The Boston Red Sox posted a 69-93 record in 2012, their first 90-loss season since 1966. That was followed by a 97-65 showing last season, resulting in their third World Series title since 2004.
Looking ahead to this year and beyond, can Boston become baseball’s next dynasty, similar to the New York Yankees in the late-90s?
Michael Silverman of The Boston Herald thinks the Red Sox are two important moves away.
Those moves include locking up Jon Lester to a long-term deal, as well as giving David Ortiz the one-year contract extension he’s in search of.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia told Silverman why the last Yankees dynasty is the model to follow:
When you think about the Yankees’ great teams in the ’90s, they had a center fielder, a shortstop, a left-handed starting pitcher, closer and great catcher. There were always those core guys who were playing together for a long time, and you could just tell by the way they played together. It was kind of weird. They were always on the same page.
The Red Sox don’t have core players at each of those positions, but have their own version of a core. Silverman notes that Pedroia starts it, as he’s locked up for the rest of the decade. Signing Lester and Ortiz will officially keep them in this group, as well.
He’s only played 18 regular season games in the big leagues, but Silverman feels Xander Bogaerts’ performance in the postseason and his ceiling is good enough to be included.
Repeating as World Series champions is hard. Building a dynasty is obviously harder. However, Silverman is right—the Red Sox have the ingredients to make this happen. While keeping a core group intact is important, there are other reasons why Boston has a chance to become baseball’s latest dynasty.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has done a fantastic job at creating roster and financial flexibility for the organization. It started with dumping a lot of salary in the Aug. 2012 blockbuster trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Over the last two winters, the front office hasn’t handed out a free-agent contract lasting longer than three years.
Pedroia is currently the only Red Sox player with a guaranteed contract past 2015. If Cherington inks Lester to an extension, he will join the second baseman in that category.
After ridding the organization of over $200 million in future salary commitments, the front office could have been aggressive in the free-agent market leading up to the 2013 season. Instead of once again weighing down the team with long-term contracts, Cherington went in a different direction.
Players like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino and David Ross were all brought in on manageable, short-term deals. They each had a positive impact on the field and in the clubhouse during the team’s World Series run.
The longest and most lucrative deal handed out to those players was to Victorino, who signed a three-year, $39 million contract. For a team with a payroll just shy of $155 million in 2013, the production received for the overall price paid to these players was nothing short of a steal.
This strategy yields three distinct benefits:
- It allows the opportunity to aggressively pursue future high-priced free agents or trade targets, if it’s the right fit for the organization.
- Paths to the majors for top prospects are not blocked by huge contracts for aging players.
- These team-friendly deals also make players easier to trade, if it’s in the best interest of the organization.
That’s not to say questions don’t remain. Boston must prove that 2013 wasn’t a fluke before legitimate talk about a dynasty starts.
Injury-prone pitchers Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy need to stay healthy. Bogaerts must produce at the levels he’s expected to. Will Middlebrooks needs to bounce back from the .227/.271/.425 line he posted in 94 games last year.
The starting center fielder also needs to be determined. Is it time for Jackie Bradley Jr. to get a chance? Will Grady Sizemore complete his comeback, or does Victorino shift back there from right field?
Manager John Farrell must find answers for these uncertainties, but many teams are being faced with similar questions. Injuries and other unfortunate occurrences happen every year. Those teams that come together and rise above them are the ones that become champions.
It was a big blow for Boston’s bullpen when Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan went down with season-ending injuries last season. However, there was enough depth for the bullpen to still be a strength and compile 30 relief wins—fourth-best in the American League.
To be baseball’s next dynasty, Boston needs a core group to stick together, similar to the Yankees.
However, the financial and roster flexibility plus the amount of top prospects getting ready to make landfall in the majors is probably more important to future championship runs.
Cherington and the front office have done a great job by putting a quality product on the field, while balancing expectations for the future, as well.
The stage is set for an extended run of consistent success at Fenway. It’s now up to the veterans to lead the way, with the young players having to live up to the hype on the field.
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