What to do . . .
Well, since Red Sox Nation has officially mailed it in, minus the irrationally optimistic folks we all know - people who can look at a 40-car pile-up and celebrate that it wasn't a 41-car pile-up - allow me to look at 2007 for you.
So, what do we do once the season ends? Well, we rebuild, for one. I remain truly optimistic that we CAN compete next year, in a major way. Maybe not win the division in 2007 (though in 2008 and beyond, I can see the tides changing), but be a front-runner for the AL Wild Card. Five key moves to get us there that need to be made this off-season.
1) Trade an OFer to the Angels (our strength), for a middle infielder (their strength). No, no, no - not THAT OFer! Here's the deal - Coco Crisp for Brandon Wood. The Angels need some speed in the OF (C'mon, Garrett Anderson?) and Coco's skills would be FAR more utilized in the speed-oriented and aggressive Angels offense. Coco could play LF and become far more valuable defensively, and Figgins can continue in CF. Wood would be a welcome bump in offense, providing some power in a power-hungry system, as well as allowing us to only pursue a part-time SS capable of filling in temporarily if Wood needs some time in the AAA next year (Cora?). With Kendrick, Aybar, and Cabrera around, and Figgins capable of filling in - the Angels can let him go. With Murphy, Pena, and Ellsbury on the horizon, we can move Coco. This deal, unlike the Manny deal, can work because there's no pitching involved and two young players fitting the needs of the respective teams.
2) Go out and sign Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's certainly a risk - young with some wear on his arm and no proven track record in MLB. But he has been ridiculously good in Japan, and done well on an international stage. The Sox get to make a blind bid for exclusive rights to negotiate. While there is NO chance the Sox can win his services by sticking to the low risk mentality, they CAN get him by making a generous bid. The money going towards negotiation rights does not count against the payroll - only the cost of the contract would. That money would be quickly recouped by the instant appeal the Red Sox would have to a market we have yet to enter with any real zeal. That’s me speaking Lucchino and Werner's language. Here's me speaking Theo's language - he's young with a ton of potential and can be locked down to anchor our rotation with the equally young Papelbon, Beckett and Lester for years to come. That's four potential aces, two of which are locked down at a very low rate, and two at higher rates (not high if they become aces though). It won't hurt us and will probably end up even in the end, but could quite possibly turn out to be one helluva bargain. If he cannot be signed, the Sox need to go bid quickly on Schmidt and lock him up for 3 years with an option for the 4th year.
3) Move Clement to the BP. I know it sounds completely counterproductive because of his mental strength, but bear with me. He's a bust as a starter, but he has a great slider and pure stuff. It's the mental approach that kills him - an approach that kills starters more than relievers in my humble opinion. His numbers suggest he's better the first few batters he sees, and progressively gets worse as the game goes on. So basically the choice for Theo is whether or not to pay him to pitch elsewhere. Before you do that, might as well see if this is a role more conducive to success AND helping the Sox. Worst-case scenario - he's Rudy Seanez redux and we end up eating the contract anyhow. Best case - he's pretty good and we get at least some contribution from him for OUR team. Oh yeah, and a warm body for the pen that we already have figured into our budget.
4) Trade for a minor league catcher with some upside . . . possibly work Mathis or Napoli into the Crisp for Wood trade by adding a pitcher or OF prospect. Another option is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, currently blocked by McCann in Atlanta (maybe for Murphy plus a middle-tier prospect).
5) Explore options for the following players: Brad Lidge (trade), Roy Oswalt (trade), Roger Clemens (FA), Ted Lilly (FA), David Dellucci (FA for bench) - and my pipe dream, Miguel Cabrera (at season's end, I'm calling the Marlins and offering Hansen [still a top prospect and Marlins favorite], plus Buchholz or Bowden [two top starting prospects having great years], plus another midlevel prospect of their picking [like Murphy, Moss, Pauley, or maybe even Martinez]).