Top-4 Reasons Why the Red Sox Rebuild Will Work Immediately
Coming off their worst season in decades, the Boston Red Sox face a tough road to get back to the top of an American League East that seemingly grows tougher every day.
The team has been in shambles ever since their historic September meltdown in 2011 that cost them the playoffs and former manager Terry Francona his job.
After a failed experiment with Bobby Valentine and a roster dump of some of their most expensive contracts during the 2012 season, the Sox looked to be in full rebuilding mode.
After the Winter Meetings; however, it is beginning to look like the Red Sox rebuild may pay immediate dividends. Here are the top reasons why the Red Sox look primed to rise back to relevance sooner than many expect.
1. Smart Roster Moves
The Red Sox began their rebuilding phase during the 2012 season when they unloaded many of their All-Star-caliber players for prospects in their deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It seemed like the team was looking long term by dumping a significant amount of salary.
With Daisuke Matsuzaka's contract also coming off the books, the Red Sox had some money to work with in the Winter Meetings. And under the management of general manager Ben Cherington, they got back to the basics with the deals they made this offseason.
Much of the Red Sox's woes in recent seasons has stemmed from the under-performing of stars who the Sox overpaid for. The Red Sox smartly avoided these long-term mega-deals this offseason.
Some argue that they overpaid for players like Shane Victorino. Although, compared the salary lost from dumping the contracts of failed experiments like Carl Crawford, the Sox could afford to overpay a bit for a veteran like Victorino.
More importantly, the Red Sox made several small, under-the-radar moves that were much more reminiscent of how moves were made during their championship seasons. The addition of players like Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli should really help the Red Sox going forward.
2. The New Staff
The Red Sox attributed their 2011 collapse to the lax nature of then manager Terry Francona, and brought in the hard-nosed Bobby Valentine in an attempt to rectify this, which subsequently exploded in their faces.
Bobby V was an awful fit in Boston, and replacing him with former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell was a strong move by upper management.
Farrell—with the help of new pitching coach Juan Nieves—will hope to be an immediate help to a pitching staff that has been about as inconsistent as it gets over the past few seasons.
His familiarity will also be beneficial to a clubhouse that had its fair share of problems with Valentine. This should allow him to foster more clubhouse unity, which could be a stabilizing force for a Red Sox team that has been divided in recent seasons.
3. Veteran Clubhouse Presence
Along with the addition of John Farrell, the Red Sox look to have strong veteran leadership that will be a positive impact on the clubhouse.
The Sox were very specific with which veterans they parted ways with last season. Players like Adrian Gonzalez—while productive—never really fit in as leaders in the clubhouse.
Josh Beckett and Kevin Youkilis—who were once good clubhouse guys—needed to go after tensions from the 2011 meltdown created internal drama.
The Sox were sure; however, to keep their most impactful guys around. David Ortiz has long been the heart of the Red Sox, so that they quickly locked him up when free agency started is no surprise.
The other key clubhouse guy has been Dustin Pedroia. His veteran presence in the clubhouse and vocal leadership will be crucial for the Red Sox going forward, especially given the new slew of prospects who will likely be in the bigs sooner rather than later given their talent.
Many of the players the Red Sox brought in this offseason also have reputations as good clubhouse guys, and they will look to harken back to the tight-knit gang of "idiots" in 2004 that brought Boston it's first World Series in 86 years.
4. Staying Healthy
A major problem for the Red Sox recently has simply been staying healthy. With injuries at points during the season to stars like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, the Sox rarely had their best lineup in play.
The starting staff also suffered, as at one point during the season the Sox were without three of their starting pitchers.
Those guys look to all be in good shape to return on Opening Day, as even Ortiz hopes to be healed by Spring Training.
They also were sure to consider injuries when making winter signings. Pitcher Ryan Dempster may not have shutdown stuff, but he is lauded for his durability.
While injuries are a part of any season, it's hard to believe that the Red Sox will have the same luck with injuries they have had recently, a major cause of the dismal 2012 campaign.