Tagged: Seattle Mariners

Alex Rodriguez: What If..?

In Comic Books they are known as ‘What If?’ (Marvel) issues or ‘Elseworld’ (DC) tales, taking the established character out of their established norm and seeing what would have or could have happened if….

What If 31

A decade later, we revisit called-off engagement between Rodriguez and Boston

From: Gordon Edes

They rank among the great what-might-have-been stories in Red Sox history.

What if an organization with a history of racial intolerance had given more than a sham tryout to Jackie Robinson or listened to the urgings of a scout named George Digby to sign a young outfielder named Willie Mays?

Jackie Robinson Red Sox

What if Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had, in the cold light of morning, decided to follow through on the trade arranged over drinks the night before with Yankees co-owner Dan Topping, one in which the Sox would have swapped Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio? (Note: This deal also was scuttled due to the Yankees reluctance to include a young catching prospect named Yogi Berra.)

Teddy and Joe D

And what if the Red Sox had succeeded in their audacious effort 10 years ago to acquire Alex Rodriguez, generally acknowledged as the best player in the game at the time, from the Texas Rangers?

Ten years ago Monday, Rangers owner Tom Hicks declared that effort “totally, totally dead.” He would soon send a letter to Rangers season-ticket holders pledging that Rodriguez would be the team’s shortstop on Opening Day 2004. Then, on Valentine’s Day, he traded him to George Steinbrenner’s Yankees.

A-Rod dissapointment

With A-Rod now shamed and a shell of his former self, a player who went from being championed by the game’s ruling class to pariah, it is easy to regard Boston’s failed courtship as a blessing, a disaster averted.

But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the Sox — and A-Rod — were bitterly disappointed that it did not come to pass, this deal first proposed by Hicks to the Red Sox within days of their crushing Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.

A-Rod Texas presserHicks was looking to get out from under the game’s biggest contract, a $250 million, 10-year deal that in its first three years had not lifted the Rangers out of mediocrity. He asked for Nomar Garciaparra in return. The Sox countered by offering Manny Ramirez, whom they had placed on irrevocable waivers only weeks before without any takers.

With that deal in play, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made another at the winter meetings, arranging to trade Garciaparra to the White Sox for slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez. That second trade was contingent on the A-Rod deal being approved, but when Epstein entered the hotel room of his new manager, Terry Francona, and rattled off a prospective lineup that included Johnny Damon, A-Rod, David Ortiz and Ordonez, on knees made unsteady by multiple surgeries, Francona climbed onto his bed and did an impromptu dance.

That same night, Epstein slipped out of the meetings in New Orleans and flew to New York to meet with Rodriguez and his then-wife, Cynthia. Owner John W. Henry had already met with the couple in Miami, granted extraordinary permission to do so by commissioner Bud Selig, who had run into Rodriguez at Sammy Sosa’s party in the Dominican Republic and listened to A-Rod earnestly express his desire to play for the Sox.

I was working for the Boston Globe at the time, and I, too, went to Miami to meet with Rodriguez. I liked him. He was smart, engaging and gracious. I believe he really wanted to play for the Sox. I had seen him when he’d made his major-league debut at Fenway as an 18-year-old from Miami, and I was impressed with his appreciation of Boston and what it would mean to his legacy if he would be the one who led the Sox to a World Series title after 86 years without one.

The deal was complicated and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. The Red Sox, for luxury tax reasons, wanted to reduce the value of Rodriguez’s contract by $4 million a year, a total of $28 million over the remaining seven years of his deal. That was a nonstarter for the union. Any reduction, the union lawyers said, would require “added benefits” from the Red Sox — like the Mets gave Mo Vaughn when they added two more teams to the no-trade provisions in his contract in exchange for a $500,000 reduction. The Sox tried to sell the union on an “added benefit” of allowing A-Rod the chance to opt out of his contract after two years and become a free agent, a proposal ridiculed by the union, which argued that A-Rod, because his contract was so much more than anyone else’s, probably would have been looking at a pay cut. They made a counteroffer the Sox deemed unacceptable.

Hicks, meanwhile, was seeking some immediate financial help and not only wanted the Sox to assume A-Rod’s contract, but pay a portion of Ramirez’s deal so that he could pursue some pitching in free agency. That was not going to happen. But on his own, A-Rod contacted Hicks and offered to pay, out of his own pocket, the $15 million Hicks wanted from the Sox. That’s how badly he wanted to come to Boston.

