Giants vs. Pirates WC Game Preview

Full Postseason Schedule

Boston Red Sox's Big Offseason Questions That Still Need to Be Answered

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Boston Red Sox's Big Offseason Questions That Still Need to Be Answered
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has been relatively quiet this offseason.

It has been a wild offseason for the Boston Red Sox following their 2013 World Series title.

Boston has already endured a slew of transactions that have taken place since the team walked off with the World Series trophy.

Gone from the mix are players like outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Yankees and Marlins, respectively.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski highlights the cast of new Red Sox in 2014.

The Red Sox have welcomed in players like catcher A.J. Pierzynski and relievers Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica.  Boston also made sure to bring back first baseman Mike Napoli.

On paper, it would appear as if the Red Sox are poised to defend their team with a solid core of talent along with some young prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts.

In addition, the pitching—in the rotation and in the bullpen—is both talented and deep.  That alone makes the Red Sox formidable in 2014.

Yet Boston still has a few critical questions that remained unanswered. 

General manager Ben Cherington has had a relatively quiet offseason in comparison to some of the other deals made around the league.  Can the Red Sox expect much more this offseason?

Only time will tell.

Still, let us evaluate some of the key questions that Boston needs to evaluate between now and spring training.

 

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury (left) creates a void in the leadoff spot.

Determining the Leadoff Hitter

The loss of Ellsbury hurts the Red Sox in a number of ways. 

Aside from Boston being forced to see its former center fielder in uniform with their chief rival, the team now has to consider the absence of production from the leadoff position.

Ellsbury owns a career .350 on-base percentage and batted .298 in 2013.  He also bolstered those numbers with a league-leading 52 stolen bases in the same season.

Those numbers are going to be difficult to replicate.

Nick O'Malley of Masslive.com sums up why replacing Ellsbury with a bona fide leadoff hitter remains one of Boston's top priorities this offseason.  He writes, "The Red Sox have some in-house candidates to take up the full-time leadoff role.  Yet, there's been little indication that the team is comfortable with any of them handling the duty as the primary option."

He goes on to state that Bradley, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia are the most likely candidates on the roster to fill this void.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY
Shane Victorino would be the most likely candidate to fill the leadoff void.

Out of that foursome, either Victorino or Nava appear to be the front-runners to take over the job—something that has been confirmed by Red Sox manager John Farrell, per Rob Bradford of WEEI:

Ideally, Boston would like to have Pedroia's bat further down in the lineup and also wait and see if Bradley can develop in what could be his first full season as an everyday player.

Cherington described Bradley's chances to assume the role, via O'Malley:

Yeah, I mean, [Bradley's] gotten on base his whole life—college and minor leagues, obviously, at a very high rate.  So, that's what we see as the No. 1 criteria.  We expect that in time he'll be a good on-base big leaguer and that would make him a candidate to do that.  But I think, you know, when we're thinking about lineups in the offseason anyway, we're focused on guys that we know will be on the team and have some history of getting on base in the big leagues.  I think that's how John feels.

Unless a major move is made between now and the start of the season, Boston looks as if it will employ either Victorino or Nava in the leadoff role and hope for the best. 

Setting the table in front of the heart of the Red Sox's big hitters—David Ortiz and Napoli—was a critical component to the team's success in 2013.

Expect no difference this upcoming season.

 

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Barring another move, Jackie Bradley Jr. should get the start in center field.

Determining a Starting Center Fielder

Directly related to the aforementioned question, the Red Sox still have a looming concern in Ellsbury's wake.

Pending changes, it appears as if Boston will stick with Bradley in center and bank on him earning that everyday role.  The only question is whether or not he is ready for this challenge.

Bradley hit only .189 with a .280 on-base percentage in limited action last season. 

If the Red Sox plan on utilizing Bradley in this situation, he will have to post up numbers better than that.

This is further described by Ron Chimelis of Masslive.com, who writes:

Trusting Bradley to replace Ellsbury is the only part of the plan that makes me edgy, even though there is every reason to think he will turn into a quality major leaguer someday soon. ... Mature for his age, he does not turn 24 until April.  Is he really ready to replace Ellsbury?  Defensively, there is no problem.  Bradley might actually be an upgrade because of his better arm.

Chimelis also notes that Boston has faith in Bradley becoming a great player.  The only question is whether or not that will happen next year.

There remains a possibility that the Red Sox acquire another outfielder—preferably one with a big bat that can help protect the middle of Boston's lineup.

While the hype that surrounded a possible trade for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp appears to have died down, there are other options.

Shin-Soo Choo remains an option, and the Red Sox have taken a serious look, but there has not been a lot of speculation that Boston is close to making him an offer, per NESN:

Barring any significant acquisition, it appears as if the Red Sox are comfortable with Bradley taking over the job.

Hopefully for his own sake, he will showcase his major league capability in 2014, which will make all the questions surrounding his readiness seem foolish.

 

Elsa/Getty Images
Boston can afford to be patient with Stephen Drew.

What to Do with Stephen Drew?

Out of all the questions Boston has to answer this offseason, the curious case of Stephen Drew is, perhaps, the least critical.

In a way, the Red Sox are in a prime position regarding how they want to handle the now-free-agent shortstop. 

A compensatory first-round pick is associated with Drew if he signs elsewhere—given how Boston offered him a qualifying deal earlier this offseason. 

That has certainly discouraged some interest around the league and Drew remains a free agent.

Drew and the Red Sox continue to look for a deal, and Farrell has reiterated that he would like Drew to return, via Ricky Doyle of NESN.com:

“Both sides would like to see this come together,” Farrell said on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show (via Doyle). “But at the same time, as we all know, he’s looking to see what best opportunities would be out there for him.”

Yet if Drew does depart via free agency, Boston is perfectly capable of supplanting the void with Bogaerts at shortstop while giving Will Middlebrooks a chance to hold down third base in a starting role.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Xander Bogaerts is waiting in the folds if Drew departs.

The team also traded for utility infielder Jonathan Herrera on Dec. 18. 

This unique situation is a good one to be in from the Red Sox's vantage point.  They can afford to be diligent and see how Drew's market shapes out. 

If they re-sign him, fine.  If not, the team is perfectly comfortable moving forward.

There is little wrong with that.

Which area is the biggest concern for the Red Sox?

Submit Vote vote to see results

It is easy to be frustrated with a team that made relatively few splashy moves in the wake of what has been a wild offseason thus far.

Cherington and the Red Sox have not been actively involved in many of the bigger deals made in recent weeks—much to the chagrin of writers like Christopher L. Gasper The Boston Globe.

Gasper writes that Boston is doing too little this offseason and criticizes the hopes the Red Sox have in the formula that worked so well for them in the 2013 season—staying away from long-term deals and signing middle-class free agents.

He writes, "They may have reinvented themselves, but they didn't reinvent the wheel."

While no one would initially complain about a blockbuster deal that could still potentially be made, this Red Sox team is still in good shape.

The pitching, ever so important, remains intact.  Aside from a few questions which have been discussed, the batting order is sound.

Even if Boston's "wheel" was not reinvented, there are few reasons to assume it will not continue to roll forward.

 

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.  Contractual information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts unless otherwise specified.

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

Load More Stories

Follow Boston Red Sox from B/R on Facebook

Follow Boston Red Sox from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

Boston Red Sox

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.