The Hot Stove season's biggest event has come and gone, and the Red Sox find themselves a bit better off.
The Winter Meetings are over, and the Red Sox have returned to Boston with a shiny new outfielder, first baseman, and relief pitcher in tow. This is excellent news for two reasons. First, it fills out the team's roster and gives them a fighting chance at contention next year. Second, it gives us moves to analyze and keeps us vaguely sane. So! Let's talk about those moves, shall we?
The first big move of the week was the signing of Mike Napoli to a three-year, $39 million contract. Napoli's an interesting acquisition. A catcher for most of his career, Boston has made it clear that he'll be playing at first. He's never played a full season, partly due to injury and partly due to Mike Scioscia's radiation-induced madness. And yet... oh, will that dude hit at Fenway. I say this not simply anecdotally, or because Napoli was the only Angels hitter who scared me at all in the 2008 ALDS. Marc, who unlike me does actual baseball analysis every so often, proved it with science. In sum: Napoli= death to opposing pitchers at Fenway. We will enjoy watching him hit.
Having acquired an all-hit, no-glove player, the next move seemed obvious for Boston: snag a slick glove for the outfield. They found Shane Victorino. Who, despite his occasional GIF-worthy adventures, is pretty good in the outfield. And, for that matter, on the basepaths. The Victorino signing caused a lot of head-scratching, given the Sox' stated interest in Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher, but it actually is pretty reasonable. One reason that the move could make a lot of sense not far down the road: Victorino can play center field, and there may be teams who would be willing to send the Sox a pitcher in exchange for a slightly used Jacoby Ellsbury.
Neither Napoli nor Victorino is exactly a franchise-shaking signing, but they give the Red Sox exactly what they need right now. Both are solid players, both should play very well in Fenway,and both grant the team flexibility. As Matt Kory pointed out, that positional and salary flexibility gives the Sox something they haven't had in years. Although there are still a few holes in the lineup (left-handed hitting, a decently-hitting shortstop), it appears the Sox are likely done building their offense. Barring, of course, an Ellsbury trade that necessitates the acquisition of Nick Swisher or Josh Hamilton.
Pitching, of course, remains an issue. So what has Boston done to fix that? Admittedly, not much so far. There was apparently some discussion at the Winter Meetings between Boston and the Mets about a trade for RA Dickey (a trade which, in my view, needs to happen yesterday), and Matt Sullivan made a strong argument in favor of such a move. Marc summed up the free agent market (now short one Brandon McCarthy, who signed with Arizona). Ben wondered how much it's really possible to improve the Boston rotation given what's out there. Even ruling out an Ellsbury trade, or any other trade that nets pitching for the team, there are a few interesting options out there for the Red Sox (Francisco Liriano, for example, because inconsistent pitchers tend to thrive in Boston). At the same time, it's reasonable for the team to not go nuts spending on starters, since without a productive season from Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, no pitcher they acquire can save them.
Boston did make one pitching acquisition this week, signing reliever Koji Uehara to a one-year deal. Uehara's a hell of a reliever, with a K/BB rate that would make you weep. Still, the bullpen isn't exactly this team's major weakness. Boston now appears to have a severe surplus of relievers, catchers, and outfielders. Fortunately enough, other teams are looking for just those things, which means a substantial trade is likely in the works. I still favor my current "Ellsbury plus any five guys in Pawtucket for Giancarlo Stanton" deal, but Ellsbury makes over $3 million, Miami wouldn't go for it.
We close out the week with two giant pains in the ass. One is the Hall of Fame debate, which seems to get louder and dumber every year. I took a quick look at it on Monday. The other is the reported contract offer that went out this week from New York. The Yankees, as you may know, are facing the prospect of a 2013 without $30 millon man Alex Rodriguez. If you listen carefully, you can hear me playing my tiny violin. This has led them to bid furiously on the free agent third basemen out there, including a certain bald, sweaty man-beast with whom we're all familiar.
Baseball gods, I don't ask for much. And even if I did, you've granted my team two titles in the last decade, there's really not much more I could ask. But please, not Youk in pinstripes. Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, fine. Not Youk. That just can not stand. Bid harder, Cleveland.