The World Series trophy is safely housed on Yawkey way, the Duck Boats are filled with tourists again, and Jonathan Papelbon has (hopefully) danced his last jig. The question for the Red Sox is: what now? In another week it will be open season on free agents and the Red Sox have two prominent ones in Curt Schilling and Mike Lowell. There’s another guy out there who might draw a little interest. Maybe you’ve heard of him, A-Something or other.
This will be an interesting offseason for the Sox (aren’t they all?) but the tenor and tone will be different from the frenzy of recent years. The foundation is set and the kids are beginning to fall into place. The shortstop should return for the first time since Nomar was still king. It will be different, but it will be interesting. After the jump, odds on the return of Lowell and Schilling, and that guy.
What to do with Lowell, who has gone from under-appreciated veteran to beloved folk hero in the time it took Fox to hand the World Series over to Scott Boras? The Red Sox actually have two options here if they do not bring him back.
They can fill the void at third, and there is really only one big-time third baseman available and it isn’t Jeff Cirillo, or they could move Kevin Youkilis to third and find a first baseman. The latter option seems unlikely now that Youkilis has established himself as a Gold Glove caliber first baseman.
There seems to be a groundswell for bringing Lowell back, and not just because of his MVP performance. John Henry called it a high priority, which is not something he usually does, and Jason Varitek made sure to hold up a sign at the rally supporting Lowell. If there is one guy whose voice is heard it’s Varitek’s. Odds on Lowell coming back: 3-1 and getting better every day.
This is what you get with Schilling. A guy who appreciates all that he has here and all he has been able to do here, which is quite rare among athletes, particularly baseball players. A guy who takes it upon himself to actually write letters to his teammates, and a guy who would take less less money and less years to take one more shot a championship.
This is also what you get with Schilling. A guy who tells a radio audience about his said letters, and who makes his selfless contract demands public, thus rendering each neither personal, nor selfless. Again, before the playoffs there was almost no chance that Schilling was going to come back. But now?
There is no reason to buy the veteran mentor bit that has been making the rounds lately. If Schilling is going to come back it’s because he would fill a role at the back end of the rotation and because the Red Sox don’t think they can find anyone better at that price. Odds on Schilling coming back: 6-1.
When you compete at the level the Red Sox do and the best player in baseball becomes available at a position that happens to be unoccupied, you do your due diligence, at least. Forget, for a moment, that the guy is toxic and unloved by much of the Red Sox locker room. Forget, for a moment, that he would be replacing Lowell, who is the anti A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez is the best player in baseball, by far, and he is in his prime.
And they still shouldn’t sign him. They shouldn’t sign him because it is bad business to allocate that much money to one player, even on a team as rich as the Red Sox. There will be stories about contact with Boras because it is to the Red Sox advantage to make other team’s believe they are interested, but the best-case scenario would be for A-Rod to take his soap opera and go west, preferably to the National League. Odds on A-Rod coming to Boston: 20-1.
Here’s the twist to this offseason. No matter which way they go, no matter who they bring back or sign, their core of young players and pitchers will be intact. Times sure are different.