A Timeline of the Boston Red Sox's Best and Worst Offseason Moves, Non-Moves

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2013

A Timeline of the Boston Red Sox's Best and Worst Offseason Moves, Non-Moves

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    The Boston Red Sox took care of their last major loose end this week, finally signing Mike Napoli to a one-year contract after a long and rocky pursuit.

    Now that he's in the bag and penciled in to play first base, you can look back now if you want to. It's been quite the journey for the Red Sox.

    If you can't remember everything that's happened, don't worry about it. I've prepared a condensed look at Boston's offseason as it happened, and I've dished out some retrospective judgments on both the moves the Red Sox made and the moves they didn't make.

    Let's take a gander.

    Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Salary and contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts

Nov. 5, 2012: David Ortiz Re-Signs

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    Red Sox GM Ben Cherington had much to do this winter, but his first order of business was making sure a Boston legend didn't get away. David Ortiz needed to be re-signed.

    Cherington was successful. Shortly after Ortiz was made a qualifying offer worth $13.3 million for one year, he signed a two-year deal worth $26 million to stay in Boston.

    The $13 million-per-year average is right about where Big Papi's salary has been ever since 2007, so this was by no means an overpay by the Red Sox. They're paying a lot of money for a simple DH, but Ortiz proved in 2012 that he's still one of the all-time greats to play the position.

    Big Papi was limited to 90 games by injuries, but he posted a 1.026 OPS and hit 23 home runs in those 90 games. The Red Sox will gladly take production like that again, and they probably will get it again.

    Per FanGraphs, Big Papi's walk rate, strikeout rate and BABIP all stayed steady from where they were in 2011, which is as good a sign as any that his 2012 production wasn't overly fluky.

    He may be getting close to 40, but Ortiz can still hit.

    Verdict: Good move

Nov. 6, 2012: Rumored to Be Interested in Torii Hunter

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    One of the positions Cherington had to figure out this winter was right field. 

    One of the first names that surfaced as a possible fit for the Red Sox was that of Torii Hunter, who WEEI.com said that the Red Sox were very much interested in.

    Hunter doesn't have the same range that he used to, but that's not much of an issue in right field. In fact, he rated as one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball in 2012 (see FanGraphs).

    So he certainly would have been a defensive upgrade for the Red Sox, and he would have been a welcome addition to the clubhouse as well. Hunter has a reputation for being a great teammate, and he had somebody on the Red Sox who could vouch for him in Ortiz, a former teammate.

    It was not to be. Hunter ended up signing with the Detroit Tigers for two years and $26 million.

    Once the Tigers got involved and made Hunter a competitive offer, I doubt the Red Sox ever had a real shot at him. They could have topped Detroit's offer, but he likely wouldn't have passed up a chance to win a ring with the reigning AL champions. 

    Besides, beating Detroit's offer would have been a bad idea. Hunter's a good glove man, but he overachieved at the plate in 2012 thanks to an unsustainable .389 BABIP.

    Verdict: Forgivable non-move

Nov. 7, 2012: Rumored to Be Uninterested in Jacoby Ellsbury Trade

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    There was speculation during the 2012 season that Jacoby Ellsbury would be moved this winter, as Boston's best option would be to get what it could for him before he bolted as a free agent in 2014.

    The Red Sox apparently made up their minds early on that it wasn't going to happen. In early November, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweeted that the club was "disinclined" to trade its center fielder.

    Boston's decision was partially motivated by Ellsbury's deflated value, as he played in only 74 games and managed just a .682 OPS in 2012. It was his second injury-ruined season in the last three years.

    In retrospect, we know that this was a bad winter to try and rob a team blind for somebody like Ellsbury. Free-agent center fielders were plentiful, and the Minnesota Twins ended up trading two underrated center fielders for pennies compared to what the Red Sox would have required to move Ellsbury.

    Boston's decision to hold on to Ellsbury doesn't necessarily mean he has a long-term future with the team, as he's probably still going to leave as a free agent after 2013. But if things go well, Ellsbury will perform well enough to earn a qualifying offer that will eventually net the Red Sox a draft pick.

    Because that's not a bad endgame, and because moving Ellsbury wasn't practical from the get-go, the Red Sox get points for holding on to him.

    Verdict: Good non-move

Nov. 7, 2012: Ruled out on Justin Upton

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    If it feels like Justin Upton has been on the block forever, that's because he has been. The rumors first started to flow way back in the early days of the offseason.

    The Red Sox were briefly mentioned as a possible fit for Upton in early November, but it took precisely three seconds for that ship to sail. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported on Nov. 7 that the Red Sox were "out" on Arizona's young right fielder.

