Changes

Well, it’s been almost a month since the Red Sox lost game 7 of the ALCS to the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I think it’s finally time to come out from the dark recesses of thefoulline.com headquarters, dust myself off, and talk about what I think Boston needs to do to improve their team.

This is a pivotal offseason for the Red Sox. There are some glaring holes in the Sox lineup that need to be filled. If this team remains unchanged, they’ll be watching the playoffs on television in 2009.

There’s going to be a lot of Hot Stove activity going on in the next couple of weeks. The damn Yankees have $90 million coming off their books and are eager spend to improve their poor pitching, and like it or not, the Rays are going to be here for a while. If Tampa acquires a legitimate closer and a quality right fielder they’re going to be dangerous. The American League East is no longer a two-horse race.

So if I were Theo Epstein, this is what I would do, in order of importance.

1. Sign Mark Texiera.

Tex would tear up Fenway Park offensively and play Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. This MUST be done! A switch-hitting. perennial All-Star first baseman does not become available very often. As an added bonus, Tex is a free agent, so it wouldn’t cost Boston any of its young talent to acquire him.

Of course, this means Kevin Youkilis is moved to third base, and Mike Lowell is odd man out. I would try to convince a healthy Lowell to learn how to play first base and become Boston’s super-sub. With Lowell playing a mix of first, third and DH, he could prove to the rest of the league that he is healthy, and improve his stock for a trade. (Minnesota and the White Sox need a third baseman). It wouldn’t be the most popular move in Boston, since Lowell is such a class act, but we are here to win ball games. Get out your checkbook, Theo, and make it happen.

2. Derek Lowe makes his triumphant return to Boston.

Lowe is the type of sinker-ball-throwing, ground-ball-inducing pitcher that is tailor-made for Fenway Park. He’s proven to come up huge in big games, as in the 2004 playoffs, when he won the deciding game in all three playoff series. Not to mention, he wants to pitch in Boston again. He may even give Theo a discount.

I look forward to a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, Lowe, and Wakefield. This would keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen to help solidify the 7th and 8th innings before turning it over to Papelbon.

3. Deal a solid pitching prospect, namely Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz, for either of Texas’s catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.

They each have different strengths: Salty is still a raw talent that hits pretty well but needs to improve defensively. Teagarden is a solid defensive catcher with a laser-rocket arm, and he has the potential to put up some big power numbers. What they have in common is that they both are ready to be a starting catcher in the majors.

I’m starting to lean towards a  Buchholz for Teagarden deal, but either way it’s an upgrade of the aging Varitek. Thanks for all of your hard work, ‘Tek. We’ll see you at Jason Varitek Appreciation day.

4. Trade Julio Lugo for a bucket of used baseballs.

Jed Lowrie is ready to be the everyday shortstop. Lugo sucks. Find some sucker GM to take him off our hands.

…..
It almost seems too easy to improve this team. If Boston makes these moves, you can go and get the champagne on ice. If not, it may be a long season.

TheFoulLine.com Hot Stove Report

I love watching Major League Baseball. Some people complain that the 162-game season is too long, but not me. I think they should make it 200 games a year. Baseball is the one sport that can deliver for seven months straight. People say that baseball is boring, but turn on ESPN during the baseball season and you will consistently see the best highlights in all of sports. Huge home runs, acrobatic catches, collisions at the plate.

Think about it: the NFL is fun to watch, but if they were to add more games to the schedule, teams would be so beat up when the playoffs started that nobody would want to watch. Not to mention, everyone already knew the Patriots were going to win the Super Bowl in week one.

This brings me to the other “major”sport, the NBA. Remember when basketball was must-see TV? Back when Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkley and the Mailman were playing, basketball was worth watching. Now the NBA has turned into which team can dunk the most, or who can shoot the most three-pointers. Bring back some bounce passes and some quality team defense and I might tune in.

There used to be another major sport involving pucks and sticks that I really enjoyed. But then came the lockout, the stupid Versus Network contract, and the Anaheim Ducks vs. Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup final. And just like that, hockey became irrelevant.

The other thing that makes baseball a year-long sport is the Hot Stove League. The World Series ended 10 days ago and we are still reading about MLB in the papers. Why is this? Because every baseball fan in the offseason channels their inner George Costanza and thinks that they can be the General Manager for their favorite team. I certainly do. I have already worked out deals in my head that would add Johan Santana, Alex Rodriguez, and Torii Hunter to the Red Sox. Of course, the Sox payroll would be $300 million a year, but it’s not my money, so who cares. Speculating which players are going where and what your team is going to look like for the upcoming season makes following baseball fun year round.

Which brings me to some quick Red Sox Hot Stove Notes:

  • It looks like Curt Schilling will be signing a one-year deal with Boston. I am really happy about this for a couple of reasons. First of all, Schilling was a solid pitcher once he got himself in shape. Secondly, this gives him another year to tutor Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Finally, after being a big part of two Red Sox World Series Championship teams, he should retire as a Red Sox.
  • We all know that Jacoby Ellsbury will be the starting centerfielder for Boston next year. I would like to see the Red Sox get a good, young backup catcher for Coco Crisp.
  • I think that there is a 50/50 chance of Mike Lowell coming back. I don’t see the Sox giving him a four-year deal. I think it’s going to be either 3 years/$40 million for Lowell or the Sox make a trade for Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins.
  • There are rumors that Boston is looking into acquiring Johan Santana. If there is any chance to get this guy, give the Twins anyone they want. Beckett and Santana heading up a rotation would be scary.
  • Also, Dylan “Just Call Me Jacoby Ellsbury” Hamilton went 4 for 4 in his men’s softball league game last night and was one single away from hitting for the cycle. If he keeps this up, Boston will have to seriously consider inviting him to Spring Training.