Boston Red Sox: 5 Changes to Team Culture Coming in 2013
In December 2010, the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Shortly after, they signed Gonzalez to a seven-year, $154 million deal and Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal.
The following year, the Red Sox missed the playoffs, finishing third in their division after a September collapse, despite a 90-72 final record. Gonzalez played well, but Crawford batted just .255 with career lows in stolen bases and runs scored. They followed that up with a complete breakdown in 2012, and they shipped both players to Los Angeles.
There is cause for hope in Boston. They re-signed David Ortiz and still have Dustin Pedroia along with young starting pitching and talented prospects who could make an impact in the coming season. What will be different about the 2013 Red Sox? Read on to find out.
Bobby Valentine is out, and John Farrell is in. Farrell was hired as the pitching coach in Boston in 2006. In 2006, Boston was No. 26 in team ERA at 4.83. In 2007, it was second at 3.87.
Farrell left Boston to take the managerial job for the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays, but after a difficult year in Toronto, Farrell was brought back to take over for Valentine as the new manager of the Red Sox. Boston fans have become accustomed to a perennial winner, so pressure will be on immediately.
There is a long road ahead for Boston, and expectations should be kept realistic for this team, but Farrell is likely to bring an atmosphere change that should be welcome to the players frustrated with Valentine's short-lived style.
New Run Producers
The Boston Herald claims the Red Sox may end up moving Jacoby Ellsbury, but they would have a gutted starting lineup if they did.
Cody Ross was one of only three Red Sox to top 20 HR in 2012 and was second on the team with 81 RBI. He is a free agent. Boston traded Kevin Youkilis. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonalzez are now in L.A. While David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia make up a nice to start to building a playoff-contending lineup, the potential loss of Ellsbury might indicate Boston moving towards a youth movement.
Will Middlebrooks impressed fans in 75 games after being called up in 2012 and might be the long-term corner infielder for the Sox. Jackie Bradley could slide into the starting lineup if Ellsbury moves on and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a career .239 hitter, still hit 25 home runs in 2012.
The Red Sox let Jonathan Papelbon walk to Philadelphia prior to 2012 and brought in Andrew Bailey to take over the closer role. He struggled to get healthy and ended up with an ERA over seven and played in just 19 games.
Alfredo Aceves served as the team's closer for much of 2012, saving 25 games but notching an ERA of 5.36 and finishing with a 2-10 record. Joakim Soria is one of several relievers available this offseason, and the bullpen will need to be upgraded if the Red Sox are to play deep into October anytime soon.
Four Red Sox pitchers made 20 or more starts in 2012. They were 36-43. Jon Lester had an ERA of 4.82, Clay Buchholz was slightly better at 4.56, Felix Doubront posted an ERA of 4.86 and Josh Beckett had a 5.23 ERA before being dealt.
Two years ago, Red Sox fans talked about Lester and Buchholz as one of the better starting combos in baseball. Now there are plenty of questions surrounding both. It would not be a surprise to see Lester become available for trade if Boston is struggling early in 2013.
This is a team without an ace, without an elite pitching prospect in its system (though an Ellsbury trade could potentially bring one in) and potentially without the financial backing to chase the top echelon of free-agent starters. Fixing this will not be easy.
Lacking Star Power
Without Gonzalez, Crawford, Youkilis, Beckett and potentially Ellsbury as well, the 2013 Red Sox lack the name-value that previous incarnations had in excess. This may have a positive or negative effect.
In one sense, the team lacks a bat that it can rely on to provide game-deciding hits in high pressure situations. If the 2013 Red Sox have two on and two outs in the ninth inning of a one-run game, who do you want at the plate if you are a Boston fan?
On the other hand, teams like the Oakland A's have won in recent years by getting above-average production from normally lackluster lineup spots as players have stepped up to collectively fill the void left by a lack of elite players.
Window of Opportunity
The New York Yankees' core is old. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are well beyond the years typically associated with a player's prime. Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher are likely leaving in free agency, and the Yankees will have lingering rotation questions if they do.
Elsewhere, BJ Upton has officially priced himself out of Tampa Bay. While the Rays still boast a superior rotation, their only remaining impact bat, Evan Longoria, is coming off a season in which he managed to play in just 74 games.
The American League East may be vulnerable in 2013 to a flawed champion, and the Red Sox could sneak into contention. However, the division never stays down long, and talented Baltimore and Toronto teams could just as easily finish ahead of Boston again if their own young players produce.