    On a surface level, Upton was a perfect fit for Boston's needs. He could have been slotted in right field, and his powerful righty stick would have fit either in front of or behind David Ortiz.

    To boot, the Red Sox had more than enough cash to take on the three years and roughly $40 million remaining on Upton's contract.

    However, we know now from the trade proposal from the Seattle Mariners that Upton shot down that the Diamondbacks aren't going to move him for anything less than a huge package of prospects. The Red Sox aren't into making deals like that these days, and for good reason.

    The Red Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and the way in which they've protected it suggests pretty strongly that they aim to build a World Series contender with it in a few years. Had they traded prospects for Upton, they would have compromised a bright future.

    Verdict: Good non-move

Dec. 1, 2012: Jonny Gomes Signs

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    The first free agent the Red Sox brought in from outside the organization was backup catcher David Ross, but the first signing they made that really moved the needle was Jonny Gomes. 

    Gomes inked a two-year deal worth $10 million to be Boston's primary left fielder. The hope is that he'll do for the Red Sox precisely what he did for the Oakland A's in 2012.

    In only 99 games, Gomes slugged 18 home runs while compiling an .868 OPS. He was death on left-handers, posting a .974 OPS and hitting 11 of his 18 home runs against them.

    Crushing southpaws is par for the course for Gomes, but right-handers tend to eat him alive. He managed just a .715 OPS against righties in 2012, and he has just a .732 OPS against them for his career.

    There will be a cap on how good Gomes' production can be as long as he struggles with right-handers. But at $5 million per season, the Red Sox don't exactly need him to be Babe Ruth in order to get their money's worth out of him. 

    If Gomes hits around 20 home runs each season and gets on base at a roughly .370 clip, the Red Sox will be in no position to complain. And if he plays in enough games and digs in against enough southpaws, he surely will achieve these numbers.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 3, 2012: Talking to Nick Swisher

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    Nick Swisher stood out as an intriguing possibility for the Red Sox the very moment the offseason began, and they certainly didn't overlook him.

    During the winter meetings, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that the Red Sox were talking to Swisher. This was when they still had openings at first base and in right field, either (or both) of which could have been filled by Swisher.

    Swisher would have been a good fit for Boston's lineup as well. He averaged 26 home runs and a .367 OBP in his four seasons with the New York Yankees, and he did it from all over their lineup. His power production, on-base prowess and lineup versatility would have been welcome additions in Boston.

    The Red Sox never seemed to intensify their pursuit of Swisher, in part because they moved on to other matters in December that rendered their pursuit of him obsolete. He ultimately signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Indians worth $56 million.

    The Red Sox could have given Swisher a deal like that, and the only sacrifice would have been a second-round draft pick. They would have held on to their protected first-round pick, and they would have been welcoming a player who is as steady as they come and a great guy to have in the clubhouse.

    Signing Swisher sounds like an even better idea in light of what unfolded with Mike Napoli. If the Red Sox knew what they were about to walk into, they probably would have gravitated more toward Swisher.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

Dec. 5, 2012: Meeting with Josh Hamilton

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    The Red Sox entered the offseason with a ton of money to spend, so it was only a matter of time before Josh Hamilton found his way onto their radar.

    During the winter meetings, Hamilton appeared on Boston's radar and materialized in front Cherington and new manager John Farrell. The two met with Hamilton in person in Nashville, where the meetings were being held.

    To sign Hamilton, Cherington was going to have to stretch his commitment to "discipline." Signing the slugger would have required tons of cash, and the Red Sox would then be forced to live with the risk of having an injury-prone recovering addict on their roster for a period of several years.

    Something like, say, a three-year deal would have been an acceptable gamble for the Red Sox. But since Hamilton eventually signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, it's clear the Red Sox dodged a bullet.

    Hamilton's going to be fine for the first two years of his deal with the Angels. Maybe the first three, if they're lucky.

    But he's going to be 35 in the fourth year in his contract and 36 in the fifth year. Those are scary ages for any hitter, and Hamilton may already be trending downward as is. He hit a career-high 43 home runs in 2012, but he struggled with nagging injuries and had serious issues with his plate discipline.

    If the asking price was five years all along, the Red Sox should have no regrets about not signing him.

    Verdict: Good non-move

Dec. 13, 2012: Shane Victorino Signs

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    The first major signing the Red Sox made this winter took care of their hole in right field, as the club brought in former Philadelphia Phillies great Shane Victorino on a three-year deal worth $39 million.

    In essence, the deal the Red Sox gave Victorino was Torii Hunter's contract with the Tigers with an extra year tacked on. They're banking on getting three productive seasons out of Victorino, rather than maybe two productive seasons out of Hunter.

