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Thursday, September 17, 2009
Thinking about the '10 Red Sox

Jeez. October's not even here, and Yawkey Way Academy's Troy Patterson is already worrying about next year: Since the All-Star break, Ortiz has a .253/.344/.500 line. Not great, but playable. I see him playing out his contract in 2010 as the Red Sox' No. 1 DH. Perhaps platooning with Victor Martinez, perhaps not (with Martinez often catching when Papi's DHing). Lowell's under contract next year, too: $10 million, so he's probably not going anywhere, either.

No, Lowell doesn't seem to be having a good season with the glove. Actually, he seems to be having a downright lousy season. But he's been pretty good before, and we might reasonably guess that with a little luck and a little health, he'll at least improve some next year.

If the Red Sox bring Varitek back next season, they'll have four players -- Varitek, Youkilis, Martinez, and Lowell -- for three positions. Considering that one of those guys can catch and play first base, and another can play first base and third base, this seems to me a manager's pleasure rather than a problem.

The only real question I see is left field. If Jason Bay re-ups, the Red Sox are simply stuck with his defense, which has been pretty lousy for a few years. If he doesn't, the Red Sox will just have to find a new left fielder, who would almost necessarily play better defensively than Bay. I do not agree with Patterson's suggestion that Jacoby Ellsbury take over in left field, with rookie Josh Reddick perhaps replacing Ellsbury in center.

Before this season, Ellsbury's numbers in the corner outfield spots were off the charts. In center, they were adequate. If those corner numbers are accurate, Ellsbury's valuable in left field ... but if those same numbers are accurate, there's no obvious reason to think he can't thrive in center field, too. Plus, Reddick doesn't hit enough to play every day in the majors. Not yet, anyway (he's only 22).

Ideally, the Red Sox would sign a star to play left field next season. But the biggest stars who might be available are probably Bay, Matt Holliday, and Hideki Matsui, all of whom are at least somewhat past their primes, with Bay and Holliday presumably looking for long-term and huge-money contracts.

There is one other, though: Carl Crawford. Crawford can hit, Crawford can run, and Crawford can play defense. He can really, really play defense. He's just turned 28, and figures to age well. Considering that the Yankees have no obvious need for a left fielder, the Red Sox' path to a new and exciting left fielder seems to be clear ...

Correction! I misread a list of potential free agents. Carl Crawford might be a free agent this winter ... but almost certainly not. The Rays have a $10 million option that they're sure to exercise, so Crawford will be a Red Sock next season only in the (exceptionally unlikely) event of a trade.