Skip to content

2014 Preview: Boston Red Sox

Mar 26, 2014, 1:30 AM EST

Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Indians will consider extending Corey Kluber

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:15 PM EST

    Corey Kluber Corey Kluber

    Corey Kluber won the AL Cy Young Award for his great 2014 season and now the Indians will have to consider whether or not they want to sign him to a contract extension.

  2. Brewers GM Doug Melvin not looking to replace Yovani Gallardo

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Jimmy Nelson Jimmy Nelson

    With Yovani Gallardo out of the picture, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he’s not looking to add a notable starting pitcher.

  3. Alex Meyer willing to pitch out of the bullpen for the Twins

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Getty Images

    Twins prospect Alex Meyer is open to contributing out of the bullpen if he doesn’t win a rotation spot in spring training.

  4. Mariners sign Endy Chavez to a minor league deal

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:20 PM EST

    Endy Chavez Endy Chavez

    The Mariners added some outfield depth, signing Endy Chavez to a minor league deal. They’re reportedly close to signing Franklin Gutierrez as well.

  5. Brewers now interested in bringing back Francisco Rodriguez

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Francisco Rodriguez AP AP

    With Jonathan Papelbon likely staying in Philadelphia, the Brewers are turning their attention back to Francisco Rodriguez.

  6. How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Rob Manfred Rob Manfred

    Rob Manfred’s suggestion to ban defensive shifting isn’t the best way to address some of the problems facing Major League Baseball.

  7. Rangers doubtful to consider Josh Hamilton reunion

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:41 PM EST

    josh hamilton getty Getty Images

    MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier this month that it’s unlikely Josh Hamilton will finish out his five-year, $125 million contract as a member of the Angels and that a trade may even be coming this season — in the third year of the five-year deal. But we can probably rule out a reunion with the Rangers.

  8. Mike Napoli calls sleep apnea surgery “one of the worst things I’ve ever (gone through)”

    Jan 25, 2015, 3:17 PM EST

    napoli getty Getty Images

    Sean McAdam of CSNNewEngland.com shares the gory details about the painful facial surgery that Mike Napoli had earlier this offseason to help end his long battle with sleep apnea …

  9. Max Scherzer thanks Tigers fans with full-page goodbye in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:58 PM EST

    1ad

    A nice gesture here from Max Scherzer, who signed a $210 million deal Monday with the Nationals …

  10. Blue Jays cut off talks for Orioles executive Dan Duquette

    Jan 25, 2015, 1:33 PM EST

    showalter duquette getty Getty Images

    Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays have ended their pursuit of Orioles executive Dan Duquette because Baltimore asked for 2014 first-round pick Jeff Hoffman and two other prospects in return.

  11. Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts

    Jan 25, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    manfred getty Getty Images

    Rob Manfred has officially been reigned in as the new commissioner of Major League Baseball and he said something controversial in a sit-down interview this weekend with ESPN’s Karl Ravech …

  12. Yankees reject A-Rod’s apology attempt

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:02 AM EST

    alex rodriguez head Getty Images

    Another New York Daily News source added that A-Rod is looking “noticeably thinner and massless,” so you get the sense these bits of information — however truthful — definitely aren’t coming from his camp.

  13. Video: Ernie Banks remembered

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:39 AM EST

    ernie banks getty Getty Images

    MLB Network looks back on the career of Ernie Banks, who died Friday at the age of 83 …

  14. Tommy Milone had a benign tumor removed from his neck

    Jan 24, 2015, 10:40 PM EST

    Tommy Milone Tommy Milone

    Tommy Milone underwent neck surgery in December to remove a benign tumor, but he was able to resume throwing just over two weeks later.

  15. Twins GM Terry Ryan could see Byron Buxton debuting in 2015

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:35 PM EST

    Byron Buxton Getty Images

    Top prospect Byron Buxton could be wearing a Twins uniform in the major leagues at some point this season according to GM Terry Ryan.

  16. Tigers, Al Alburquerque avoid arbitration with a one-year deal

    Jan 24, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    Al Alburquerque AP

    The Tigers and reliever Al Alburquerque avoided arbitration with a one-year deal on Saturday.

  17. Proposed Jonathan Papelbon trade to Brewers is “on life support”

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:25 PM EST

    Jonathan Papelbon Jonathan Papelbon

    A Jonathan Papelbon trade to the Brewers may not be happening after all.

  18. Mariners considering bringing back Franklin Gutierrez

    Jan 24, 2015, 6:20 PM EST

    Franklin Gutierrez Getty Images

    Franklin Gutierrez could make a return to the Mariners. The 31-year-old outfielder has had trouble staying healthy over the last few years.

  19. Twins and Brian Duensing agree to one-year deal to avoid arbitration

    Jan 24, 2015, 5:28 PM EST

    Brian Duensing Getty Getty Images

    Duensing he has been useful and durable as a middle reliever over the past two seasons, posting a 3.67 ERA (110 ERA+) in 115 1/3 innings over 135 appearances.

  20. Report: Brandon Beachy has decided on a team

    Jan 24, 2015, 4:53 PM EST

    Brandon Beachy AP

    Beachy is currently making his way back from his second Tommy John surgery.

Featured video

Cubs shore up rotation with Jon Lester
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Vogelsong (5768)
  2. J. Shields (4806)
  3. I. Suzuki (3984)
  4. J. Papelbon (3781)
  5. J. Gomes (3733)
  1. J. Santana (3379)
  2. D. Fowler (3214)
  3. J. Profar (3165)
  4. M. Scherzer (2755)
  5. G. Soto (2617)