The Red Sox are about to embark on a new season, but there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
WEEI’s Alex Speier reported that Boston’s 2013 payroll currently stands in the proximity of $162 million to $170 million, which is close to the luxury tax threshold of $178 million.
It’s likely that other than a minor roster tweak here or there, the Red Sox won’t have many more player additions prior to spring training.
Boston general manager Ben Cherington appeared on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show last week and expressed that he was comfortable with the framework and depth of his 2013 roster:
I think our heavy lifting is done, but I do think we’ve added strength to a lot of different areas to the roster, a lot of areas we had holes in. I think in aggregate we feel pretty good that we’re a strong, deep team with a chance to be deep in a lot of areas to match up with anyone. We think this is a team that will be very competitive, going to contend and match up with any team in the AL East.
Even though there may not be any big acquisitions on the horizon, the team still has a lot of unanswered questions as it prepares for the start of spring training.
Click through to see what is fact or fiction with all the most recent rumors swirling around the Red Sox.
Can Bard return to the form that once made him a rising star?
The Red Sox decided to convert the hard-throwing Bard to a starter prior to the 2012 season. That decision ended in miserable failure.
Bard had a 2.88 ERA in three seasons as Boston’s setup man, but that all unraveled once he joined the rotation.
He appeared in 17 games (10 starts) in 2012 with the Red Sox, posting a 6.22 ERA, while striking out 38 and walking 43 in 59.1 innings.
Entering this season, it appears Bard will return to a bullpen role, although there is no clear spot for him on the current roster.
Regardless, Boston is starting to believe that the 27-year-old right-hander can bounce back.
According to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, new manager John Farrell recently visited the pitcher’s Mississippi home and watched him throw. He told Cafardo that he came away impressed:
He looked very good. His arm slot is back to a normal position. He shows the power he previously had as a reliever. His mind-set is more clear, and his approach is more simplified.
If the Red Sox can get back a rejuvenated Bard, whose fastball has averaged nearly 97 mph for his career, according to FanGraphs.com, there is certain to be a role for him on the team at some point this season.
With a lot of new faces, Boston is already thinking about its lineup.
Even though the first spring training games are weeks away, the Red Sox have already started planning their lineup for the upcoming season.
The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber reported that new manager John Farrell has already stated he intends to keep center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot. Additionally, it’s expected Shane Victorino will hit second versus lefties, and new shortstop Stephen Drew may assume that role against righties.
Victorino has done well during his career from the two-hole, producing a .287 batting average and .787 OPS in 469 games.
On the other hand, Drew has struggled hitting second. His .241 batting average in 183 games in that role is well below his career mark of .265.
These moves would likely drop Dustin Pedroia to the third spot in the order and provide him with more RBI opportunities than he has had in the past. Although he has just 82 career games there, his .304 batting average and .840 OPS suggest it’s a spot where he could flourish.
It's unlikely that Martinez will ever be seen on a mound again.
Now that he has returned to Boston, is it possible that the 41-year-old could explore pitching again?
The answer is a resounding no, according to Pedro himself.
The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported that Martinez wasted little time refuting that suggestion when asked if he would consider taking the mound again:
No. No. No. Don’t even think about me coming back. No. No. No. I don’t think so. Those three, four years I’ve been away really made clear that I don’t belong on the field anymore.
Martinez had a 219-100 record and 2.93 ERA over 18 major league seasons, including seven spent with the Red Sox. Since he hasn’t pitched competitively since 2009, it’s probably a good thing that he is ready to move on to the next phase of his career.
Abreu may extend his career, but it won't be with the Red Sox.
Although the 37-year-old has exclusively played outfield and designated hitter during a 17-year major league career, part of Abreu’s workout included taking ground balls at first base. This prompted speculation that he was being looked at as a possible backup at first and left-handed bat off the bench.
Since the workout, Boston’s first base situation has improved dramatically, with Mike Napoli agreeing to a one-year free-agent contract.
The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo recently wrote that the Red Sox no longer have any interest in Abreu:
I was told the Red Sox are unlikely to pursue him as that backup first baseman/outfielder they’re looking for. In his prime, he would have been perfect for the Red Sox with that excellent on-base percentage. But Father Time has intervened.
Boston is still looking for a backup first baseman and left-handed bench bat, according to CSNNE.com’s Maureen Mullin. However, it appears Abreu won’t be that player.
Sweeney may be willing to do anything to earn a roster spot.
With Abreu not appearing to be the answer for the Red Sox as a backup first baseman, the team will have to turn their attentions elsewhere. It’s possible that they may already have that player on the roster in Ryan Sweeney.
Sweeney, who recently re-signed with Boston on a minor-league deal, is willing to do anything to make the team, including playing first. He told MLB.com’s Evan Drelich about a conversation he had with Boston general manager Ben Cherington:
He didn't really say what he expected of me; he just said I have a good shot at making the team and being able to play different positions. He said something before talking about maybe needing a first baseman. Not to me. ... I had talked to Ben on the phone, I was like, 'Hey, Ben, do you need me to go get a first baseman's glove?' And he just kind of laughed.
Cherington’s reaction wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but it wasn’t a refusal either.
Sweeney has exclusively played in the outfield during his professional career, but has enough athleticism and defensive ability that it wouldn’t hurt to give him a shot.
Statistics via BaseballReference