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Advice For Theo

Theo Epstein hasn’t called. So, he apparently thinks he can handle all his off-season questions without my help. But I offer some unsolicited thoughts.

You just failed to make the playoffs with a $170 million dollar payroll. Nobody blamed you because Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury only played in a combined 195 games. You very wisely didn’t use injuries as an excuse. It’s wise, because you don’t have to do it. Everyone else will do it for you.

But the real failure of this team was the 3, 4, and 5 starters, the closer, and the middle of your bullpen. What you need to do is fix those things. What you don’t need to do is overpay for Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, and Victor Martinez. Understood, they were your three most productive hitters in 2010, but this is about 2011 and beyond.

David Ortiz recovered from another slow start to hit 32 homers and drive in 102 runs. A team with your deep pockets can afford to pay $12.5 million for that kind of production. Problem is: you’re not going to see that production from him next year. His age, his declining batting average and increasing strikeouts indicate he’s ready for a dip. You might project 26 homers and 90 RBI. Not bad. It’s kind of what Jason Kubel did for Minnesota for $4 million, or what Shin-Soo Choo did for the Indians this year for $460-K. You can find similar production for a lot less. Say good-bye to a Red Sox legend.

Adrian Beltre will never be this good again. His last three healthy seasons in Seattle, when he was at the age of his power peak, he averaged 25 HR, 90 RBI, and a .275 average. His two best big league seasons both came in the final year of his contract. He’ll be very good for several years, but he won’t live up to the contract some foolish team will reward him with this off-season. Don’t be that fool.

Victor Martinez? You kind-a need him. You can’t assume Jarrod Saltalamacchia can be a number one catcher. He hasn’t played 100 games in a season yet, and he’s underperformed relative to the hype he received. He’s only 25, so he might be the catcher of the future. But you just don’t know, and Jason Varitek isn’t quite the insurance policy Martinez is. Still, Martinez is waiting for crazy money. And he comes with enough age and injury questions to suggest it might just be crazy to pay what he’ll command.

Additionally, trade Daisuke Matsuzaka. He’s in the way of a more productive pitcher. And let Jonathan Papelbon go. He’ll get about $12 million in arbitration, and he won’t be worth it. He’ll be very good somewhere else, just not $12 million worth of good. Shake things up, Theo. Coming back with the same team – even healthier – might not be good enough. And call if you want more advice.

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