Even in hindsight, there were only a small subset of choices.
1) Trade for Adrian Gonzalez at 1B, Youk at 3B, Ortiz at DH.
2) Give Adrian Beltre an even more silly contract than the Rangers did. Keep Youk at 1B, Ortiz at DH. Sign Adrian Gonzalez as a FA after 2011.
3) Trade for Adrian Gonzalez at 1B, Give Adrian Beltre a crazy contract at 3B, trade Youk, Ortiz at DH.
4) #3, but trade Ortiz and put Youk at DH.
5) #2, Sign Fielder or Pujols instead of Gonzalez.
Even with Youk's injury, in hindsight, I think #1 was the best plan. David Ortiz was awesome offensively this season, and Adrian Gonzalez was excellent at the plate and quite solid in the field as well. Youk was the weak injury link here, but hit well when he was playing. His defense at 3B was shaky, but not "Edgar Renteria throwing to Kevin Millar" horrible.
As far as I can tell, scenarios 2-4 are all worse in some way, either in 2011 or beyond.
In scenario #2, you are severely overpaying for Beltre's decline years, and he's already showing signs of being injury-prone (hamstrings again, just like in 2010), which you can't expect to improve with time. You are also hoping that nobody else trades for/extends Gonzalez, when the Cubs were already sniffing around at the time. You are then ALSO hoping that Gonzalez picks Boston's offer over any of the others on the market, which is not a plan without significant risk. You are then also, again using 20/20 hindsight, forced to start Lars Anderson at 1B down the stretch due to Youk's injury. That is probably a slightly larger downgrade than from Youk to Lowrie/Aviles at 3B, who would have had to play at 3B anyway when Beltre was hurt earlier in the season. The defense would have been excellent when everyone was healthy.
In scenario #3, you are paying a ton of money to Beltre for a long time, plus prospects for Gonzalez, and you have no DH for 2012. The latter is true in scenario #1 as well, but this time the Beltre contract is somewhat restricting your budgetary flexibility. The wildcard here is what Youk might have fetched in a trade, which is potentially significant. Unless you apply 20/20 hindsight to Theo, though, he wouldn't have known to trade for starting pitching, so I'm not sure what Youk would have brought back beyond prospects that would not have helped in 2011, but might have helped later. Beltre also missed time due to injury. The defense would have been much better when everyone was healthy, though.
In scenario #4, again you are paying a ton of $ for Beltre, and prospects for Gonzalez, and the team has no DH down the stretch when Youk is hurt. So DH and 3B need injury replacements for part of the season. Ortiz has, presumably, less trade value than Youk at the start of the season, since his awesome 2011 hadn't happened yet. The upside is having a DH for 2012 and beyond, plus you have better defense. You lose Ortiz's 2011 production.
In scenario #5, you're trying to win a bidding war for one of Fielder (fatass), or Pujols (injury concerns) while still paying Beltre a ton of money. The 2011 injury concerns still apply, as would the good 2011 IF defense. We don't know if either player is interested in being a DH, although Pujols might be an upgrade at 1B over Youk. Pick your injury risk there. Being dependent on winning a FA bidding war strikes me as a risky plan at best, and stupid at worst.
I don't know, to me, scenario #1 is clearly the best way to go, even in hindsight.
Edited by JMDurron, 20 October 2011 - 07:42 AM.