Now that Theo Epstein is officially a Cub and 37-year-old Ben Cherington will soon be named the new GM of the Red Sox, work can soon begin on selecting a replacement for Terry Francona.
After that task is completed, one of the first orders of business for Cherington and the new manager will be determining the team’s 40-man roster, which must be set by Nov. 20.
Before this happens, here are a couple key points to keep in mind:
- Players on the 60-day disabled list do not count towards that 40-man limit during the season, but they be must be removed from the DL and counted on the 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Kalish are in this category.
- Minor leaguers signed to major league contracts (Jose Iglesias and Junichi Tazawa) must also be placed on the 40-man roster.
- The 40-man roster is used to protect an organization’s minor leaguers from getting selected in the annual Rule 5 Draft. Depending on his age at the time he signs his first professional contract, a player is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after four or five years if he is not a part of the 40-man roster. If another team chooses him in the Rule 5 Draft, that team must keep the player on its active 25-man roster for a full season or place him on waivers or offer him back to the original team. The purpose of the Rule V Draft is to prevent teams from hording major league ready prospects who could play in the show for another ballclub.
The Rule 5 Draft will play a part in who is placed on Boston’s 40-man roster by November 20. Will Middlebrooks, who is widely regarded as the top overall prospect in the Red Sox organization, will be added. Chances are, outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral and first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez will, too. Left-handed starter Drake Britton and right-hander Miguel Celestino are other candidates since they have upside and could be selected by another team in the Rule V Draft if they are not part of the 40-man roster.
Here is a look at the current 40-man roster for the Red Sox, with comments about their likely future with the team:
- Alfredo Aceves – The versatile right-hander was Boston’s most valuable pitcher, and he will be back as either a set-up man or perhaps the No. 5 starter.
- Matt Albers – The righty was exceptional in the first half, but struggled in the second half. He could be non-tendered.
- Scott Atchison – The veteran right-hander was a favorite of Terry Francona, and he is capable of filling a Tim Wakefield-type role as a long reliever and a spot starter. Chances are, he will remain on the 40-man roster and be given a chance to make the team out of spring training.
- Daniel Bard – The power righty could be moved into the rotation, or he could remain in the top set-up role.
- Josh Beckett – Though he was less than stellar in September, Beckett is still one of the game’s top starters, and he will anchor the 2012 rotation with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
- Erik Bedard – The injury-prone veteran left-hander did little to help the Red Sox after arriving in a trade deadline deal. He will likely not be back.
- Michael Bowden – In his first season as a full-time reliever, Bowden was impressive as the closer at Pawtucket and pitched respectably for Boston. He will be out of options in 2012, so he will either have to make the opening day roster as a reliever, or be designated for assignment. Bowden could be an off-season trade chip, along with Lars Anderson, or he could be given a chance to make the team out of spring training.
- Clay Buchholz – See the sentence about Josh Beckett above. The loss of Buchholz to a stress fracture in his lower back dramatically hurt the Red Sox rotation. A healthy Buchholz in 2012 will give the team a third top-tier starter.
- Felix Doubront – The promising left-hander showed up to spring training out of shape, and as a result endured an assortment of injuries this season. Yet he showed glimpses of why the Sox are high on him. Doubront will either make the team out of spring training as a left-handed reliever, or open 2012 in the Pawtucket rotation. His major league future is as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, or a set-up man.
- Rich Hill – The left-hander was lights out as a reliever before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He will be back in time for spring training, but chances are he will not be ready to contribute at the major league level until May or June. Yet his presence will bolster the bullpen depth.
- Bobby Jenks – The veteran right-hander was a disaster for the Sox in 2011, mostly because of an assortment of injuries. He has incentives to report to spring training in better shape and serve as a valuable set-up man in 2012, the last year of his two-year, $12 million deal.
- John Lackey – The veteran right-hander’s struggles since arriving in Boston are widely known. He has three years and $46.5 million left on his contract. It would be hard to find a Red Sox fan who wants to see him return, and many baseball pundits believe the Sox have no choice but to cut him loose. Initial media reports indicate that San Diego might be interested in Lackey if the Sox pay at least most of his salary.
- Jon Lester – The durable lefty is one of the top starters in the game, but like everyone else on the Red Sox pitching staff, he flopped in September. Hopefully, he will train relentlessly in the off-season and reestablish himself as the team ace in 2012.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka – When healthy, Dice-K has been a winner. He is entering the final year of his contract, and ironically he could provide the veteran pitching depth this rotation needs. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, Matsuzaka will likely not be major league ready until next summer, but you can never have enough pitching.
- Andrew Miller – The former first round pick of the Tigers continues to show promise, but he also remains erratic with his command and control. Likely, he will return and be given a chance to make the team out of spring training.
