It’s been a long time since the Red Sox faced the kind of deep organizational decisions that greet them in this winter of discontent.
As the World Series plays on in New York and Philadelphia, Boston’s biggest home run and RBI producer is a free agent intent on testing his considerable market value, and the Sox are quickly growing gray at key spots in the lineup.
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It’s clear that last winter’s failure to land Mark Teixeira has left the Sox lacking a game-changing bat in the middle of the lineup, and that should be the first order of business — along with retaining left fielder Jason Bay.
GM Theo Epstein recognized the Sox were ninth in the big leagues in runs scored on the road this season, and their team batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS all plummeted away from friendly Fenway Park.
That kind of performance practically bellows for a strong hitter who’s able to relieve the pressure on Kevin Youkilis — and one who’s not adversely affected when the ballpark dimensions change for 81 games a season.
Rumors are already swirling that — with former Sox lieutenant Jed Hoyer now in charge of the San Diego Padres — Boston might land long-desired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. They could also follow a longshot pursuit of Prince Fielder as he inches closer to free agency.
The starting pitching and bullpen are reasonably set, and Alex Gonzalez would give the Sox a one-year reprieve at the revolving shortstop spot should the team activate his $6 million option for 2010.
So it comes down to an offensive makeover that’s likely going to cost the team dearly in terms of organizational prospects — and Hoyer knows which Sox farmhands are the real deal and which are baseball’s version of fool’s gold. There’s little doubt coveted young hurlers like Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard will again be on the bartering table this winter.
There are plenty “ifs” involved in Boston’s winter improvement strategy, but one thing is certain: There’s plenty of work for Epstein to complete.