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Red Sox Hot Stove Report 
Yankees Match Up, December 22, 2010

With the Red Sox off-season spending spree nearly complete, and the Tampa Bay Rays losing several key players in their core (Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and Jason Bartlett), the American League East looks to once again become a two team race-to-the-finish between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

For 2011, here is how the Red Sox and Yankees match up by position:

Note: Derek Jeter and Andy Petitte as of yet are unsigned with the Yankees; this prediction assumes that Petitte will retire and Jeter will re-sign.

 

Red Sox vs. Yankees

Team Advantage in Green

Starting Rotation:

Josh Beckett vs. C.C. Sabathia

C.C. Sabathia is an excellent left-handed pitcher with a great fastball and a slurve, and has been mowing down batters since he came to the majors in 2001. Beckett has only had an excellent 2007 season, and a 2003 post-season when he beat the Yankees twice in the World Series. Beckett struggles with back problems and has never strung together two truly great seasons. The Red Sox still believe that he can rekindle the "odd year magic," and lead the Red Sox into the postseason once again .

John Lackey vs. A.J. Burnett

Burnett can be a brilliant pitcher, as he was when he also beat the Yankees in the 2003 world Series with the Marlins, but most times he just gives his pitching coach nightmares. His breaking pitches, and even his fastball sometimes have too much movement, and he tends to be wild and give up the long-ball, along with racking up many strikeouts. John Lackey doesn’t have the talent that A.J. has, but has more stamina and control. He is in the second year of his 5-year $85 million dollar contract with the Red Sox. His number one attribute is consistency.

Clay Buchholz vs. Phil Hughes

Clay looks to be reaching his potential, which he set unimaginably high when he threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park in 2007, which was one of his first Major League starts. He could be a number one starter on most teams. Phil Hughes also made a big leap in 2010, after several years in the bullpen for the Yankees

Jon Lester vs. Sergio Mitre

Lester had another solid year going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. He is probably the best lefty in the AL after Sabathia. Mitre has backed his way into the Yankee rotation with probable loss of Andy Petitte, and the Yankees being unable to get Cliff Lee. Mitre has played for the Cubs Marlins and Yankees since he came into the majors in 2003.

Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Ivan Nova

Matsuzaka has been a mystery since he joined the Red Sox in 2007. Even in his best season, 2008, in which he won 18 games, he walked far too many batters than his strikeout total warranted. A consolation from those sobering statistics is that Matsuzaka seems to pitch better from the set position. He allowed no runs in 18 bases-loaded situations that same season. It seems he would rather walk the batter than give him a pitch to hit, which gets him into many messes. Nova is a homegrown Yankee, he has only pitched in a handful of games for the Yankees, but he is only 23 years old and from what he has shown, he will have a bright future with the Bronx Bombers, assuming they don’t trade him in a deal for Felix Hernandez.

Catcher:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek vs. Jorge Posada/Russell Martin

The Red Sox lost an important offensive cog when Victor Martinez signed with the Detroit Tigers, he hit .320 even though he was hampered by injuries. His lack of durability was probably the biggest reason the Red Sox decided to let him walk. Posada can no longer play every day, but Francisco Cervelli wasn't cutting it as the backup. His defense wasn’t that much better than Posada's, and his hitting wasn't even close. With Martin, though, the Yankees will be able to give Posada's knees a rest, without putting an automatic out in the lineup. Martin hits for decent power, and has made the All-Star team in the National League with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

First Base:

Adrian Gonzalez vs. Mark Teixeira

With Gonzalez, the Red Sox have finally found a slugger comparable to Teixeira, who chose the Yankees over the Red Sox in the 2008 offseason. Gonzalez could be even better, as he hit 40 homers in Petco Park in 2009, a pitcher's park, and hit .298 in 2010 even with a nagging shoulder injury. Teixeira's defense is probably the best in the league, yet Gonzalez could probably give him a run for his money. Adrian, 28, is also two years younger than Teixeira.

Second Base:

Dustin Pedroia vs. Robinson Cano

Pedroia hustles on every play, plays great defense, and swings a bat that looks like it is too big for him, but Cano is a great hitter. Cano has a .309 career average, hit .309 in 2010, along with 29 homers, although those are inflated slightly by Yankee Stadium's right-field porch.

Third Base:

Kevin Youkilis vs. Alex Rodriguez

Kevin Youkilis had thumb surgery after the season ended, and looks to get back to the top of the league in walks and on-base percentage in 2011. Rodriguez only hit .270 in 2010, but he had 30 HRs, and he will soon be chasing Ruth, Aaron and Bonds for the homerun record. Yet his defense is atrocious. He doesn’t have the reflexes of a third basemen, and also makes a ton of errors at an important defensive position. I do think most teams would love to have him as a Designated Hitter, which is where he will soon end up. A younger A-Rod would definitely have been the pick over Youkilus.

Shortstop:

Marco Scutaro vs. Derek Jeter

Scutaro is a decent fielder and can sometimes come through in a pinch, but his best season barely compares to Jeter's worst. Jeter hit only .270 in 2010, but he won a Gold Glove, which some say was undeserved. His defense prowess is surely overrated, but the Red Sox would rather have Jeter over Marco.

Left Field:

Carl Crawford vs. Brett Gardner

Crawford has everything Gardner has inluding speed and good defense, but he is a much better hitter. With the acquisition of Crawford, the Red Sox have finally found an excellent defensive leftfielder, after years of Manny Ramirez tripping over sprinklers and sneaking into the leftfield scoreboard to take a wizz.

Center Field:

Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Curtis Granderson

Ellsbury has excellent speed, excellent defense, and good contact hitting. Granderson is fast and plays a fair center-field, but he hits for power. Centerfielders with power don’t grow on trees. Johnny Damon is a similar case.

Right Field:

J.D. Drew vs. Nick Swisher

J.D. Drew averages about 20 homers a year with about a .400 on-base percentage. Swisher hits about 30 a year, and plays almost 150 games a year. He also switch-hits and plays great defense. Drew is hampered by back injuries, and is fragile as glass.

Designated Hitter:

David Ortiz vs. ???

Ortiz still managed to hit 30 hrs, even though he may be over age 40. He says he is 35, but that can be questioned. In the Dominican Republic, where Ortiz is from, players are known to forge birth certificates. The Yankees used Lance Berkman as a DH late in the season, but let him walk. Posada could DH on days he doesn’t catch. Johnny Damon is a candidate if he re-signs for 2011.

Bullpen:

The Red Sox, with Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Matt Albers now in tow, have pitchers who can bridge the gap to Daniel Bard and Papelbon. The Yankees are looking to sign relief ace Rafael Soriano, formerly of the Rays. They still have Mariano Rivera, who can still get his cutter in on the hands of lefties and righties alike. It is only a question of getting the ball to him and Joba Chamberlain.

 

2011 Advantage: Red Sox, 8-7

 

This divisional race will be close as always, but the Yankees should be the favorite heading into the season to win the division, and the Sox the wildcard. In the playoffs though, all bets are off, and with such evenly matched teams it may come down to who wants the ring the most. Jeter already has enough rings and money to fill a yacht full of Brazilian Supermodels, and A-Rod will probably want to go back down south to Mexico with Cameron Diaz. The Red Sox have their share of trophy wives and rings too, but with the recent off-season shopping spree they appear to be the favorite for the American League Pennant. The Philadelphia Phillies have Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Whoever wins the AL Pennant better have their pitching staff in order and firing on all cylinders. Even with the loss of slugging outfielder Jason Werth, they are still World Series favorites heading into the 2011 season.

— Roman Llimar

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