A Look At A Busy Off-Season For Boston
The 2009 Boston Red Sox disappointed Red Sox nation with a three-game sweep out of the playoffs at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels. With the standard of winning at an all-time high in Boston and at Fenway, the Red Sox front office had a very tall task ahead of them this off-season.
We flirted with the “bridge to 2011” talk for a while from Theo Epstein but the actions shown by Theo and company have provided us with a solid bridge from 2009’s bitter ending to a optimistic beginning in 2010. Whether you like the Boy Wonder or not, the moves made by Epstein have garnered a grade of B+ from Tommy Boy this off-season.
So, an off-season that started with the left-side of the infield, ended with the left-side of the infield as the signings of Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre bolstered the infield defense in an attempt for the Sox to transition from a team that scores a lot of runs, to a team that prevents a lot of runs. Along the way, fans became skeptical with the Boof Bonser’s, Ramon Ramirez’, and Tug Hullet’s of the worlds inking their way to Boston.
But after failed attempts to negotiate with Jason Bay and the unwillingness to go the extra mile on Matt Holliday, the Sox punched in their big ticket of the off-season with John Lackey. The bulldog Lackey will don a Red Sox jersey in 2010 and beyond as the Sox hope the 32-year-old will solidify the rotation for years to come.
Boston also signed and acquired veterans Mike Cameron and Bill Hall to bring versatility and experience to the Red Sox lineup and bench with the former moving speedster Jacoby Ellsbury to left field. The Red Sox and Theo Epstein earned a B+ from me this off-season because they improved in four positions while declining in one. Lets take a look at the projected starting lineup of 2010 compared to that of the opening day lineup in 2009.
1) Jacoby Ellsbury (cf) 1) Jacoby Ellsbury (lf)
2) Dustin Pedroia (2b) 2) Dustin Pedroia (2b)
3) David Ortiz (dh) 3) Victor Martinez (c)
4) Kevin Youkilis (1b) 4) Kevin Youkilis (1b)
5) J.D. Drew (rf) 5) David Ortiz (dh)
6) Jason Bay (lf) 6) J.D. Drew (rf)
7) Mike Lowell (3b) 7) Adrian Beltre (3b)
8. Jed Lowrie (ss) 8. Mike Cameron (cf)
9) Jason Varitek (c) 9) Marco Scutaro (ss)
With improvements at starting catcher, shortstop, and third-base (as well as No.3 pitcher with John Lackey) the Boston Red Sox should be able to make up for the lack of Jason Bay or a big slugger in the lineup. With one of the more balanced lineups in recent history, the Sox do not have any proverbial automatic outs (unlike last year with shortstop, catcher and at times DH).
There are concerns about the lineup missing a power bat and these are legitimate. However, if David Ortiz plays like the Big Papi of June 1 and beyond last season (27 HRs and 93 RBIs) in 2010, then the Sox should be fine with the additions of Scutaro, Beltre, and a full-year of Martinez to replace the lack of Bay’s bat.
The bullpen lost the likes of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, but the additions of Wakefield, Bonser, other Ramon Ramirez, and another year of Daniel Bard, should help ease the pain of the two relievers leaving for the Atlanta Braves.
The Boston Red Sox have allowed themselves to field a very competitive team in 2010 while not mortgaging their farm system or financial flexibility. This will allow the Sox, who have the contracts of Josh Beckett, Julio Lugo, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and Jason Varitek (possibly Beltre-which is over $45 million) coming off the books in 2010, to be active shoppers in the much sexier and intriguing 2010 free agent market.
Seems like the boys in the front office deserve a grade of B+ at the least. But I will keep the A’s in my pocket until next off-season when the Sox bring in franchise-changing players from both the minor leagues and free agency.
Maybe we should just tell Bud Selig to hit the fast-forward button in 2010.