- Trever Miller – The veteran left-handed reliever saw time with the Sox in September after being brought in for insurance at Pawtucket. He is not likely to remain on the 40-man roster.
- Franklin Morales – The power lefty will be 26 in January and pitched respectably for the Red Sox. He will likely be part of the Boston bullpen in 2012.
- Jonathan Papelbon – With the shakiness of Daniel Bard, Papelbon will likely be brought back on something like a three-year deal worth $36 million to $39 million. It is unclear whether the Sox would go higher if another team, like the Phillies, is serious about securing his services.
- Stolmy Pimentel – The highly regarded Dominican right-hander had a forgettable 2011 season that saw him struggle so badly at Double-A Portland that he was demoted to advanced Single-A Salem, where he regained his confidence. Regardless of his troubles this season, Pimentel will be just 22 in February, and he is still part of Boston’s future plans.
- Junichi Tazawa – The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by spring training. He can be used as a starter or a reliever, and he gives the Sox insurance. Chances are, he will be given a chance to win a bullpen job out of spring training, or open the season in the Pawtucket rotation.
- Tim Wakefield – The 45-year-old knuckleballer wants to pitch for the Red Sox in 2012 and continue his chase for the club’s all-time wins record. Does Epstein want him back as pitching insurance? With guys like Scott Atchison and Alfredo Aceves, the Red Sox already have potential long relievers and spot starters. It is time to part ways with Wakefield.
- Kyle Weiland – The 25-year-old right-hander was effective as a starter at Pawtucket, but with the Red Sox he was more productive as a reliever as his starts were forgettable. Weiland was a closer at Notre Dame and projects as a late-inning reliever in the majors. The Red Sox don’t have a lot of major league ready starting pitching depth at Pawtucket, so Weiland could remain in the PawSox rotation next season, or be given a chance to make the Red Sox as a reliever.
- Dan Wheeler – The veteran righty and Rhode Island native had an injury-prone 2011 season, but he was effective when healthy. Chances are, the Sox will pick up his $3 million option.
- Luis Exposito – Once considered the top catching prospect in the Red Sox organization, Exposito still has major league potential, and he made his Red Sox debut this season. For depth purposes, he will probably remain in the organization and open the 2012 season at Pawtucket.
- Ryan Lavarnway – The 24-year-old Yale graduate not only hit 32 home runs between Portland and Pawtucket, and dramatically improved behind the plate, but he also made his major league debut and belted two home runs in a key game against Baltimore. Lavarnway will probably get the chance to serve as the backup catcher to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia – The 26-year-old switch-hitter struggled in April and September, but he was impressive in the other months and performed well behind the plate while belting 16 home runs in 358 at-bats.
- Jason Varitek – The captain will be 40 in April, he is no longer productive at the plate and he cannot throw out baserunners. Yet he is still valuable to this team. If the new manager is wise, for continuity purposes he will find a spot for Varitek on the coaching staff. Chances are, he has caught his last game for the Red Sox.
- Lars Anderson – The 24-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman is no longer one of the top prospects in the game, but he does have major league potential. Likely, he will be used as a trade chip in the off-season. If not, he will open 2012 at Pawtucket.
- Mike Aviles – Aside from Aceves, Aviles was one of Epstein’s best acquisitions. The versatile Aviles is 30, and he provides above-average defense at second, shortstop and third. He is also learning to play right field and left field. Aviles will serve as a valuable utility player for the Sox in 2012.
- Adrian Gonzalez – Until September, Gonzalez was an MVP candidate, but the last month of the season he did not deliver when timely hits were needed. Still, he is an exceptional first baseman and one of the best hitters in baseball. The Sox need him to get in better condition, and return as one of the team’s leaders by example in 2012.
- Jose Iglesias – Many scouts say that the 21-year-old Cuban is the best defensive shortstop prospect in baseball. He made his major league debut this season, but his bat is still developing, so he will open the 2012 season at Pawtucket.
- Jed Lowrie – When healthy, the 27-year-old switch-hitter is an offensive threat who plays proficient defense at shortstop and third base. The problem is, Lowrie has not been able to make it through a season without injuries. He will be back in 2012 as either the starting shortstop, or in a super utility role. He can also play first base and second base.
- Dustin Pedroia – The heart and soul of the Red Sox is having the screw removed from the foot he injured in 2010. With the departure of Francona, and reports of chemistry problems among some of his teammates this season, the Red Sox desperately need Pedroia to take a greater leadership role in 2012. He epitomizes the Dirt Dawg-style of play the Red Sox were known for before 2011, and what they need to be in 2012 and beyond.
