Q: What do you think about bringing Kevin Millar back to the Sox as a right handed DH/PH/OF/1B type guy. He loves Boston and can still hit a fastball and he's cheap. I know it's early but I'm getting worried about the bench -- not a lot of decent backups on this team. -- Mark (Birmingham, Ala.)
A: Mark, I think Kevin's best move at this stage of his career would be to the broadcast booth. He'd be a natural. There will be no revival of the "Idiot" culture in the Sox clubhouse. Millar played a special part in the Sox's run-up to their first World Series title and will always remain a special character in Sox annals for his clubhouse presence and connection to the fans, but the Sox can do better benchwise than adding Mr. Millar.
Q: Hi Gordon, with so much of the Red Sox focus this offseason on defense I was wondering how bad the Sox defense really was last year compared to the rest of the league. I remember before [the acquisition] of Alex Gonzalez there was some emphasis on how low they ranked in opponent batting average on balls put in play. So do you know what kind of advanced metrics Theo and the brain trust use to measure defense, and where last year's team ranked in them. -- Garry (Boston)
A: Garry, the Red Sox have developed their own set of metrics that they use to measure defense, and it's a pretty closely guarded secret. It's one of those things that they feel gives them an advantage over other clubs. But there's a lot of work being done in cyberspace that gives a read on defensive performance and probably mirrors, at least in some respects, the same tools the Sox use. I'm a huge fan of Baseball Prospectus, not only for the statistical packages it offers but because of some of the most informed analysis you'll find anywhere from Joe Sheehan (check out his take on the John Lackey deal), Christina Kahrl, injury guru Will Carroll, Kevin Goldstein and Boston's own David Laurila. BP measures defensive efficiency, which is the rate at which balls put into play are converted into outs by a team's defense. They had the Red Sox 28th in the majors at .679, ahead of only the Royals and Astros. The Dodgers were No. 1 at .714. Another great place for stats is FanGraphs.com, which offers an array of defensive stats. One is something called UZR/150, which measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games. The Red Sox measured 16th overall in UZR/150 at minus-2.4, but the problem positions were obvious: They were next-to-last at third base at minus-10.7, last in center field (minus-19.6) and 25th in left field (minus-10.7).
Now, there remains a lot of debate about the reliability of defensive stats -- those watching Jacoby Ellsbury every day, for example, find it hard to believe that the Sox could rate so low in CF defense -- and obviously, the whole array of sabermetrics remains a new and foreign language to me. But I find much of it fascinating and enriching, and it adds some real insight to the things baseball fans love to debate.
Q: Hey Gordon, there's been a lot of talk about the Sox trading for Adrian Gonzalez, but have they discussed any other trade possibilities such as a Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera? -- Greg (Cambridge, Mass.)
A: Greg, the Red Sox discuss everything; you should proceed from that premise in any question regarding acquisitions. When Cubs GM Jim Hendry proposed trading Milton Bradley to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell, as wildly implausible as that might sound, the Red Sox talked it over. The price for Cabrera, from the standpoint of what the Red Sox would have to give the Tigers, remains prohibitive and I suspect the same is true for Fielder. But if the Sox are in need of a big bat at the trading deadline, I could see both of those guys coming into play, although Adrian Gonzalez remains the prime object of the Sox's affections.
Q: Gordon, Why can't Mike Lowell be moved over to first base and Youk back over to third? It seems to me it would solve their situation (Adrian G. ?) for a year and wouldn't just be giving $9 million away to get rid of Mike. He's a team player, always works hard and is a decent hitter. Thanks -- Bob Chase (New Durham, N.H.)
A: Bob, yours is a perfectly reasonable solution, but it just underscores the doubt the Red Sox have that Lowell will fully recover from last year's hip surgery. They obviously are unwilling to enter spring training with that uncertainty. When I saw Mike in the Dominican a couple of weeks ago, he said he was feeling really good, and I suspect he'll be hugely motivated to show the Red Sox they made a big mistake in giving him away.
Q: Gordon, What's the story with Casey Kotchman? He's still pretty young, and was the centerpiece in a trade for [Mark] Teixiera once upon a time. Does he have 25-plus HR potential? Or is he going to be a platooner for life? -- Alex (Needham, Mass.)
