A Look at Red Sox Off-Season Strategy
The 2013 edition of the Boston Red Sox is taking shape. And it reflects an entirely different strategy than Boston has taken in previous years.
While the roster is most likely not finalized, there are a few takeaways that jump out.
General Manager’s Stamp
Next year’s team will be Ben Cherington’s team.
While there are still a number of holdovers from the teams that Theo Epstein put together, the Red Sox have taken a dramatically different approach in team building. There was no wild spending this year.
It’s fair to say no pundits will be picking Boston as the “winners” of the off-season.
But give Cherington credit – taking the big-name, big-money course did not pay off in recent years.
In 2013, we will learn whether Cherington can evaluate major league talent that can perform at a high level, in Boston.
That was a problem for the previous regime (witness: Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, John Lackey, Bobby Jenks).
Sure, it looks like Cherington overpaid for this year’s crop of free agents – but the team gained the value of keeping the contracts relatively short (with three years the max in any deal).
Mike Napoli (assuming a deal is finalized) and Shane Victorino had down seasons in offensive performance last season. Were they off-years or starting a trend of decline?
Jonny Gomes and David Ross are platoon players – will they be exposed if asked to play more?
Can aging veterans Ryan Dempster (age 36 next season) and Koji Uehara (age 38 during 2013) perform at high levels?
Not to mention, the offensive players are all 30-plus – ages where injuries can be more frequent with a return that can take longer (see: David Ortiz last season).
We will find out if Cherington made the right free agent bets for 2013 (and beyond).
Number One Starter
Going into the off-season, the Red Sox number one need was a number one starter.
It appears Cherington is counting on a rebounding Jon Lester to fill that role.
Lester’s 2012 was a disaster. There was nothing in Lester’s performance that creates confidence he can be a number one starter.
Apparently, Cherington believes getting reacquainted with John Farrell and a fresh approach with new pitching coach Juan Nieves are exactly what Lester needs to return to form.
The Red Sox cannot contend without a number one starter.
Right now, Lester is slated to play that role – and we will find out if Cherington made the correct call there.
The Red Sox have used their financial superpower strength to land the free agents they wanted.
In stocking the team, Cherington, so far, has avoided trading any valued prospects.
This sets the stage – in 2013 and beyond – to address just how good is Boston’s farm system?
At this point, it appears Cherington is counting on the farm system to be the foundation for the next great Red Sox team.
It will take some more time – probably three to five years – to make the call on this one.
But if in 2015 and 2016, you see players like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Bryce Brentz, Blake Swihart and others playing a prominent role on a pennant-contending Red Sox team, Cherington will have made the right call.
What are your thoughts on the Red Sox team building strategy this off-season?