By the end of talks, there were bruised feelings on all sides. Henry was upset that Nomar comes HomeHicks had made little effort to keep negotiations quiet. Hicks was furious with Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, to the point that Tom Werner became the Sox point man with the Texas owner. Lucchino and union lawyer Gene Orza took whacks at each other. Garciaparra never recovered from the shock of learning that the Sox had sought A-Rod, even as Henry later explained he initially thought that they could have co-existed. And A-Rod resigned himself to remaining with the Rangers.

The upshot, of course, is that the Sox won two World Series in the next four seasons without A-Rod, and won their third in the 10 seasons in which Rodriguez has been a Yankee. And A-Rod alienated his longtime friend Derek Jeter, the first of many soap operas that would mark his time in New York. And then came the PED revelations.

Ortiz A-RodThat part of the story, sadly, would have been no different had he played for the Red Sox instead of the Yankees. But the rest of it? Ten years later, I still believe it could have gone a different way for A-Rod in Boston. Instead of a wary Jeter, he would have been embraced by David Ortiz, who remains one of his good friends in the game. He also was very close with Ordonez, who would have combined with A-Rod to more than compensate for the loss of right-handed power Ramirez represented.

He would have remained at short, where his value to the club would have been greater than it was to the Yankees at third.

In his first five seasons with the Yankees, through the 2008 season, Rodriguez hit 208 home runs. No one in baseball hit more. And Fenway is much kinder to right-handed hitters than Yankee Stadium. He was one of 10 players who had an on-base percentage greater than .400 in that time. He averaged 6.8 in WAR in that time.

Call me naïve, but I think Boston would have brought out the best in him, and he would have been loved for it.

A-Rod befuddledWe’ll never know, of course. And in this town, I am well aware, that’s hardly a popular thought. But there’s a part of me that has never forgotten the shining promise of that 18-year-old and laments that it has ended the way it has.

 _____

On a personal note: I was at that same game, just a few rows up and sitting between home and the visitors dugout (best seats I ever scored) for that Fenway game where an 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez debuted for Seattle.  I sat close enough to see all the awe and wonder on the face of a kid who was walking out into a Cathedral to take his first big league swings.  My how times changed as he was on his way to Texas!

Before the PED’s, before the even more inflated ego and sense of entitlement, I was not a fan of the proposed trade.  I was a Nomar guy.  I didn’t dislike A-Rod at that point, I just disliked the perceived greed and the monster contract and the handcuffs that came with it.  How could you as a team hit the free agent market for pitching and additions under those circumstances?  Yeesh!  Sure the Yankees did it and eventually put a World Series ring on A-Rod’s finger, but we won two in the same amount of time and of course just added the third.

A-Rod TekWould or could any of that have happened if we found A-Rod under the tree for Christmas of 2003?  Maybe a ring… two at an outside chance?  Luckily, this is one of those Scarlett Hose / Bronx Bombers hypotheticals we don’t have to put too much emphasis on… after all, we came out for the better.

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MLB’s Hot Stove spending could eclipse $2 billion

No sport incites salary rage like Major League Baseball, so for those who bellyache the money is too big, consider this a fair warning to gulp a handful of Tums before reading the next sentence.Daisuke Matsuzaka Lions

Teams are barreling toward $2 billion spent on free agents this offseason.

Now, they may fall short of that nice, round number and still absolutely obliterate the previous spending record: around $1.75 billion in the 2006 offseason, a number that includes major league free agents as well as the posting fees for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa.

Already teams have lavished approximately $1.543 billion on players, the latest a $130 million investment by the Texas Rangers for seven years of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. He is the third nine-figure player of the offseason, joining Jacoby Ellsbury ($153 million) as an offset diamond around the center stone, Robinson Cano ($240 million).

Masahiro TanakaThere is plenty more to come. If Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka gets posted – his status remains in limbo – the $2 billion threshold is certain to be obliterated. Between his contract and the $20 million posting fee, teams expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 million for Tanaka. Beyond him are three pitchers who reason says will cash in for around $60 million each (Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza), an outfielder worth the same (Nelson Cruz), a shortstop a notch down from that (Stephen Drew), another starter sure to get multiple years (Bronson Arroyo), a bevy of relievers who will get papered (Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour and Jesse Crain, among others) and the dregs of the class, who can fetch $5 million here, $3 million there and add up quickly.

