The first installment of our Outlook series is the Boston Red Sox. The team is currently in limbo between rebuilding mode and potential wild card contender. In dumping hundreds of millions of dollars off payroll they have opened themselves up as major players in free agency. Unfortunately for New Englanders, none of the big fish took the bait.
Boston has addressed their bullpen issues this offseason by acquiring Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan while mercifully trading Mark Melancon to the inept Pirates. Uehara (1 year/$4.25m) is a truly dominant reliever who possesses the best K:BB ratio in the history of baseball. If he is used in only high leverage situations for 40-50 innings in 2013 he will have come at a huge bargain. Joel Hanrahan ( on the other hand, is an average reliever when all things are considered. He has 76 saves in the past two years and he strikes out more than a batter per inning. The rest, however, isn’t so pretty. He has control issues, walking 5.43/9 last year. His strand rate was an unsustainable 89.7% last year. Even his HR and FB rates were elevated. In 2013 he’ll earn through arbitration (estimated at 1 year/$9m) roughly twice what he is worth on the field.
To replace the dynamic Carl Crawford the Red Sox signed Jonny Gomes. As a lefty specialist with a pull-happy swing, his style of play suits Fenway Park. His lack of defensive skill is muted somewhat with the green monster and Jacoby Ellsbury doing their part. Stick him in LF for every lefty starter and he’ll be an excellent complimentary piece of the platoon assuming Daniel Nava starts in LF against RHPs. I was happy to see that the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino for 3/$39m. They spent more than they had to for him, but he brings a set of skills that take longer to deteriorate in the course of a career. His speed still translates well on the basepaths and in the field, while his lack of power will not change much. Expecting 10-15 HR with 30 SB while contributing good range/defense from your RF is unorthodox, but highly valuable.
After missing 159 games in the past two years, the Red Sox rewarded Stephen Drew with a one year/$9.5m contract. He has a chance to put up a 2 WAR season if he manages to stay healthy, but don’t expect 150 games from him. He won’t steal you any bases, and he won’t field balls in the hole or up the middle like Ciriaco or Iglesias will. Temper expectations.
Mike Napoli unofficially signed on with the Sox for a 3/$39m deal to play garbage time C and primary 1B. He’s actually not bad at 1B, but it’s not pretty. Lots of wincing from fans on one-hoppers and throws in the dirt. But he wasn’t signed for his glove. He’ll play 150 games in Boston if his hip concerns are addressed and hit .250/.350/.480 with 30 HR batting anywhere from 3rd to 6th in the order.
Anyone looking forward to the return of John Lackey? I thought not. He’s had a declining K/BB rate since 2007 while posting worsening strand rates since 2008. These are serious compounding issues that are making his a replacement level starter. He had a previously long history of being an innings eater, which was a good thing when he was outperforming her peripherals for the Angels. Now that things have caught up with him, that’s not so good.
The Red Sox recent starter acquisition is the unexciting Ryan Dempster. This doesn’t mean that he’s a bad pitcher, on the contrary, he is quite good. But he is not a pitcher suited for Boston’s home park. His HR/FB, strand rate and BABIP are issues. These will only be made more glaring while playing in Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, and New York.
The team the Boston Red Sox have put together for 2013 looks like a pretty solid team when it’s all said and done. However, they are non-contenders in the AL East and would have to play above their talent level all season to make a Wild Card spot. Look for them in 4th or 5th at season’s end, competing with Baltimore for the cellar. The best move for the Sox now would be to trade Ellsbury to the highest bidder. Final record 76-86.