This post is part of a series in which we lob hosannas in the general direction of any team *with* a sense of direction, and throw scorn-grenades at those teams that wandered aimlessly through the wasteland of the offseason as if waiting for some all-knowing beneficent deity to rain prospects upon them like manna from heaven.
Every year I give the Red Sox a good offseason grade and every year some person (rhymes with “bouchedag”) slams me for being a homer. But you know what? The Red Sox actually have one of the smartest ownership-management teams in baseball, if not the smartest. Take this year, for instance. I thought they should let Jason Bay walk, sign Marco Scutaro, sign Adrian Beltre, and sign Matt Holliday. (Three out of four ain’t bad.) They didn’t sign Holliday — but they did something else that I actually think is even smarter. They signed Mike Cameron to play center, moved Ellsbury to left, and used the extra dough to add another pitcher. And not just any pitcher: John Lackey. Why didn’t I think of that?
(Actually, I did think of signing Lackey; I just didn’t expect the Sox to shell out for an expensive, older, free agent pitcher. But I didn’t think of — masterstroke! — signing Cameron.)
Heading into 2010, the Sox boast what promises to be a smothering defense, coupled with a downright badass rotation: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Clay Buchholz. For those of you keeping track at home, two guys in that rotation have already thrown no-hitters in the bigs, four have wins in the postseason, and two are named John. One knows how to steal laptops. Impressive!
The thing everyone in Boston is concerned about is run production. The sports commentariat, in particular, is dismayed at the prospect of a Bayless lineup. This is the same commentariat, however, that has always underrated the contributions of JD Drew, took years to cotton on to Kevin Youkilis, and, prior to a certain infielder’s rookie season, asked, “Is this tiny Dustin Pedroia guy really going to be the starting second baseman for the Boston Red Sox?” Needless to say, the Sox lineup still boasts all three of these players, plus Victor Martinez. Adrian Beltre’s coming off a down year, but away from Safeco — and in front of Fenway’s left wall — his bat promises to play better.
The neat-o thing I like about this lineup is the flexibility it affords manager Terry Francona. (This is especially key considering that Boston’s team is relatively old, and it would behoove Francona to give his veterans regular rest.) Behold the depth:
Projected lineup, rotation, and closer (with backups in parens):
C – Victor Martinez (Jason Varitek)
1B – Kevin Youkilis (Victor Martinez, Mike Lowell)
2B – Dustin Pedroia (Jed Lowrie)
SS – Marco Scutaro (Jed Lowrie)
3B – Adrian Beltre (Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Bill Hall)
RF – JD Drew (Jeremy Hermida, Bill Hall)
CF – Mike Cameron (Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Reddick)
LF – Jacoby Ellsbury (Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida)
DH – Mike Lowell/David Ortiz (Victor Martinez)
SP1 – Jon Lester
SP2 – Josh Beckett
SP3 – John Lackey
SP4 – Daisuke Matsuzaka
SP5 – Clay Buchholz
(SP6 – Tim Wakefield)
(SP7 – Boof Bonser)
CL – Jonathan Papelbon (Daniel Bard)
Significant acquisitions: Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Mike Cameron, John Lackey, Boof Bonser, Jeremy Hermida
Losses of note: Jason Bay, George Kottaras, Joey Gathright, Rocco Baldelli, Nick Green, Bill Wagner
This is, as Theo Epstein got slammed for saying, a bridge team. But what a beautiful bridge it is. And the Sox have enough high-ceiling prospects in the lower minors to give me faith in the future, as well.