Why You Won’t Be Able to Judge Red Sox by Opening Day Roster
In recent years, the Red Sox were built to contend from the get-go.
Big Names. Big Contracts. Ready to do battle with the Yankees and all other contenders.
Of course, that strategy has not worked so well the last two years.
So this off-season, GM Ben Cherington has retooled the club, signing a bunch of 30+ year old free agents to fill the team’s holes. All on short-term deals (compared to previous free agent contracts).
It appears Cherington’s intention is fielding a club that’s in the pennant hunt, rather than building.
The player acquisition results have been pretty underwhelming for Red Sox Nation.
But it may be wise to withhold judgment on Boston’s roster when the season starts on April 1.
Look for the Red Sox roster to be more of a work-in-process during the season – much more than previous years.
What if it Works
Let’s suppose Cherington has accomplished what he set out to do – transforming a 69 win team into a 90+ win team (AL teams needed 91 or more wins to grab a wild card spot in 2012).
By going the free agent route as opposed to building through trades, Cherington has held onto his top prospects – including ones who could be major league ready soon.
Young players who could provide Boston a turbo-boost during the season.
It’s possible that Jackie Bradley Jr. or Bryce Brentz starts off on fire in Pawtucket and moves into position to play a role on the big league club.
How about a Jonny Gomes – Bradley platoon in left? (I am going to pretend a Jacoby Ellsbury injury replacement may not be necessary.)
Or Brentz emerges – setting up Brentz, Gomes and Shane Victorino to share starting duties in left and right.
And maybe Xander Bogaerts really is the next Hanley Ramirez, and bursts into the majors in 2013.
On the pitching side – Allen Webster or Rubby De La Rosa could be big league ready sometime during the season – adding a boost to the Sox staff either as a starter or in the bullpen.
Or perhaps Steven Wright goes Tim Wakefield on us – and rides his knuckleball into a hot streak.
Another option could be: Boston finds itself needing another veteran bat or (more likely) pitcher around the trading deadline.
So the team packages some of these prospects in a trade that attempts to put the Red Sox over the top.
What if it Doesn’t Work
Let’s suppose Cherington has failed at creating a pennant contender; he has great flexibility to make some in-season moves.
Boston can become a seller and move veterans to teams battling for playoff positions for young talent.
Cherington could transform himself into a modern day Frank Trader Lane.
- Stephen Drew is on a one year deal. If he comes back but the team doesn’t, move him. Contenders like Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis and San Francisco all could be looking for a shortstop during the season.
- Ryan Dempster was a hot commodity last mid-season – and he has no no-trade clause this year. Pennant contending teams are always on the prowl for starters at the trading deadline. If Dempster’s second year on his contract is an obstacle, Boston has payroll room to eat some money if the talent the team gets in return is worth it.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia. While his pending free agency may limit the return on trading him, teams like the White Sox, Yankees and Rays may be looking for a short-term catching solution. The Sox could get a little younger by moving Ryan Lavarnway into a starting role – provided he demonstrates, he’s ready.
- Mike Napoli is a crapshoot going into this season. But if the bat returns and the hips hold up, Napoli is on a one-year deal and could be the type of power-hitter teams are looking to add. Clubs like Baltimore, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and maybe even Texas may buy into a short-term risk.
- Joel Hanrahan. Another pending free agent, Boston could sell this power arm to the highest bidder at the trade deadline. Options could include: Detroit, Los Angeles and Cincinnati. And that doesn’t take into the consideration the one or more teams which eventually have some type of bullpen injury and need to hit the market.
And we have not even mentioned Ellsbury in a trade scenario. The thinking here is Boston wants to make a run at keeping Ellsbury long term. So if that’s the case, the team may want to hold onto him.
What’s your prediction – will the Red Sox be sellers or buyers at the 2013 trading deadline?