Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez

Updated: Where would the Red Sox go minus Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett?


The deal isn’t yet official, but it looks like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto are all Los Angeles bound in exchange for four minimum-salaried players and  free-agent-to-be James Loney. That would cut $58.25 million in 2013 salaries from Boston’s payroll and leave the Red Sox committed to only four players for next season:

John Lackey: $15.25 million
Dustin Pedroia: $10 million
Jon Lester: $11.625 million
Clay Buchholz: $5.5 million

That’s just $42.375 million in commitments. Here are my guesses for what the arbitration-eligible players would make, with Ryan Sweeney getting non-tendered:

Jacoby Ellsbury: $10 million
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: $5 million
Andrew Bailey: $4.5 million
Alfredo Aceves: $2.4 million
Mike Aviles: $2.2 million
Craig Breslow: $2.2 million
Daniel Bard: $1.8 million
Franklin Morales: $1.8 million
Andrew Miller: $1.6 million
Rich Hill: $1 million

That’s another $32.5 million. Throw in the minimum salaries of the new acquisitions and guys like Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront and Mark Melancon and the Red Sox are essentially at $80 million with big question marks at first base, left field, right field and DH.

Theoretically, the Red Sox would already have five starters in Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Doubront and Morales. Rubby De La Rosa should be in the picture as well. However, in reality, they’d surely want a veteran to plug in at the top there. The bullpen should is pretty well stocked, though, with Bailey, Aceves, Bard, Melancon, Breslow, Morales, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, Pedro Beato and Hill all in the mix.

I doubt the Red Sox would want to tear things down any further this winter. They could make a strong effort to bring back David Ortiz to DH. First base would be a problem; aside from Nick Swisher, who will also be looked at as an outfielder, there won’t be much available in free agency. Ironically, the best option would be Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox would probably have to go the trade route there.

With so much financial flexibility, the Red Sox would have to be viewed as big players for all of the top free agents this winter. It’s a weak crop, but names like Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, B.J. Upton, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew are available. They can offer Ellsbury a Crawford-like deal to prevent him from becoming a free agency after 2013.

Even if the Red Sox do land a Hamilton or Greinke, they’ll enter a season as underdogs for the first time in a long time. But that might not be such a bad thing. There’s still going to be plenty of talent around and money available for bold moves.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.