Mar 26, 2014, 1:30 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Boston Red Sox.
The Big Question: Have the Red Sox taken the steps necessary to avoid a post-championship decline?
No team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. The Red Sox, though, didn’t suffer from any championship hangovers their last two times around, winning 95 games and returning to the postseason in both 2005 and 2008.
The Red Sox didn’t desire to partake in any sort of shakeup over the winter; they just weren’t willing to outbid the Yankees for Jacoby Ellsbury or commit to substantial multiyear deals for fellow free agents Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Replacing the trio will be either rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. or former superstar Grady Sizemore in center field, phenom Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and the much beloved A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate. Interestingly, the team’s only newcomer to get a multiyear deal was new setup man Edward Mujica (two years, $9.5 million).
The pitching staff has survived almost entirely intact, with the rotation set to include Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront. The surprising exit of Ryan Dempster turned heads — he gave up $13 million to spend the year with his family — but he was being viewed as a middle reliever or swingman. Replacing him in that role is left-hander Chris Capuano.
So, the Red Sox are counting on their returning stars and a gradual infusion of young talent to stave off any decline. Boasting one of the game’s very best farm systems makes that an easier choice, and if it turns out that they do need help as the season goes along, they’ll have about as much artillery to pull off a trade as any team in the league.
What else is going on?
- The Bradley-Sizemore battle in center remains unsettled, and complicating matters is that there’s only room for one on the roster. Sizemore has shown surprising speed as he comes back from multiple knee surgeries and he’s also been making decent contact at the plate, but a month in the minors might not be a bad idea for him as he tries to shake two years of rust.
- Working in Sizemore’s favor is that the Red Sox see him as a possibility to replace Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, whereas Bradley would hit at the bottom of the order if he wins the job. There was some thought over the winter of simply moving everyone up a spot and going with a Shane Victorino-Dustin Pedroia-David Ortiz top three with Ellsbury gone. However, that idea seems dead now, and it looks like Daniel Nava will lead off against righties if Bradley makes the team.
- Victorino hasn’t ruled out switch-hitting entirely, but it appears he’ll focus on batting right-handed for now. It made him more of a threat against righties last year when an injury forced him to give up batting left-handed for a time, and he’s always been weaker left-handed anyway. Batting right-handed exclusively could lead to bigger numbers this year. On the other hand, it could also lead to more injuries, since he stands directly over the plate hitting right-handed and gets hit by pitches with ridiculous frequency.
- So far, however, the injury bug that has racked fellow contenders in Texas and Detroit, as well as left Oakland minus a couple of starters, has avoided Boston. Those losses the Rangers, Tigers and A’s have suffered may not affect the AL East race, but they will help the Red Sox’s postseason chances by increasing the odds that one or both wild cards will come from their division.
Prediction: If spring training numbers are any indication, it’s going to take some time for the Red Sox lineup to start clicking. Still, the bats are there to make the team a top-three offense in the AL, and the pitching staff has both top-level talent and excellent depth. The Red Sox’s decision to largely stand pat could cost them a few wins and perhaps the AL East, but the team should return to the postseason in some form.
Second place, American League East.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
Brett Lawrie has been sidelined since June 22 due to a broken right index finger.
Aug 1, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey threw off a mound today for this first time since he underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last October.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Henderson Alvarez has followed up last year’s no-hitter by being one of the best pitchers in the National League this season, but the Marlins have placed the 24-year-old right-hander on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:19 PM EDT
Earlier this week the Royals became the fourth team to release Joe Saunders this season and the 33-year-old left-hander has already found a fifth organization, signing a minor-league deal with the Orioles.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT
But the determining factor was likely the Rays’ belief that they can contend in 2015.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
James Jones has been the Mariners’ starting center fielder since making his MLB debut in mid-April, logging more than 300 plate appearances, but now the 25-year-old is headed back to Triple-A following yesterday’s trade for Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
Apologies if the team you root for got a prequel logo. Braves got Boba Fett, though, so I’m happy.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Carlos Martinez is no longer needed in St. Louis’ rotation following trades for Justin Masterson and John Lackey, but rather than shifting him back to the bullpen the Cardinals have decided to send the 22-year-old right-hander to Triple-A.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Mike Carp reportedly requested a trade from the Red Sox last week, but after failing to find a taker before yesterday’s deadline they’ve designated him for assignment.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
We won’t really know for sure for some time, but for now let us offer knee jerk reactions!
Aug 1, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
Tyler Skaggs exited Thursday’s start in the fifth inning with forearm tightness and now the Angels have placed the 22-year-old left-hander on the disabled list.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
Johnson saved 50-plus games in each of the previous two seasons, leading the league both years, but this season he posted a 6.92 ERA in 38 appearances for the A’s while almost immediately being stripped of closing duties.
Jose Bautista, Casey Janssen “frustrated” and “disappointed” by Blue Jays’ lack of trade deadline activity
Aug 1, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Toronto was 38-24 and in first place by six games on June 6, but the Blue Jays have gone 22-26 since then and general manager Alex Anthopoulos did nothing at the trade deadline yesterday.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
The Royals just had an infuriating trade deadline day.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t make sense.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT
Perhaps he and Uggla can join up to fight crime someplace?
Aug 1, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT
For the second time in 22 months, Ben Cherington must find a way to turn a last place team into a winner — and fast.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
Profar held his own as a 20-year-old rookie last season, but shoulder problems sidelined him during spring training and he never got healthy, eventually undergoing surgery.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT
Despite initial reports to the contrary the Giants have not yet released second baseman Dan Uggla after the Braves castoff went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts and three errors in his first four games for San Francisco.
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 37
- Cliff Lee placed on DL with recurrence of flexor pronator strain 27
- Winners and losers at the trade deadline 42
- 2014 Trade Deadline Tracker 49
- ACES GALORE: The Rays trade David Price to the Tigers 137
- Red Sox trade John Lackey to Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly 91
- The Lester trade is a win-win 113
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes heading to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes 165
- “Caucasians” t-shirts are hot sellers on Canadian Indian reservations (200)
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes heading to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes (165)
- ACES GALORE: The Rays trade David Price to the Tigers (137)
- Tampa Bay news station tweets classless Detroit joke following David Price trade (127)
- Rangers’ retirement gifts for Derek Jeter: Yankees cowboy boots, signed George W. Bush photo (126)