    They'll be lucky if Victorino is a productive player for even one season. He saw his numbers drop across the board in 2012, ending up with a mere .704 OPS that came complete with a .321 OBP.

    The warning signs are there. Per FanGraphs, Victorino's walk rate decreased and his strikeout rate increased in 2012, and his BABIP fell to right about where it was in 2010 after spiking in 2011.

    Most concerning of all is Victorino's recent track record against right-handers. He had a .296 OBP against righties in 2012, and has generally struggled against them each of the last three years.

    Victorino should give the Red Sox above-average defense in right field, but his best days as an offensive player are behind him. That's going to make it hard for him to live up to his $13 million-per-year contract.

    Verdict: Bad move

Dec. 18, 2012: Koji Uehara Signs

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    The Red Sox didn't necessarily need to upgrade their bullpen this winter, as it already featured some solid arms.

    But Cherington went about making improvements anyway, starting with right-hander Koji Uehara. He was signed for one year and $4.25 million.

    Uehara is one of baseball's more underappreciated relievers. He's compiled a 2.36 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP over the last three seasons, and no other relievers are his equal in the control department.

    Per FanGraphs, Uehara leads all qualified relievers in BB/9 (1.06) and K/BB (10.76) over the last three seasons. No other reliever even has a K/BB over 8.0 since 2010.

    If Uehara stays healthy—which isn't a sure thing—he's going to be a key part of what should be a very strong bridge to the ninth inning. He and Junichi Tazawa, in particular, should form a killer late-inning duo.

    It's true that $4.25 million is no small fee for a setup man. But in light of some of the other contracts (Brandon League, Jonathan Broxton, Rafael Soriano, et al) that have been handed out to relievers this winter, $4.25 million for a shutdown setup man isn't so bad.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 19, 2012: Ryan Dempster Signs

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    Boston's starting rotation desperately needed at least one new face this winter, but Cherington took his time getting around to it. 

    When he did finally get around to his rotation, he signed Ryan Dempster. The veteran right-hander inked a two-year deal worth $26.5 million in December.

    Dempster was a stud in 16 starts with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, posting a 2.25 ERA and limiting opponents to a .586 OPS.

    However, his first foray into the American League midway through the season was an utter disaster. In 12 starts with the Texas Rangers, Dempster posted a 5.09 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. Hitters racked up an .807 OPS against him, including a .470 slugging percentage.

    The Red Sox should be able to get innings out of Dempster, but he's not going to be able to duplicate his production with the Cubs from 2012. He wasn't fooling anyone in the AL with his stuff, and the AL East is going to be as deep as it's been in years in 2013.

    The Red Sox would have been better off going with somebody cheaper and/or better than Dempster. To either end, they had options.

    For example, Brandon McCarthy would have worked, and the Red Sox also could have taken a gamble on Dan Haren after the Angels declined to pick up his option. Either of them would have had more upside than Dempster, and neither would have required a nearly $27 million commitment.

    Verdict: Bad move

Dec. 26, 2012: Trade for Joel Hanrahan

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    The Red Sox didn't need to acquire a closer this winter. They could have just moved forward with Andrew Bailey, trusting that his rough showing in 2012 season had to do with rust accumulated during a long stay on the disabled list.

    The Red Sox chose not to roll that set of dice. Instead, they traded for Pittsburgh Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan in late December. In exchange, they gave up excess reliever Mark Melancon and three minor leaguers. They also got infielder Brock Holt in the deal in addition to Hanrahan.

    There's no reason to complain about the package of players the Red Sox gave up to make this trade. They gave up a reliever they didn't need and what amounted to a collection of spare parts from the minors. It's not likely that the Red Sox will end up missing anything they gave up.

    That makes the deal for Hanrahan low-risk for Boston, yet the reward is high. Hanrahan has saved 76 games over the last two seasons while compiling a 2.24 ERA. He did have some command problems in 2012, but he should be motivated to get those under control with free agency looming.

    A big year from Hanrahan would come in handy for two reasons. The first is simply because having a shutdown closer would be a nice change of pace for after what happened in 2012. The second is that a big year would put Hanrahan in line for a qualifying offer and, thus, a draft pick for the Red Sox.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 26, 2012: Stephen Drew Signs

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    Shortstop is another area where the Red Sox didn't clearly need an upgrade, as they had the option with moving forward with Jose Iglesias as their starter.

    Evidently, the Red Sox didn't feel comfortable with that idea. Instead, they chose to ink Stephen Drew to a one-year deal worth a $9.5 million base salary.

