Quite a few questions from up north this week, but this week, we’ll start with the simplest of questions that doesn’t have the simplest of answers.

Cary, NC wants to know: Who is Danny Woodhead?

Danny Woodhead is a third-year pro out of that Division 2 Chadron State in Nebraska. He was actually a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is essentially D2’s version of the Heisman Trophy. He holds the all-time NCAA rushing record with 7871 yards over the course of his collegiate career. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jets  in 2008 in relative anonymity until becoming one of Rex Ryan’s favorites on HBO’s Hard Knocks. But with Ladainian Tomlinson as the backup to Shone Green, there wasn’t a spot for the Jets, who decided they had a greater need at wide receiver and waived him so they could sign David Clowney. The Patriots picked him up the day before their game against the Jets, presumably to get as much information out of him as possible. But when Kevin Faulk went down with a torn ACL, it opened up a more long-term spot for Woodhead. He fits Bill Belichick’s model for a player with versatility, ability and willingness to play special teams and, from what we saw yesterday, a terrific motor. While I don’t think he’ll make a career out of playing in New England, this season he can provide a good change of pace to downhill runners such as Fred Taylor, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Sammy Morris.

Bow, NH asks:  Of V-Mart, Ortiz, and Beltre, who do you think the [Red] Sox should/would resign? Any free agents you feel strongly about pursuing? Thanks Maz, love the blog!

Victor Martinez should be the Red Sox’ top priority this offseason, followed closely by Adrian Beltre and it’s for a very good reason: the Red Sox have no major league ready option in the organization who can take over if they leave and the free agent talent out there would not be an upgrade. Ryan Lavarnway is probably the best catching prospect the Sox have and he split the year between Salem and Portland and has only been catching since 2007, so he still has some learning to do.  While he’s nothing special behind the plate, Martinez will be the best player available at his position in the upcoming offseason. Miguel Olivo’s  name has been thrown out there, but he’s been very good for the Rockies this year and it’s more likely they will pick up his option. While he probably only has a few more good years at catcher, Martinez offers you the option of playing DH in the future.
Beltre is a concern because in the two biggest contract years of his career, he’s put up by far his best numbers. Still, he seems to fit in with the locker room well and has shown tremendous hustle, even if that hustle did land two Red Sox outfielders on the disabled list early in the season. What catches my eye the most is his numbers are actually better on the road than at home, so his success has not been solely a product of Fenway Park. Throw on top of that the fact that the Red Sox’ best prospects at the position are in Salem and Greenville, respectively, the Sox need to fill that hole with a veteran and none of the free agents are worth taking a look at as a replacement.
Ortiz is not that high of a priority on my list simply because you can find anyone to DH, but not everyone can play the field. Don’t get me wrong, Ortiz proved me wrong by overcoming a brutal early season slump to hit 30 homers and he’ll drive in 100 runs by the time it’s all said and done.  But as far as value goes, Ortiz is very limited, not only by the fact that only AL teams will look at him, but there are only a few that can afford him at his asking price. Should the Red Sox pick up his option, he’d be making $12.5 million for one season. Vladimir Guerrero, who will finish the season with a better batting average, a comparable number of home runs and more RBI is making $5.5 million this season as a DH. Ortiz doesn’t want to play for one year, but doesn’t want to take a pay cut in order to sign a multi-year deal.  And most likely he’d want to go to a competitive team. The Yankees are getting older and have enough players that can fill the DH slot. Tampa Bay is talking about cutting payroll and if it wants to make a real effort toward keeping Carl Crawford, it’s going to have to pinch its pennies. There aren’t many options out there for Ortiz and the Red Sox have the upper hand in this situation. Most likely they will use exercise the option, then try to work out a two-year deal with Ortiz.
Outside of those guys, the Red Sox need major help in the bullpen. Injuries hurt the offense, but the pitching staff can’t use the same excuse. Theo Epstein is financially locked into the rotation he has now, but the bullpen can be addressed, starting with Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon was very hittable this year with a 4.01 ERA as of today and lost a career-high six games this season. Papelbon went from a four-pitch pitcher to a one-pitch pitcher, falling in love with his fastball, which now he throws at 94-95 mph as opposed to 96-98 the way that he used to and that makes a big difference, especially when you’re not willing to throw your other pitches. There are certainly enough teams that overvalue big name closers and will take his past success into account that would like to have him. Daniel Bard was the Red Sox’ most dominant pitcher and outside of him, Felix Dubront and Scott Atchison were the team’s most consistent relievers. That’s a problem. Okajima pitched well in the second half when taken out of pressure situations and is still under the team’s control, but series middle relief help is needed. Michael Bowden has not taken to the transition from starter to reliever and with names like Scott Downs and J.J. Putz on the free agent list, the Red Sox need to make some efforts to sign guys there.

Aspen, CO says: Who would be your pick for AL MVP out of Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera? Or do you think someone else is more deserving?

If I had to choose between those two, I would have to go with Cabrera. I know that Detroit didn’t do much this year and Texas is the team heading to the playoffs, I have to think that if Detroit played in the AL West and Texas played in the Central, the roles would be reversed. By the same token, I think the player who had the benefit of playing an unbalanced schedule with teams like Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim should put up better numbers. Honestly, I would not be upset if one got it over the other because you can make a case for both.
That said, I do believe there is one player who is forgotten in all this and I think he is most deserving. That player is Paul Konerko. Konerko played out of his mind this season and very quietly put up 38 homers and over 100 RBI with a .240-hitting Carlos Quentin protecting him on the lineup. On top of that, he has been a far superior defender than Cabrera or Hamilton and that means something in my book.

Dover, NH writes: What do you think about the Bruins chances? I haven’t heard a ton about Seguin, has he been looking good in camp? Will Savard ever live up to his deal?

I have very high hopes for the Bruins this season. Even despite being right up against the cap, they have been able to maneuver themselves into a very good place heading into the 2010-2011 campaign. The Bruins have arguably the best duo of goaltenders in the league. The defense will be an even better unit than last year and they have depth in the organization at the blue line, but where they are most improved is offensively. Tyler Seguin from what I understand has been as advertised in camp, but the guy I’m really looking forward to seeing more from is Jordan Caron. Caron is a big, physical winger who has the potential to be a real scoring threat. Basically, he’s everything that Blake Wheeler should be, but is not. As for Savard, the post-concussion syndrome is a tricky thing. Savard admitted himself that he probably came back too soon from the hit he took from Matt Cooke and, while I’m not doctor, it stands to reason that that might have something to do with his recent issues. As for living up to the contract, hey, last season the guy was still able to put up 33 points in 41 games, a pretty impressive number, considering the two guys he shared a line with both really underacheived.

Manchester, NH asks: What did you think of Kyle Arrington yesterday? If you were Belichick, who do you start, Butler or Arrington?

I thought Arrington played very soft, but was able to get away with it for most of the game against a Lee Evans. He did a nice job breaking up a potential touchdown pass, but was later burned on three plays in the third quarter that resulted in close to 50 yards. He did play almost every down and also played special teams, so there’s quite a bit to applaud him for in this game. Overall, it was a solid effort that earned him another start next week against Miami, but overall, I still think Butler is the superior talent who just plain played a bad game against the Jets. The guy was the best cover corner in the 2009 draft and I still think he’s the best cover corner the Patriots have in their young secondary.

That’s the mailbag for this week. Don’t forget to submit your questions for next week’s Mailbag by emailing me at mazasmusings@gmail.com