BOSTON (CBS) – It has been a strange journey for Ben Cherington in his short stint as GM of the Boston Red Sox.
As the successor to Theo Epstein, Cherington has endured plenty of misery both on and off the field. Now he’s faced with the daunting task of rebuilding the franchise while trying to keep both the fan base and ownership happy (with a big part of that keeping ticket sales solid).
Make no mistake about it — whatever you hear from Yawkey Way, the Red Sox are rebuilding. That’s the bottom line. They are trying to go with youth — Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, Xander Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, etc. — in hopes that some of these kids will be a long-term part of the next successful Red Sox postseason run like we saw from 2003-2008.
The 2013 Red Sox have been built with the kids in mind, plus a few veterans sprinkled in.
One thing Cherington wanted to do this winter was change the culture of the clubhouse. I think he trusted the players way too much in his first year at the helm, banking the embarrassment of the 2011 September collapse would drive the same players to improve dramatically in 2012. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way. It also didn’t help they had to deal with all that came and went with the Bobby Valentine era. Headache after headache caused distraction after distraction from top to bottom, making it a terrible mix.
So, Cherington wanted to bring in players that 1) love the game, 2) have had success on the big league level, 3) could handle all that comes with playing in a market like Boston, and 4) would show the young kids how to play, work, and behave as a Major League ballplayer.
The Red Sox had plenty of money to spend this offseason, but they didn’t want to get locked into any long-term commitments. That way they can develop the kids, have the ability to sign the ones they want to keep to club-friendly, long-term deals, and then add some free agents as well. Thus, you have the two- and three-year deals they’ve been handing out this winter, and nothing longer. That’s a major reason why the Sox passed on Josh Hamilton; he just didn’t fit into their plans.
One of the problems the Red Sox faced is that the market was flooded with tons of cash to spend because of TV contracts, revenue sharing, and more. Thus, they had to overpay for some players that aren’t worth anywhere near what they got. This also wasn’t a great free-agent class, and the Sox didn’t want to part with any of their kids by way of a trade.
So, with all those factors tied in, here are your 2013 Sox roster as we approach the new year:
Napoli (?), 1B
Now, “on paper” this is not the 100-plus win team we saw coming into the 2011 season. But, “on paper” — as we’ve seen time and time again — is a dangerous term with no guarantees. Look at all the so-called expert picks from the last several years and you’ll also get a better feel for the “on paper” teams. Strange things can happen.
This lineup will allow Ben Cherington to make trades if the team is struggling at the trade deadline and beyond. Teams will be willing to take the veterans because of short term deals. Cherington can also look to deal Jacoby Ellsbury as well, knowing there is little chance of retaining him long-term.
Is it the best Sox team –on paper — we’ve seen in the last decade or so? Not even close. However, it should be one that plays hard, competes, and shows up every day. After that, who knows what can happen.
Just keep in mind, this is a transitional period for the Red Sox. Hopefully, better times aren’t too far away.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.