In sizing up the major league landscape at the offseason’s midway point, ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jayson Stark polled executives around the league, asking them to identify the five teams that improved themselves most and the five that have done the least to help their chances in 2013.
Perhaps more surprising was the team that executives think improved itself the second-most in baseball: The Boston Red Sox.
Nevertheless, executives on the whole were bullish on Boston’s acquisitions, though there were divided opinions as to how much better the Red Sox would be in 2013. This from Stark:
They're deeper. Our panel agreed on that. Their clubhouse should be much
more harmonious. They've added more of Keith Law's top 50 free agents
(six) than any other team in either league. And “they've brought in a
bunch of guys who can play in Boston,” said one AL executive. But on the
other hand ...
"They've added a lot," said one AL exec. "But remember, they had to add a lot, because they had so many holes."
And another AL exec gave this scathing review: "To me, they've spent a lot of money to be mediocre."
There's good news and bad news here. The good news is fairly obvious: the Boston Red Sox have improved themselves this offseason. That's undeniable. The bad news is that the Blue Jays have been dubbed the most improved team. Which is more than "fairly" obvious. That team really scares me.
Of course, none of this means anything. I shouldn't have to remind you about the 2011 Red Sox - dubbed the Greatest Team in the History of Teams before the season even began. That team turned out to be so bad, we ended up signing Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino just two seasons later. Ugh.
My sentiments are pretty much in-line with the last "AL exec" quoted above. This team has improved, but it's gone from awful to mediocre. To go from awful to good, you have to cross the mediocre threshold, so I'm OK with it. I just think a couple of the signings (Dempster and Victorino if you haven't been paying attention) are a bit misguided and a pretty big waste of funds. Even if it's only for a few years.
But it's clear what Cherington's plan was. He brought in some quality veterans, changed the atmosphere in the clubhouse, and is hoping it all miraculously plays itself out over the course of the summer. He's basically trying to catch lightning in a bottle while simultanesouly avoiding contracts that will weigh the franchise down too far into the future.
It's not the plan of action I would have gone with, but he's given us a competitive team with the faintest glimmer of hope for seeing some post-season baseball this year. After the second half of last season, I won't complain..
..............that is a lie.
On Page 2, we could still see some of that youth I've been pining for.
Although the Red Sox expect Jonny Gomes to play a lot in left field, the fact remains he's only a .223 career hitter against right-handed pitching.
Paging Ryan Kalish
According to a major league source, the Sox feel "comfortable" with either Kalish or switch-hitting Daniel Nava splitting time in left field, although they also haven't ruled out adding another outfielder. Kalish batted .229 with only three extra-base hits and a .532 OPS in 36 games for the Red Sox this year, but he also was limited by weakness in his shoulder. Nava, meanwhile, batted .243 with a .742 OPS in 267 at-bats overall but did most of his damage against right-handed pitchers (.269 average, .797 OPS).
This is good news. This is smart.
A much better idea than throwing millions at Cody Ross and trying to balance all these guys in the outfield.
Let the young guys play. Let's see what they can do. And if one of them does turn out to be a legit player, you can always flip him for an injury-prone, ineffective closer next winter and watch as he blossoms into a stud.
Rest of the links:
Herald - Ben Cherington still has some work left | Money matters | Globe - Red Sox announce baseball operations promotions and appointments | WEEI - Cherington talks status of Ross, Ellsbury | Dempster: Sox have a chance next season | CSNNE - Red Sox 'had more dialogue' with Napoli | According to the computer, Sox have had a pretty good winter