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.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
A Phillies pitching prospect violated the minor league drug policy and was suspended 50 games, beginning at the start of the 2015 season.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Russell Martin hit a timely three-run home run to send the Pirates to a late win over the Brewers on Friday night, extending their lead for the second NL Wild Card slot.
Sep 19, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
David Ortiz found yet another reason to hear his name uttered in the same breath as Ted Williams.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT
Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a strained right hamstring in the fourth inning on Friday night against the Blue Jays. He’ll undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
The Angels’ rotation is thin beyond Matt Shoemaker, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson, so manager Mike Scioscia may do the obvious thing and utilize a three-man rotation in the ALDS.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
There isn’t much time left in the regular season, which may mean Mets fans won’t see Juan Lagares patrol the outfield until spring training in 2015.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT
Perkins, who had a 2.44 ERA as recently as August 25, finishes the season with a 3.65 ERA and 66/11 K/BB ratio in 62 innings while saving 34 games.
Sep 19, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT
Jose Bautista offended Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley with his celebratory behavior after hitting a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning of last night’s game.
Sep 19, 2014, 7:19 PM EDT
Get well soon, Stretch.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t throw as expected on Friday, but hopes to do so before the weekend is over. He’s hoping to return to the Dodgers in time for the playoffs.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Los Angeles is 22-4 with Kershaw on the mound this season.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Alex Avila felt disoriented while swinging a bat over the last two days, so he remains out of the Tigers’ lineup and it’s even worth questioning if he’ll be ready for the post-season — assuming the Tigers get there.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
Ryan Zimmerman has been out since mid-July with a hamstring injury.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:31 PM EDT
Basically, we want everyone in the NL to finish with 88 wins.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT
Konerko has hit just .220 with five homers and a .616 OPS in 74 games.
Sep 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
What do you get the man who has everything? A bronzed version of the stuff he already has!
Sep 19, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
He has two years remaining on a three-year, $26 million contract.
Sep 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Because if Clayton Kershaw needs anything, he needs a bunch of run support.
Sep 19, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Kevin Gauzman has been fantastic for the Orioles, posting a 3.57 ERA with just five homers allowed in 18 starts as a 23-year-old rookie.
Sep 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
If you have to haze, at least get some coffee out of the deal.
- Clayton Kershaw wins his 20th game of the season 6
- Why are so many people acting like Bryce Harper is a bum? 77
- It certainly looks like Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction is going to be overturned 79
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 70
- VIDEO: Derek Jeter hits first home run at Yankee Stadium this season 11
- Ron Washington claims he resigned because he cheated on his wife 103
- No, baseball does not need to “announce a domestic violence policy ASAP” 52
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 48
- Geddy Lee’s baseball obsession makes it really hard for me to hate Rush (107)
- Ron Washington claims he resigned because he cheated on his wife (103)
- It certainly looks like Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction is going to be overturned (88)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (83)
- Umpire ejects jackwagon fan heckling Bryce Harper in Atlanta last night (82)