The 2012 season was one that Red Sox Nation would love to forget.
It slowly rolled down hill since the embarrassing 2011 finale against the Orioles, where Boston blew a ninth inning lead that cost them a playoff spot.
That quickly followed with the “dismissal” of Terry Francona, now with Cleveland, and the hiring of Bobby Valentine.
That experiment only last one season.
Boston dropped Valentine and half of their team during last season’s trade deadline.
They made the major trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers.
The craziest part of that deal was the fact that Boston had spent so much money to acquire Gonzalez and Crawford before the 2011 season.
Reports came out that those moves were merely PR moves from ownership, instead of using the Moneyball mindset that won them their 2004 & 2007 titles.
It’s really a great move for the club, shedding the major contracts of two players that have underperformed since they joined the team, ditching the inconsistent Beckett, and throwing in a utility man to sweeten the deal.
The new era began with the hire of Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach, John Farrell.
If there is anyone that could turn around this team, it would be him.
He was there during their World Series run from ’04-07, he knows how to get the best out of his players, and can establish a new team mindset.
General Management didn’t go on a shopping spree with their new funds, but they did bring in some quality players to improve the team.
Closer has always been a key issue with the team, even in the last seasons with Jonathan Papelbon.
They got aggressive and went after the best one in the game, Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
Boston then went back to the drawing board and brought in more help for their pitching staff.
The first target was former Cubs/Rangers starter Ryan Dempster.
He’s on the wrong side of 30, but Dempster was one of the most productive pitchers in the first half of 2012.
Farrell won’t expect him to be the ace of this staff, but he is expected to perform at a high level.
The most underrated acquisition was Rangers relief pitcher Koji Uehara.
Boston’s revamped staff will allow the starters to go six innings, then bring in Uehara, followed by the demoted Andrew Bailey, then Hanrahan. Sounds like a pretty solid, veteran group.
Bailey was acquired during the previous offseason, but continued his injury-prone ways.
He surprisingly didn’t take any offense to being demoted to the setup role, with the acquisition of Hanrahan.
The Red Sox brought in a slew of free agents to improve one of the most dismal lineups in team history.
They sured up the catcher and first baseman positions by bring in former Braves catcher David Ross and Rangers catcher Mike Napoli.
Boston took a gamble on signing former A’s and D-backs shortstop Stephen Drew.
Like Bailey, Drew has had a history of injuries, but Farrell is hoping that he will be past that.
Drew has the ability to be one of the best options in the league, but that’s only when he’s healthy.
It’s one position that the Sox might try to groom some depth from the farm system for insurance.
Cody Ross ended up signing a bigger contract with Arizona, so Boston turned around and signed former Phillies/Dodgers Outfielder Shane Victorino and former A’s Outfielder Johnny Gomes.
The Flying Hawaiian is up there in age, but he can still be productive.
Gomes might a little wishful, since he’s nothing more than a swing for the fences player.
Ultimately, Boston got rid of the overpriced underachievers and got back to building an actual team.
Let’s see if they did enough to get back in the AL East race…
RED SOX PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF Looking to bounce back after being injured in 2012. Put up MVP numbers in 2011, has developed into one of the best fantasy outfielders. Despite his value taking a hit, you should still view him as a top 10 OF option.
2. Shane Victorino RF Stole a career-high 39 bases in ’12, he’s a solid .280 hitter, that can get you 30+ stolen bases, 15+ homers, 80 runs, and 60 rbi’s. Get him at a discount in the middle rounds.
3. Dustin Pedroia 2B Despite having an injury-filled 2012, he’s still a top 5 2B, .290 hitter, can get 15+ home runs, 80 runs, 65+ rbi’s, and 20 stolen bases.
4. David Ortiz DH Everytime you think he’s taking a step back, he hits .300. He has for back-to-back seasons, including knocking out 23+ home runs, 60+ runs/rbi’s. Solid utility option in the middle rounds.
5. Mike Napoli 1B Took a step back in the batting average from the year before, 20+ home runs, 50+ runs/rbi’s. He’s not a top 5 catcher anymore, but just inside the top 10.
6. Will Middlebrooks 3B Had a great run, until he suffered a season-ending injury. Needs to work on his plate discipline, could have a breakout season with a full year of playing time. Middle rounds steal.
7. Stephen Drew SS Just hasn’t been the same player since 2008 (90/21/67/.290), constantly dealing with injuries, avoid until he proves that he can stay healthy.
8. Johnny Gomes LF Don’t even consider drafting him, because of his swing for the fences or nothing mentality
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C He’s not a reliable catcher option. You can do better with the expanding pool of prospects on draft day.
1. Jon Lester Had a horrible season in 2012. Don’t overlook the fact that it was the first time that he didnt’ have an above .500 season. He averaged 15 wins and 9 losses per season before that, with around 200+ strikeouts, can go deep into games, and doesn’t get injured. Did I mention that John Farrell is his former pitching coach. Bounce back season.
2. Ryan Dempster He’s old, but he’s produced double digit win seasons each of the last 5 years. His ERA is around 3.50, with a high strikeout ratio.He won’t have to be the ace of the staff for the first time in 11 years. Viable middle round option.
3. Clay Buchholz He’s been rocked around the past two season, since posting the 17-7 mark in 2010. He showed flashes of dominance towards the end of 2012, and should continue to improve this season. Late round steal.
4. Felix Doubront Finished slightly above .500 in a fill-in role last season, due to so many pitching injuries. High ERA, still needs to develop before you can trust him. Post-draft watchlist.
5. John Lackey Returns off of recovering from Tommy John Surgery, has been on the decline since 2008, nothing more than a post-draft watchlist candidate.
RP-Joel Hanrahan He’s one of the best in the game today. Back-to-back seasons of at least 36 saves. The problem is that the Red Sox offense might be more productive than the Pirates’, diving into his save opportunities. Should still be drafted as a top 5 closer.
Will Middlebrooks played in 75 games in his debut season, producing 34 runs, 15 home runs, 54 rbi’s, and a .288 AVG. He was slowed by injuries towards the end of last season, and really didn’t get a real chance until Kevin Youkilis was shipped to the White Sox. With a chance to play in a full season of major league action, Middlebrooks is set to have a breakout season. He could easily hit 20-30 home runs in 2013. Right now he’s valued to go somewhere in the middle rounds, because he isn’t on a lot of people’s radar…unless you’re a Boston fan. Regardless, he should be on your radar because of his upside to become a top 10 3B option by 2014.
Remember when we talked about Stephen Drew going down with his monthly injury? Yea, someone has to step up and his name is Xander Bogaerts. He’s only 20 years old, but he’s ready to make an impact this season. Bogaerts hit .307, 20 homers, and 81 RBI’s during his 2012 minor league campaign. He’s got the versatility to play either shortstop or third base, but he’ll be primarily used at shortstop. Don’t let the age fool you. If Stephen Drew starts to consistently break down and is out for a good stretch, Bogaerts could get the call. He’s the Sox’ top prospect and could make an impact before, depending on the healthy of Drew.