As some of us Sox fans might remember, the Evil Empire outbid the Red Sox all of last winter and, in turn, won itself another World Series. Many people, myself included, figured that the Sox would end up responding this year.
Well, my friends, it appears that is not the case. With issues at the dish last year, names like Jason Bay and Matt Holliday on the market, and plenty of revenue, the Sox seemingly downgraded their lineup this year.
Now don't get me wrong. John Lackey donning a Red Sox cap is a wonderful sight, and improving defensively by adding Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre in the infield and Mike Cameron in the outfield is key.
However, none of the three of them are exactly in their primes. At 34, 30, and 37, respectively, Scutaro, Beltre, and Cameron don't exactly strike fear in opposing teams when they step up to the dish. Nor will they be expected to increase their averages by much over last year's. They are merely a solid stop-gap until younger players are ready.
Which is where Sox GM Theo Epstein's mind-set of "harvest first, sign later" comes in. As he told The Boston Globe during the Winter Meetings this year, the Sox are "kind of in a bridge period."
Relax, people. He's not putting up the white flag just yet. With names like Ryan Westmoreland, Casey Kelly, Lars Anderson, and Jose Iglesias within a year or two of making the majors, Epstein is not going to throw millions at free agents just because he can.
By signing short-term deals with the aforementioned veterans, it leaves plenty of space for development. By "bridging" between this year and next, Theo filled glaring holes in the lineup with players that will keep the Sox in legitimate contention; he also did not create a logjam for when his young players are ready in the next few years.
With arguably the best 1-2-3 combo of starting pitchers in the game, a plethora of Gold Glove-caliber players, and a pretty decent lineup at the plate, Epstein looks to have done pretty well.
We Sox fans watched in amazement as he set up the bridge between current veterans and young players projected to contribute significantly within the next two years. In Red Sox Nation, it seems that we have had a mindset of "In Theo We Trust," and this year will be a big strain on that idea. I will admit that I have been very weary of his decisions, but after following many analysts' points of view on the matter, things are looking brighter every day.
Only time will tell what the future holds, but judging by his track record with players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jonathan Papelbon, to name a few, I think Epstein deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he turns out to be wrong, then at least he has already built a strong bridge to walk over on his way out of Boston.
Just kidding, Theo.
But, seriously, with two titles and a laundry list of young players that every GM covets, not to mention being smart enough to pull the trigger on a deal before the deadline if the team is struggling (see: Garciaparra, Nomar), "In Theo We Trust" is starting to make more sense.