The Boston Red Sox front office has been very busy this off season trying to reshape and rebuild this team. Give them an A for effort. Sadly, however, I’m not ready to give them higher than a C for effectiveness. The philosophy they seem to be taking in signing Mike Napoli (well, almost), Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster and Stephen Drew seems to be it’s okay to overpay, as long as it isn’t for more than three years. I don’t get this. Drew seems a good risk, with a one-year deal for under $10 million. He might actually live up to that contract, or even exceed it. Napoli, Victorino and Gomes won’t live up to the combined $31 million per year they will be paid, even if they bounce back to their normal selves. Dempster will give them innings, but not many wins.
The team just made a trade for Joel Hanrahan, the closer for the Pirates the past two years. This deal makes no sense to me. The Red Sox have nearly no chance of making the playoffs this year. Hanrahan will be a free agent after this season. What is the point other than clearing space on the 40-man roster? The Sox put their trust in Andrew Bailey last year, trading Josh Reddick to the A’s in the process. Bailey was hurt, and didn’t perform well on his return late in the year, while Reddick hit over 30 homers and earned a Gold Glove in right field. How much would it hurt to give Bailey another chance?
As reported by Pete Abraham over at the Boston.com Extra Bases blog, the Sox have come very close to spending the same amount on the 2013 squad as they had committed to the 2012 team. That’s $176 million. Has there ever been a less impressive sports team with that kind of payroll?
With this in mind, here are my predictions for the 2013 Boston Red Sox:
- The Red Sox will win more games than they lose, but just barely. Look for 84 wins.
- The Red Sox will finish fourth in the AL East and, of course, miss the playoffs.
- Mark Melancon will end up the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates and have more saves than Joel Hanrahan will have with the Red Sox. Stolmey Pimentel (another part of the Hanrahan deal), will earn a spot in the Pirates rotation and have more wins than Ryan Dempster.
- Stephen Drew will have a bounce-back year, hitting 15 home runs, driving in 78 and hitting .276.
- The Sox and Mike Napoli will come to an agreement that will involve incentives to kick in a third year of the contract. Nevertheless, we’ll all be thinking about Mike Lowell’s ailing hip by the time Napoli limps into the DL around July 5th.
- Junichi Tazawa will prove to be the real deal, and will become the Sox primary set up man.
- Despite annoying the hell out of Red Sox Nation, John Farrell will seem like Walter Alston when compared with Bobby Valentine.
- Jacoby Ellsbury will be having another career year when he is injured a week before the non-waiver trade deadline, thus becoming un-tradeable.
- At least two of the five catchers currently on the 40-man roster will not be there by the end of the season. Dan Butler will be released to make room for additional signings, and Ryan Lavarnway or Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be traded. Incidentally, Butler will be picked up by the Atlanta Braves and will develop into the replacement for Brian McCann.
- With a two-year contract in his hip-pocket, David Ortiz will show up to spring training out of shape. It won’t be until May 19th that his batting average climbs above .220.
That’s what I think will happen, not what my hope is. If the new guys stay healthy and return to their top form, if Jacoby plays like a guy on the cusp of a big-free agent payday, if Lester and Buchholz respond to the guidance of John Farrell and combine for 35 wins. If Dempster pitches 220 innings. If Joel Hanrahan is the all-star closer he promises to be. Well, there are a lot of ifs, none of which are out of the realm of possibility. So, while I’m skeptical that this team can make the playoffs, I also admit there is a reasonable chance. It’s a new year. Anything can happen.