Monday, February 1, 2010

Solving The Development Gap?

Tony Mazz brought up this possibility for the Sox a couple of days ago: a gap in the development of their minor-league talent. Specifically, between now and 2012. And it's a view shared by others, including the Sox's owner.

...maybe we’re all reading into things too much, most recently when Henry told the Herald’s Michael Silverman last weekend that this offseason presented the Sox with a challenge because their next wave of prospects is two years away. Henry is being completely honest with that assessment, which is a credit to him and to his organization. He’s not just feeding you what you want to hear. But a statement like that also ignores the fact that the Red Sox got themselves into this predicament and that there are multiple ways to build a team.

Now, I don't think that Henry was saying the Sox wouldn't be a title-caliber team until 2012. But Mazz is also right when he says there are other ways to build a team. However, I think this frank assessment of the team's system by Henry makes something I said in my last post more likely.

I hypothesized that 2010 would be Jonathan Papelbon's last year in a Boston uniform. In part that's because he has already stated he wants to hit the open market after 2011. But another piece of that is the fact that he is a rare commodity; an elite closer. And elite closers get a big return on the market.

Now, with an acknowledged gap in the farm system, the Sox would want to fill that so that 2011 didn't consist of Boston overpaying for free agents or rushing young prospects into the majors*. And what better way to do that than trading Papelbon?

This is all contingent on one thing: Daniel Bard making the next step and not regressing in his sophmore season. If he does that, then the Sox would have the opportunity to bring in some young, cheap talent to bridge the gap and build the team for the future. If not...then the Sox would have to spend to cover the gap, and that is the kind of thing that can hamstring a franchise for years. Who knows, maybe they'd roll the dice on Bard no matter what happens. But Papelbon represents the fastest, easiest way for the Sox to get young talent to cover 2011.


* Like they did with Craig Hansen. Hansen had all the talent in the world but the Sox crippled him by rushing him right into the majors in a blind panic in 2006.

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