When the Napoli signing becomes official he will join Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes and David Ross in the list of 2013 additions that didn’t require a draft pick or a contract longer than three years.
The direction that Ben Cherington has gone in is clear. The Red Sox are focused on putting together a team that can compete in 2013 while also leaving room for prospects to contribute.
The shorter contracts combined with the fact that none of the acquisitions required the Red Sox to surrender future draft picks was crucial to the long-term rebuilding process.
With the new CBA in place draft picks have become increasingly important. If the Red Sox had signed a player like Nick Swisher, someone that could have helped the team in 2013, they would have lost both their second-round pick and the allotted signing money for that slot.
That double-edged sword has proven to be one the Red Sox wanted to avoid this offseason.
Down the road this could change. For instance, if a player was deemed a franchise cornerstone, such as a legitimate front of the rotation starter or a middle-of-the-order power bat, the Red Sox could certainly part with the pick and the money, but this wasn’t the year to do that.
For now, however, the Red Sox are focused on developing prospects and saving draft picks.
The 2013 draft will be the most important draft in recent memory. If the Red Sox properly evaluate the top-talent, they should land a significant building block for the next 10-15 years.
Additionally, with the wealth of talent perceived to be near major league-ready, the Red Sox could have a youth influx similar to what they experienced in 2002-2009. During those eight seasons the Red Sox averaged 94 wins per season and won two World Series titles.
The next wave of prospects looks bright according to the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton who in reference to what he saw at the Red Sox rookie development camp said
At about midfield, there was Rubby De La Rosa long tossing with Allen Webster — both pieces that came to Boston in the deal with Los Angeles. Closer to the red zone, Xander Bogaerts was fielding ground balls, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz just off to the side. This is the purported core of that next great Red Sox team.
Now while many fans may not be thrilled with the signings made this offseason, what they have done is allow the Red Sox to keep their top talent.
Rather than packaging prospects in a trade for the likes of Justin Upton, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, or the arsenal of players the Marlins traded, the Red Sox have held onto their talent and stuck to their long-term plan.
The players they have signed aren’t flashy, but they can be productive and are supposed to be good locker room personalities.
Don’t discount their influence on the clubhouse. With a team on the verge of a major transition, it is even more important that the young players come into a good clubhouse and learn from hard working players.
Despite their flaws, Napoli, Victorino, Gomes and Dempster are the type of players I would want rookies to learn from.
If everything works out Dempster becomes a back of the rotation starter, Victorino is a bench player and Napoli plays first base, catches and DH’s at the end of their contracts.
In that scenario the Red Sox best prospects have panned out and the team will be better for it.