The Dream is Over...
Now we start all over
Well, for the 2013 Boston Red Sox, the dream of a season that was has now faded into the collective memories of Red Sox Nation. It will go down in history as one of the greatest seasons in Red Sox history. Capped off with a World Series clinching victory in Boston (something that hasn't happened since 1918), The Red Sox came from last place in 2012, to the top of the mountain in 2013.
Major League Baseball's Hot Stove
It is its own season
Baseball's second season is the postseason, and its third season is the offseason which is highlighted by the Hot Stove.
For the first season since the "chicken and beer" incident, the Red Sox aren't looking for a manager and they aren't really in the market for any major pieces to their puzzle. Any moves that the Red Sox make this offseason will most likely hinge on which of the four main free agents decide to stay or test the free agent market.
How Important is a Strong Leadoff Hitter
The answer is easy, Jacoby Ellsbury was very instrumental to the success of the Boston Red Sox this season. He set the tone for each and every game that he was in (as any good leadoff hitter would do). You knew if Ellsbury jumped on the first pitch in his first at-bat, the Red Sox were going to be aggressive. If he took a lot of pitches the first time up, it was a pretty good bet that the entire team was going to wait out the pitcher and run up his pitch count.
Jacoby Ellsbury is likely to test the free agent waters this year. The qualifying offer of $14.1 million made by the Red Sox is quite a bit lower than what he is expected to make on the market. The big question is, will the Red Sox be in the conversation with Ellsbury for a long-term deal? When contract talks like this come up, I can't help but think about the Carl Crawford debacle. But, I like to believe that Ellsbury is a different kind of player than Crawford. Granted, Jacoby has had is problems with nagging injuries, but when he is healthy, he is probably one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
What happens if Ellsbury decides to sign somewhere else? In all reality, the Red Sox aren't in too bad of a situation here. If, and probably when, Ellsbury signs with another team, Jackie Bradley, Jr. is waiting in the wings. He burst onto the scene during Spring Training and had everyone talking about him being the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. Unfortunately, Bradley, Jr. didn't quite pan out this year - but he is still young and provides a huge upside to the organization. I am a firm believer of getting the young players into the game before you lose them to another team looking for young talent.
All in all, I would love to see Jacoby Ellsbury stay with the Boston Red Sox, he is one of my favorite players on the team. However, I know we will be all right with Jackie Bradley, Jr. patrolling center field.
Dustin Pedroia's Bigger Twin?
I have been a huge fan of Mike Napoli since his days with the Angels. He is a great power hitter who always seems to come up big in clutch situations. Yes, he does strike out a lot for my liking, but in the end he still hits for a decent average, with above average power. He also plays a stellar 1st Base, especially for someone who played his first full season at the position in 2013.
Napoli has said that he wants to see what is available on the market, but he has also said that he wants to come back to Boston. Will he be tempted to go back to the Rangers, who are in need of a 1st baseman?
Mike Carp stands to benefit with a substantial amount of playing time if Mike Napoli decides to leave. He had a breakout season this year, highlighted by an extra innings pinch hit Grand Slam. Can he duplicate those heroics and steady numbers in 2014? Well, that remains to be seen, but if 2013 is any indication - the future is bright for Mike Carp.
You know, J.D.'s Little Brother
I am really not a huge fan of the younger Drew. I don't think that a qualifying offer should have been extended in this case. I will admit that his defense is stellar, and the Red Sox made do without consistency at the plate, but that is going to change. Not only do you have an amazing young player in Xander Boergarts waiting in the wings, you've got a very solid 3rd baseman in Will Middlebrooks. The left side of the infield for the Sox looks like it could be set for years to come.
Jarrod Saltalamachia has had a very "interesting" career with the Red Sox. Yes, he won a World Series, but he was basically benched for the older and more seasoned David Ross in the last few games of the World Series. And he wasn't issued a qualifying offer. If it were me, that would seem like the Red Sox don't want me there any longer. I think that is wrong.
Salty is not a great defensive catcher, but he has made tremendous strides throughout his 3+ years with the team. He is not the best hitter, but he is solid and getting better. For the Red Sox, they could keep a solid player behind the play, who knows the pitching staff quite well, and they could probably do it at a bargin of $14.1 million. I think Salty will land a fairly lucrative deal somewhere else. If that is the case, I don't think the Red Sox will be in the ballgame on that one.
The Red Sox do have Ryan Lavarnway in the the system, but he has been inconsistent and lack-luster when given the chance. They also still have David Ross...
There has been a lot of talk about Brian McCann from the Atlanta Braves. He is a solid catcher and a great hitter, but his price tag is going to be large. Do the Red Sox want to revert to the spending habits of the previous 4 years?
The Rest of the Team
Oh ya, there are a bunch of other guys on this team
There isn't much to say about the rest of the team. The pitching staff is locked in. They are solid at 2nd Base, Right Field, Left Field, and they've got a lot of young arms in the bullpen.
The 2014 season for the Red Sox will hinge on what their 4 key free-agents decide to do.
Prediction: Of course the Red Sox are going to repeat as World Champions. I have been saying for years they would win the World Series. And in my lifetime, I am 3 for 23. Not a great average, but they've hit a bit of a hot streak in the last 10 years.