- Marco Scutaro – Aside from Jacoby Ellsbury, the 36-year-old Scutaro was the most productive hitter in September. When healthy, he is also a dependable, albeit not exceptional, shortstop. The Red Sox will likely pick up his $6 million team option (he also has a $3 million player option) because Iglesias is not major league ready and Lowrie cannot be relied upon to stay healthy. Like Pedroia, Scutaro is a Dirt Dawg-style of player the Red Sox need on the field and in their clubhouse.
- Oscar Tejeda – A promising player with five-tool potential, Tejeda had an eye-opening spring training with the Red Sox, but he had a disappointing Double-A debut year at Portland (hitting .249). Still, Tejeda will be just 22 in December, and he has tremendous upside as either an infielder or an outfielder.
- Kevin Youkilis – Plagued with injuries for the second consecutive season, the fan favorite reportedly was part of clubhouse trouble this season because of his comments about teammates. With Middlebrooks set to open 2012 at Pawtucket and potentially becoming the starting third baseman as early as 2013, Youkilis could be traded this off-season. He is about to undergo surgery to repair a sports hernia, and he missed a chunk of the season because of hip bursitis. Youkilis will be 33 in March and is signed through 2012 at $12 million a season. He has a $13 million team option for 2013. It would be hard to imagine the Red Sox without Youkilis, but with the presence of Lowrie and Aviles as third base options, and the need for another starting pitcher to go along with Beckett, Lester and Buchholz, it is feasible to envision the Red Sox dealing him for an arm.
- Carl Crawford – That the 30-year-old left fielder could not catch the sinking liner that ended Boston’s season on Wednesday was fitting. The $142 million free agent could not seem to do anything right in his first season with the Red Sox. Still, he can be a difference maker, and the Red Sox need him. Maybe he will respond to the new manager, and perhaps the new manager will return Crawford to the No. 2 spot in the order.
- J.D. Drew – One of Epstein’s most questionable free agent signings, the Drew era in Boston is finally over, saving the team $14 million a season. He did play a strong right field, and he delivered some key hits in the post-season, but Drew never remotely lived up to what Epstein expected.
- Jacoby Ellsbury. Three letters describe the 28-year-old center fielder – M V P. Ellsbury is a Gold Glove deserving center fielder and a run producing bat who hits for average, drives in runs and steals bases. The Sox can only hope that Youkilis has a bounce back season from injuries as Ellsbury did in 2011.
- Joey Gathright – The speedy veteran outfielder was signed from the independent league Yuma Scorpions to serve as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement for the Red Sox. He will likely not return.
- Conor Jackson – The 29-year-old Jackson, who was acquired in August from the A’s, is interesting because he is a versatile right-handed bat who can play the corner outfield spots and the corner infield spots. He could earn a role as a reserve for the Red Sox in 2012. I would rather have Jackson on the roster than Darnell McDonald. The question is, do the Red Sox agree?
- Ryan Kalish – The left-handed hitting Kalish, who will be 24 next March, is one of the club’s top overall prospects and will likely battle Josh Reddick for the starting right field job in 2012, unless the Sox opt to acquire a stopgap veteran (Josh Willingham?) and start Kalish at Pawtucket.
- Darnell McDonald – Francona seemed to favor McDonald, but with Francona’s departure, the reserve outfielder might not be back. Let’s hope he does not return. His baserunning blunders and defensive gaffes defined this team’s lack of fundamentals in 2011.
- Josh Reddick – The left-handed hitting outfielder will be 25 in February, and like Kalish, he is a Dirt Dawg-style player. The Sox need to stock their roster with Pedroias, Scutaros, Kalishs and Reddicks.
- David Ortiz – You would think that a DH who hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBI would undoubtedly be brought back, even though he is a free agent. Epstein says the Red Sox want him to return, and Ortiz is one of the faces of the franchise, yet the number of years he wants will determine if the Red Sox sign him to a new contract. It makes no sense to sign him to more than a two-year deal since he is about to turn 36. My guess is that Ortiz will be brought back. The other option is letting him walk and moving Youkilis to the DH role.
Projecting the 40-man roster is not an exact science. Trades could happen before November 20 as could free agent signings. It is definite that Drew will not return. Likely, Varitek will not be back. Trever Miller, Joey Gathright and Erik Bedard are other names who probably will not be included on the 40-man roster when it is submitted on November 20. That leaves five open spots, which could be filled by Middlebrooks, Lin, Cabral and Rodriguez and either Britton or Celestino.
Other names who might be gone by November 20 are Lackey, Wakefield, Jackson, McDonald, Atchison, Bowden, Anderson, Albers and Andrew Miller.
I prefer the Red Sox keep Jackson, Atchison, Bowden, Anderson and Andrew Miller and part ways with Lackey, Wakefield, McDonald and Albers.