It's beginning to look like the Red Sox may be dropping the ball this offseason.
Boston Red Sox fans believe their team should be in the hunt for the playoffs every year. Although their fortunes have recently taken a downward turn, expectations haven’t diminished as the 2013 season nears. According to FoxSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, the Red Sox insist they aren't in the midst of long-term rebuilding, but their activity (or lack thereof) so far this offseason should make people wonder if they are misleading their fans.
Boston GM Ben Cherington maintains that his team will be active in free agency, telling the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, "We believe we’re going to have a significant payroll and we’re going to be active in adding free-agent talent to the team.” However, it appears likely that his idea of adding talent is different from the expectations of many fans.
The Red Sox finished 12th in the AL in team ERA in 2012 with a mark of 4.72, making pitching a major area of need. Despite having money to spend, Boston has elected not to pursue some of the best free-agent options.
CSBSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported that the Red Sox don't plan to go after Zack Greinke, who is widely considered to be the best available starting pitcher on the market. The team’s reasoning for passing on the former Cy Young winner is that they don’t see him as a good fit— whatever that means.
The top remaining free-agent pitchers include Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson. That trio is a combined five games over .500 for their careers and are no better than mid-rotation starters. The lack of exciting pitching options means the likelihood of the Red Sox adding a major pitching upgrade for next season is looking bleaker by the day.
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Ross is a fine signing, bringing experience and defensive value to a catching corps that has lacked in both areas since the retirement of Jason Varitek.
The signing of Gomes is much more of a head-scratcher. His career batting average/OBP/slugging splits of .284/.382/.512 against left-handed pitchers drops precipitously to .223/.307/.425 against righties. Such numbers suggest his value is purely as part of a platoon.
The AL East may have great left-handed starters like C.C. Sabathia and David Price, but the Red Sox played only 51 of their 162 games against southpaws in 2012. The ability of Gomes to hit lefties may be canceled out by his struggles against righties.
Described by CBSSports.com’s C. Trent Rosencrans as “a poor defensive outfielder by all defensive metrics,” Gomes carries a career dWAR of minus-10.1 and will also be a liability in the field.
The Red Sox possibly overpaid Gomes by giving him a total of $10 million for two years. Not only should he be a part-time player, but after the signing, Heyman tweeted that Gomes had entered free agency hoping for a deal only worth $3-to-$4 million per year.
The signing of Gomes may indicate the end of the Cody Ross era in Boston, which would be both confusing and a shame. Not only does Ross hit lefties (.284/.353/.575) as well as Gomes, but he is very capable against righties, is coming off an excellent 2012 season and plays better defense.
Other top free-agent hitters can be crossed off the shopping list. Torii Hunter signed with the Detroit Tigers, while center fielders B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn both play the same position as Jacoby Ellsbury.
Rumors connecting the Red Sox to outfielder Josh Hamilton have run the gamut. WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported the team had little interest, but more recently, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden tweeted that Cherington is still very open to bringing Hamilton to Boston. This kind of waffling makes it impossible to gauge the team’s true interest.
“Fans in Boston are sort of tired of hearing how good we are in the winter,” Cherington told Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com. “We've just got to be good,” he concluded.
Unfortunately the way the team has underwhelmed this offseason, that goal is beginning to look like it may be hard to achieve, and fans should question if the Red Sox are being up front about their plans.
Statistics via BaseballReference