The Winter Meetings have officially concluded, and the Red Sox and general manager Ben Cherington made some of the biggest news in Nashville.
Now it is time to evaluate the moves that Cherington made.
Overall Cherington made the Red Sox better for 2013, but the biggest question is did he make the right moves.
If your primary concern is fielding a competitive team in 2013, Cherington did just that.
The 2013 Red Sox will be better than the 93-loss team that played this past season.
Red Sox nab a first baseman
Signing Mike Napoli in particular gives the Red Sox a versatile, right-handed power hitter capable of playing first base, catcher and designated hitter.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:
The Red Sox want Napoli to be their first baseman and part-time catcher. The plan, according to a major league source, would be for Napoli to catch a lot in spring training, and then depending what happens with other Sox catchers via trade, have him catch some so he keep that aspect of his game in tact.
While he has yet to play first base full-time, Napoli has shown he is capable of being an average defensive player at the position.
The 31-year-old has only played 140 games once in his career, but the Boston Herald writes, “Spending less time behind the plate will exact less of a toll on his body and potentially lead to greater production.”
Napoli has also stepped up when playing against the AL East. He was hyped due to his success against the Red Sox. Though, now that he's on the Red Sox, his success playing against the New York Yankees is more important.
The first baseman/catcher hit .323 and had a .458 OBP in 31 games against the Yankees in his career.
Cherington shifts focus to outfield defense
The next domino that fell for the Red Sox was the signing of Shane Victorino to fill their hole in right field.
The Flyin' Hawaiian is a former center fielder and gives the Red Sox their best defensive option in right field. Additionally, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Victorino “gives the Red Sox the flexibility of trading Ellsbury during the season and is a replacement in center field if Ellsbury bolts as a free agent.”
The three-time Gold Glove winner gives the Red Sox their best defensive right-fielder since Dwight Evans, and he also gives them the option of moving Dustin Pedroia out of the two-hole if they choose.
Cody Ross may have provided more pop, and some will say he adjusted to playing in the pressure-cooker that is the Boston sports market.
However, Victorino played in an equally difficult Philadelphia market, he provides a center field option in case Ellsbury gets traded or gets hurt and he is also a switch hitter.
Red Sox gain flexibility
Versatility seems to be a priority, as the two biggest signings are capable of playing multiple positions.
The other thing that stands out is the conviction that Cherington has had sticking to short, three-year deals rather than signing players to long-term contracts.
While I disagree with the direction, since Napoli and Victorino are 31 and 32 respectively, the signings didn’t cost draft picks and allow the team to trade players like Ellsbury or Jarrod Saltalamacchia for pitching if the right deal comes along.
Red Sox still need pitching
The Red Sox made two good signings, but the team’s biggest need and biggest question mark is still its starting rotation.
Jon Lester may bounce back under John Farrell, and Clay Buchholz seemed to turn things around in the second half, but those are two big concerns.
Additionally, John Lackey is coming off Tommy John surgery and underperformed before he got hurt, so what should we realistically expect out of him at 34 years old?
Felix Doubront showed he is capable, but he doesn’t have a high ceiling and started to break down in the second half.
The 25-year-old Venezuelan is a solid fifth starter, but the Red Sox still need to add a top-three pitcher if they reasonably want to contend in 2013.
Overall, Cherington did a decent job filling holes at the Winter Meetings, but because he didn’t address the team’s biggest problem, I give him a C-plus.