A: Alex, I guess we're going to find out next season, aren't we? Barring another acquisition by the Sox, and I've been led to believe they're out on Adrian Beltre, Kotchman will get the majority of playing time at first base next season after barely playing at all when the Sox dealt Adam LaRoche to get him from Atlanta. He has yet to show 25-plus home run power -- his best year was 2008, when he hit 14 in a season split between the Angels and Braves -- but is still young enough to be a late bloomer. The Sox will bat Kotchman at the bottom of the order, and Terry Francona will have the option of playing Jason Varitek against lefties and moving Victor Martinez to first, so he may not shake the platoon label, but this will be his chance to do so.
Q: Hello Gordon, pretty simple questions for you. What are the chances that Beckett re-signs with the Sox before the start of the 2010 season, and if he is not re-signed before next season's trade deadline, would that make it nearly impossible they would entertain trading Clay Buchholz? -- Rich Tomasco (Manville, N.J.)
A: Rich, I believe the Red Sox will make an effort to do so, and they certainly have established a contractual benchmark with the five-year, $82.5 million deal they've given John Lackey. With Roy Halladay off the market and Cliff Lee possibly to follow if Seattle signs him to an extension, Beckett could be the biggest prize on the free-agent pitching market next season, so he might be tempted to see if there's someone out there willing to give him a CC/Santana-type deal. But remember, Beckett opted for security once before when he signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Red Sox a year before free agency, and he may well decide to get this done sooner rather than later.
Q: Gordon, Are you related to the Edes of Concord? -- Andy Smith (Ashfield, Mass.)
A: Andy, I'm certainly aware of the Edes family of Concord, and while I don't think there's a family connection, I will say that Richmond Edes, who comes out of the Concord Edes, is the executive chef at my favorite restaurant in central Massachusetts, the Gibbet Hill Grill, which is located in Groton, home of both Peter Gammons and Dan Shaughnessy.
The most famous Edes remains Benjamin. He and his son Peter were printers who published the Boston Gazette in colonial times, and when Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty changed into their Indian costumes for the Boston Tea Party, they did so in the home of Benjamin Edes. I'm claiming him as an ancestor.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that the Red Sox are considering parting with Ellsbury and Buchholz to land Adrian Gonzalez? I don't understand the logic for the Red Sox to make this move, am I missing something? -- Byron (Rochester, N.Y.)
A: Byron, first of all, that trade is not happening, at least not any time soon. I don't think the Red Sox would package both of those players in the same deal, and I'm told that the Padres are more interested in some of the players still coming through the pipeline, like Casey Kelly and Ryan Westmoreland. That said, the Red Sox have great interest in Gonzalez, and they should: He's one of the premier young power hitters in the game, he's affordable for a couple more seasons, and the Padres aren't going to be in a position to pay him in a couple of years and have a need to deal him to upgrade their team in several areas. If it happens, I think it's more reasonable to expect it to be a trading-deadline deal, and the Sox will be facing plenty of competition.
Q: Barring a trade for Gonzalez, what are the Red Sox to do at 1B/3B? A short-termer appears to be the better choice, because if they sign Beltre for more than 2 years, that would seem to complicate any future move for Gonzalez. Players like [Xavier] Nady, [Ryan] Garko or [Troy] Glaus could platoon with Kotchman with Martinez also seeing some action at first. -- Bill F (Bronx, N.Y.)
A: Bill, as things stand now, I see the Red Sox opening the 2010 season with Kevin Youkilis back at third and Kotchman playing at first, with the team willing to see whether Kotchman hits before making another move. They got tired of waiting on Beltre and the contract demands they were hearing from Scott Boras. With the payroll scraping luxury-tax limits, I think they're done in terms of making a big move. That said, since Theo managed to keep the Lackey signing under the radar, he may have another surprise in store, but I don't think so.
Q: Who ARE you and where did you come from? You just sorta appeared after Gammons announced his retirement from ESPN, and I'm curious -- stats-type or Joe Morgan-type? Thanks. -- Riddy (Los Angeles)
A: Riddy, that was a humbling question for a guy who has been doing this as long as I have, including a nine-year stint in your neck of the woods, for the L.A. Times (1980-89). I spent the past 14 months at Yahoo Sports after a 12-year run as a baseball writer for The Boston Globe, so this is a return to a place with which I'm familiar, and hopefully, with a few exceptions (like you), am familiar to my audience. I'm thrilled to be back covering the Sox, especially for ESPN. I can't say I'm a Joe Morgan type because I'm a writer, not a broadcaster, and yes, I appreciate the value of stats, though the human face of the game is what interests me most.
Q: Who is going to be the Red Sox's set-up man? And is Manny Delcarmen ever going to realize all that potential? -- Kurch (Reading, Mass.)
