MLB Free Agency: Even with Stephen Drew Red Sox Still Have Plenty of Work to Do
The definition of the word "restraint" is, as a noun, a measure or condition that keeps someone or something under control or within limits.
The Boston Red Sox have been a shining example of what restraint can mean in Major League Baseball.
Heading into the 2012 season the Red Sox had an opening day payroll of over $173 million, third most in all of baseball.
Somehow, some way, the baseball gods shined down upon them during the season and they were fortunate enough to shed the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and, the true back-breaker, Nick Punto.
As it stands right now, the team is at around $111 million locked up in payroll with little indication that they'll near that same $173 million from last season.
The organization realized its errant ways of the past. They signed pitchers to long-term deals and desired players were given large, long contracts that were almost impossible to live up to.
While most fans have been less than thrilled with the signings this winter, what the Red Sox are doing is making wise baseball decisions for the long-term good of the team.
That being said, there is still plenty of work to be done.
Heading into the winter, the team had holes at at first base, left field, right field and pitching.
Naturally, the first move the team made was to add another catcher in the form of David Ross for two years and $6.2 million.
While many fans did not see the value in adding Ross, especially for the amount of money the team is shelling out, that signing was the first pawn to be moved in a much larger scale chess game.
The addition of Ross afforded the Red Sox significant flexibility at catcher. They could trade one or both of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway if they so desired.
Of course, neither has been dealt...yet.
The next signing made was Jonny Gomes for two years and $10 million. Largely a backup player in his own right, Gomes gives the Red Sox a versatile outfielder who can be an everyday player if truly needed.
The third piece on the shopping list was Mike Napoli, a player the Red Sox brass viewed as a first basemen with the ability to catch on occasion.
It was also a move that helped to add more depth behind the plate in an otherwise dry catching market.
Napoli was brought in for three years and $39 million—seemingly a high price to pay for a man who has played most of his career at catcher and is a subpar defensive first baseman.
That being said, it is almost a page out of Moneyball—the Red Sox are looking for the offense at the sake of slightly poor defensive play at first, a la Scott Hatteberg.
Next in line was Shane Victorino, a switch-hitting center fielder who was coming off of the worst season of his career. Yet, he still was awarded a three-year, $39 million contract.
Victorino is an insurance piece for the Red Sox. Should their current center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, decide to walk after his contract expires this season, the team can easily slide Victorino to center.
In addition, having Victorino buys the Red Sox time to develop their young studs like Jackie Bradley Jr. in the farm system—a player many view as the next Ellsbury.
The signing of Ryan Dempster was yet another move in what I'll call "positioning."
The addition of Dempster gives the team a solid third starter capable of throwing for 200 or more innings, something the 35-year-old has done seven times already in his career.
His contract is for just two years and $26.5 million.
Do you like what the Red Sox have done so far?
It is reportedly a one-year deal worth $9.5 million.
Bringing in a player like Drew affords the team time to develop Jose Iglesias a bit further in the minors. While his defense has never been an issue, Iglesias has consistently struggled at the plate.
Drew had been struggling last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting just .193 in 40 games with 26 hits and a .601 OPS before being traded to the Oakland A's.
It was in Oakland that he seemingly found his stroke again, batting .250 in 39 games with 38 hits and a .707 OPS.
The pattern here is obvious: overpay a player for shorter contracts.
If the season were to start tomorrow, the Red Sox are capable of taking the field with a decent team, capable of 80 or so wins.
Of course, this is the Boston Red Sox, and 80 wins is unacceptable.
As it stands today the infield appears set with Napoli at first, Dustin Pedroia at second, Drew at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third.
The outfield is less impressive: Jonny Gomes in left, Ellsbury in center and Victorino in right.
Should the team want to make a trade, they certainly have the bait. With several catchers on the roster and even pitching that can be utilized, this team certainly could be a lot stronger in the coming weeks.
Realistically speaking, the Red Sox need to add another quality outfielder. Relying on a combination of Gomes and Ryan Kalish (likely) to play left field at Fenway may be fiscally prudent, but makes little sense in baseball terms.
Additionally, another pitcher should be added. While the rotation will likely be Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Dempster, John Lackey and Felix Doubront heading into the season, it could be seriously bolstered by the addition of another quality arm.
Said arm could come via free agency, say a Kyle Lohse, or via trade of some measure.
While the future is uncertain for this ballclub, one thing is sure: general manager Ben Cherington is far from done shopping. Now it's just time to trust the man buying the groceries.
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