Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fadewhether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski and Kevin Goldstein's farm-system overview.

Today we bid farewell to the Boston Red Sox, who still have a promising future despite an ugly end to the 2011 season.

Signs of hope: Despite losing the first six games of the season and 10 of its first 12, Boston heated up and reached first place by late May. Although the Sox could never quite shake the New York Yankees, as late as Aug. 31 they were in first place and on pace for 100 wins. David Ortiz had his best season since 2007. The Red Sox had three realistic MVP candidates in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, the last of whom had the best season by a Red Sox center fielder since the days of Tris Speaker, never mind Fred Lynn.

Signs of disaster: The Opening Day starting rotation didn't survive May. Daisuke Matsuzaka dropped in the middle of that month with an elbow injury that would require him to undergo Tommy John surgery. At the same moment, John Lackey hit the disabled list with an elbow strain. He would miss almost a month, a blessing given that his final 6.41 ERA ranked among the 20 worst ERAs of modern times (min. 150 IP). He belongs to Boston for another three years at $45.75 million. Clay Buchholz went down almost exactly a month after Dice-K and Lackey, succumbing to a stress fracture of his L2 vertebra. Despite extensive rehabilitation, he was not activated until Wednesday and did not pitch again. As was inevitable, July 31 acquisition Erik Bedard missed more than two weeks in September with multiple injuries. Even Beckett and Lester missed the odd start during the season, which wouldn't have been significant if not for all the other injuries. The result was far too many starts for Kyle Weiland, project Andrew Miller and sentimental favorite/has-been Tim Wakefield. When Beckett (ankle) and Lester (1-3, 5.96 ERA heading into his solid final start) struggled in September, there was nobody either good enough or healthy enough to pick them up. Throw in a rough month for Bard that a thin bullpen could not withstand, and the Sox had cooked up the perfect recipe for a 6.35 ERA in the final month and a 7-20 freefall that saw them bow out on the last day of the season.

Signs you can ignore: Sadly, it isn't Carl Crawford, whose inability to catch Robert Andino's season-ending liner was symbolic of the $142 million misfire that was signing an impatient turf hitter to play in a grass stadium. As hard as it will be for Red Sox Nation to accept, the thing to ignore is the September crash itself. A recurrence is unlikelythe degree of failure was nearly unique, but even were it not, either the front office will find more reliable collaborators for Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Bard and Jonathan Papelbon (should he be re-signed) or the Sox won't be in a position to crash again. Steven Goldman, Baseball Prospectus

Bowden's Bold Move
The Red Sox head into the offseason with disappointment and several players coming off their payroll including Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Wakefield and Papelbon. The team will attempt to rebuild its starting rotation and bullpen depth in hopes of preventing another collapse in 2012 while also trying to get younger and more balanced in the lineup with either a right-handed-hitting right fielder or designated hitter if they don't re-sign Ortiz.

The Red Sox will not be pursuing the game's best free agents in first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. However, they'll have to be interested in chasing C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes, and either Papelbon or one of the other top closers on the market such as Francisco Rodriguez or Heath Bell.

Boston's farm system is not fertile enough to make another Gonzalez or Victor Martinez-type deal, so it is more than likely they once again indulge themselves in the free-agent market.

If I were running the Red Sox, I would sign Wilson and Bell or Ryan Madson (or both). They should stockpile a first-round and sandwich pick for Papelbonand possibly even let Ortiz walk to collect additional draft picksto help rebuild the farm system. The 2011 season is Boston's most disappointing season since 1978, and the Red Sox have to make sure they don't make the same mistakes in 2012. Jim Bowden

Hopes and Fears
Best-case scenario ZiPS projection: 96-66

A historical September collapse culminating with Papelbon's ninth-inning meltdown against the Baltimore Orioles aside, there's no reason to be pessimistic about the team's future in 2012. The five months of the season in which the Sox were one of the best teams in baseball was no fluke, and the core of the team that played good baseball most of the year is guaranteed to return, with the exception of Ortiz. The team has plenty of flexibility in replacing himincluding Ortiz's 2011 pay (some $50 million is coming off the payroll). Arbitration, scheduled raises and extending current players will whittle some of that down, but the team has room to either bring back Ortiz or go after any of the biggest free agents. Either way, the Red Sox have a good shot at avenging their 2011 season.

Worst-case scenario: 83-79
Boston fans don't really need to be refreshed on what the Red Sox going bad looks likethey've lived it for the last month. The Red Sox went 7-19 in September, and while it exposed what can happen to a good team when forced to pitch Miller and Weiland way too often, even an unlucky 2012 Red Sox team is unlikely to repeat that feat. The offense still performed at a reasonable level during September. The problem was the pitching, and it's one the Red Sox need to address in the offseason. Even knuckleballers have expiration dates, and Wakefield's run as the all-purpose sixth starter/swingman should be nearly over. It's unrealistic to carry a lot of spare starters, but the Red Sox will be better if management doesn't repeat 2011's mistake and stand pat while the rotation collapses. If an average starter such as Bruce Chen had been acquired a few weeks ago, the Red Sox might have spent Wednesday resting starters rather than fighting for their lives. — Dan Szymborski, Baseball Think Factory