A: Kurch, I think you can expect Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima to share the set-up role in 2010, though the Sox could add another reliever. It would not shock me if they trade Delcarmen, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time and had a poor second half with a tired pitching shoulder.
Q: Gordon, Please clarify to Red Sox Nation that San Diego has no interest in our wonderboy Jacoby. They would only have him for a few years and the moment he comes up for free agency, Mr. Boras has him out of there! They want prospects that they control for five years or more so they can build a team. The same reason they trade A-Gon is the same reason no Jacoby, they can't afford to re-sign and keep either one! -- Bill Willis (Marblehead, Mass.)
A: Bill, your logic is impeccable. Jed Hoyer, the new Padres GM, has quite the rebuilding task ahead of him, and with Jacoby already just a year away from salary arbitration, Hoyer will be looking more for prospects than players who will take a big bite out of his limited payroll. Buchholz would be a more affordable option, but I think the Red Sox would like to see where things go with Josh Beckett before they move Clay.
Q: Gordon, With the Red Sox needing a middle of the line up bat and the Cubs high on 3B prospect Josh Vitters, do you think that there could be anything to an Aramis Ramirez-to-Boston deal that might involve some of Boston's young pitching? -- Jon Roberts (Wahiawa, Hawaii)
A: Jon, that's an intriguing scenario, but Vitters, who finished last season in the Florida State League, is at least a year away from the big leagues. He'll start this season in Double-A and I think the Cubs will try to win with Ramirez this year.
Q: Little mentioned amongst all the talk about Mike Cameron is his 2008 25-game suspension for violating MLB drug policy. Cameron claims his transgressions were limited to amphetamine use. In your opinion, has the Boston media downplayed Cameron being a potential PED guy? -- Ben Brostoff (Belmont, Mass.)
A: Ben, you are absolutely correct. That represents a hole in our coverage, certainly mine. It definitely warranted mention that Cameron sat out the first 25 games of the 2008 season after failing a test for a second time for the use of amphetamines. I simply didn't think of it.
Here were his remarks at the time: "The one thing I wanted to make sure was explained is, no steroids," Cameron said. "I never took nothing like that before in my life. That would be 50 games, and that would affect me a whole lot more."
Cameron said in a statement that he believes he took a tainted supplement.
"After all of the analysis and testing, I can only conclude that a nutritional supplement I was taking was tainted," he said. "Unfortunately, the actual supplement is gone, and therefore cannot be tested. Without the actual supplement in hand, the rules are clear, and I must accept the suspension."
At the start of last season, Cameron applied for a therapeutic use exemption for certain stimulants because of concerns that he was still experiencing post-concussion syndrome in the aftermath of his 2005 collision with Mets teammate Carlos Beltran. I'm still researching whether he was granted that exemption, but thanks for reminding us of all this.
Q: Gordon, are the Patriots still legit Super Bowl contenders? Aside from all the drama surrounding the team, talent level and on-field results (and injuries) are indicating otherwise. -- Mike (Cleveland)
A: Mike, wrong mailbag, amigo. I can tell you more about Lunenburg High School basketball than the Pats. We've got an in-house expert for you. His name is Mike Reiss. Check him out.
Q: Hi Gordon, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that one of Mike Cameron's biggest claims to fame is that Junior Griffey was traded for him. Sort of like Carroll Hardy pinch hitting for Ted Williams, although Cameron has done more with it than Hardy did. -- Jay (Ashburnham, Mass.)
A: Jay, that is indeed worth mentioning. Cameron was the key player sent by the Reds to Seattle on Feb. 10, 2000, in the trade for Griffey, the most popular player in Mariners history. Cameron had a great season for the M's, hitting 25 home runs, knocking in 110 runs, stealing 34 bases, winning a Gold Glove and making the All-Star team. The M's won 116 games. Griffey, meanwhile, got hurt, played in just 111 games, and never came close to approaching the glory of his Mariners years in Cincinnati.
Q: Why does Adrian Gonzalez keep getting brought up? It seemed at the beginning of the offseason that there would be less than a snowball's chance that we'd get him. Not that I wouldn't want to have him, but he's not worth trading Ellsbury or Buchholz, is he? -- Michele (Rochester, N.Y.)
A: Michele, Gonzalez keeps getting brought up because he is one of the game's premier young sluggers and worth an Ellsbury/Buchholz package, if the Padres would make that deal (they won't). I appreciate Ellsbury's skills and the excitement he brings to Fenway Park as much as anyone, but Gonzalez's value as a middle-of-the-lineup force is almost limitless.
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.