The Boston Red Sox deserve all the credit in the world for winning the World Series in 2013, especially after what they had come off of in 2012. A 2011 September collapse led the team to part with 2 time WS Champion manager Terry Francona and go with Bobby Valentine. After one season with Bobby V, the Red Sox made a change once again, this time going with Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell. The team went from 90 wins in 2011 under Francona, to 69 under Valentine to 97 under Farrell last season. While every offseason move seemed to work, ie. Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes, Koji Uehara, it needs to be noted that the Red Sox 2013 bullpen had a complete makeover mid season. The back of the Red Sox bullpen was led by former All Stars Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, as well as LHP Andrew Miller. All three were out for the season by the All Star break. If it wasn't for RHP Uehara (4-1, 21 saves, 1.09 in 73 games), the Red Sox could not have had the success they enjoyed in the 2013 postseason. Junichi Tazawa (5-4, 3.16 in 71 games) and Craig Breslow (5-2, 1.81 in 61 games) came together at the right time to set the bridge for Uehara.
I find it hilarious how the great baseball know it all- @johnQtwitterAccount, blasted the Red Sox for signing the washed up old Shane Victorino. And how horrible his 3 year, $39 million contract was! Victorino proved how little that jackass knows with a solid 2013 season (.294, 12, 61, 21 SB) and was even bigger in the postseason. The Red Sox initially gave 1B Mike Napoli a similar 3 year contract, but voided it due to some questions with Napoli's physical. They eventually agreed to a new 1 year deal and Napoli was great for them as well (.259, 23, 92).
The Red Sox have two major additions to their lineup to make up for the losses of CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9, 53, 52 SB) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273, 14, 65). They signed veteran Grady Sizemore to play CF, choosing him to be the starter over top OF prospect Jackie Bradley. Saltalamacchia was expected to leave as a free agent, as the Red Sox went to David Ross as their catcher for most of the WS. They signed free agent AJ Pierzynski (.272, 17, 70) from the Rangers to be their everyday catcher. Other than the minor trade they made with the Colorado Rockies, flipping LHP Franklin Morales for 2B Jonathan Herrera, the only notable move the Red Sox made this offseason was signing FA RHP Edwin Mujica (2-1, 37 saves, 2.78) for the Cardinals last season. They lost RHP Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.57, 29 starts) who decided not to pitch this season and SS Stephen Drew (.253, 13, 67) is still a free agent.
The Red Sox extended their best player and the only one who has been part of all three WS Championships, David Ortiz (.309, 30, 103) for the 2015 season, which is the least they could have done. Pierzynski and Sizemore join the lineup that includes Victorino and Napoli. When all the outfielders are healthy (Shane Victorino may be headed to the DL), the Red Sox like to employ a platoon of Daniel Nava (.303, 12, 66) and Jonny Gomes (.247, 13, 52). Dustin Pedroia (.301, 9, 84) is as steady as can be at 2B with 2014 Rookie of the Year candidate Xander Bogaerts playing SS everyday. 3B Will Middlebrooks (.227, 17, 49) has to improve a little bit offensively for the Red Sox to be confident with him being the starting 3B for long. Perhaps 3B prospect Garin Cecchini could be ready for the big leagues mid season. I'd line the Red Sox up like this: Victorino RF, Pedroia 2B, Ortiz DH, Napoli 1B, Nava/Gomes LF, Sizemore CF, Pierzynski C, Bogaerts SS, Middlebrooks 3B. Top bench options include backup catcher Ross, Herrera and 1B/ OF Mike Carp.
The Red Sox are trying to finalize a deal to extend their top starting pitcher, LHP Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 in 33 starts). The loss of Dempster could be a blessing as the rest of the rotation seems set with RHP Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74, 16 starts), Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17, 23 starts), John Lackey (10-13, 3.52. 29 starts) and Felix Doubront (11-6, 4.32, 27 starts). LHP Chris Capuano (4-7, 4.26, 20 starts) was signed as a free agent from the Dodgers to play the role of spot starter/ long reliever, with RHP Allen Webster getting a chance to fill in if there is an injury.
Returning Uehara, Tazawa and Breslow from last year's WS team leads a strong bullpen for this season. Breslow, however, will start the season on the disabled list. But Miller (1-2, 2.64, 37 games) should be back in the mix and RHPs Mujica and Brandon Workman (6-3, 4.97, 20 games) should make the pen even better. RHP Burke Badenhop (2-3, 3.47, 63 games) also comes over in a trade from Milwaukee.
It is easy to consider the Red Sox the favorites to repeat as WS Champions, or at least AL Champs. Teams like the Yankees and Orioles made moves to prove they are gunning for the Red Sox, while Tampa Bay remains a threat at any time. In spite of winning 97 games in 2013, Vegas puts the Red Sox over/ under at 87.5. To me, I think that is an easy one to get to, as I have the Red Sox at 90-72, 1st place in the AL East. I think it will be a short postseason run for the Red Sox though; I have them eliminated in the ALDS this season.