Red Sox watch NY Yankees clinch the AL East in 2012
If the Toronto Blue Jays end up finalizing a blockbuster trade with the money-dumping Miami Marlins, this 2012 fourth-place finisher all of a sudden becomes competitive. The Marlins appear to be the biggest losers thus far in the MLB offseason, possibly giving up pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, infielders Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck in return for cash and prospects.
Which brings us to the Boston Red Sox. The ACTUAL biggest losers. As the line-ups stand now, the Red Sox are in serious danger of finishing dead last in the competitive AL East for the second consecutive year.
In 2012, everything that could go wrong went wrong for the Red Sox. Offensive weaknesses were finally exposed, a pitching staff full of big names (Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester) failed to live up to their big names, and Bobby Valentine was a complete disaster.
(Side note: Did the Red Sox management honestly think Bobby V would garner more respect from players than Terry Francona?)
In terms of pitching, John Lackey is returning from Tommy John surgery, after missing the entire 2012 season. The Red Sox insist a rotation anchored by Lackey, Lester, and Buchholz will improve upon the dismal 5.19 team ERA posted in 2012.
But these not-so-big-three depend on reputation and name recognition over actual performance. Buchholz has had only one full season with an ERA under 3 (2.33 ERA in 2010). The no-hitter that put him on the map is now a distant memory.
Lackey is known for having work-ethic issues, although with Josh Beckett, his fried chicken partner-in-crime, shipped off to the Dodgers, this negative notch against Lackey may also be a distant memory.
Who will finish last in the AL East in 2013?
And is anyone really afraid of facing Jon Lester? Didn't think so.
Now that the Blue Jays have padded their rotation with Johnson and Buehrle, the Red Sox need to make a move for a solid starter. The Red Sox simply can't compete with Tampa (David Price, James Shields, 3.19 team ERA).
The Yankees are also in the market to help their own weak rotation, but the Yankees have Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and an offense that scored 804 runs in 2012. Cano isn't going to bat .056 in the regular season like he did in the ALCS.
And the Red Sox offense? They unloaded the under-achieving, but ever-dangerous Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers. Carl Crawford will also don a Dodger uniform. While Boston is retaining DH David Ortiz, the Red Sox offense is old.
Frankly, the team is still living in the 2004-2007 glory days. Getting rid of Kevin Youkilis was the right move, albeit sad. In order for the Red Sox to finally join the new decade of baseball, they need to update and upgrade their aging offense, especially with a pitching staff that allowed 806 runs to cross the plate last year.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have added a true offensive weapon in Jose Reyes. He's exactly the type of player the Red Sox need to compete in 2013: a relatively young (29 years old), and fast (40 steals in 2012) player with superstar potential. Dustin Pedroia led Boston with 20 steals last season: half the total Reyes accumulated.
Baseball has changed in recent years, with pitching improving and home-run totals dropping. The name of the game is manufacturing runs, not depending solely on the long ball.
Without a doubt, the big-spending Red Sox will make moves in the offseason. Big moves. They need to, or else risk finishing dead last in their division. Again.
If the newest additions to the Blue Jays play to their potential, the Red Sox are in a heap of trouble.