Justifying a lack of action

Justifying a lack of action

Justifying a lack of action

In an offseason dominated by big name free agents like Pujols and Wilson, as well as international free agents Darvish and Cespedes, the Boston Red Sox have opted for more under the radar signings and low cost trades. First they acquired Astros reliever/closer Mark Melancon, then sent Josh Reddick and prospects for A’s former Rookie of the Year closer Andrew Bailey as well as outfielder Ryan Sweeney. They then turned around and signed utility man Nick Punto from the Cardinals and catcher Kelly Shoppach of the Rays. Aside from a bunch of minor league deals, which most assume will be the equivalent of throwing out net in the water and seeing what gets reeled in, and resigning players that were already with the team, that’s all the Sox have done this off-season to improve the team that had arguably the most legendary collapse in baseball history. Now the question is, was it enough?

Typically, with big name free agents, teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are in the signing race by default, but this offseason the Sox have decided to stick with low cost solutions to their problems, and as of right now, they seem to have accomplished that in impressive fashion.

Melancon had a 2.78 E.R.A. last season with the Astros while pitching 74.1 innings. He had a WHIP of 1.22 and also saved 20 games. Not only should he be a solid setup man, but he also provides the flexibility to close should something arise from Bailey’s recent injuries. Melancon is just 28 years old.

Bailey, as mentioned before, had elbow and forearm problems that limited him to 90 innings the last two seasons, but was an All-Star in 2009 with the A’s. While with Oakland he had a better E.R.A. on the road than at home, and held hitters to a .197 batting average on the road as well. While not quite the big name like Ryan Madson, whom the Sox were rumored to be interested in, it could be argued that Bailey becomes the second best closer in the A.L.

Nick Punto is and should be viewed as nothing more than a utility player. A guy who can come off the bench and fill a plethora of positions, he’s a professional with experience and knowledge that the Sox know they can turn to and get what they expect from him.  He hit .278 in 63 games last year with one home run and 20 RBI.

Shoppach, Sox fans will remember. Not only from his time with the Rays, but also from the Sox in the early portion of his career. Shoppach is a defensive minded catcher who provides depth behind the plate should Saltalacchia need rest and Ryan Lavarnway not be ready for the pro game yet. 

Ryan Sweeney, initially viewed as a throw-in in the Bailey trade, has now become very important in that deal with the news that Ryan Kalish will not be ready opening day and possibly into May or June. Sweeney, just 26 years old, is an outfielder who appeared in 108 games last season with the A’s, hitting .265 with one homer and 25 R.B.I. He’s a solid fielder who played every outfield position last year and didn’t commit a single error. He’ll compete for playing time against Sox outfield utility man Darnell McDonald.

And that’s pretty much it. Not exactly the murderers row of acquisitions. Here’s the thing Sox fans need to realize though; last years Sox team under achieved and STILL managed to lead the league in runs, hit, total bases, OBP, Slugging, and OPS.

Let me put that into better perspective. Carl Crawford, one of the Sox huge off season signings, who hit over .300 in five of his previous nine professional seasons as a starter, hit .255 with 11 homers and 56 R.B.I. with an OBP or .289. Kevin Youkilis, who finished the season batting .258 after hitting above .300 the last three seasons, hit just .199 after July 15. Josh Reddick, in fill in duty for J.D. Drew, hit .387 in 62 at-bats through July 15, hit just .235 from august through September, including an august that saw him hit just .208. Even Adrian Gonzalez, who was admittedly still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, slumped a bit after July 15, hitting just 10 homers and 40 R.B.I. after a first half that saw him hit 17 and 77 respectively. 

And that’s not even touching on the pitching. 

The point is, the Sox didn’t have that much to fix as far as player NAMES this off-season; player production can be attributed to a lot of the late season woes. At the point, Carl Crawford is the unanimous choice for biggest comeback this season in the MLB, and after an offseason to fix their wounds and do some rehab, Youk and Gonzo will be back an stronger than ever. Even Salty admitted to fatiguing towards the end of the season, attributing it to working too hard last offseason in anticipation of more playing time.

Would it have been nice to replace an aging David Ortiz with Prince Fielder, who’s entering the prime of his career? Of course. And could the Sox have used C.J. Wilson to bring another strong left-handed arm to a rotation that was all but stable last season? Obviously. But aren’t any teams in the league that could have honestly said they couldn’t benefit from adding either of those two names. The questions are, would it have been prudent and would it have been worth it? The answers to those questions are no for the Sox.

Photo by Flickr user Keith Allison

By Boston Red Sox
Monday, 9 Jan 2012

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