Organizational Future
The Red Sox traded away much of their system for Gonzalez, so if you are expecting the next wave of prospects to bring Boston back to the playoffs, think again. While the Red Sox are loaded at the lower levels, there is no obvious contributor for 2012. But if Kevin Youkilis' health becomes a long-term issue, that could mean a look for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who is otherwise a valuable trade chip as a prospect with above-average potential both offensively and with the glove. The answers to Boston's problems revolve more around health than new players, which is a good thing considering that the next wave of prospects will take some time to develop. Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Is Josh Reddick not the Sox guy in right field next year?
"If I were running the Red Sox, I would sign Wilson and Bell or Ryan Madson (or both)."

That's why you're no longer running a team, Jim.
You may be right that that's a bad idea, but would you mind explaining why?
I know it's en vogue to mock Bowden in the comments these days, but he's actually been very attentive to insightful commentary and has occasionally responded on ESPN with very decent analysis. And for the record, his suggestions to go out and sign C.J. Wilson and a closer don't seem that nuts to me. Wilson would be a perfect fit for the Red Sox, and they obviously need a closer next season, too. Do they have the money to get it done (and will they want to pay heavy on the free agent market after they've had some busts recently)? I don't know. But those are solid suggestions for what the Red Sox might do and seem capable of doing.
Are we not about at the stage when we can give up on the idea that Jose Iglesias will ever be the starting shortstop in Boston? He just can't hit enough, however good his glove is.
I'm not. The Astros made it to the Series with Adam Everett at SS, after all.
Why in the name of Sweet Fanny Adams would the Redsox go after Jose Reyes?? They've got Marco Scutaro keeping the seat warm for Jose Iglesias, ferchrissake.
Yes, why bring in another speed guy when the running game is not part of the Sox philosophy? Curious to see how much the Sox would be willing to pay to move Lackey.
More importantly to my way of looking at it, they've long had better luck with inhouse solutions than with pricey free agents. So Scutaro means SS is not an area of need for next year, and with Iglesias it can be covered for years to come.
And I'm not convinced Jed Lowrie isn't the answer yet. When healthy, he can hit and play at least an adequate SS. But he looks like JD Drew when discussing his inevitable and persistent injury woes.
Which was the worst prediction ...

Boston Herald declare the 2012 Red Sox 'Best Team Ever' or

29 of 30 Baseball Prospectus writers pick them to win the division?

For far too long, BP has been in love with the Red Sox picking them to win the division on a nearly yearly basis but have been correct just ONCE (BP picked NY the other year Boston won the division).

This year such a consensus was reached despite PECOTA showing a one-game difference between New York and Boston.

Only an overwhelming environment of GROUP THINK could get 29 of 30 writers to pick 'tails' in essentially what amounted to a coin flip as predicted by BP's own metrics.

This September was just the final chapter in the total collapse of an organization at EVERY level.

Boy Wonder spent over a half BILLION dollars on contracts to Crawford, Lackey, Renteria, Lugo, Drew, Jenks, Cameron, Matsusaka leaving the team strapped to make any improvements looking forward.

Francona's handling of the bullpen left the team with only 3 qualified relievers in which he had any confidence at the end. BP mocked Joe Torre for his bullpen handling which was infinitely better than that showed by Francona. I'm sure BP will ignore the team chemistry issues as it doesn't believe team chemistry has any place for the most part in explaining anything.

The pitching coaches, despite the change this year, have brought little to the party in fixing numerous pitchers that Boy Wonder brought in on the cheap thinking they could be fixed.

Will Carroll used to extole the vitrues of the Red Sox medical and conditioning staff that has been nothing but a joke over the last two years as Red Sox players sought outside opinions on their own efforts. When guys like Lowell broke down it was easy to blame his age. Harder to use the same excuse as the injured players got younger. Counting on any improvement next year as a result of the medical staff looks pretty weak right now.

The minor league system, gutted in trades for Agone and Vmart, had nothing to offer the big league team when they desperately needed something as simple as a breathing body to fill out the rotation.

Lets not forget Bill James and those defensive metrics that said Mike Cameron was a better defensive player in CF than Jacoby Ellsbury. That those same metrics would applaud Carl Crawford seems laughable given his play costing the Red Sox two games over the last week.

Even Agone, the one player that Theo lusted for over 5 seasons looked lost in the glare of big games versus NY and TB. At least he had the experience of the San Diego collapse last year to draw on.

The Boston Red Sox became the old Soviet Union to the Yankee's Ronald Reagen defensive spending. Desperate to keep up, they spent themselves into obsolescence. They didn't get smarter, they just got poorer and worse on the field.

The wall has come down.

"there's no reason to be pessimistic about the team's future in 2012."

Sure thing ... and even now BP probably has their playoff probabilty at 5.2 % for THIS year.

I'll make one prediction ... BP writers (not PECOTA) will pick the Red Sox to win the AL East in 2012. And they will be wrong YET AGAIN.