Thursday, December 27, 2012

Productive Offseason for Boston? Well, Not Exactly

 The Boston Red Sox suffered through a 69-93 campaign, their first losing record since 1997.  Heck, even the pink hats suffered through this one; the entire city was miserable.  Most of the blame was tossed onto the back of then-manager Bobby Valentine, who has since been canned to make way for John Farrell, last seen in a Sox uniform in 2010.  Since the trade deadline of this past season, the Sox have been hard at work to right the ship, and now at the brink of 2013, they still have their fair share of work ahead.

The blockbuster trade of the decade came in July.  The Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, while LA sent back James Loney, Rubby de la Rosa, Ivan Dejesus, Jerry Sands and Allan Webster.  While the deal seemed to shake the Boston cityscape, there were very few in opposition to the trade.  It freed up the money the Sox had sunk into Gonzalez and Crawford for the next 5 years, and left them in a position for a big offseason.

With great money, comes great responsibility, if I may alter the phrase a bit.  So far, the Sox have been movers and shakers, but it looks like they are marching to the beat of their own drum here, snatching up players that were not very high on anyone's wish list anyway.

Jonny Gomes was signed on for two years, $10 million.  He joins a laundry list of characters to come over from the Rays including Crawford, Julio Lugo and Rocco Baldelli, all names that have continued to kill the Sox even wearing the home whites at Fenway.  His most significant moment in Rays history probably came when he took some cheap shots on Coco Crisp during a 2008 brawl between the two teams, so his most valuable asset may be on display in the clubhouse.

Another two year deal went to aging free agent pitcher Ryan Dempster.  He is another owner of a ridiculous starting pitching contract, worth $25 million, the going rate these days.  Dempster had an ERA over 5.00 in the American League pitching for the Rangers, and its unknown how many quality innings he'll log towards the back end of the rotation.

One of the better deals so far has been signing Shane Victorino to a three year, $39 million deal.  Victorino is a veteran outfielder, and although slowed somewhat by age, can still fly around the outfield and be a solid contact hitter to put at the top of the bottom of the batting order.  He figures to be a fan favorite in Boston, seeing as how he's already making significantly less than the two previous veteran outfielders signed (JD Drew and Crawford).

Catcher David Ross was signed to a two year, $6.2 million deal.  The 36-year-old is supposedly one of the best backups in baseball, but we all know the best backup already came and went through Boston: Doug Mirabelli.  If he can do anything similar to Mirabelli, he'll be a great addition.  He's known for his knowledge of the game, much like Jason Varitek, so hopefully he can settle the Sox starters down and really get them going.

But so far, the biggest deal has been made out of the team getting Mike Napoli for three years, $39 million.  A deal similar to Victorino's except for one small difference: he has not actually signed yet.  This article comes three weeks after Napoli agreed to sign in Boston, and still, his signature remains absent from the dotted line.  No one is sure what the deal is, but there are rumors about the deal now being for two years or that Napoli's physical did not go so well.  Either way, reports are surfacing now on Thursday that first basemen Adam Laroche is now back in the Red Sox' sights.  Just a mess, really.

With all this going on, general manager Ben Cherington has still found time to trade for a new closer, Joel Hanrahan, from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Not sure where his priorities lie on the Napoli deal, but either way, Hanrahan is coming over with a prospect in exchange for Mark Melancon, Sands, Dejesus and Stolmy Pimentel.  For $4.1 million this year, the deal seems pretty sound, but eligible for arbitration for next season, Hanrahan may cost the team upwards of $7 million to keep around next year.

So moves have been made with hopefully a few more on the way, but right now Boston sits in a better position than they did last season, which isn't saying much yet.  With the extra money, it seems the front office has just thrown it at whoever they want, most of the time completely overpaying, but new blood in the system is a welcome sight.  They still need a premier starting pitcher, which they did not get in Dempster, a solid first baseman/utility man, which they did not get in Napoli, and an everyday right fielder which they did not get in Victorino or Gomes (although the two will work well out there platooning.)  There is still room for improvement, and as long as the Sox stay proactive, 2013 could be off to a promising start.

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