If I, or Theo Epstein, could turn back time and find a way, there is no doubt what we would do: make Jason Varitek younger. Specifically, age 31, the year he hit 25 homers or age 32, the year he OBP’ed .390. Sure, maybe some hoary wisdom would be lost — but think of all the offense that would be gained!
Similarly, if David Ortiz could go back to being 27, the Red Sox could expect five consecutive 30+ homer seasons from him (including two 40+ homer seasons and one 50+ homer season).
But, if time cannot be turned back, no matter how many sailors on that air-craft carrier wish it could be, the Red Sox will just have to try something else. Hence, operating under the assumption that those MIT researchers won’t find a way to magically re-youngify Tek and Papi, the Red Sox are looking for some replacement parts. Here’s how they should prioritize:
1. A good bat. Look, it’s only money. And the Red Sox have big fat gobs of it. Kevin Youkilis can play third base, if you want to stick Mark Teixeira (or Prince Fielder) at first. In my view, it’s even better if this extra bat is…
2. A young catcher. If you can get a young catcher with a good bat, you can hit two birds with one stone. But I don’t know that there’s a catcher available who could deliver the kind of bat the Red Sox need; names floating around out there are Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Rangers (or perhaps Gerald Laird, if the Red Sox land Teixeira). Ideally, the new guy would be defensively savvy enough (Teagarden! Teagarden!) to get the hang of Wakefield’s knuckler, since the Sox have already re-upped him and since Varitek hates to catch him. Let Tek be the backup and pass on the hoary w. to the new kid. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Sox deal some of their sa-weet young pitching prospects to land a catcher they were truly excited about. They’ve been saving up their pitching prospects for years, and are now loaded with them. Which brings me to my next item….
3. Make Justin Masterson a starter again. Yes, he was pretty good as a reliever. But he was also great as a starter. I’ve never seen a satisfactory explanation for why they moved him to the bullpen than, “Mike Timlin just got really old.” A rotation of Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, and Masterson — with Buchholz or Bowden in the mix as well — sounds good to me. Besides, how hard is it really to pick up a random assortment of cheap relievers and let the bullpen sort itself out? A very few pitchers aside, this is pretty much how it seems to end up working every year, anyway.
The first two items above are essential — the third, just my personal preference. (And yes, in a perfect world, the Red Sox would find someone to take Julio Lugo off their hands, too.)