Although the games don’t count, there is already serious competition underway in Ft. Myers.
Unlike last year, the Boston Red Sox will enter the season with the starters at several key positions on the field unsettled. This type of uncertainty is new for Red Sox fans, who are used to seeing a familiar stable of players from year to year.
A combination of age, injury, and ineffectiveness has led new General Manager Ben Cherington to make several changes to the core of the roster in the offseason. High-priced veterans have been jettisoned in favor of more modestly-priced players, the hope being that the competition will elevate every player’s game.
The team still maintains a $170 million payroll, so it’s not as if they’ve become the Pittsburgh Pirates. While this sort of budget-conscious philosophy is a new one for Red Sox fans to digest, it is nevertheless an important shift towards a more restrained approach to free agency.
Avoiding the type of signings (e.g., John Lackey, JD Drew, et al.) that can hamstring the team in future down the road seems to be Cherington’s top priority, a wise approach given the multitude of bad contracts the team is currently carrying. He is content, instead, to allow lower-priced players to compete with one another for roster spots.
This philosophy echoes back to the same one Theo Epstein used to assemble the 2003 squad, where low-cost veterans named Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, and David Ortiz came in to compete for vacancies in the Sox infield.
While the success of 2003 may not be replicated this season, the Sox would be plenty excited if they got anywhere close. Here are several key positions still to be decided in camp: