With teams getting ready for spring training, it's time to take a look at what they did in the offseason and see how it will pay off.
In this edition, we'll take a look at the Boston Red Sox. They didn't make that big trade for Adrian Gonzalez. They didn't grab the big, sexy names off the free agent market (except for one). They lost their biggest slugger. But with all that, there is no reason to predict this team will be a pushover.
The Red Sox made a lot of risky moves last offseason, signing pitchers like Brad Penny and John Smoltz. The thing about risks is that if you take them and they work out, you look like a genius. If they don't work out, you want to bang your head against the wall. We all saw the Penny/Smoltz risks not work out.
Boston's biggest need going into this offseason was offense. They tried getting Gonzalez but refused to give up Clay Buchholz or Casey Kelly. And then there was the whole Jason Bay mess.
As far as that goes, Boston has had pretty good history of evaluating the health of players. So if Bay's knees scared them enough to not sign a 30 home run 100 RBI guy, we really have to side with them.
So with offense hard to come buy, Theo and the crew decided that if they were going to have trouble scoring runs the best way to win was preventing them. Boston spent most of the offseason getting star defensive players and pitching.
They signed John Lackey to a four year deal, and (as far as I'm concerned) a bit too much money. They gave ace money to a guy with a history of shoulder problems and never getting 20 wins. But, show me a pitcher today that doesn't have shoulder issues. What they get from Lackey cannot be shown in stats. He is a big, mean bulldog type pitcher and when you put him on the mound, he wants to win. I'll take attitude from any pitcher.
You toss Lackey in a rotation with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Buchholz/Tim Wakefield, that's tough to beat. Lester and Beckett are as nasty as they come, despite both have tendencies to get off to slow starts. Dice-K will be healthy, and Clay is just going to get better.
The bullpen lost some pieces, but most of the rescue squad will be back. Manny Delcarmen should regain his form, Daniel Bard is going to keep on improving and Jonathon Paplebon's down year was still one of the best closer years out there.
The Boston outfield will be pretty good. Moving Jacoby Ellsbury to left field will help him keep his legs fresh, making him even more dangerous on the basepaths. Like a number of young Boston players, Ellsbury will only get better and better as a leadoff hitter.
J.D. Drew may not put up the numbers he should with that salary, but he's a smart player. He won't hurt you in the field, draws walks, runs well, and isn't exactly weak. You add Mike Cameron and his glove in center and a stadium that loves right handers, the outfield is set.
This infield rivals and defensive infield in the league. Youkilis a professional hitter and top tier first baseman. Dustin Pedroia is the mold they use to make No. 2 hitters and plays solid defense. Like Chase Utley, he runs every ball out.
Adrian Beltre will probably bounce back in hitter friendly Fenway, but he was brought on board because of his glove. Marco Scutaro is not the best shortstop out there. But he'll be decent in the number 9 hole and plays the field smart.
Catching and DH is what may hurt the Red Sox. Victor Martinez is solid with the bat, but as far as throwing out runners, he isn't much better than Jason Varitek. And Varitek is pretty bad.
David Ortiz's time is running out. He showed his age last year, especially in the first half. He needs to be more consistent, and if he isn't I firmly believe that Theo will pull the trigger and trade him to get offense.
If that doesn't happen, they could just bit the bullet and platoon Ortiz and Mike Lowell. I know Lowell isn't what he once was, but the guy can still hit a baseball.
Defensively, this is the best team with the glove. If their pitching holds up, the offense gels, and they can stay healthy (injuries killed them last year) they can absolutely contend.
2010 Projection: Second Place AL East, AL Wild Card