    Not that it's saying much, but Drew should be a offensive upgrade over Iglesias. He only managed a .657 OPS in 2012 and a .713 OPS in 2011, but he had an .810 OPS the last year he was healthy in 2010. 

    Besides, Drew showed signs of life with the Oakland A's down the stretch in 2012 with his return from a severe ankle injury several weeks behind him. He posted a .707 OPS and hit five home runs in 39 games.

    Drew doesn't have Iglesias' defensive skills, but he should qualify as an average or maybe even an above-average defender at short if his health holds up. Per FanGraphs, he had an 8.7 UZR the last time he was healthy in 2010.

    Since the deal is only for one year, the Red Sox won't have to live with Drew for very long if he doesn't pan out. If he enjoys a fine bounce-back season, the Red Sox may be able to extend him a qualifying offer and collect a draft pick.

    Verdict: Good move

Dec. 26, 2012: Rumored to Be Talking to Adam LaRoche

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    By late December, it was clear that something was up with the Red Sox's agreed-to deal with Mike Napoli, and that the club had no choice but to keep its options open.

    Adam LaRoche was still available at the time, and Jen Royle of SB Nation Boston reported that the Red Sox were going after him while Napoli's deal was stuck in limbo.

    The main hang-up to the idea was LaRoche's demand for a three-year deal. The Washington Nationals didn't want to go beyond two, effectively daring him to go find a three-year offer out on the market.

    LaRoche ended up re-signing with the Nationals for two years and $24 million. As such, it's conceivable that he could have been Boston's had it made him a three-year offer worth $36 million.

    That would have been less than they were originally prepared to pay Napoli, and they would have been paying for a first baseman who had a better season than Napoli in 2012. LaRoche hit a career-high 33 home runs and posted an .853 OPS. He also won a much-deserved Gold Glove.

    But in retrospect, the Red Sox missing on LaRoche isn't as bad as them missing on Swisher. Either player would have cost the Red Sox a draft pick and Swisher would have been more expensive, but he would have fit better in Boston's lineup and the lost draft pick would have been sacrificed for a four-year deal rather than a three-year deal. The potential reward would have been worth the risk.

    These things considered, missing out on LaRoche was hardly the worst part of Boston's offseason.

    Verdict: Forgivable non-move

Jan. 11, 2013: Kicking Tires on Mike Morse

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    Boston's continued pursuit of Napoli signaled that the team was intent on putting a right-handed-hitting slugger at first base.

    It didn't have to be him, though. The Red Sox could have traded for Mike Morse instead.

    Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported that the Red Sox were discussing Morse with the Nationals after they re-signed LaRoche. The price, apparently, was a left-handed reliever and young talent.

    In exchange, the Red Sox would have gotten an apt substitute for Napoli. Morse wouldn't have been able to give the Red Sox Napoli's patience, but he may have been able to duplicate Napoli's power pretty well while playing decent defense at first base.

    Morse ended up going to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade instead, leaving the Red Sox with no choice but to wrap things up with Napoli.

    The Nationals didn't end up getting a lefty reliever for Morse, but they didn't get an elite prospect for him either. The Red Sox thus could have matched what Washington got without crippling their farm system.

    Morse would have been a mere one-year solution for the Red Sox, as he's due to hit free agency after 2013. However, a big year from him would have put him in qualifying offer territory, meaning he would have been in the same boat as Hanrahan and Drew had he joined the Red Sox.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

Jan. 22, 2013: Mike Napoli Signs

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    More than a month after he and the Red Sox first shook hands, the Red Sox finally signed Napoli this week. 

    The initial contract Napoli agreed to called for him to make $39 million over three years. The contract he ended up with is for one year and a $5 million base. Incentives could push the deal to $13 million.

    Napoli's three-year contract fell apart due to a hip condition called avascular necrosis, which occurs when there is a loss of blood to a bone. It can be treated, but it's a condition that could ultimately cause major problems with Napoli's hips.

    There's no faulting the Red Sox for backpedaling and getting Napoli to agree to a one-year deal. Compared to the deal they could have made, they made a low-risk business decision. 

    As fine as the deal itself is, what's not fine is how the Red Sox fumbled away chances to build a better future by refusing to abandon their pursuit of Napoli. Either Swisher or LaRoche would have been a long-term solution at first base, and a deal for Morse could have resulted in a draft pick down the line.

    Napoli's deal definitely won't result in a draft pick. Now that the word is out about his hip condition, the Red Sox won't be stupid enough to make him a qualifying offer even if he does have a big season in 2013. He'd be more likely to accept it than he would be to reject it to hunt for multi-year offers that won't be there.

    Verdict: Missed opportunity

     

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