Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Red Sox season was rocked by clubhouse turmoil. For the second straight season, Boston was a bitter disappointment, only this time it led to a roster purge. They reloaded in the off-season though and are hoping that they can claw their way back into contention in the uber-competitive AL East.
Red Sox on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Hope for the Hopeless
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I’m a Dreamer (11:30 AM)
2013 Burning Question (12:45 PM)
This Is My Nightmare (2:00 PM)
X-Factor (3:15 PM)
Top Ten Prospects (4:30 PM)
Depth Chart (as of 2/25)
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross
1B: Mike Napoli
2B: Dustin Pedroia
SS: Stephen Drew
3B: Will Middlebrooks
LF: Jonny Gomes
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Shane Victorino
SP: Jon Lester
SP: Ryan Dempster
SP: Clay Buchholz
SP: Felix Doubront
SP: Jon Lester
CL: Joel Hanrahan
Considering how many players the Sox sent out at the trade deadline, it should come as no shock that they had to bring in a number of free agents just to field a competitive roster. They bolstered their rotation by signing veteran Ryan Dempster, because they really needed another injury-prone starting pitcher. They also swing a deal with Pittsburgh to acquire Joel Hanrahan to serve as their new closer, a major need after all the churn they had at the back end of the bullpen last season. Signing Koji Uehara was another lesser move to address that same problem. But the real overhaul came in Boston's lineup. Shane Victorino got overpaid to take over in right field. Mike Napoli, after some haggling over his hip condition, eventually signed on and should serve as the team's primary first baseman. Jonny Gomes was brought in to man left field, but also to try and shake up the clubhouse chemistry. Mike Carp was acquired in the last week and should see time behind all three of the aforementioned players. Hold on though, we're still not done. Boston took a flier on former All-Star Stephen Drew who is trying to get his career back on track after a grueseome ankle injury, though he does still suffer from being a member of the beloved Drew family. Finally, David Ross joined the Sox as a platoon partner for Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher. Of course, the biggest addition of them all might be manager John Farrell who replaces the maligned Bobby Valentine. Farrell is well-respected in the Sox organization and held in high regard by the players, so the hope is that he can finally put an end to all the controversy and in-fighting that has plagued the Boston clubhouse the last few years. Phew! I'm spent.
Boston sent out a number of players at the trade deadline, so there wasn't really many players of note left to leave town by the time the winter rolled around. James Loney, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook were all kicked to the curb at the end of the year. The club made at least some effort to bring back Cody Ross but he ultimately decided to sign in Arizona. Utility infielder Mike Aviles was traded to Toronto as part of the deal that allowed John Farrell to take over as manager in Boston while Mark Melancon and Jerry Sands were sent packing in the Joel Hanrahan trade.
Even with their big trade with the Dodgers last season, the Red Sox don't have much in the way of big league ready rookies ready to play a role. Two of their top prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley probably aren't quite ready to contribute, but could be by mid-season, assuming an actual role open up for them. For Bogaerts that would mean Stephen Drew playing poorly or getting hurt while Bradley would only be in line for a call-up in the event of a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury. In all likelihood, 2014 is a more realistic arrival date for both players.
The presence of Mike Carp could prompt competition at a few spots, but most likely in left field. The Red Sox signed Jonny Gomes under the guise of making him an everyday player, but history suggests that he'd be better off in a platoon, which Carp would be perfect for. The rotation as currently set will likely remain intact, at least for a little while. However Franklin Morales and Rubby de la Rosa especially, will be knocking on the door and could push to supplant Felix Doubront or, more likely, John Lackey who is on the mend from Tommy John surgery. Where things could get real interesting is in the back end of the bullpen. The closer's job is Joel Hanrahan's to lose, but last year's supposed closer acquisition Andrew Bailey will surely have something to say about that. Daniel Bard is also looming as a threat to get involved in that mix, but that seems like a long shot. Oh, Alfredo Aceves will probably want to be considered too, but he is probably the only one that thinks that.
Honestly, it would be easier to list the players that aren't injury concerns for the Red Sox in 2013. Jon Lester is the only rotation member that did not spend time on the DL last season and he is hardly a bastion of durability himself. Andrew Bailey, Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew have the reputation of guys who could wind up on the disabled list if they so much as sneeze too hard. We all now know that Mike Napoli's contract had to be altered because of a hip condition, making him a risky bet. And, finally, there is David Ortiz who missed almost the entire second half of the season with an Achilles injury, though some consider it to be of a dubious nature. Still, a 37-year old DH coming off that kind of an injury is definitely a big medical red flag.
Can the Red Sox avoid making headlines for all the wrong reasons?
The Red Sox may not have the same kind of star power anymore, but maybe they are better off without those underachieving big names? If you look back at their 2012 season, just about everything that could go wrong did. Whose to say they can't actually get some luck on their side this time around? They still have Ortiz, Pedroia and Ellsbury. Mike Napoli could put up crazy numbers in Fenway Park. What they really need is for Lester and Buchholz to recover their old form and for Lackey to come back healthy and Dempster to stay healthy. It will be a dogfight in the AL East, but with the benefit of a manager the players don't want to shiv, some throwback "idiots" clubhouse chemistry and plenty of payroll space to take on talent at the deadline, they could well win 90 games and sneak into a Wild Card slot.
Boston should be well acquainted with the worst case scenario by now since they've lived through it two years in a row now. They are once again putting a lot of faith in a rotation full of medical red flags and very little depth. Just like in recent years, that rotation seems primed to get ravaged by injury. Old age and poor health loom large for David Ortiz as well and without him playing at full capacity, their lineup really doesn't have much of a chance, especially with Jacoby Ellsbury playing the season with one eye on the ball and one eye on his impending free agency. While they avoid the kind of drama they experienced under Bobby V, it turns out that Toronto was willing to give up John Farrell for a reason as he guides the team to a disappointing 68-win season.
There is real talent here, but probably not enough to overcome all the competition in AL East and certainly not enough to account for all the injuries they are bound to suffer. I know I keep harping on that point, but they really do have one of the largest collections of injury-prone players in the league and there is now way they are all going to stay healthy. The good news is that for the first time in a long time, the BoSox won't be entering the season with lofty expectations. It isn't often that a major market team with a $150+ million payroll can sneak up on people, but this team could. At the end though, they just don't have enough. They can certainly finish over .500, but not by much.