A brand new year begins, and we're less than two months away from spring training.
Welcome to 2013, all. A new year beckons, with a new shiny roster, a season unburdened by giant contracts and lingering baggage... It also comes with a division that has suddenly become entirely unpredictable. Toronto has thrown everything they have at winning this year, and may well have gained the players to do it. Tampa has continued their grand experiment in trying to win a division without the aid of a major-league offense. Baltimore hopes to again win through the highly repeatable process of coasting through on unicorn farts. New York... New York may finally have gotten old, guys! That day we've been predicting for a good decade now may at last have arrived. And Boston... has a roster. So there's that.
Is that roster finished and ready for April? That's the question Ben posed earlier, running through the remaining issues facing Boston this offseason. Matt Kory held out hope that the Red Sox might be willing to break the bank for Giancarlo Stanton, a policy which I heartily endorse because this. And this. Seriously, that dude in Boston whenever possible.
One of the big focuses of the offseason, somewhat unexpectedly, has been the Sox bullpen. Boston completed a tradewith Pittsburgh to bring Joel Hanrahan on board as their new closer. Beyond looking to goose shirtsey sales, what are the Sox trying to get out of this trade? Ben couldn't quite see the point, not seeing much difference between Hanrahan and the probable performance next year of Mark Melancon, one of the players Boston traded away. Marc saw a move that improved the Sox' back-end bullpen while sacrificing very little and freeing up space on the 40-man roster for other new acquisitions. Matt Collins examined that bullpen, and found the results potentially very impressive.
To clear away a bit of the bad taste of last year, Marc delved into the darkest depths of the season to examine the worst five losses of 2012. Unsurprisingly, the image of Adrian Gonzalez whiffing horribly on a Chris Davis (Chris $^%#^%#$%ing Davis?!?) changeup features prominently.
As we've said several thousand times on this site, and will several thousand more, the fate of the 2013 Red Sox is almost entirely in the hands of their starting rotation. Matt Collins analyzed the potential of Felix Doubront, the youngest member of that rotation, and came away shrugging. Given the uncertainty with this rotation, shrugging seems like the right take. Marc looked at the Red Sox' recent scouting of another potential addition to that rotation: Javier Vazquez, who's currently pitching in Puerto Rico. Vazquez would, of course, be a nice upside play. If he could somehow solve his mystifying inability to reconcile ace-caliber stuff and peripherals with often-mediocre results, he might even be a big help.
Another key to contention for Boston this coming year is simple health. Ben looked at five players who missed substantial time last year, and the likelihood they'll see more games this year. Looking at the group, it's basically the core of the team, so a return to health and production from those five would be a huge boost to the fortunes of the club.
Where will those fortunes lead the team? Hard to say at this point, of course, as the Sox still have months to go before playing their first games, and it'll clearly be about a year until their deal with Mike Napoli is finalized. Fortunately, the Boston media and fanbase tend to write up their narratives a few months in advance, and Matt Kory gave us a glimpse of how those narratives will unfold.
Not much to do this weekend save follow the endless Napoli waltz and watch a bit of non-Patriots football, really. And, of course, the obligatory staring out the window and waiting for spring. Enjoy it, folks.