After more than 15 years with the team, could Tim Wakefield's time on the Red Sox be at risk of coming to an end? It's a possibility that Terry Francona was neither willing to confirm or deny on Friday.
When asked about his two top long relief candidates, Francona admitted that there would be a decision to make:
Their styles aren't similar. But they both can pitch out of the bullpen, both can start. We're going to have some interesting decisions to make here come the last week.
(Via Peter Abraham)
When pressed further on this decision, and whether or not it was possible for both players to make the team, the Red Sox' manager was quick to dodge the question:
"I would never sit here and talk about somebody being on the ... I can't do that. That's so disrespectful of players. I would never do that. That would be awful."
Another reporter asked if Aceves and Wakefield could both make the team.
"I'm not going to do that," he said. "I wouldn't do that to those guys. These guys have a stressful couple of weeks ahead of them. I'm not going to make it worse."
Taken at face value, this seems like a typical non-answer. But digging a little deeper, does this reveal something about the situation?
If Aceves was not battling for a spot, after all, and he realized it, what would it hurt to just say that? Why not simply reaffirm Wakefield's position on the team unless, of course, he couldn't.
For what it's worth, Tim Wakefield has done a better job of earning the spot than Aceves. While both have low ERA's, Wakefield's is noticeably lower, and Aceves only has two strikeouts in ten innings to go with two walks.
Of course, Aceves brings both upside and youth to the table. Given his age, his back problems aren't as likely to keep him off the field as Wakefield's, and he could well improve--be it as a starter or a reliever--in what would be just his second full MLB season.
One major question has to be whether or not Aceves has an opt-out clause in his contract should he not break camp with the big league team. If he does not, then it wouldn't hurt the Sox much to start him in the minor leagues and take a wait-and-see approach, whereas if Tim Wakefield doesn't start out in the big leagues, he's likely going elsewhere or hanging up the cleats once-and-for-all. While Aceves could be destined to take over for Wakefield before too long, from both a strategic and PR viewpoint, an unceremonious cutting just isn't the right way to go about things