After a miserable 2012 season, it was clear that the Boston Red Sox needed to make some necessary adjustments to re-emerge as a contender in the competitive AL East.
After firing manager Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox have used a different approach to free agency this season. Instead of committing a lot of money and years to players only to wind up paying for underachieving talent like they did in the past with players such as Carl Crawford, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, they are overpaying second-tier free agents to shorter-term deals.
While their old method of signing lucrative long-term deals was somewhat ineffective, it appears that their current approach will not work out as a successful solution.
So far this offseason, Boston has agreed to terms with some decent free agents such as Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster and Mike Napoli as well as some less expensive options like David Ross, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara.
Although these moves are less risky than their past commitments, they also will provide little reward.
Victorino was largely unimpressive last season. Hitting .255/.321/.383 with 11 home runs, his numbers actually decreased after a midseason trade sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. At age 32, Victorino isn't getting any better, and the Red Sox essentially just committed three years and $39 million to witness his decline.
Boston agreed to terms with another disappointing player in Mike Napoli. Last season, Napoli hit just .227/.343/.469 with 24 home runs. Although the Red Sox are banking on last year being the exception rather than the norm, this is by no means a guarantee, and three years and $39 million is a lot of money to commit to someone coming off of a season featuring his worst batting average of his career, especially given that he is 31. While Napoli could certainly bounce back, injuries might derail the catcher-first baseman hybrid and leave the Red Sox searching for answers.
How would you grade this free agency for the Boston Red Sox so far?
The Red Sox's starting rotation last year was abysmal. The pitching staff as a whole finished the 2012 season 27th in the league in ERA and quality starts, 23rd in WHIP and 24th in batting average against.
Adding Dempster will not resolve this glaring issue.
Although Dempster proved to be a reliable starter for the Chicago Cubs, his stock plummeted after a midseason trade to the Texas Rangers. After being traded into the formidable AL West, his stats ballooned to a 5.09 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP, allowing 10 home runs in just 12 appearances. The Red Sox did only give him a two-year contract, but at age 35 this might be the beginning of the end for Dempster.
I do like the low-key moves that Boston has made. I think Jonny Gomes can be an effective fourth outfielder, and David Ross will provide a consistent defensive catcher. On just a one year pact, Koji Uehara could help provide some bullpen depth.
While these low-risk moves seem like solid acquisitions, none of them are propelling the Red Sox to the top of the standings by any means.
I understand the Red Sox do not want to commit a ton of money to a high-risk situation, such as five years of Josh Hamilton. I also completely understand why they haven't been swinging trades to get better, as they want to retain their young assets.
However, overpaying for overrated players will keep the Red Sox in 70 win territory.
In a division featuring the consistent Yankees, the surprising Orioles, the persistent Rays and the new-look Blue Jays, it seems evident that the Red Sox will once again reside in the bottom of the barrel.