More often than not, General Manager Theo Epstein and his front office mates have things under control in Boston. They are always on the cutting edge of player evaluation, and they understand ballpark effects as well, or better than every other organization in the league.
But this offseason, the proceedings have gotten a little out of hand.
Right-hander John Lackey was the biggest signing (five years, $82.8 million), followed by center fielder Mike Cameron (two years, $15.5 million), and shortstop Marco Scutaro (two years, $12.5 million). Theo also traded for right fielder Jeremy Hermida.
What's the problem with all that, you're wondering?
Well, two things actually:
First, Boston has already spent a significant amount of money this offseason, and yet their lineup (which was their weakness last season) is actually worse than it was. Jason Bay was their key offensive power guy, and yet management allowed him to sign with the power-starved New York Mets.
Scutaro can be looked at as an upgrade over the Jed Lowrie/Alex Gonzalez combination that finished out the '09 campaign, but he's 34 years old. It's a little late for someone to be strutting into their prime, and the Red Sox need to be wary of a physical letdown.
My point: I think Boston needs Matt Holliday.
But with the Lackey, Cameron, and Scutaro signings, in addition to the monster contracts already on the roster, will owner John Henry want to shell out for Holliday?
Would Holliday even want to play in Boston?
These are questions that may be answered in the coming weeks, but until then, I'll remain underwhelmed by Epstein's lineup. It's a team of quality ballplayers, but where's the pop to matchup with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira?
It's not there without Holliday. It may not even be there with Holliday, and this is coming from a Yankee-hater.
The second major problem with Boston's offseason is...positional overload.
I think Lackey is a gamer with good stuff and an excellent mentality, but keep in mind the rest of the Red Sox's rotation: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Where's the weak link in there? Which of those guys is going to end up out of the rotation?
Well, we know it isn't Beckett or Lester. Dice-K makes too much to be relegated to the bullpen, and bear in mind, he was a legitimate Cy Young contender just two seasons ago.
Over time, the organization has clearly been more comfortable with Wakefield as a starter over reliever.
So does that mean Buchholz goes back to AAA? Does he go to the bullpen? Is Theo still trying to trade him for a massive return?
I don't think that can happen either. Buchholz is a very young talent with outstanding stuff and a good mind for his craft. I don't think he's expendable.
You know what I'm getting at...was the Lackey signing really a necessity?
I'm not quite sure it was.
Moving to the other signings, I absolutely hated the Cameron deal. He's an all-or-nothing offensive player, relying heavily on the long ball for his production, and striking out far too often for my liking. I followed him very closely during his stint with the Mets, and I despised him. Hated his offensive approach, and felt he was an overrated defensive outfielder that had lost a step or two.
Obviously, I know what Theo and Bill James (Senior Advisor to Baseball Operations and statistical guru) are thinking with Cameron: here's a guy with good natural pop who can really take advantage of our home ballpark.
That may be true, but he'll frustrate everyone with his strikeouts and inability to put the ball in play in RISP situations. He's a terrible clutch guy over time.
In addition to Cameron's shortcomings, is he going to be playing at the expense of Jacoby Ellsbury? Is the organization down on the youngster who batted .301 with 70 stolen bases last season?
Right now there's Cameron, Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Hermida, Rocco Baldelli, and Josh Reddick for three spots. They can hold off on Reddick because he's young, and Baldelli can solely serve as an option against left-handed pitching.
That leaves the first four, no combination of which would be powerful enough to compete for a World Series. As I mentioned earlier, that means they have to add someone—likely Holliday.
So where does Ellsbury fit in then? Why did they even bother trading for Hermida?
So many questions, not enough answers.
In the end, I'm sure Boston's decision-makers are engaged in heated roster discussions each and every day. If the season started right this second, would they have what it takes to overcome the Yankees? Who's the odd man out in the rotation? What's going on in the outfield? Why the hell did we trade Adam Laroche for Casey Kotchman last year?
I'm sorry Theo...I don't have the answers for you.
(John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston's popular GM Theo Epstein. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)