For those surprised, don’t be. Baseball’s economic system, as presently constituted, guaranteed free-agent salaries ballooning to unfathomable levels. A number of factors conspired to turn it into even more of a money booth than in the past.

First are the revenues. Back in 2006, a year before the recession started, baseball’s revenues were around $5.5 billion. Today, they are nearly $8.5 billion. And only now is free-agent spending catching up; over the previous three offseasons, it fell somewhere in the $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion range.

More than that are the mechanisms in place that more or less force teams to spend their money on free agents. Simply put: They can’t spend it anywhere else. The league capped how much teams can spend on the draft and international free agents. Many of the best players in the game don’t even make $1 million a season because the system artificially depresses salaries for the first three years of a career. Plenty of the best would-be free agents forgo the open market by signing long-term extensions, which can be for big money, sure, but almost every time represent a discount against what the player would receive with his services available to all 30 teams.

Ells tries it on

For those, then, with the patience to wait for free agency and the luck to do so coming off even a decent walk year, the rewards are massive – enough so to make you wonder if there will be some sort of a market correction in which pre-free-agency extensions start to inch closer to the open market or players who might’ve been locked up opt instead to chance free agency.

Kershaw deliversThere is an expectation within the industry that at least a couple of the monster class of free-agent pitchers next offseason will sign extensions. The group includes Clayton Kershaw (who will command the first deal for a pitcher over $200 million), Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Homer Bailey and Justin Masterson. If each went to free agency, there’s a good three-quarters of a billion dollars among the six, more than making up for a hitting class that includes Hanley Ramirez and a group that is best referred to as Et Cetera.

It’s one of the biggest reasons the Rangers went so hard after Choo, giving him more years and money than they wanted: the outfield market next year is paltry, and they’ve got goo-gobs of TV money from local and national sources to cover it. Give the Rangers this much: They’ve long made a habit of being ahead of other teams in how they spend their money. They went bigger in Latin America than any other team before the spending cap, then blew by it when the penalties weren’t as severe as they are now. This offseason, they’ve committed more than a quarter billion dollars to Choo and Prince Fielder and helped spearhead the spending that left the American League West as baseball’s most munificent division and the AL spending nearly three times as much as its National League counterparts.

Cano presser

The five AL West teams have combined to heap $466.6 million on free agents – Cano and Choo account for 79.2 percent of that – while the AL East is at $399.25 million (with the Yankees at 79.1 percent of that). Next is the AL Central ($268.75 million), followed by the three NL divisions: East ($182.98 million), West ($148.25 million, not including the Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum deals because they signed before free agency) and Central ($77.95 million – and, without Jhonny Peralta, less than $25 million combined).

Thirteen players by themselves have signed for $25 million, and another seven have exceeded the $20 million mark. It’s almost exactly like 2006, with 15 at $25 million-plus and 20 at $20 million-plus. With the five starters, Cruz and Drew left to go, this year’s numbers should dwarf ’06 in all respects.

Welcome to baseball in 2014, which rewards free agency more than ever. Ask Robinson Cano. Ask Jacoby Ellsbury. Ask Shin-Soo Choo. Ask any of the middle relievers cashing in for $6 million a year, the back-end starters and utilitymen getting four-year guarantees, the fourth outfielders getting paid what used to be All-Star wages. The union sought free agency with such fervor 40 years ago because the brilliant men leading it saw this day, when owners would make money hand over fist and give players their fair share.

Even those brilliant men could not fathom just how big that number would be: $2 billion or bust.

MLB, NPB agree to new free agent posting system

MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball have agreed in principle to a new posting system, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. As Sherman notes, the final step prior to approval is for MLB’s executive council to sign off on the deal, which is expected to happen soon.

As for the details, it’s likely as expected: The NPB team posting a free agent will reportedly be able to name a posting fee up to $20 million. At that point, all interested teams will agree to the posting fee, and the free agent in question will then be allowed to negotiate with the teams that have consented to the specific fee. However, only the team that signs the free agent will owe the posting fee to the player’s former NBP club.

This new system is a win for MLB, as the old format permitted posting fees much higher than $20 million — Yu Darvish’s $51.7-million tab and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s $52.1-million fee, for notable instance (ugh..!).

