Mar 17, 2014; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Grady Sizemore (38) and designated hitter David Ortiz (34) and second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) celebrate Pedroia

Boston Red Sox: 2014 season preview

Recap of 2013

Record: 97-65, 1st place in the AL East and 2013 World Series winner over the St. Louis Cardinals

Following a disastrous 2012 season, the 2013 Boston Red Sox looked to some like a team that would need some time to re-adjust and possibly rebuild in a competitive American League East.  Instead, what happened was a season that was comparable to the 1967 impossible dream season for the Crimson Hose.  The Sox, under new manager John Farrell and a cast of characters on the roster, took the American League East by storm, erasing any memory of 2012 over the course of a single summer.

Their record at the end of the regular season was 97 wins and 65 loses, a impressive turnaround from 2012’s 69 win and 93 loss season under Bobby Valentine.  They held the best home record and tied with Oakland for the best road record.  It was a complete rebound for a team that was predicted to have an at best mediocre season in 2013, but came to represent the City of Boston in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.  The team took on a greater meaning, unifying the city under a mantra that Boston was strong.

They were propelled once more by their core of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, the very heart and soul of the club, but also a cast of characters, almost like an island of misfits that Boston came to endear, with their grizzled and Civil War reenactment-esque beards.  Among them were Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, both of whom would prove their worth during the final stretches of the season and into the post-season as well.  The club also benefited from the return of an in-form Jon Lester, who lead all starters on the club and a back end of the bullpen that was just lights out beginning with Craig Breslow and ending with Koji Uehara.

The determination present in the regular season also shined in the playoffs as well, defeating both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series and the League Championship Series.  To sweeten the narrative that was the 2013 Boston Red Sox season, the team defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, four games to two, in what was the perfect ending to a season.  A season that could have only been impossibly dreamed, by those in Boston.  In 2014, the Red Sox will look to build on 2013 for continued success into this season.

Key Additions

C AJ Pierzynski, RHP Edward Mujica, OF Grady Sizemore, INF Jonathan Herrera, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Burke Badenhop

Key Departures

OF Jacoby Ellsbury, LHP Matt Thornton, LHP Franklin Morales, RHP Andrew Bailey, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Payroll

Heading into this season the Red Sox payroll will be around $149 million as the team has maintained a status quo for this season in their payroll by not really making a splashy free agency moves. Instead they made moves to bolster the lineup and shift some pieces around.  The biggest payroll departure was Jacoby Ellsbury’s entry into the free agency pool and then being courted away by the Yankees.  The signing the brought in the biggest payroll draw was the signing of AJ Pierzynski to a one year $8.25 million contract.

The team is trying to maintain their cost effectiveness, though there are some on the team willing to take a cut to remain with the Red Sox. Among them is Jon Lester, who was looking for a deal similar to what Dustin Pedroia was given last season to stay on the team, meaning more years but for a slight cut in pay.  While the Yankees were wheeling and dealing, the Sox were focusing on what is already in place.

Player(s) to Watch

Among the players to watch this season for Boston is their top infield prospect, Xander Bogaerts, who has been touted as one of the best prospects at shortstop in the American League.  Last season he was called up when the rosters expanded, playing in a total of 18 regular season games.  He was on post season roster as well and in the American League Championship Series against Detroit finished with three hits in six at bats while also scoring four runs.  This year will be his first full season for the young twenty year old from Aruba. He could be a possible favorite or at least a contender for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Along with Bogaerts, there is another player who could possibly command some attention this season and that player is Grady Sizemore, who is back at the big league level after last playing in 2012 for the Cleveland Indians.  Sizemore, who was signed to a one year contract worth up to $6 million, is a player who when healthy can be a valuable asset for a club in the outfield but also at the plate.  The problem, however, has been staying healthy which has been an issue for Sizemore in the past.

Must Improve

The player who needs to improve or at least step up for the Red Sox this season is Clay Buchholz, who despite going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA last season did not complete the regular season as injuries set in for the twenty-eight year old right hander.  In his career so far Buchholz has yet to complete a season with 200 or more innings pitched but has the tools to do so.  As of right now he is slated to be the fifth starter in the rotation and this spot could be a massive boost. It gives the team an All Star caliber arm at the tail end of the rotation that also features Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy.  He is really a missing piece that could tie everything together for the Red Sox.  Even with being hurt for a significant amount of time last season, Buchholz showed signs of the pitcher that he can be and this season could be the breakout season that Buchholz has not yet had.  He is walking the fine line between pitcher and ace, and this could be the year that he does become an ace.

Regression Candidate 

At the age of thirty-eight, David Ortiz could potentially begin to show signs of regression even after the impressive season that he had in 2013. His age could finally catch up to him this season and this could be the beginning of Oritz’s career heading towards its end.  Will it be a complete regression? Probably not, but it could be that we won’t see massive numbers put up like we did this past season or in the seasons before. Then again if it is a complete regression, the notion of the steroids conversation around Ortiz could come up again.  Even if Ortiz does regress this season, he will still be essential to the club as a heart and soul figure. It will be interesting to see what happens to Ortiz, but for now it could be another solid season, with signs of regression.

For 2014…

The Boston Red Sox of 2014, fresh off the success of 2013, look poised to potentially repeat again as American League East division champs but this year could prove to be a tougher task as once again the AL East will prove to be a tough pill to swallow once more.  As the Yankees went shopping, the Rays made some moves, the Orioles made some small improvements, and the Blue Jays looked to improve too.  They have the best shot at repeating as they are virtually the same club from last year, with a few slight changes here and have the best positive upside as opposed to their opponents in the division.  The only loss that could impede the Red Sox is the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, but even then that could be insignificant looking at how the Sox plugged the holes in their outfield, bringing in Grady Sizemore and giving more time to Jackie Bradley Jr.

The bigger question, however, for Boston is can they repeat as World Series champions again this year?

That’s tough to say right now, but they should be one of the favorites for the American League Pennant along with Detroit.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they can take the pennant again, but much like the division, it will be a tough task. Detroit looks to be a much improved club, especially in their bullpen, a source of angst for the club last year, and a source of benefit for the Red Sox in the playoffs. They are a talented team and have the potential to repeat.  Now we just have to begin the season to see if it in fact does happen.  For now, looking at what Boston has in place, they still have a solid core of players ranging from Pedroia to Victorino, a rotation of quality starters anchored by Jon Lester and a rejuvenated John Lackey, and a bullpen that can be lights out anchored by Koji Uehara at the back and Craig Breslow in the front.  They are a club to be taken seriously as they will command attention this season.  If last season was the start of something beautiful in Boston, this year could be a step up from that.  How they go about the course of the regular season will say much about them.

Prediction

94-68 (First in the AL East)

Tags: Boston Red Sox

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