With the signing (finally) of Jason Varitek, it looks like the Red Sox are done making moves and ready for spring training, so it's a good time to review their moves (and non-moves) and see how they did this offseason.
Let's start with the latest sign: Jason Varitek. I admit to being a sentimental fan and didn't want to see Varitek sign anywhere else, so I'm happy to see him return. It probably means good things for the pitching staff (especially the young guys like Lester, Masterson, and Papelbon, who've never pitched to anyone else) but it probably means reduced production from the bottom of the order.
I'll take that trade-off.
The Red Sox also signed Josh Bard, a decent defender with potential to be an above-average bat. I expect Bard will see a little more time than Mirabelli did last season, especially against righties, as the Sox will need to give Varitek a little more rest (which might help his production a little).
There's still talk of trading for a young catcher like Saltalamacchia, but I hope we'll hold out and not give up good pitching talent for a flyer on a catcher. Might as well wait and see where we stand at the end of this season.
First, the good news. We signed Youkilis and Pedroia to long-term contracts. The right side of the infield is very strong for the next few years. (Although I expect Youkilis to get a lot of time at third again this season—unfortunately.)
I don't love bringing back Mark Kotsay as the backup first baseman, especially since I think he'll get plenty of time at first when Youk moves to the other side of the infield.
Hard to believe there wasn't a better backup 1B out there and if we hadn't signed a dangerously fragile player as fourth outfielder, we wouldn't have needed someone like Kotsay who can play both 1B and OF.
Now, the giant question marks on the left side of the infield. First, since we didn't get Mark Teixeira (huge mistake), we are relying on Mike Lowell to come back and play third.
If he is healthy again, and plays like the gold-glover, doubles-monster, RBI-man he can be, we'll be looking very good. But that is doubtful, at best.
Next, we have questions at shortstop. It looks like the Sox are planning to go with Jed Lowrie as the starter. He was pretty good at the end of last year, but remember how great Ellsbury was in his late-season run in 2007. We can probably count on Lowrie regressing this year.
Meanwhile, it's a well-kept secret that Julio Lugo is still on the team, making tons of dough. I expect shortstop this season to be like centerfield last season, where instead of the young guy completely supplanting the vet, it becomes more of a rotation.
Expect Lugo to play a lot, and Lowrie to keep getting starts at 3B as well as SS. Also, expect mediocre production from whichever SS is in the lineup.
OK, an outfield of Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew is not bad, and I can't blame the Red Sox for keeping it intact and not worrying too much about backups. If Drew can stay healthy and Ellsbury can get on base just a little more this season, the outfield is steady.
Trading Coco Crisp looks like a good move for our bullpen, and will be just fine if Rocco Baldelli can play at all. Unfortunately, the signing of Baldelli means we'll have to hear the phrase "Rhode Island's own" a zillion times this year.
Baldelli doesn't thrill me, but he and Kotsay are fine as backups. I just hope they are backups and not put in a rotation with the starters.
Didn't have to do much here. Signing Wakefield for another year is a good move, because he'll always give you decent innings and a chance to win in a number four or five position.
With Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Lester coming back, the rotation is very good. Masterson and Buchholz are both options as number four or five guys that could be very effective (though I'd like to see Masterson stay in the bullpen, the new additions make him a moveable part).
John Smoltz was a great signing; not too expensive, with the potential to be a very strong starter and a huge bonus in the rotation in the second half and the playoffs.
With Papelbon, Delcarmen, Okajima and Masterson, the Sox already had a strong closer and setup team, but as he always does, Theo Epstein made some moves to add depth in the bullpen that may pay off big. Trading Coco Crisp for Ramon Ramirez could be a great move.
I don't know Ramirez, but his numbers from last season look good—if he can put up those numbers in the sixth-seventh innings, we'll be set even in Daisuke's shortest starts. Takashi Saito is a terrific pitcher—one of the best closers in baseball in recent years—so if he's healthy, he's either a solid seventh inning guy or a replacement for Masterson, allowing him to move into the rotation.
Finally, as it's always good to have a Jedi Knight on the team, it was great to see Theo trade David Pauley to Baltimore for Randor Bierd. I'm pretty sure Randor Bierd was an apprentice under Mace Windu.
I think it was a solid offseason for a team that obviously didn't feel like it had a lot of holes to fill. I wish there were fewer question marks and if-he's-healthy types on the team, but if they're healthy, the Sox looking good. Still, I don't think Epstein did anything to replace the lost power when Manny was sent away.
Counting on Youkilis to keep increasing his homer total or Lowell to come back and hit 25 HR's is just dreaming. Luckily, I think our pitching is strong enough to overcome our reduced offense this season.