Sept. 17, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross (8) takes the field during the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox Offseason Report Card: A Solid B Student

We’re on the cusp of the 2013 Grapefruit League spring season, a time of hope and and renewal. In the wake of one of Boston’s worst seasons ever, on every imaginable dimension, there seemed a mountain of changes that needed to be made. That’s only because it was true. So how did the Red Sox do? Let’s take a look at their offseason report card.

May 2, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington speaks with reporters prior to a game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Front Office: B
Ben Cherington has made his mark on this team. Nearly all remnants of the Epstein hangover have been eradicated. The case can be made that Boston’s offseason started in August 2012 when Cherington dumped Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (along with Nick Punto) on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

During the offseason the Red Sox retooled the team, spending only about half of the Dodger windfall – thank you Magic Johnson – leaving them a lot of wiggle room to make more deals.

Cherington and company performed their due diligence and negotiated hard.  When Mike Napoli‘s hip disorder, avascular necrosis, was discovered Boston promptly withdrew his three-year $39 million deal, negotiated for 52 days and eventually got him for a much more reasonable one-year, $5 million.

During the Epstein era, the Napoli deal would likely have been a signed, sealed delivered he’s yours at full pop affair.

Additionally, Cheringon has been largely unfettered in his management of Boston’s baseball operations. Larry Lucchino has remained silent and not meddled in affairs in which he does not excel. The front office, particularly Fenway Sports Group, hasn’t bought another sports franchise that would further distract their focus. Although the Red Sox still have work to do, especially as regards starting pitching, this group closed ranks and got it together this offseason.

Apr. 25, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino in the dugout during game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Outfield: B-
At the end of 2012 Boston had one question mark and one must fill at their corner outfield positions. Shane Victorino replaced the popular Cody Ross in right field . Negotiations with Ross were touch and go throughout the offseason, mostly go as Red Sox fans would find out when Ross signed with the Diamondbacks and revealed that he and the Sox remained far apart on an agreement from day one.

Victorino has been very good throughout his career – just not last year. Boston will need not just a bounce back year but a string of them to make the investment pay off after icing the Flyin’ Hawaiian for a three-year, $39 million deal.

Jonny Gomes, who will be patrolling left field part-time for the Sox, is a journeyman outfielder who’s great in the clubhouse, great for the team but ultimately only good on the field. He says he wants to be a 162 guy. With a three year batting average against righties of .220 I wouldn’t bank on it. And the numbers aren’t getting any better. In 2012, Gomes hit .299 against lefties and .209 against righties. Pass the Pepto.

Oct 7, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Stephen Drew (5) makes the throw to first to get out Detroit Tigers center fielder Avisail Garcia (not pictured) during the fourth inning of game two of the 2012 ALDS at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Infield: B
The Red Sox plugged two badly needed holes at first base and shortstop, both of which are questions marks as the 2013 spring training season begins.

We know what Napoli, if healthy, can bring to the table. He’ll be decent, not great in the field at first base. He’s got a natural Fenway swing and has impressive offensive numbers there. Boston will likely need another first baseman to spell Napoli, a lefty power-hitter. Ryan Sweeney is a re-signed lefty who has said he’ll try his hand at first if that’s what Boston needs. What the team doesn’t need is a project at first who’s power numbers rival, well, mine.

Two years ago before he badly broke his ankle, Stephen Drew was on the MLB Network’s top 10 shortstop list. After a year that included surgery on the ankle, rehab and on again/off again play, Drew is healthy and ready to go. I’ll make a prediction here. Stephen Drew will be very good for the Red Sox this year. He’ll be durable, steady in the field and will have above career average offensive numbers.

Catching: B
Boston kept Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fold  by signing him to a one-year, $4.5 million contract. That’s as much insurance as anything, given that Ryan Lavarnway‘s 2012 offensive numbers were beyond pathetic. The most intriguing catching move made by the Sox in the offseason was the signing of former Braves backstop David Ross, who signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract with the Sox. Ross, a 35-year old veteran of 11 MLB seasons, is a solid catcher with a career slashline of .238/.324/.444/.769.

Pitching: C
With only the possible addition of Ryan Dempster to the starting rotation and Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan to the bullpen Boston still has plenty of work to do, especially as regards starting pitching. Most teams go into spring training with eight possible starting pitchers, Boston is thin with just five – Dempster, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz. This rotation needs help. Boston has an army of arms in the bullpen and setup/closer roles. Starting pitching needs a similar shot in the, well, arm.

Final Grade: B
Although starting pitching is a concern, Boston’s rotation for the first time in years will all be healthy heading into spring training. Lackey is 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery and Jon Lester has John Farrell back, which may help him get his head screwed on straight again.

If Duobront continues to mature and get stronger and Buchholz can stay healthy, the Sox could have the nucleus of a solid starting rotation.

The Red Sox were by far the most active team in Major league Baseball during the offseason. They acquired a lot of players, some of whom have not been mentioned in this piece. Pitchers like Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, both of whom came to Boston in the Dodgers deal, are decent prospects who could end up making a contribution.

More Work to do? Yes. Worlds better than September 2012? Absolutely. Mr. Cherington and Boston management, The Nation is ready for you to move to the head of the class.

Hey, I heard you missed us
We’re back! (Hey!)
I brought my pencil
Give me something to write on, man!
- Hot For Teacher, Van Halen 

Tags: Boston Red Sox

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