Finally, the time is upon us. At long last, the Grounds crews are peeling back the tarp and rolling out the chalk. The smell of spring is in the air. It’s almost here: the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
The Boston Red Sox are more than ready to get this show on the road and bring the faith back to the Nation. Work to reinvigorate the identity of the team started shortly after the disappointingly subpar 2012 season mercifully came to a close, with the firing of manager Bobby Valentine after his brief one season stint. In October they acquired former pitching coach John Farrell as the new man in charge.
Now that the Red Sox had their guy at the helm, it was time to begin the real work. The big question in fans’ minds was how General Manager Ben Cherington was going to come out of the gate. Would it be business as usual for the highspending Sox, or were we going to see a more conservative strategy? It seems their approach consisted of a combination of the two: signing lots of lesser free agents for big money over short-term deals, building a solid bridge to the future.
The Sox quickly made some moves that they felt were necessary in beginning to build a solid core that could compete in 2013. They resigned fan favorite designated hitter, David Ortiz to a two-year $26 million deal in early November, avoiding the free agent drama that has existed between Ortiz and the team in recent years. The aging slugger, who saw his 2012 season cut short due to a nagging injury to his Achilles tendon, is continuing the rehab process but is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. His eventual presence in the middle of the order is more critical than a quick recovery.
Boston signed veteran speedster Shane Victorino to a three-year deal, effectively replacing Cody Ross in right. Victorino solidifies Boston’s outfield depth, as he will play alongside the tandem of Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava in left, as well as Jacoby Ellsbury in center.
The team also had their eye on first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli. On Dec 3, 2012, it was reported that Napoli had agreed to a three-year deal with Boston. However, things only got more complicated from there. A six-week limbo period ensued wherein it was not clear whether or not the deal was in jeopardy of falling through. Nothing had been made official, and it was very unclear why. Finally, it was revealed that during the physical he was required to take before finalizing the deal, Napoli was revealed to have a hip condition called avascular necrosis. This basically means that over time, his hips are in danger of incurring bone death. This type of condition is very common in athletes. The Red Sox, fearful of committing long-term to Napoli, worked out a new one-year deal worth a guaranteed $5 million.
These friendly new faces join a team already stocked with veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as well as exciting young players like Will Middlebrooks. It seems as though Ben Cherington has put together a very strong, deep lineup that has the chance to make an impact in the American League East.
The Red Sox pitching in 2012 was the weakest aspect of the team. Specifically, the lack of depth Boston had in its rotation proved to be problematic as injuries occurred throughout the season. Making his way back to the Sox after spending the 2012 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery is John Lackey. Although the natural reaction of Red Sox fans is to cringe at the sound of his name, the fact is Lackey is a workhorse who can have a profound impact on this ball club. The Sox need him to come out throwing strikes and eating up innings in order for their rotation to have any depth at all.
Adding to that depth is newcomer Ryan Dempster, another free agent signee this offseason. Dempster, a veteran pitcher who is also known to be a workhorse, looks to bring another aspect of consistency to a starting rotation that lacked it last year. It will be interesting to see what contributions he can make behind the Sox 1-2 punch of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
The team believes their bullpen is locked and loaded, a feeling most Sox teams lack from the beginning of each spring. With the promise of bouncebacks from Daniel Bard and Andrew Bailey, coupled with new closer Joel Hanrahan, the team believes they have what it takes to shut down opponents late.
The 2012-13 offseason for the Boston Red Sox wasn’t flashy by any means. They didn’t go after any of the megastar players, but they made some smart mid-scale moves, adding depth to trouble-areas. If the pitching holds, they could make a serious run at the playoffs.