Diving into the depths: Boston Red Sox

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Boston Red Sox
Rotation
1. Jon Lester
2. Josh Beckett
3. John Lackey
4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
5. Clay Buchholz
6. Tim Wakefield
7. Michael Bowden
8. Junichi Tazawa
9. Boof Bonser
10. Gaby Hernandez
11. Fabio Castro
12. Kris Johnson
Wakefield won’t be happy if pushed to a bullpen role to start the season, but it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox creating room for him if everyone else is healthy. Injuries will likely creep up and sort these things out. Odds are that the team will also have need for Bowden in the rotation at some point.
Bullpen
1. Jonathan Papelbon
2. Hideki Okajima
3. Daniel Bard
4. Ramon Ramirez
5. Manny Delcarmen
6. Boof Bonser
7. Tim Wakefield
8. Joe Nelson
9. Brian Shouse
10. Scott Atchison
11. Dustin Richardson
12. Ramon A. Ramirez
13. Junichi Tazawa
14. Fernando Cabrera
15. Fabio Castro
16. Michael Bowden
17. Jorge Sosa
18. Edwin Moreno
The bullpen depth is flat-out ridiculous. Nelson, Atchison and the other Ramon Ramirez are average middle relievers, Shouse and Richardson are legitimate lefty specialists and both Cabrera and Castro have some upside if they can find opportunities. Unfortunately, no one from the group figures to make the team unless someone starts off on the disabled list.


Catcher
1. Victor Martinez
2. Jason Varitek
3. Dusty Brown
4. Mark Wagner
First base
1. Kevin Youkilis
2. Mike Lowell
3. Victor Martinez
4. Aaron Bates
Second base
1. Dustin Pedroia
2. Bill Hall
3. Jed Lowrie
4. Tug Hulett
Third base
1. Adrian Beltre
2. Mike Lowell
3. Bill Hall
4. Kevin Youkilis
Shortstop
1. Marco Scutaro
2. Jed Lowrie
3. Bill Hall
4. Tug Hulett
5. Gil Velazquez
Lowell is still around, but the Red Sox would almost surely prefer to change that prior to Opening Day. There won’t be nearly enough at-bats available to keep him content, even if the team did start to sit David Ortiz more frequently against left-handers.
Left field
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Jeremy Hermida
3. Josh Reddick
4. Bill Hall
5. Darnell McDonald
Center field
1. Mike Cameron
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
3. Ryan Kalish
4. Bill Hall
5. Darnell McDonald
Right field
1. J.D. Drew
2. Jeremy Hermida
3. Josh Reddick
4. Bill Hall
5. Darnell McDonald
Designated hitter
1. David Ortiz
2. Victor Martinez
3. J.D. Drew
4. Mike Lowell
Hermida, Varitek and Hall would appear to be guaranteed spots on the bench. The fourth would have to go to Lowell if he’s still around and healthy. Otherwise, Hulett would seem to be the logical choice. Lowrie might yet be in the team’s long-term plans, but he needs at-bats after missing time due to wrist problems and he’ll probably get those in Triple-A.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been sigbned. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.