• Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor l...

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

Grade: A

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.

- Hot Offseason Action index -

12 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Boston Red Sox”

  1. Madraider says:

    Sarah, I agree the Sox had a decent offseason, however I feel they slightly overpaid for Cameron, Scutaro, and well Bill Hall. Scutaro signing I can give a pass to, having stability, if he’s not injured, at SS would be nice and hopefully the Iglesias kid can be ready in a couple years. The Cameron signing could block some of the great outfield prospects the Sox have, or signal their departure via trade. If the Sox had traded for and extended Adrian Gonzalez while holding on to Kelly, Westmoreland and Buchholz, that would have been worth an A.

    The Sox had few needs and addressed those needs well, focusing on improving their porous defense on the left side of the diamond. So I’d say that would be worth a B. I can understand grading on a curve for the best run franchise in sports. GO SOX.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Madraider, if the Sox had traded for and extended Gonzalez while holding onto all those players, we would be living in Narnia and I would be married to a man who cooks like Daniel Boulud and looks like Daniel Craig.

    I think part of the brilliance of the Sox’ offseason is that they didn’t actually block any of their prospects, and even underpaid (according to what the market costs were expected to be) for Scutaro and Beltre. And cash is something they have plenty of, anyway.

    It’s hard to write about this ownership/management team without sounding like a total fanboy (or fangirl), but they really are so smart it’s disgusting. The kind of details we are quibbling about here would make an Astros or a Giants fan nauseous with envy.

  3. Even if the Sox had “slightly overpaid” for for Cameron, Scutaro, and Bill Hall, what’s the difference? The Red Sox have a ton of money. It’s not like they have to pinch pennies. When the trading deadline rolls around, are they going to say, gee, we’d like to trade for that stud pitcher but we gave Mike Cameron $1M too much and we’re over our limit? No.

  4. Madraider says:

    I think 24 mm for a declining Bill Hall as a bench player is too much. Sure you could play him at almost any position but he’s still just a super utility guy.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    Yeah, but the Red Sox are only on the hook for $1.5 million of that money for Bill Hall! Seattle sent them $7 million. That trade was genius.

  6. Nick Kapur says:

    I think the best part of the offseason, if you are a Red Sox fan, is that despite the fact that natural escalation of preexisting contracts was threatening to put the Red Sox into a far higher payroll range than they have ever been before, the team was still willing to shell out more big bucks to bring in big-ticket free agents like Lackey and Beltre.

    The Red Sox were pretty good last season, and could easily have just stood pat with what they had, saved payroll, and waited till a bunch of salaries come off the books in 2011, but instead they spent some more money and improved the team and will have a franchise record $165 million payroll this year. That shows a team committed to trying to win it all every single year, and what more could you want as a fan?

    By the way, it’s ridiculous how much money is coming off the books for 2011. The Red Sox are going to be able to sign whomever they want next year. It’s going to be scary.

  7. Madraider says:

    I dunno, I guess I’m just trying to temper my hopes for the season and was futively trying to play devil’s advocate.

    I think the improved defense and overall athleticism of the team is going to more than replace the production from not having a .260-.290 30hr 100 rbi guy in the lineup. I think they are well insured and have decent flexibility if David Ortiz should stumble out of the gate. I hope Tito keeps him on a much shorter leash this season, I don’t think I could watch half a season of him continually struggling at the plate, looking about as lost as a beer league softball slugger suddenly facing world class pitching. Mike Lowell could be an efficient and effective alternative at DH.

    I think their depth is much better than replacement player across the board with the only exception being at catcher. Heck the team would be in contention in the Central or West Division of both Leagues if you ran out all the subs at once for a month.

    If Pedroia, Beltre and Drew can knock 20-25 dingers each, another 25-30 for Youk Martinez, and Ortiz/Lowell platoon and say some where between 10-20 for Ells and Cameron, with the speed of Cameron Drew, and Ellsbury it’s a lethal lineup. Kind of between Bronx Bombers and a small ball slap single, steal, hit and run national league team. a well balanced team and attack.

  8. Sarah Green says:

    I agree about Ortiz, but what’s odd is that the Sox actually had a better record in the beginning of the season last year, when he was sucking so hard! What’s up with that?

  9. Madraider says:

    Wake was pitching out of his mind, super scary good, he had 11 wins before the all-star break his WHIP was 1.38 before the break and 1.762 after. Junichi Tazawa was kind of thrown into the fire there after the Penny and Smoltz experiments didn’t pan out. And Theo had to send Masterson to the Indians for Martinez, also Varitek had an ok start the to season.

  10. Madraider says:

    The first half schedule was also a bit easier too, had the interleague games. The Yankees lost 8 straight to the Sox in the first half of the season and were really underperforming with their 3rd baseman rehabbing his hip, Teixeira was off to an awefully slow start as well. I think the Sox bullpen, especially the middle releivers were tired from end of July through September.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    Whoah. These are all extremely valid points and an excellent analysis. Thanks, Madraider!

    Now back to my job of um blogging about stuff…I know about…heh.

  12. Sarah, per your comment, did I ever mention I am both a mean cook and half British? ; )

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