All of this means we’ll probably soon have some clarity regarding the status of coveted Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who’s generally regarded as the top potential free agent pitcher on the market. Tanaka’s current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, have in the recent past hinted that they may consider not posting their star under the new rules, but that stance seems to have softened this week. The general feeling is that if Tanaka wishes to make the jump, then he’ll be allowed to do so.

Masahiro Tanaka

On that front, it’s worth noting that Rukuten’s team president, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, is set to arrive at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. The Yankees, Cubs, Mariners and Dodgers are among the teams believed to have strong interest in the 26-year-old Tanaka.

One would have to believe that under the new system, the idea of parity between MLB’s ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’ will be at least, a little, improved.  Teams who otherwise would have sat back and watched due to the idea of paying over $50 million (in some cases a third of annual payroll for the ‘Have Nots’) for the right just to talk to the player may now be more inclined to take a chance and upset their division norm, whatever that norm may be.

If the Astros (it’s just an example, calm yourself) can take a leap and snag an import centerpiece to build upon, they can stand alongside the likes of The Dodgers, Bombers and Scarlett Hose… at least until they’re forced to trade that centerpiece for a bag of fungo bats, cash and some prospects.

Um, Thank You..?

World Series MVP David Ortiz has won his sixth Silver Slugger award as the top designated hitter in voting by major league managers and coaches.

Ortiz 2013 WS HR

While Red Sox fans celebrate, Seattle fans can only grumble that the Mariners traded Ortiz (then known as David Arias) to the Twins for Dave Hollins in 1996.

David Arias Ortiz Seattle

And Minnesota fans can only grumble that the Twins let Ortiz go to the Red Sox for nothing after the 2002 season.

David Arias Ortiz Twins

Would Boston have three world championships in the past decade had it not been for Seattle’s deadline deal blunders? (In 1997, the Mariners traded Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to Boston for Heathcliff Slocumb.)

A lil’ Championship Fun….

I picked this up from SB Nation:  And I can’t really argue with it.

Papi WWE Champion

These comparisons are based on the 2013 editions of each team. Yes, the all-time Yankees would be “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase or Hulk Hogan or whatever; the 2013 Yankees are neither of those. So kick back, enjoy and try not to take things too seriously.

Just kidding; it’s pro wrestling discussion on the Internet! Tear each other limb from limb!

The Boston Red Sox are John Cena

Cena at FenwayNo one over the age of 12 wants to admit it, but John Cena is absolutely outstanding at what he does. The problem is that everyone is sick of him. They’re sick of his dumb shirts, they’re sick of his Sincere Serious Voice, they’re sick of him constantly Beating the Odds and they’re sick of him in general. That’s the Red Sox. They’re terrific this year — again — after an epic collapse and a lost year. They used to be America’s darlings until they won 3  World Series’ and the country got exposed to Red Sox Nation. Wait a minute … Red Sox Nation … the “Cenation” …

The Tampa Bay Rays are Daniel Bryan

You know the story of the Rays by now. They don’t get any help from anybody. They’re a small-market team in the second-worst stadium in the league, playing in front of no one, with one of the smallest payrolls in the league. But it’s okay; they’ll still be one of the best teams in the world, year after year. They’ll do it their own damn selves. Daniel Bryan, AKA “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has been wrecking shop coast-to-coast in independent federations for 13 or so years and he’s always been exactly this good. Always. Now he’s the hottest wrestler on the planet and wrestling fools for an hour on Raw and everyone is like “lol where the hell did this guy come from?”

The New York Yankees are the Undertaker

Red Sox versus Yankees

Spends most of the year injured, but will still never lose.

The Baltimore Orioles are Booker T

Everyone likes the Orioles in some way. They’re not really a team that lends itself to intense hatred. They probably don’t even have a real arch-rival (maybe the Giants for stealing their colors). I bet they think they do, like the Padres and Mariners have arch-rivals. But they don’t. Everyone loves that the Orioles are doing well again (except Yankees fans). Everyone likes the team’s history (except Yankees fans) and of course everyone is crazy about those gorgeous uniforms. (Yankees fans, you like the uniforms okay, right?) The Orioles have been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been the best, they’ve disappeared. That’s Booker T: no one really hates the guy; lots of people think of him very fondly. His career is all over the place. I mean ALL OVER THE PLACE. He was a tag team specialist, he was a guy who lost the rights to his name so he had to start wrestling as G.I. Bro, he feuded with a guy over shampoo, he was suddenly a foreign king, he kicked around in TNA hating everything before reinventing himself as an announcer. Like the Oriole’s, there is some aspect of Booker T’s career that you can recall fondly.

