Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Major Makeover – The 2011 Boston Red Sox

This winter's “Hot Stove” season has produced some of most major dealings in many a year. As mentioned in my last post, Major League Baseball's Major Free Agent Signings, teams have positioned themselves for a run at the 2011 post season.

The Chicago White Sox brought in Adam Dunn and maintained Paul Konerko to have power in the lineup while the Atlanta Braves acquired Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins to fill their 2nd base void. The New York Yankees shored up their catching by signing Russell Martin and the Philadelphia Phillies landed the top prize by signing pitcher Cliff Lee.

But no major league team has done more in an attempt to win the 2011 World Series than the Boston Red Sox.

Here's a rundown of the more significant acquisitions.

Boston's major trade was to gain the services of left-handed slugging 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres in exchange for three top prospects and Eric Patterson.

The Red Sox have been interested in Gonzalez for the past two seasons but haven't been able to satisfy the Padres needs until now. Yes, it took prize prospects in pitcher Casey Kelly and 1st sacker Anthony Rizzo to pull the deal off, but the Sox desperately needed another bomber in the lineup knowing they wouldn't re-sign 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre and having lost catcher Victor Martinez to the Detroit Tigers. With this move, Boston moves Kevin Youkilis to the hot corner and now have a lineup that rivals the New York Yankees.

On the heels of the Gonzalez trade, Boston stunned the baseball world by signing free agent left fielder Carl Crawford to a seven year, $142 million deal when it appeared that Crawford was going to sign with either the Yankees or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The signing of Crawford will improve the outfield defense in time (Crawford must learn to play the “Green Monster”)and will add speed and even more production to an already potent lineup. Manager Terry Francona has the pleasant problem of making a lineup card depending on the opposing pitcher and Crawford can bat anywhere from lead off to fifth in the batting order du jour.

In 2010, the bullpen was a major sore spot as there wasn't a reliable arm for innings six and seven to get to set up man Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox made three free agent signings this week to shore the bullpen up.

First, Bobby Jenks was added for two years worth $12 million. The former Chicago White Sox closer may have lost a little on his fastball, but is still quite capable of getting the important out in the later innings.

Then Boston signed former Tampa Bay Rays reliever Dan Wheeler for a couple of seasons. Red Sox fans should remember Wheeler as a innings eater from the pen that can pitch day after day as proven by being at or near the top of relief appearances yearly.

It was also announced that Matt Albers, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, has been added to the Boston bullpen. Albers would be used if starting pitchers get yanked prior to inning six and can pitch multiple innings in a game.

These acquisitions may be only the beginning of more movement by Boston. As of now, there is no lefty relief pitcher for the bullpen, and there are six starting pitchers on the staff. It has been rumored that the Red Sox could trade Papelbon, starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, or even center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for a catcher or an outfielder.

What about knuckleballer Tim Wakefield? He's signed on for one last season and now he has nowhere to go. Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia the answer behind the plate? I'm not sure about him back there.

Believe me, the Bostonians are far from done making deals this winter.


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