Boston Red Sox: Why 2015 was the bridge year 2014 was supposed to be

2 of 4

Nov 25, 2014; Boston, Ma, USA; Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington (left) talks to the media with third baseman

Pablo Sandoval

in the background during the introductory press conference at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Too many gaps in the lineup

Obviously every team that struggles to contend is ultimately only doing so because of missing pieces from the puzzle. For the 2014 Red Sox, there wasn’t even a puzzle.

Precious few additions were to be made in the 2013 offseason that made the Sox any better. Arguably the opposite. Jacoby Ellsbury skipped his merry way down dollar road to the Yankees. And Jarrod Saltalamacchia discovered first hand how few remember an incredible season if followed by a disappointing post-season, as he went his separate ways to the Miami Marlins.

As the season became increasingly lost, management at Fenway made moves to shed the talent remaining in exchange for prospects to aid a rebuild. Such an option was not exercised so much in 2015 if for no other reason than to save face on what was to be a year of cashing in 2014’s chips. The gap in the outfield was to be filled by shortstop turned leftfielder Hanley Ramirez, a well-known slugger fresh on the free agent market who would play competently in the position but add most with his bat. Alas, he only but added to Boston’s woes.

Even so, the players lost simply were not adequately replaced. Pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey went off never to return and their places in the rotation were left as empty as the hearts of the fans. Additions such as Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello did nothing to turn the tide for 2015. Both are certainly competent pitchers, though not top of the rotation by any means, when playing well. Neither played well.

Positions such as third base, fertile ground for a player with a bit of pop, saw the Red Sox languishing with an American League worst .571 OPS. Such a hole could only, former general manager Ben Cherington surmised, be filled by the sizable frame of one Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval’s overall production had been decreasing year on year and 2015 was to not be an exception, only worse than could be imagined.

Still despite all this, by the end of the season the competition for positions was enlightening. With the coming of age of the young Sox (more on this later) and the revival of the heroes from 2013 who remained, the team turned their fortunes around and ended the season with, if nothing else, much hope to be had for next year.

Travis Shaw was a revelation at first base, swatting away the cobwebs left from Mike Napoli’s struggling year at the position. Once injuries no longer stood in his way, Dustin Pedroia went on the tear in a way that brought us all back to his dominance in 2013. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts established themselves as potential “face of the franchise” players who turned middling power and leaky defense into offensive sovereignty and golden glove caliber fielding. Speaking of which, there was Jackie Bradley, he impressed in 2014 with his glove but not so much with his bat. 2015 saw him break through both the Mendoza line and the Green Monster airspace in spectacular fashion.

Any gaps to be found, whether by injury or by slumping, can be papered over by Brock Holt and his 2 WAR from any position on the park.  It certainly seems that, unlike 2014 both at start and conclusion, the Red Sox have the puzzle and now seek only a few finishing pieces.

Next: Not enough power