Looking Back On The Offseason, The Day Before Red Sox Baseball Returns

Tomorrow, the Red Sox will play baseball in some shape or form for the first time in months. This is not only a good thing, but also a tremendously exciting thing. Perhaps more exciting, really, than for any Red Sox team in recent memory. But it did not always look like this would be the case. Let's take a little trip down memory lane before we get this show on the road.

It all started in November. With the World Series over, we turned our eyes to the offseason, and the three major free agents the Sox would potentially be losing: David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, and Victor Martinez.. Could the Sox keep them all, to give the 2010 Sox a shot at a healthy season? The answer seemed to be "no." The organization had low-balled Victor Martinez earlier in the year, and many questioned their commitment to bring Adrian Beltre back given his inconsistencies. The only one who was more certain was...

 

David Ortiz

With David Ortiz, it was kind of a forgone conclusion that he wasn't going anywhere. The Sox quickly dealt away with any angst there by picking up his option on November 4. Reactions were guardedly positive, with most acknowledging that it's an overpay, but making an exception for Big Papi.

Interestingly, in the comments section, we see a nice little thread break out, starting with this, from BoldandBrash:

I don't like this,

unless we’re getting Gonzo, Fielder (at reasonable DH money which probably won’t happen), or Pujols (which I think STL signs him). We’re kinda relying on Lars, Rizzo, and/or Lavarnway to be ready by next year. We could still bring Ortiz back for another year after this option year, but I don’t think that will happen.

Everyone seems to agree that, if the Sox are going to go after someone, it's going to be Adrian Gonzalez. But before we get to that, we have another stop to take.

 

Victor Martinez

After the Sox picked Ortiz back up, things got quiet for a while. They made a few small, but solid moves, acquiring both Taylor Buchholz and Andrew Miller. But it was clear that the Sox' position with Beltre and Martinez was getting shaky. On November 17, the Athletics, who would become something of a punchline in these negotiations, offered Adrian Beltre a 5-year, $64 million deal. But it wasn't until the 23rd that the storm really hit.

Around midday, the news broke: Victor Martinez would be a Detroit Tiger, signing for a paltry four years and $50 million. Reactions were, for the most part, negative. That was a pretty small deal to leave on, and that the Sox' only backup was (and would remain) Jarrod Saltalamacchia...well, it wasn't comforting.

The darkest day was yet to come, though. We head forward just over a week.

 

December 2, 2010

A very busy day, December 2 must be considered an example of things being darkest before the light. It was on this day that the Sox non-tendered both Taylor Buchholz and Andrew Miller, re-signed Jason Varitek, and offered arbitration to Jonathan Papelbon. I summed it up like this:

So where does that leave us now? For a lot of news, there's not a lot of good to be had. The Sox can consider at least 12 million more of their dollars accounted for in the budget, with only a bigger question at catcher and inconsistent, declining closer to show for it. Meanwhile, two of their potentially cost-effective options in the bullpen seem to have flown the coop. While they made the right decision with regards to Okajima, batting .200 isn't even acceptable on the field, much less in the front office.

Ironically the Sox would undo their one "hit" of the day by re-signing Okajima to a major league contract later in the offseason.

The frustration of the fanbase was clear, at this point. Varitek and Salty replacing Martinez? $10+ million for Papelbon? Nothing rumbling on any front other than Jayson Werth? Were we in for another 'bridge year?'

 

Adrian Gonzalez

No, we were not. December 3 ended with these two updates on OTM:

Red Sox and Padres discussing Adrian Gonzalez

Red Sox Now "Close" To Acquiring Adrian Gonzalez

Then, early the following morning, it happened: the Red Sox traded Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes to the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez. I remember waking up early that day, deciding to check Twitter before falling back asleep, and then not budging from the computer until late that night as the drama unfolded.

And, oh, what drama! A deadline was set for the Sox to sign Gonzalez to an extension, and as it drew closer and closer, the sides just could not find a good middle ground. With the deadline passed, the deal was reported dead. Sox fans were understandably angry as things slowly turned ridiculous, with reporters following the progress of Gonzalez' airplane. At one point, news that his limo may have gone to a hotel instead of the airport even came out. And one of our regulars, TheLoneDavid, made good-luck cookies!

It may never be clear what the exact series of events were that led to the Sox, Padres, and Gonzalez coming to an agreement once-and-for-all, but come 8 PM, and it was clear that Adrian Gonzalez had joined the Boston Red Sox. It was slightly less clear whether or not he had agreed to an extension, but the general consensus of the media was that one was ready to go, just waiting for the season to start to avoid a CBT hit. 

The Holidays had come early to Red Sox Nation.

It was a remarkable roller coaster ride of a day. Which made it all the more ridiculous how quickly the next week's news broke.

 

Carl Crawford

There was no drama here at all. It was just one quick tweet, and the Red Sox had signed Carl Crawford.

It cannot be overstated just how quiet this was. Really, the market for Crawford was pretty clouded in general. It was clear that the Angels wanted him badly, but aside from that, it was a bit of a mystery. The Yankees, though they never offered him a contract, were rumored to be involved despite their rather full outfield. But the Red Sox had only received the briefest of mentions. Most assumed they were after Jayson Werth until he was pulled away by a ridiculous deal from the Nationals. But there it was: Crawford was coming to boston.

While the reactions were not as unanimously positive as with Gonzalez, the signing of Crawford made something clear: this was going to be one hell of a Red Sox team. The Sox picked up arguably the two best available players that offseason, and they were going to be out for blood in 2011. 

Still, there was work to do, as the Sox had yet to address their single greatest need.

 

Filling out the Bullpen

With Jonathan Papelbon coming off two straight down years, and last year's bullpen having been an absolute mess, this was where the Sox really needed to improve. And, starting on December 16, they did just that. 

The first signing was Bobby Jenks, who I called "the perfect middle reliever." Two days later, and Dan Wheeler was on board as well. Two solid relievers makes quite a difference, and that turned out to be about enough for Theo, as Wheeler would mark the end of the major signings. 

In two weeks time, the Red Sox went from a complete mess with no clear direction in the offseason to, arguably, world series favorites. Over the last two months things have been relatively quiet, with the small additions of guys like Alfredo Aceves and Dennys Reyes being the most notable occurrences. But that's only because their work was done.

We've spent these two months patiently waiting for the Sox to get to work on achieving the heights we know they can. And while we won't get to see them make any actual progress for yet another month, at least tomorrow we'll start getting some concrete reminders as to why we expect so much.

It's been a fun offseason. Thank God it's over.

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