Originally written on Sports Junkie Online  |  Last updated 10/15/14

7 June 2009: San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) seen here during a game agaisnt the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Photo via Newscom

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2011 Recap
The team was expected to win the AL East after bringing in Adrian Gonzalez (1B) via trade with San Diego and Carl Crawford (LF) through free agency. While Gonzalez (.338 BA, 27 HR, 117 RBI) played well, Crawford struggled for much of the season, ending up batting just .255 with 11 HR, 65 Runs, 56 RBI in 130 games, and was at one point slid down to seventh in the batting order. Despite inconsistent play, the team found itself nine games up for the AL Wild Card through September 3rd, but lost 18 of their final 24 games, missing out on a postseason berth. The ensuing backlash cost manager Terry Francona his job, as well as the allegations that pitchers drank in the clubhouse during gamedays.

New Arrivals
C Kelly Shoppach (free agency)
INF Nick Punto (free agency)
RP Mark Melancon (trade w/ HOU)
RP Andrew Bailey (trade w/ OAK)
RF Ryan Sweeney (trade w/ OAK)
P Clayton Mortensen (trade w/ COL)
OF Cody Ross (free agency)
Shoppach provides solid defense behind the plate, and has some pop in his bat (HR every 21.8 at-bats over his career), but has just a .224 career batting average. Punto is a solid utility infielder that can provide solid production both at the plate and in the field. Menancon will likely be given an opportunity for a seventh inning role. Despite coming off a somewhat disappointing season (3.24 ERA, 24 saves), Bailey will replace the departed Jonathan Papelbon as the closer. Sweeney will battle with super-utility player Mike Aviles, Ryan Kalish and Darnell McDonald for the fourth outfield spot. Mortensen will likely have a long-relief role with the team, and could also be used as an occasional spot starter. Ross will take over as the starter in right field, though he too is coming off a down year (.240 BA, 14 HR, 52 RBI).

Prospect to Watch: C Ryan Lavarnway
Lavarnway has done well at every level of the minor leagues, including spending the second half of 2011 with Pawtucket, where he had splits of .295/.390/.612. With Saltalamacchia struggling last season, and the status of longtime catcher (and current free agent) Jason Varitek in question, Lavarnway could see time with the big club should those in front of him struggle.
2012 Outlook
While the departure of Papelbon to the Phillies is no doubt a blow, Bailey should be able to fill in well at closer for the Red Sox. The biggest story will be how new manager Bobby Valentine does in taking over a team that was rampant with dysfunction during its late-season collapse. Their offense should do just fine again this season, and if Crawford can return to form, this lineup may be the best in baseball. If the Red Sox can stay focused in 2012, they should be in contention with the Yankees (and potentially the Rays) for a postseason berth.
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