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With Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein seemingly done with his offseason shopping, barring a minor tweak or two, ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes is looking at the team position by position. Today, Edes breaks down the designated hitter, catcher and bench.His father was seriously ill, and he didn't want to talk about it, even as he went the first six weeks without hitting a home run. His name was connected to the list of 100-plus players testing positive for use of performance enhancers in 2003. His reputation, and optimistic nature, took a fearsome tumble. He was a nonfactor in the postseason for the second straight year (1-for-12 versus the Angels), and failed to drive in a run in a playoff series for the first time in his career. David Ortiz turned 34 in November, but has the expiration date on Big Papi already passed? The Red Sox's offense will be in a bad way if it has. "When David hits,'' manager Terry Francona said. "We're different. When you have a guy who is a full-time DH, he has to hit. He's kind of the rock in our lineup.'' Another player who had been a rock for the better part of a decade is taking a seat on the bench: Jason Varitek, the captain, becomes the backup to Victor Martinez. Varitek turns 38 the first week of the 2010 season. He has been behind the plate for nearly 1,400 games. It wasn't the knees that went first, but the bat. Martinez came to Boston at the trading deadline and in late August launched a 25-game hitting streak. His bat is vital to the Sox's offense but behind the plate, he's no Varitek. Will it matter to this star-spangled pitching staff? Check back in October. The bench? No sign of Julio Lugo, a capital upgrade by itself. 2009 performance. Fangraphs.com, one of those 21st century stat dispensaries, has a category it calls "Dollars," which roughly measures the value of a player if he were a free agent, based on how many wins over an average replacement player he produces. Sounds complicated? It is, but it's not without merit. In 2007, when Big Papi was still at the top of his game, Fangraphs determined he was worth $27 million, more than twice what the Sox were paying him that season. Last season, the worst of Ortiz's tenure with the Red Sox, his "Dollars" value was $3.1 million, or less than a quarter of what the Red Sox paid him. Lots of bucks, no bang. He struck out a career-high 24.8 percent of the time; his home run-to-fly ball ratio was 13.4 in 2009, or just over half of what it was in 2006. After three straight seasons (2005-07) of having an OPS over 1.000, he was down to .794 in '09. All of these numbers point to a hitter in decline. Ortiz calls it a bad year, but if he expects the Red Sox to exercise his option in 2011, he will have to resurrect at least a reasonable facsimile of the old Papi.
|Victor Martinez's bat was a welcome addition last season, but when he was behind the plate Red Sox pitchers had a 5.22 ERA.|
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.