The Toronto Blue Jays are 2013 Chris Jericho

Jericho 2013 Rumble

We had such high hopes, but then it was all just terrible.

The Detroit Tigers are Kane

Kane has been extremely popular and successful for like 15 years. He’s been pretty much every champion there is, crowds love him, he sells merchandise and rarely makes a fool of himself in the ring. All that said; there’s nothing really getting worked up over. At the end of the day, he’s still just Kane.

(I am so sorry, Tigers fans.)

The Cleveland Indians are Tatanka

Yep.

The Kansas City Royals are Chainsaw Charlie

It should have been a can’t-miss opportunity. Mick Foley was just starting to set the world on fire as Mankind following his infamous interview with Jim Ross and being tossed off that cage. Everyone knew he was a crazy guy who would do just about anything to get ahead. Who better to bring in to be his tag team partner than Terry gosh dang Funk? So Funk and the (then-)WWF put their heads together and … introduced Terry Funk as “Chainsaw Charlie,” a guy in suspenders who wore panty hose on his head.

The Royals during the offseason were determined to make a big splash. They traded away the top prospect in all of baseball and got woefully shortchanged on the deal. They traded, they spent, they seemed to make a bunch of bad decisions and now… It could have been amazing. Instead, they’re wearing panty hose on their heads and wondering what went wrong.

The Minnesota Twins are The Miz

Because WHOOOOO CAAAAAAARES

The Oakland Athletics are ACH

I know; you’ve never heard of ACH. ACH is an amazing pro wrestler who is out there killing himself in front of 15 people in a rec hall in a ring that looks like it has linoleum for a mat. But he’s not going to stop; he’s just going to keep being great at what he does. And the people who DO show up love him to death and realize they’re watching something special. So you can see how there might be SOME parallels. Just throwing it out there.

The Texas Rangers are Ricky Steamboat

Ricky SteamboatRicky Steamboat is probably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But he never rose much higher than “second fiddle.” His contemporaries were more colorful, or more charismatic, or just more interesting. He got right up against superstardom, but never really got over the hump. That’s where the Rangers are finding themselves now. Ricky Steamboat won that match at WrestleMania III, but Randy Savage will always be more beloved. Can the Rangers find a way to make themselves memorable?  (For those who don’t know, he’s pictured here holding the WWF/WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship: It’s like winning the American League pennant but not winning the World Series… sorry)

The Seattle Mariners are Al Snow

In one of his books, Mick Foley uses “Al Snow” as a euphemism for taking a poop. The Mariners are not as bad as all that. Mostly because the Astros are in their division now. But I mean, come on; the Mariners are Al Snow.

The Chicago White Sox are Zack Ryder

From tarnished and shamed, to a long stretch of awfulness, to a relatively-brief period of intense success. Then they vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

The Los Angeles Angels are Scott Steiner

Once amazing, but now bloated with … contracts. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with deep slumps of sheer insanity. Either way, you can’t look away. Always, always, always entertaining. For better or for worse.

The Houston Astros are Dennis Rodman

Yes, Dennis Rodman wrestled. He fell asleep on the ring apron. He’s one of the worst wrestlers in history, but you can’t even be mad, because he’s Dennis Rodman. Like, what else is he gonna do, you know what I mean? I hope you know where I’m going with this.

Fact or Fiction…. ?

Many an MLB analyst, ‘insider’ and blogger have touched upon the subject of Kevin Youkilis and the possibility of his being traded during the 2012 calendar year.

It’s not that Youk has outlived his welcome, been branded a loss or some clubhouse miscreant.  It’s because he’s a valuable commodity.  That and both Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias could be making regular appearances on the big-club by September, should their minor league seasoning go as planned.

Youk is only going to be traded to a team that needs him.  The Sox aren’t waving the flag for a 33-year-old 3B who finished the last two seasons with injuries around the league.  The interested team will have a specific need for an established veteran 1B/DH platoon (not necessarily a 3B) who gobbles up at at-bats like Skittles… a need so great that they’ll part with a young MLB ready starter.  Period.

