It finally feels like January here in Boston, which is strangely reassuring. There's a vaguely important football game in Foxborough tomorrow, but the real fun surrounded the Red Sox, who are only a month away from reporting to Fort Myers for the start of spring training. A new season beckons, with a shiny new roster mostly in place.
That roster reached (apparently) its final form with the long-delayed signing of Mike Napoli to a one-year deal. There were quite a few ups and downs with this one, but Boston was finally able to come to terms with the slugger. Napoli will join the team on a one-year deal worth $5 million, which could reach $13 million if he hits certain performance benchmarks. It's a far cry from the three-year deal we thought he was signing a few months back, but this deal certainly grants the Sox more wiggle room in the future. And, of course, if Napoli proves healthy and enjoys his time in Boston, re-signing him remains an obvious possibility.
With Napoli in the fold, the priority for Boston became figuring out their arbitration-eligible players. The Red Sox, rather notably, have not gone to arbitration with any player since the new owners took over, and it's a streak that seems likely to continue. Boston came to terms with just about everyone this week, with only reliever Craig Breslow remaining on the list.
Now that Boston has their payroll mostly set and their roster in place, what's left to do this offseason? There are still a few pitchers left out there, but it appears the Sox aren't interested in any of them (except perhaps Javier Vazquez, which frankly terrifies me). Matt Kory looked into the crystal ball and tried to figure out how everything else would turn out (warning: pee jokes).
But the offseason's simply the warmup act, the real fun comes on the field starting in April. How do the Red Sox look for the upcoming season? It's really hard to say. Matt Sullivan examined the Sox' schedule for the coming year to figure out how their road trips will affect their offensive output. Boston (for about the hundredth time) isn't going anywhere without pitching, so what can they expect from the rotation? John Lackey's coming off Tommy John surgery, and Marc looked at similar pitchers recovering from the same injury to see how he might do this season. (Short answer: probably pretty much fine.) Felix Doubront had a fascinating season last year, striking out tons of batters, walking tons of batters, and throwing 200 innings' worth of pitches in 160 innings. What does that say about his possibilities for 2013? Well... it's kind of hard to say, actually. Just look at the comparable seasons and prepare to be confused.
At this time last year, the Red Sox infield was Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Aviles, and Kevin Youkilis. One year later, Gonzalez is a Dodger, Aviles an Indian, and Youk is... ugh. He's with another team, OK? It's an entirely new infield for 2013, and Matt Kory tried to figure out if it'll be an improvement (it probably will be). One of the new guys in that infield is Will Middlebrooks, who hit well enough last year to bump Youk out of the lineup. It's been noted by many writers and analysts that his walk rates leave something to be desired, but as Matt Collins writes, that doesn't make him a bad player.
The final tidbit of Red Sox news this week, fitting in perfectly with the proud shining week it was for sports media, was the release of excerpts from former Sox manager Terry Francona's new book. Matt Kory gave his own spin on probable revelations from the text. Given Francona's co-author on the book, we can assume it will be an honest and forthright analysis of Boston's decision-making and strategic processes, with profound reflections on the difficulties of managing a ballclub under the searing glare of the Boston sports scene. Wait, who was the co-author again? *checks Google* Oh. Never mind then. It'll be much cheaper to watch Game 162 from two years ago while shoving meat skewers under your nails.
Enjoy the weekend, folks.