Restoring the rosters: No. 8 – Boston

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
The Red Sox miss Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Trot Nixon, who would have proven pretty useful even in the twilights of their careers, but a first-rate infield and bullpen gets them the eighth spot here.
Jon Lester
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Justin Duchscherer
Clay Buchholz
Justin Masterson
Jonathan Papelbon
Frank Francisco
Hideki Okajima
Daniel Bard
Manny Delcarmen
Rafael Betancourt
Ron Mahay
It’s difficult to rate the rotation when Matsuzaka has been a bust this year and Duchscherer has missed the entire season. In 2008, both were among the AL’s top pitchers. The Red Sox do have depth behind them in the form of veterans Anibal Sanchez, Carl Pavano and Jeff Suppan and prospects Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa.
The bullpen, though, is undeniably a strength. The career batting-average againsts for the top three relievers are .200, .222 and .213. Delcarmen and Betancourt are also under .240. I went with Mahay for the last spot over the aforementioned starters and Cla Meredith. He hasn’t pitched well this year, but he’s typically been a pretty reliable left-hander.
Interestingly, both Betancourt and Mahay were originally signed as position players by the Red Sox. Betancourt spent three years as an infielder in the system, while Mahay was an outfielder for five years.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Kevin Youkilis
3B Freddy Sanchez
LF David Murphy
DH Nomar Garciaparra
RF Brandon Moss
C Kelly Shoppach
INF Jed Lowrie
INF David Eckstein
OF Matt Murton
C Dusty Brown
The Pedroia-Hanley-Youkilis combination in the middle of the order would be a site to behold, but the Red Sox scored fewer points for their outfield than any other team ranked this high and the DH spot was another major problem. Garciaparra was really the only option, and perhaps there’s still a chance he could post an 800 OPS if he’s not constantly getting hurt playing the infield. Moss gets the nod in right for now, since he is a quality defensive outfielder. Murton would still play over him against lefties. By next year, Josh Reddick could prove to be the better player.
While Dan Duquette doesn’t deserve the shunning he’s received since being ousted as Boston’s general manager, his strengths didn’t lie in developing talent. What intriguing players the Red Sox did produce then usually made their marks elsewhere. The farm system has bounced back in a big way under Theo Epstein, and it’s currently churning out legitimate players about as frequently as any in baseball. What makes it even more impressive is that the team hasn’t had a pick in the top half of the first round since 1998 (Adam Everett, 12th).

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is reportedly trying to trade Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe

Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.

Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.

Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.

Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.

Tigers agree to deal with starter Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Hey, the hot stove is finally generating some real fire …

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Tigers have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a five-year deal worth around $110 million, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

This should have a domino effect on a loaded starting pitching market. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija are just a few of the names still out there.

Zimmermann, 29, posted a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164/39 K/BB ratio in 201 2/3 innings this past season for the Nationals. He had a 2.66 ERA in 2014 and threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Zimmermann’s free agency is tied to draft pick compensation because he rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Washington, but the Tigers finished with one of the 10-worst win-loss records in 2015 so their first-round pick in 2016 is protected. Detroit will give up its second-round pick instead.