Even David Ortiz says the Red Sox need another power bat. "You definitely need to find another guy who can produce here," the Sox resident slugger said recently.
Mark Teixeira is the obvious No. 1 choice, but he will be had at great cost. And even if the Sox have a "sky's the limit" mentality in pursuing him, as a free agent, Teixeira has the privilege of going wherever he wants. The player has all the power in this instance.
Whoever is targeted, it's clear that the Sox need more thump in the lineup.
Kevin Youkilis had a career year and cracked 29 homers, 13 more than his previous best in 2007. And Mike Lowell, though on the disabled list twice and playing in just 113 games as a result, still hit 17 homers. The third baseman says his rehab is going well, and that he feels pain free for the first time in quite a while.
Doctors were pleased to see that his hip was in better condition than they had originally anticipated and called his surgery a complete success. He is expected to be fully recovered and ready for spring training. A healthy Lowell could likely be counted on for at least 20 homers next season.
However, the other side of the coin is that Lowell will turn 35 before spring training begins, and there's no guarantee that he'll recover quickly, or fully, at his age. He will remain a question mark until he proves otherwise.
There is a total power outage at shortstop; Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie combined for a whopping three home runs this year—hold your hats, everyone! And the Sox also lack power in the outfield. Jason Bay is the only bona fide power hitter in the bunch, averaging 29 homers over the past five seasons. In fact, Bay has hit less than 25 homers just once in that span (21 in 2007).
For the 2008 season, the Bill James Handbook projected that Jacoby Ellsbury would hit six home runs. The light-hitting center fielder ended up surpassing the projection, barely, by hitting nine. No one in baseball foresees Ellsbury developing into a power hitter, and a 15-homer season would surpass all reasonable expectations. He is a base-stealer, not a power threat.
Coco Crisp, whose value is higher than at any time since he came to the Red Sox, hit seven homers and will likely be traded. J.D. Drew never was, and never will be, a power hitter. Drew hit just 19 jacks in 2008, and 11 the previous year.
The four current Red Sox outfielders accounted for 66 home runs last year—an average of 16.5 apiece. Thank goodness for Bay; excluding him, the remaining three averaged just 11.7 apiece. That's obviously pretty weak.
The Red Sox were 12th of 30 teams, with 173 home runs in 2008. Just one homer separated them from the middle-of-the-pack. So another power hitter would certainly improve the 2009 team. The Sox were good at manufacturing runs this year through bunting, sacrificing, stealing, and hitting; they finished third in baseball with 845 runs.
But there's no doubt that the addition of Teixeira would spark the offense and perhaps get the Sox over the hump they simply couldn't vault this year. After Tex and Manny Ramirez, the ranks of good free agent power bats gets pretty thin.
Adam Dunn has hit 40 or more homers in five straight seasons, and drawn 100 walks or more walks in four straight seasons. But he strikes out mercilessly, can't hit for average, and plays poor defense. That's not the type of player the Sox covet.
There are older outfielders that the Sox probably wouldn't invest in, such as Moises Alou (42), Luis Gonzalez (41), and Garret Anderson (37). And the free agent ranks are filled with re-treads and washed-up or past-their-prime players like Cliff Floyd, Jay Payton, and Trot Nixon, all of whom have already played in Boston.
Yes, there are more productive, and more expensive, free agents, such as Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu, but it doesn't seem the Sox would follow such a path.
So, a trade would seem more likely, with Crisp and the underwhelming Lugo being available. But the question is, who else? All teams will be interested in the Sox young and deep pitching talent, such as Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, and Michael Bowden. To get Teixeira, a true impact bat, will only cost dollars. Getting an impact bat via trade will cost young players, as well as dollars.
It's the Sox move.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.