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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Red Sox Off-Season and the Projection for 2012

After the disappointing seasons of 2003, 2006 and 2010, the Red Sox made headline grabbing winter acquisitions (and being successful in two out of three years is a pretty damn good). The same Owners, CEO and “new” General Manager took at different route this off-season. With all due respect to career backup catcher, Kelly Shoppach, the butt of many Sabermetric jokes, Nick Punto, a platoon outfielder, Cody Ross, and a couple of good relief pitchers, Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, none are even close to the quality of Curt Schilling, Adrian Gonzalez and even J.D. Drew.

Changes to the luxury tax, the extra Wild Card team and 2012 being Fenway Park’s 100th year in operation (they are doubtful to see a drop in attendance like when it was the last year of MF Yankee Stadium), Yawkey Way did not have much incentive to be aggressive this winter. The lack of development of two top prospect position players, but ones that the organization still believe in, Jose Iglesias and Ryan Kalish, the Red Sox had no other place than the rotation to fill a need for 2012 and beyond. CJ Wilson, Yu Darvish, Mark Buehrle, and others on the trading block do not compare to Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke. (The Allard Baird connection to Greinke will make him a Red Sox player in nine months). It was wise for the Sox to be conservative this winter.

What was not wise was letting Theo Epstein walk for little compensation. Yawkey Way should have worked out an agreement early on, and certainly, before allowing Epstein to leave for the Cubs. The same assessment can be made for waiting to deal Marco Scutaro. It limited the number of suitors for the above average shortstop thereby bringing down his price.

The aforementioned blunders and the lack of product development could have led to the hiring of Bobby Valentine. Since I am not a fan of ostentatious people, (in general, I think they are hiding something), listening and watching Valentine is going to be painful. The Bobby V show will grow old if the Red Sox do not win. And I don’t see this being a playoff year.

The Sox have varying degrees of uncertainty in their core players. Can Kevin Youkilis, Andrew Bailey and Clay Buchholz stay healthy? Will Jon Lester take the next step and become an elite starter? Is Jacoby Ellsbury’s power for real? Can David Ortiz keep it up at his advanced age? This is before mentioning Carl Crawford’s wrist, Mike Aviles, platoon in right and the bottom two spots in the rotation. The Sox will be in the playoff hunt but should not be a favorite to get one of the four spots (the Tigers are a lock). Wait ‘til next year.

Projected Wins

MFY – 95 - most well rounded team, deep pockets and farm system to acquire reinforcements, if necessary
Rays – 90 - biggest weakness LF is easy to upgrade during the season
Sox – 87
Tex – 90 - Hamilton and Kinsler spend too much time on the DL to run away with the Division
LAA - 89 - a huge hole at the hot corner that does not get filled


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