2013 Preview: Boston Red Sox
WHO'S NEW: OF Jonny Gomes (OAK), OF Shane Victorino (PHI, LAD), C David Ross (ATL), SS Stephen Drew (AZ, OAK), C/1B Mike Napoil (TEX), 1B Lyle Overbay (AZ, ATL), RP Koji Uehara (TEX), SP Ryan Dempster (CHC, TEX), CL Joel Hanrahan (PIT).
WHO'S GONE: OF Cody Ross (AZ), OF Scott Podsednik (FA), INF Mike Aviles (CLE), 1B James Loney (TB), SP Vicente Padilla (Japan), SP Aaron Cook (PHI), SP Mark Melancon (PIT), SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (CLE).
The outlook in Beantown has to be an optimistic one after a disasterous 2012 season which was highlighted by a barrage of injuries, porous pitching, the trades of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Josh Beckett and ultimately a 69 - 93 record which was good for the cellar of the A.L. East and the teams first losing season since 1997. With Bobby V long gone, John Farrell takes over the managing duties for his second stint with Boston. The acquisition of Joel Hanrahan, in addition to Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey returning from injury should fortify a bullpen that ranked 27th in team ERA (4.70) and tied for 26th with 22 blown saves. On offense, the Red Sox ranked in the top 10 in doubles, runs scored and batting average and have potential for more home runs in 2013. Jacoby Ellsbury returns to a revamped outfield with newly acquired Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino. Mike Napoli, after a strange contract dispute in terms of years, commands first base after an impressive two years with Texas while Will Middlebooks takes over at third. Stephen Drew is the new shortstop for the departing Mike Aviles. Infield depth could be a problem. Look for utility man Pedro Ciriaco to possibly take over the starting role if Dustin Pedroia is injured for any length of time or if Drew slumps. Ciriaco had a very nice season after getting his opportunity to play, posting a .293 average and 16 stolen bases in 76 games. Designated hitter David Ortiz was retained for one more season as was starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. David Ross provides a quality veteran back up at backstop. The starting rotation looks good with a couple question marks. John Lackey is returning from Tommy John surgery and has not pitched since September 2011. Felix Doubront has strikeout stuff, leading the team last season, but is inconsistent for a young arm. Jon Lester's season (9 - 14, 4.82 ERA) has to be considered an aberration while Clay Buchholz may establish himself as the ace of the staff. Ryan Dempster is an innings eater. If two of the five starters falter, with a lack of depth in pitching, it may be a long summer in Boston. A hot start is imparitive considering Boston's first 13 games are within the division. The Red Sox were 26 - 46 in the A.L. East in 2012. 16 of their first 26 games are at Fenway
BOTTOM LINE: Best case scenario, the Red Sox will contend for a second wild card spot, battling New York and Baltimore. Competing for a division title seems like a stretch. They should win more close games, and hit more home runs but Lackey and Doubront are question marks in the rotation due to uncertainity. If Boston is hovering around 500 or worse come July, look for Drew, Ortiz or Saltalamacchia to possibly be moved since they all are on expiring contracts.