Okay, the winter meetings are now behind us. The Red Sox were one of the more active teams in Nashville, not trading players, but acquiring them through free agent signings. All together, they’ve added five significant pieces to the team for the coming year, in order of signing:
- David Ross, backup catcher and mentor to Ryan Lavarnway.
- Jonny Gomes, platoon left fielder.
- Mike Napoli, first base and John Lackey’s personal catcher.
- Shane Victorino, right field and center fielder when the Sox trade Jacoby Ellsbury on July 30th.
- Koji Uehara, set up man extraordinaire (i.e. Hideki Okajima, but with better stuff).
Chad Finn of Boston.com has been oozing praise on Ben Cherington for his patience and approach in assembling this group:
Don’t sweat the few extra bucks on the average annual value they’ll pay above the current perception of these guys’ worth. It’s not going to prevent them from doing anything else. The important part is the length of the deals; two or three-year contracts are fine for useful veterans who are here as that bridge to Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, and the next generation of Red Sox.
It’s a sign of just how bad this team was run the past four or five years when the Boston media commend the GM for only overpaying players for three years instead of for five or seven. High five, Ben!
Okay, let’s put aside for the moment the stupid contracts involved, these are five decent baseball players. But none of them is great and I doubt they’re going to make the Red Sox any better than they were on paper going into last year, though they should make them a lot better than the miserable team that played out the final six weeks of the season. Of course, the Bad News Bears would be an improvement on that squad.
Of these five new players, the two most significant, I think, are Ross and Uehara, who should both provide nice depth. But it is very hard to see how Cherington can think the other three are worth the combined $88 million they’re going to pay them for the next three years.
Gomes is going to be on his sixth team, which tells you something about how not good he is. We hear he’s a good clubhouse guy, but good clubhouse guys don’t move around that much. They don’t. Unless that is all they are. He’s no Cody Ross. I’m not even convinced he’s better than Daniel Nava. He made $1 million last year with the Oakland A’s. The Sox will be paying him $5 million for each of the next two seasons.
Napoli was run out-of-town by Angels manager Mike Sciosia. He had one good year with the Rangers, one bad year, and then the Red Sox gave him a three-year, $39 million contract. He’s a sub par defender at first base, where he’ll play the bulk of his Red Sox innings, and he’s not even a good catcher, his natural position. The team for which he had his best year as a pro, Texas, didn’t think enough of him to make a serious offer, even though they need a first baseman. He’s definitely no Adrian Gonzalez. He is an upgrade over James Loney, though he’s not as good a defender.
Victorino is 32. Each of his last three years his batting average has been below his career average. His OBP has been dipping significantly. He’s a pretty good fielder, which is why I’m less concerned with his play than Gomes or Napoli. He might be a slight upgrade from Cody Ross. At least one Phillies person told MLB Radio’s Jim Bowden that they didn’t want Victorino back because they were tired of his act.
I guess $88 million doesn’t buy what it used to. As for the character thing, excuse me if I’m skeptical about intangibles that you have to over-pay for.
As best I can figure, the goal of Ben Cherington is not to screw up too badly and field a team that looks like it won’t be an embarrassment. Can’t wait for April.