The Boston Red Sox were troubled last year by an iffy offense, one which faltered even more with the season-ending injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, both All-Stars. Mike Lowell retired. Adrian Beltre is a free agent, who rumor has it could resign with Boston, but may not. Pitching was fine, particularly the starters, what with Clay Bucholz' breakout season, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey fronting the rotation. In the bullpen wait flamethrower Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon (more on him later). But the offense! Well, what do you do to correct the imbalance?
First you bring in slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for three (really promising) minor leaguers and $160 million.
"We're thrilled to be able to make this trade," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Monday at a news conference introducing the slugger, adding that the team has admired the power-hitting Gonzalez since his days playing for the Texas Rangers...
Gonzalez, donning a Boston jersey without a number, said the Red Sox have always been his favorite American League team in part because of Boston icon and Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who like Gonzalez, was a left-hander and San Diego native.
"I'm very excited to be in Boston and ready to beat the Yanks," he said.
The Red Sox sent minor league right-hander Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named later to San Diego....
In five seasons with San Diego, Gonzalez has 161 homers and 501 RBIs. Including parts of two seasons with Texas, he has 168 homers and 525 RBIs. He hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs last season.
Epstein expects better numbers in Fenway Park with the Green Monster in left field. "We think he is going to wear the wall out," Epstein said.
Then, you bring in the top free agent outfielder, Carl Crawford, to beef up the outfield production and add speed to the lineup.
The Angels had been in pursuit of Crawford, the top position player on the free agent market, and offered him a seven-year, $108 million deal. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had dinner with Crawford and agent Brian Peters Tuesday night. The Rangers also were involved.
But the Red Sox acted quickly and decisively and just days after trading for Adrian Gonzalez, have added a second premier player. Crawford hit .307 with 19 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 47 stolen bases last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. The 29-year-old is a four-time All-Star and this year won his first Gold Glove.
Crawford’s market was set Sunday when right fielder Jayson Werth agreed to a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox topped that contract by an average of $2.3 million a year.
With Gonzalez reportedly having agreed to a seven-year, $154 million extension to his contract, the Red Sox have invested $296 million in a span of four days. The additions of Gonzalez and Crawford, two stars in their prime, should set the team up as contenders for years to come.
The lineup now has Crawford and Gonzalez, Youkilis and Pedroia, David Ortiz, JD Drew (though I prefer youngster Ryan Kalish) and Jacoby Ellsbury. At shortstop currently are Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie, both of whom have solid bats. Catcher is manned by Jason Varitek, on the downside of his career but helps run differential on the other end by managing the game exquisitely, and Jerrod Saltalamacchia, whose name simply drips off his shirt.
Crawford plays great defense, and can be expected to score over 100 runs in that lineup, with 20 HR and 50 SB while hitting around .300. Best of all, though, may be what it does to the Sox traditional rival. It makes 'em crazy. If the Yankees don't come up with Cliff Lee, and they are pulling out all the stops to do that, they may find themselves looking up at the end of next season.