Rebuilding – Where will it lead?

Rebuilding. That is not a term often used when referring to the Red Sox. Yet with the August trade, Sox rooters will have to accept the fact that the club is at that stage. On Monday night in New York, six players in the  lineup had started the season at Pawtucket. I’m not sure the fans and writers realized that when Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett were shipped to LA   the team basically threw in the towel for 2012. The result was  a season with 69 victories-the lowest total since Lyndon Johnson was president.

Because the Sox are a large-market team, rebuilding has seldom been necessary. Since the 70’s, the team has survived with a good farm system combined with generally successful trades and major free-agent signings. The signings have not always worked out, but with a lot of money to throw around, they have usually been in contention.

But since the mid-00’s, it hasn’t happened. The farm system has stopped producing, and many free agent decisions have been disappointing, from Julio Lugo to JD Drew to Carl Crawford. So Sox management has gone the rebuilding route. It has major risks, however.

From what we have seen of the farm system recently, it has huge question marks. For every Will Middlebrooks, who was helping carry the team until an injury ended his season, we see an Iglesias, a Lavarnway, and a Nava, who all seemed a bit lost in the final month.The players obtained in the Dodger trade are promising, but that is as far as we know.

No matter who the manager of the rebuilders is (next year’s man will probably be John Farrell), it is the GM who assumes huge importance. Ben Cherington will have to decide about who to sign, who to bring up, who to trade. If rebuilding is the policy, the GM must not panic and start throwing money around if the team has two or three more sub-.500 seasons. Cherington, who sometimes has seemed out of the loop this year,  has a lot to prove in 2013.

Boston is not Kansas City or Cleveland, where baseball has lost its importance. Red Sox fans and writers are used to winning; 2012 was only the sixth sub-.500 season in the last 46. Good luck to Mssrs. Cherington and Varitek- you’re going into uncharted territory.