Feb 24, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan (52) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals, 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Red Sox offseason helped clean up the mess brought on by trying to build a more “sexy team.” According to Terry Francona, the Boston ownership group became more concerned with marketing and NESN ratings by the end of his and Theo Epstein’s time with Boston.
"They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle,” Epstein is quoted as saying. “We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be."
Owners like John Henry should realize the most marketable players are those on 95 win teams. Current Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has made solid additions this offseason giving the Red Sox a chance to compete in the American League East in 2013.
Shane Victorino ($39 million 3 year contract) was an integral part of the Phillies postseason teams from 2007 through 2011. “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” is a proven leadoff or number two hitter, with double digit steals and homers every season since 2007. Victorino is a heart and soul type player who should thrive in the electric atmosphere of a Boston pennant drive, the polar opposite of Carl Crawford. His presence as a player other teams hate has been missing from the Sox the last two years. He is a solid defender who can transition to leftfield if Jacoby Ellsbury remains in center.
Two time All-Star Joel Hanrahan was received in a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The hard throwing righty has rung up 76 saves in 84 chances the last two years. His bouts of wildness may give Sox Nation an occasional case of agita, but he averages far more than a strikeout per inning. How Hanrahan responds to adversity and whether he can close games during a pennant race will go a long way in determining his and the Sox fate in 2013.
Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster signed a $26 million contract for two years. Dempster has been a remarkably consistent for a poor team the last five years. After being traded to the Texas Rangers, he had two rough starts, but bounced back and pitched well down the stretch. Dempster is fantastic addition to the Red Sox rotation. He profiles as a dependable number two or three starter.
The Mike Napoli saga was one of the more drawn out stories of the offseason. Originally signed to a multi year deal, a bad hip brought his price tag down to $5 million for one year. For that price, with a career .863 OPS, he is an economical option at first base
Koji Uehara brings a sub one WHIP from 2010 to 2012 to the Sox bullpen. Uehara is a dependable setup man, boasting a career average of over a strikeout per inning.
The words Drew and healthy are oxymorons to all who stride Yawkey Way. Perhaps Stephen ($9.5 million one year) can be the first Drew brother to live up to a Scott Boras contract in Boston. Though he has been injured the previous two seasons, from 2007 through 2010 he played in over 130 games with double digit homers and 60 plus RBI. Slick fielding Jose Iglesias and prospect Xander Bogaerts are waiting in the wings should Drew falter.
The Sox signed right handed slugger Jonny Gomes to provide power as a DH/OF option. He hit 18 HR and drove in 47 runs in 333 AB for Oakland in 2012. With David Ortiz currently struggling with an Achilles injury, Gomes could be a see more action than anticipated.
The makeup of this years club should be much better than Boston’s 2012 team. The Los Angeles Dodgers saved the Red Sox from years of payroll Purgatory by relieving them of the burdensome contracts of an oft-injured Carl Crawford and a fading Adrian Gonzalez. The tenure of new manager John Farrell should be much smoother than that of his predecessor, Bobby Valentine.
The key to their success is Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The two top starters suffered down years in 2012 and need to rebound in order for Boston to compete. Jacoby Ellsbury’s return from injury, paired with the offseason additions,should give the Red Sox a competent lineup. Youngster Will Middlebrooks had a successful rookie season in 2012 and Bogaerts could have an impact in 2013. The bullpen is deep, with Andrew Bailey, Josh Bard and Uehara setting up Hanrahan.
The Boston Red Sox will not be favored to win the division or a wild card berth in 2013. But Cherington has given them a chance to compete for the postseason after a terrible 2012. If things break their way the Red Sox might surprise this season.