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Boston Red Sox: 5 Predictions for 2013

Adam MacDonaldAnalyst IIDecember 6, 2012

Boston Red Sox: 5 Predictions for 2013

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    From the Impossible Dream in 1967 to the Great September collapse of 2011, the Boston Red Sox were the only MLB team to avoid a 90-loss season.

    Even the New York Yankees had three in that span.

    That impressive streak came to an abrupt end in 2012, when Bobby Valentine steered the Good Ship Red Sox further into the troubled waters he was hired to avoid. They started taking on water in spring training, and you could tell it was all over by May.

    General Manager Ben Cherington has embraced this offseason as his chance to put his own stamp on this team.

    New manager, new coaching staff, new players: It's all changing at 4 Yawkey Way this year.

Jacoby Ellsbury Will Be Traded

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    The rumors about a potential trade involving 2011 MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury have been numerous and persistent this offseason.

    The Sox CF has one year left before he hits free agency, and if Ben Cherington wants to move him, he has to do it soon.

    If he's on the team come Opening Day, he will almost certainly remain there all year.

    Under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), a team won't get a compensatory pick if a player leaves in free agency unless the player was with the old team for a full season.

    This was not the case under the old CBA, when teams would still get a draft pick as compensation for a player leaving, even if they had only had him for a few months.

    If any team acquires Ellsbury during the season, they will get nothing in return if he signs elsewhere that winter. And given the track record of his agent Scott Boras, there is almost no chance he would sign an extension before then.

    The Red Sox have cleaned house since August, getting rid of a quarter-of-a-billion dollars in commitments. The coaching staff and front office have begun to build for the future.

    With the signing of Shane Victorino, the continued pursuit of re-signing Cody Ross and the trade possibilities, Jacoby will be gone if the right deal falls Cherington's way.

The Lineup Will Be Better in 2013

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    For all the flaws and failings of the 2012 Boston Red Sox, there were some good points.

    One of these was the continued potency of the offense. The last few weeks saw the numbers fall away dramatically as the team was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but overall they fared very well.

    The pathetic ending to the season, which saw the Sox go 7-25 and score only three runs per game, dropped them to ninth in the major leagues in runs scored, but there were positive signs from 2012.

    Incidentally, that ranking of ninth was second only to the Brewers among teams with a losing record.

    David Ortiz, who was having another great year before injuring his ankle on a home-run trot, was the easily team's greatest offensive threat. Cody Ross was a surprisingly good offseason addition, hitting .267 with 22 home runs.

    Will Middlebrooks arrived from the minor leagues with a bang, Dustin Pedroia continued to be an upper-echelon second baseman and when he wasn't striking out, Jarrod Saltalamacchia flashed some power with a team-best 25 homers.

    Get those players back healthy, add in Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli in place of bit-part outfielders and either Salty or Kelly Shoppach, and you have a potentially impressive lineup.

Jon Lester Will Finish Top-10 in Cy Young Voting

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    Four years ago, a lot of people probably thought Jon Lester was on the cusp of greatness, and by this point would have won a Cy Young Award and established himself as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball.

    It hasn't panned out that way.

    Lester has received a vote in Cy balloting just once, and in 2012 he was woeful. Posting a 9-14 record with an utterly miserable 4.82 ERA, Lester was far from the ace the Red Sox expected him to be.

    Instead, he became perhaps the perfect personification of this generally disappointing team.

    But to believe that he is totally done and write him off would be foolish.

    He can still pitch well and will be keen to prove that 2012 was an anomaly, not the beginning of the end.

John Lackey Will Have His Best Season in Boston

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    Given the utter disaster that has been John Lackey's tenure with the Boston Red Sox, 15 games seems a little high, especially when one considers that he has not pitched since September 2011, a month where his ERA was a colossal 9.13 in five starts.

    Coming back from Tommy John surgery, it is hard to know what he will be able to produce, but he really wouldn't have to pitch well to improve on the last few years.

    In his two seasons in Boston, Lackey has posted ERAs of 4.40 and 6.41.

    Is a 12-10 record with a 4.10 ERA unachievable in 2013?

    Certainly not.

The Red Sox Will Make the Playoffs

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    Who would you rather be right now? The Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees?

    For the long-term future, you would probably say the Red Sox, since their team is younger, they have fewer players wrapped up for three or more years and have immensely greater financial flexibility.

    For 2013, though, you would rather be the Yankees. The Bombers have a better lineup, are better defensively, have a stronger bullpen and (probably) have a better rotation.

    So the AL East is likely out of reach this year.

    But one of the two Wild Cards? That's very attainable if everyone on the team plays up to their ability.

    Although, given the last few years, that seems like a very big "if."

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