It will be several weeks before euphoric Red Sox fans will stop reliving the amazing accomplishments of the 2007 world champions. It's probable, though, that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein began thinking about next season during the club's happy plane ride back to Boston.
It will be several weeks before euphoric Red Sox fans will stop reliving the amazing accomplishments of the 2007 world champions.
The notion that Boston has won two World Series crowns within four years after going 86 seasons without a title is surreal.
It's probable, though, that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein began thinking about next season during the club's happy plane ride back to Boston. For those in command on Yawkey Way, the 2008 baseball season already has commenced.
The Yankees might still have a bigger payroll than Boston, but the Red Sox have become the pre-eminent organization in Major League Baseball. They possess almost unlimited financial resources, have a good minor league organization that produced several players who contributed significantly to this year's championship, and, based on road attendance, have surpassed the Yankees as baseball's most popular team.
The biggest problem facing the Red Sox during the offseason is whether the club will retain third baseman Mike Lowell. He was Boston's most valuable player during the regular season and was the MVP of the World Series.
It's difficult to believe that the deal that brought Josh Beckett was made only because the Red Sox agreed to add Lowell's salary. The Marlins thought Lowell was no longer a productive player offensively.
Speculation has already begun that the Red Sox might pursue another third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, who opted out of his contract with New York on Sunday. Re-signing Lowell would be considerably cheaper and more prudent.
It would cost in excess of $200 million to put A-Rod in a Boston uniform. Lowell, who earned $9 million this season, will likely seek at least a three-year deal, which he deserves. Offering Lowell, who exudes class, a three-year contract worth $36 million would be fair for both sides.
Despite his lack of postseason success, Rodriguez is a great player, but his presence in the Red Sox clubhouse could be disruptive, in part because of the astronomical contract he would have to be given to lure him to Fenway Park.
Curt Schilling's place in Red Sox history is secure, especially for what he did during the 2004 postseason, but it's probable that he's pitched his final game for Boston. Schilling, who will turn 41 in two weeks, was hampered by injuries this season as he was in 2005. Schilling was paid $13 million this year, but he doesn't merit another contract of that magnitude, even if it's just for one year.
The Red Sox hold an option on 41-year-old Tim Wakefield for next season. Wakefield has intimated that the injury that forced him off the roster for the Division Series and the World Series might cause him to retire. If Wakefield can pitch, the Red Sox will likely have him return for another year.
Even is Wakefield is with the Red Sox next season, the club needs to find a catcher who can handle his knuckleball and allow Jason Varitek to take more time off. Boston can't bring back Doug Mirabelli for another season just because he can catch a knuckleball. The Red Sox need to get more production from their backup catcher.
The departure of Schilling and Wakefield wouldn't leave a big void in Boston's pitching staff. The Red Sox will open next season with what could be the best starting rotation in baseball. Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are all under 30. Beckett was the best pitcher in the American League this year, but what has to be scary for Boston opponents is that Matsuzaka, Lester and Buchholz are all going to get better.
Epstein might need to add a fifth starter, but those aren't too difficult to acquire.
The Red Sox also have two outstanding young relievers in closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Hideki Okajima. Okajima will have to become stronger. He needed time off in September and struggled in the final two games of the World Series due to fatigue.
The Boston player most likely to be traded during the offseason is center Coco Crisp, who is signed through 2009. He's outstanding defensively, but doesn't bring to the club what Jacoby Ellsbury does.
Ellsbury was an offensive force during the postseason, and his speed gives the Red Sox an added dimension. Ellsbury isn't the equal of Crisp as an outfielder right now, and his throwing ability is good, but not great.
However, Ellsbury needs to be in the lineup on a regular basis next year.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award this year. It wouldn't be shocking if Ellsbury is next season's top first-year player.
Overall, the best team in baseball will enter the winter with fewer concerns than any club. Other than Lowell's contract situation and deciding how to handle Crisp's situation, the offseason shouldn't be too stressful for Epstein.
And during those cold winter days that are not hassle free, Epstein can always warm himself by looking at the Boston’s two world championship trophies.
Art Davidson is a Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at 508-626-4403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.