Realistically, could they miss the playoffs in 2010?

TBL: Absolutely. The Rays are going to be good this year and the AL West and Central are up for grabs. Unless there is a serious implosion by the Yankee pitching staff (and let’s be honest, after C.C., there are no ‘guarantees’ in that rotation) I expect the Yankees to win the East. The Red Sox will need 90+ wins if they want to avoid a dog fight for the WC spot with the Rays, White Sox, Angels, Mariners and Rangers, who all could win 85 games.

BBD: Who are some rookies that could have an impact this season?

TBL: I don’t expect any rookies to impact the 2010 season. Michael Bowden is the most likely rookie to be called into service, but the Sox have Tim Wakefield and Boof Bonser, among others fighting for spot starts right now.

BBD: Have the Red Sox tipped their hand for the next offseason? Are they going to resign Beckett or target someone else or both?

TBL: This is a loaded question (editor’s note: a loaded question, but one that you answered so well) and there are so many variables. If Beckett pitches well, he will command $80-90 million as a free agent. Beckett Knows this and I doubt he’ll re-sign without testing the waters first. If Buchholz pitches well they can afford to let Beckett walk, but if the Sox need a bat at the break, Buchholz will likely to guy they trade to get said bat. Wakefield can fill in for the rest of 2010, but the Sox will could be down to Lester, Matsuzaka and Lackey in 2011, making Beckett a priority.

The 2011 FA class isn’t very exciting, but the Sox will need to find some production when Ortiz leaves. Victor Martinez will help, and he wants to stay in Boston, but they will need more than that. There are quite a few big bats coming on the market over the next two years including Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard and Albert Puljos. I expect the Red Sox go after any and all of these players and they have the cash to do it.

BBD: What are their plans for catcher? Do they hinge on Joe Mauer?

TBL: Right now, I’m assuming Mauer will stay in Minnesota. The Twins would be foolish to let him walk, but the Yankees and Red Sox will be prepared to make him an offer he can’t refuse and that could get very interesting.

Assuming he remains a Twin, the Sox could re-sign Martinez, but he seems destined to make the switch to 1B/DH very soon. The Sox also have a few good catching prospects in Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito and Martinez could work as the the main catcher until they are ready.

Interestingly, if Mauer stays in Minnesota, rookie Carlos Santana would be blocked from further development and I’d love to see the Sox make a trade for him.

BBD: Is it only a matter of time before Adrian Gonzalez is a Red Sox?

TBL: I think so. There is no reason for Hoyer to trade A-Gon in 2010. He’s the only reason to watch the Padres right now. But in 2011, Hoyer will need be forced to trade A-Gon or he’ll get nothing when he walks as a FA. When Hoyer is ready, Theo Epstein will be the first guy he calls, because he knows the Red Sox rookies as well as Epstein does and because the Sox have one of the best development programs in the game.

Don’t be surprised to see the Sox re-sign Beckett this year with visions of trading Buchholz (among others) for A-Gon in 2011.

Thanks again to Rob. Hopefully we can do this again someday.

Now on to your thoughts. What do you think about the 2010 Red Sox? Leave some comments.

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4 Responses to Talkin Red Sox with The Bottom Line

  1. Greg says:

    Carlos Santana is with Cleveland, not Minnesota.

  2. smurfy says:

    Wow, nice interview, Rob on Rob. You didn't give any secrets to the enemy, did you?

    Let's see, Papi has to be big (somewhat doubtful), Buchholz is trade bait. Beckett's pitching for a payday, super solid infield and outfield. Dice-K is slimmed down, but his back's strained.

    They're hoping we have a weak five, some implosion. Sounds like a bridge year to me.

    I've heard of Iglesias, but not Casey and Westmoreland. One of them must play third.

  3. Greg – you are 100% correct… not sure why I thought he was behind Morales in Minn.

    That kills that idea.

    smurfy – Casey Kelly is a SS/SP they just convinced to focus on pitching… ESPN’s Kieth Law ranks him the 18th best prospect in baseball… Westmoreland plays OF and is ranked 32nd overall by Law.

    Both are still very young… 19 I think.

    The assumption is that the Sox will be pursuing one of the big 1Bs coming on the market over the next 2 years and they will slide Youkilis to 3B… they do not have any great prospects at 3B right now…

  4. smurfy says:

    Thanks, Bottom Line Rob. Casey’s a pretty good athlete to be considered for both. My all time hero, Greg Maddux, was both a fine athlete and the smartest at using his capabilities.

    Youk to third. I see, thus the emphasis on Adrian Gonzalez. He sounds fantastic, but I feel about him as Joe Mauer, a home town boy (moreorless) and San Diego’s got to need it. But I heard Moorad, the owner, “Nobody’s so important I wouldn’t trade him to benefit the club,” also moreorless.

    I wouldn’t wait for the rumble of implosion. More worn in well than worn out.