There are clubs out there… they’re all the one’s whose faces are turning blue waiting for Prince Fielder to make a decision.  Think of Youk bitch-slapping Bryce Harper in Washington as a calming influence on a young team.  Picture Youk in Texas filling the 1B/DH spot behind Hamilton, Beltre or Napoli in the line-up.  Ooh, maybe he’ll give Ryan Braun the fish eye, you know.. after the 50 game suspension is over, for the Brew Crew. Or maybe even a package deal to Seattle for King Felix.  And then there are teams who just need to bolster their line-up in front of or behind a veteran bomber.  Think of him (gasp!) setting the table for King Albert in LA as a 3B/1B/DH platoon.

I don’t want to see him go, but the business side of the game beckons and the truth may be obvious… Youkillis won’t be as productive a 3B for the long haul as he would a 1B or DH.  He plays too hard, too heartily and too old-fashioned,  the way he should,  to not breakdown over the span of the season.  I love Youk.  He reminds me of Bill Mueller, Mike Stanley or Dwight Evans… guys who go between the foul lines, play their heart out and don’t ask for or expect the attention for their fairly quiet, continuous production.  Dustin Pedroia is made in the same mold.   The other ‘one-five’ echoed this style as well, but Millar’s personality and media savvy attitude served as a shield for his teammates and allowed them to just be themselves on the grandest stages.  Youk can easily pick up the 1B/DH platoon with Adrain Gonzalez… once Big Papi has retired.

Obviously, this war or worried words will be continuing well into the season.  A tell-tale sign will come as soon as the ink dries on Prince Fielder’s contract.  The vultures will then turn eyes to guys like Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena while the serious contender watches Youk’s spring training sessions and Grapefruit League games.  I’d expect the beginning of March and then the beginning of July to be a real scale of the honest interest in his services.  Youkilis’ return from injury combined with Lars Anderson returning to form could obviously dicate how the Sox approach their future trades.

Let’s take a closer look…

With nearly 200 Free Agents on the market this winter, there’s oodles of Hot Stove speculation, especially since The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs and both the Phillies and Yankees dropped out in the first round.

Looking at the list, here are a few FA’s that I feel the Sox should give consideration and in the order most of the experts have them ranked.

C.J. Wilson, SP:  Wilson is the top pitcher in the market and deservedly so.  He’s won 15 games the last two seasons as part of the Texas Rangers machine but fell apart in this years playoff run.  The talent pool for starters is thin and Wilson will probably command a greater price tag than the $82 million or so both John Lackey and A.J. Burnett received, and that would be a lot for a guy who’d project as the 3rd or 4th starter.  Inquire but move on.  (Signed by LA Angels @ Winter Meetings)

Roy Oswalt, SP: Oswalt, as he did in Philadelphia, could fill the #4 hole in the Sox rotation, but as the Phillies already established by declining his option, it won’t be for silly money.  Chances are he could return to Philly, but the Rangers (he’s established in the Lone Star State) and probably Yankees will inquire with some real interest.   

David Ortiz, DH/1B: Big Papi would be foolish to leave his folk-hero status in Beantown but this is a business and easily his last chance at the big paycheck.  Aside from the Scarlet Hose, I feel the Angels and Rangers could be real contenders for his services while Toronto, Seattle, Minnesota and Cleveland test the waters.  The ‘Bombers could send out a phone call or two just to p!ss of Sox fans.  (Accepted arbitration from Boston)

Mark Buehrle, SP:  Many ‘in the know’ have mentioned St. Louis as a possibility while others believe he’ll stay put in Chicago.  He’s a good talent and calming presence worth a look.  Since Texas, Miami, possibly the Angels and probably Yankees will be looking, we should too.  (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)

Jonathan Papelbon, RP:  Cherington has said he’d love to bring back both Ortiz and Papelbon for deals that make sense to everyone… however Pap’ is the best closer on the market and will be of interest to Philadelphia, possibly Miami (a showboat presence for a showboat manager) and any other team who can both spend big and be a contender.  If he’s not in Boston, look in the Phillies bullpen. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/13)

Ryan Madson, RP: Philly could be looking to keep him as he might be an alternative to Papelbon or a Heath Bell.  Madson has progressed nicely over the past few seasons and depending on what Boston plans to do with Daniel Bard or Aceves (convert them or make one closer in waiting), with or without Pap’, Ryan should be on the radar. (Signed by Cincinnati 1/11/12)

