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  Wednesday, November 30, 2005
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Another Turkey Day Treat
By Paul Noonan

     Thanksgiving is quickly becoming the favorite holiday of Red Sox nation.  Sure it’s a time to be thankful and watch some football and eat some turkey, but for Sox fans it’s been taking on a new meaning.  It might be time to dub the feast day:  Thanks- be- given- to- signing- another star day.  Doesn’t quite have a ring to it, I know, but in two of the last three turkey days the Sox have stolen the headlines from Tommy Turkey by making a blockbuster move.  This time the Sox have acquired Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. 

     The trade was rumored for about a week before it became official.  Then on the holiday, it became so, and the Sox acquired the three from the Marlins.  All at a pretty cheap cost too, the greatest expense being Hanley Ramirez. 

     The move will help to fill a few holes that may have prevented the Sox from repeating as World Series champions.  In Josh Beckett, the Sox get another young arm (maybe an ace in the future) that will only add to the already potent rotation.  With Jonathan Papelbon also expected to crack the starting five, the Sox will have a great mix of youth, experience and some heat in the rotation.  The last NL World Series MVP, Beckett has proven, unlike Clement who might possibly be on the way out, that he can handle the pressure, a big aspect of playing in Boston.  A World Series MVP probably isn’t quite the same as trying to do it with the Red Sox, but it’s certainly a big help. 

     Meanwhile, Mike Lowell may be Kevin Millar’s ticket out.  The power hitting third baseman had a down year last season, but many are optimistic he will come around this season, especially in right-handed, power-hitter friendly, Fenway.  Though a third baseman in Florida, don’t be surprised to see Lowell moved to the other side of the diamond, especially if Muller returns. 

     If Lowell ends up at first base, it is likely one of the Kevins (Youkilis or Millar) won’t be in a Sox uniform much longer.  Lowell’s addition should also take some of the sting off if Manny does not return, as Lowell is fully capable of putting up strong power numbers.  Lowell will help Ortiz as well, providing a good #3, 4 or 5 hitter.  In either position, Lowell will see some pitches or keep pitchers from pitching around Ortiz.  Should Manny return as well (hey you never know) they would form yet another formidable lineup, especially in the heart. 

     Finally, Mota will provide some bullpen depth.  A fairly reliable closer, Mota should bring aid to what seemed to be the Sox’ biggest weakness last year.  With Timlin already set to return, and with a new and improved Foulke, Mota could be a great middle reliever, as well as another good arm. 

     Of course, some blessing can also be a curse, and this is no different.  The move overall should benefit the Sox, but it does lead to some questions.  Though the Marlins will pay for part of the contracts, the Sox still will take on a good chunk of money from the deal.  This could have an impact on who we sign, especially one Johnny Damon.  If we do get rid of Manny, we will probably end up with a lower payroll than last season.  If Manny should stay, the Sox payroll could be near Yankee levels. 

     Beckett’s presence will raise some questions in the rotation.  With early signs pointing towards Papelbon being in the rotation, the Sox will have seven starters (Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield, Arroyo, Miller and Clement).  The next question would be: who stays and who goes?  Will Wake and Arroyo be moved back to the ‘pen?  Or just one of them?  Will someone get traded?  Will Miller even be on the big squad? 

     And finally, Mike Lowell puts a question mark on position players.  By adding him, the Sox are likely saying good bye to either Mueller, Millar or Youkilis, if not more than one of them.  So there are still moves to be made and issues to be dealt with, but overall the Sox are looking good in 2006.  Once again, the Sox hope that come time for the next holiday season, the Sox will be thankful for another ring.



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