These Sox are ready to wear in 2008
After tying for the best record in baseball during the regular season, for the second time in four seasons, the Red Sox are champions of baseball. Unlike 2004, when they won their last title, the Sox are well-positioned to compete for World Series repeats for the foreseeable future. The organization has restocked its inventory of prospects -- particularly pitching -- and has a solid nucleus around which to build.
Primary needs1. If the Sox can re-sign free agent Mike Lowell, they can return every positional starter in 2008. Losing Lowell would create a hole at either of the corner infield spots; Kevin Youkilis could shift across the diamond and return to his original position, but that would create a vacancy at first.
GM: Theo Epstein
Manager: Terry Francona
'07 record: 96-66, 1st AL East
'07 payroll: $143.1M, 2nd MLB
Runs scored: 867, 3rd in AL
Runs allowed: 657, 1st in AL
OPS: .806, 2nd AL
ERA: 3.87, 1st in AL
Fielding percentage: .986, 2nd in AL
Free agentsC Doug Mirabelli, INF Eric Hinske, 3B Mike Lowell, RHP Mike Timlin, RHP Eric Gagne, RHP Matt Clement, OF Bobby Kielty. Lowell is the most interesting free agent for the Sox. They want him to return, but aren't likely to go past three years. Coming off a career year, he might get a four-year offer elsewhere. Beyond retaining their own, the Sox aren't expected to be big players in free agency. The team could use a veteran outfielder to provide depth in center and right.
Trade baitSet at nearly every position and rich with pitching, the team has no immediate and obvious needs. But Coco Crisp -- under control for the next three years -- has been made expendable by the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury and could fetch some decent prospects. Craig Hansen, who was a No. 1 pick in 2005, has stalled, but throws in the mid-90s and could attract teams who believe all he needs is a fresh start.
Farm aidEllsbury validated the Sox's high opinion of him in September and again in the postseason. He'll likely take over as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. Right-hander Clay Buchholz, who tossed a no-hitter in his second major league start, will be given every chance to win a spot in the rotation. Brandon Moss, who saw spot duty as a September call-up, could compete for a backup outfielder role.
OutlookAlthough turnover is a natural part of the game, the Red Sox won't undergo much roster churn this winter. Management has done a nice job getting the nucleus signed and under control for the next few seasons, positioning the team to make several more runs at the World Series. The team's resources are such that they can never be counted out should a player interest them, and general manager Theo Epstein has earned a reputation for being one of the more creative executives in the game. For a change, it's unlikely the Sox will be terribly active this winter. That speaks to the stability that Epstein and his staff has brought to the organization. Sean McAdam of The Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.
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