Grady Sizemore, OF: Sizemore is not the Indians slugger from just a few scant years ago, but he is still only 29 and worth a look.  A year removed from microfracture surgery most believe Grady should be eased back in to a starring role, getting 70 to 80 starts as a OF/DH platoon.  Rushing back to be the Cleveland slugger and star outfielder may have been what caused his several setbacks.  He could be worth a one or two-year deal to a big market team with room for him in such a situation.  Both he and Josh Willingham present better alternatives to Carlos Beltran (whom I omitted from this list). (Signed by Cleveland 11/29)

Heath Bell, RP: All signs point to Bell staying put in San Diego but he’s definitely worth the effort of a phone call or two should the Papelbon contract drag out or just not materialize.  (Signed by Miami Marlins @ Winter Meetings)

Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham played in Oakland whose stadium, the O.co, is massive and still put out 15 homers and a respectable slugging percentage.  Now, put that right-handed bat in Fenway and watch his numbers flourish.  He could platoon well in RF and present a viable option to Carlos Beltran. (Signed by Minnesota 12/14)

Paul Maholm, SP:  A left-hander on the market is going to get attention no matter what (see Darren Oliver and soon to be returning Jamie Moyer), so at 29 Maholm could be worth a look.  He finished the season with a shoulder problem sending him to the DL, but his consistency to cause grounders could be a great lefty complement to Lester in the rotation. (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/10/12)

Jonathan Broxton, RP:  He’s a reclamation project coming back from non-reconstructive elbow surgery, but then again the Sox love those low-risk high-reward incentive laden contract players.  With the way the bullpen collapsed in September, call him.  (Signed by KC Royals 11/29)

Kerry Wood, RP:  Wood has salvaged his career as a late-inning specialist (if only Brad Penny would follow his lead) and put the gloom of lost potential in the past.  The Sox considered him at the trade deadline the last two seasons, so there’s no reason not to consider him now.  (Signed by Chicago Cubs 1/13/2012)

Jim Thome, DH:  Thome could present a poor man’s solution to David Ortiz should Big Papi take his talents elsewhere.  Thome is a legendary clubhouse presence and could still hit a few of those HOF home runs at Fenway’s friendly confines.  I expect he’ll return to Cleveland (if the Indians ‘do the right thing’) but anyone in the AL who can’t land Ortiz or Beltran may come calling. (Signed by Philadelphia 11/5)

Hideki Matsui, DH/OF:  Like Thome, Godzilla could find a late career flourish in Fenway as Big Papi’s replacement.  He’s still a threat in the middle of the line-up and my gut tells me he’ll continue the pilgrimage north (LA to Oakland) to Seattle and play alongside Ichiro for the Japanese owned Mariners.

Takashi Saito, RP:  He’s older but still a workable component to a bullpen.  Plus, we’ve had him before.  Worth the look.  (Signed by Arizona 12/12)

Brian Sanches, RP:  A young arm who was worn out by the Marlins bullpen.  Placed in the right situation, he could be a valuable addition to a pen armed with Jenks, Bard and Papelbon.

Jason Varitek, C:  ‘Tek appeared to adapt well to his new role of mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season.  As a tag team, their numbers were comparable to many others at catcher in the league, especially during the mid-months when the Sox were the best team in all of baseball.  Ryan Lavarnway is still at least a half-season from a steady role on the big club, and while some have called for any old veteran to back-up ‘Salty, I say stick with what works.  Let him continue to groom Jarrod, then work more with Lavarnway and transition from mentor to his next life as an MLB coach and future manager.  His silence during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ and ‘Pitcher-gate’ (after all, he is The Captain) is the only reason I could see him not being offered a return.  As many Yankees fans have noted in regards to FA Jorge Posada, I can’t see ‘Tek in another uniform. 

Tim Wakefield, SP/RP:  Like Varitek, The Time Lord is a proven veteran commodity for the Sox.  He can pitch from wherever he is asked to and can flash that knuckleball on many an occasion.  He’s 6 wins away from tying both Clemens and Young for all time on the Red Sox wins list, and could easily get there with a solid rebound year.  While he too was silent during ‘The Fallout of Francona’ as well as ‘Pitcher-gate’, he’s an established veteran that could assist the new manager in the rotation, bullpen and clubhouse.  Though, like in the case of ‘Tek, it may just be sentimentality.