Just like Star Trek, facial hair tells you which one is from an alternate universe!The other day I got to asking myself, what would have happened if the Red Sox had somehow matched the Yankees’ offer and resigned Johnny Damon in the fall of 2005? So I did a little thought experiment and here is what I came up with…

I am assuming the the Red Sox would not have been willing to increase payroll above what they eventually did pay in 2006 simply to accomodate Damon’s salary. This means that the Sox would not have been able to take on the salaries of Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, whose combined 2006 salaries with the Sox are exactly equal to Damon’s 2006 salary with the Yankees. Instead, having traded Edgar Renteria to the Braves, the Red Sox would have started Hanley Ramirez and Andy Marte on the left side of the infield. They would have also had to keep Bronson Arroyo to pitch in the rotation, and would have had Anibel Sanchez to pitch in the rotation when the injuries started piling up at the end of 2006.

Without any need for Coco Crisp in centerfield and an opening at third base, the Sox would never have traded away Marte or acquired Josh Bard. Instead, they would have had Kelly Shoppach as their backup catcher. This means that they would not have panicked and traded away Cla Meredith to get back Doug Mirabelli.

There is the famous fable of the butterfly that flaps its wings in China and causes a hurricane to strike in the Carribean, or somesuch. Well, if the Red Sox had decided to do whatever it took to resign Johnny Damon, and then had the vision to give Ramirez and Marte a chance instead of trading away for injury and suckiness-prone Josh Beckett, their projected 2007 lineup and rotation would look like this:

CF Johnny Damon

SS Hanley Ramirez

DH David Ortiz

LF Manny Ramirez

RF JD Drew

1B Kevin Youkilis

2B Julio Lugo

C Jason Varitek

3B Andy Marte

P Curt Schilling

P Bronson Arroyo

P Daisuke Matsuzaka

P Jonathan Papelbon

P Anibel Sanchez/Tim Wakefield

What the Red Sox would have, then, is a team that would be significantly better than the one which they are going to be putting on the field in 2007. Instead of marginal prospect Dustin Pedroia batting ninth, the Red Sox would have super prospect Andy Marte, and mediocre Coco Crisp and Mike Lowell would be replaced by legitimate stars Johnny Damon and Hanley Ramirez. The rotation would also be significantly stronger, with Arroyo replacing Beckett, and Sanchez allowing Wakefield to move back into the sixth man/swing role. As an added bonus, the Sox would still have extremely useful pieces in Kelly Shoppach and Cla Meredith on the bench and in the bullpen. And most amazing of all, the Sox payroll would be several million dollars less than what it is going to be in 2007.

Plus, the Red Sox would almost certainly have done better in 2006 with Sanchez ready to step into the rotation when Wakefield went down, and Shoppach available to step in when Varitek got hurt.

Overall, I am quite pleased with this little thought experiment. My only real regret is that I wasn’t able to magically wish away JD Drew and Julio Lugo in the process. Alas, even if the Sox had re-signed Damon, they still would have seen a need to sign Drew and Lugo…

2 Responses to “The Team that might have been: 2007 Boston Red Sox”

  1. I like where you are going here! The problem is that Marte probably would have been dealt for a first baseman – The Sox never saw him as part of the plan. They wanted Youkilis to be playing third and got Marte as trade bait. Marte probably would have been dealt to Colorado for Todd Helton and Marte would either be platooning with Garret Atkins or sitting in AAA.

    Hindsight is always 20-20 when it comes to trades!

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I go on vacay for one week and look what you do!

    First, Bronson is not a legit No. 2 starter for an AL contender. And you forgot Jon Lester! Don’t forget Jon Lester. Also, for Sanchez (Marlins) and Arroyo (Reds) you have to take into account that they are throwing against lame National League teams whereas Beckett is now throwing against the Yankees. As for Johnny Damon, I am convinced that despite media/blog focus on the extra money the Yankees threw at him, what he really wanted was the extra years. The Sox offered him 4 years/40 million, while the Yankees offered him $53 million for FIVE years. Now, given that he will probably sit out that fifth year with some lame injury (or general sucktitude), perhaps you could argue that it’s a wash. But the Sox have HOT young (cheap) centerfield prospect Jacoby Ellsbury coming up in the system. If Damon signs a four-year deal, well, so much the better, but after Damon didn’t sign, the Sox only needed to buy a couple of years before Ellsbury was ready, so they went out and got Coco Crisp, who is good enough to be an effective stopgap. This strategy, along with the sloooow development of other young talent, is what has annoyed Sox fans griping “The Sox will be great….in 2008.” While it’s true that Theo and the gang have bartered away some good talent, it’s also true that at the trade deadline last year when every team wanted Papelbon, Lester, and Hansen, the Sox stayed pat. Clearly there are *some* prospects they consider off-limits, even if they have parted with others. The fact is that Fenway isn’t exactly the most patient, low-pressure environment for newbies to come into, and when Cla Meredith was rushed to the majors a while back, the feeling here was that he might have been spoiled forever. The Sox spent a pretty penny this offseason, but they have some good young talent that is also proven talent. As Greg said, hindsight is 20/20, but no one in Boston wants to ride into a showdown in Yankee Stadium relying on a bunch of rooks.

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