Welcome, all, to the final recap of the offseason! By the time I write another one of these, the Red Sox will already be 4-0, having swept the Yankees in impressive fashion and beaten the Blue Jays so soundly in their series opener that the Toronto squad will forfeit the next two and surrender R.A. Dickey, just to avoid the humiliation. Or, more likely, they'll be like 2-2. Just as long as they're not 0-4 again. Seriously, guys, just win the first damn game this year. Anyway, recapping.
This final weekend before the season begins is when everyone puts forth their predictions for the final standings, and it's normally super useful and accurate. In that spirit, Marc turned over prediction duties this year to his cat. Taking a look at non-feline predictions, Matt Kory ran through the big-name predictions around the web, and found something pretty close to consensus that Boston's in for another rough year near the bottom of the pack.
As we say at least four or five times a week around here, the key to not finishing at the bottom of the division is pitching. The Sox offense should be right at the top of the league again, so if they can pitch even decently, they ought to contend. Boston's made a few moves in that direction, notably signing Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal. Dempster should strike a bunch of hitters out, provide solid innings all year, and as Marc points out, he's precisely one draft pick cheaper than Kyle Lohse. Another point of emphasis this spring has simply been fixing the pitchers that were already on the staff. Jon Lester seems to have figured out his mechanical issues, as Matt Kory analyzes. In addition, John Farrell has placed importance on working more quickly on the mound, and as Matt Sullivan discusses, that should help their performance. Should all that fail, the Sox are considering acquiring Chris Young to provide a bit of rotation depth.
The importance of pitching was made even more apparent when the Tigers signed all-world ace Justin Verlander to a new seven-year deal, keeping the perennial Cy candidate in Detroit for (probably) the rest of his career. This means, of course, that Verlander will not be a free agent in 2014, when the Red Sox were going to have a lot of free cash lying about. This simply reinforces the need for young, cost-controlled pitching, something the Sox have in abundance for the first time in a while.
One thing they also have in abundance is hyperbole. The hype surrounding Jackie Bradley has gotten a tad ridiculous of late. I know you folks have been pretty good about expectations, but the less-discplined areas of the fanbase have apparently been mentioning Mike Trout. Which... Oh my, no. Still, this did lead to a truly magnificent scouting report on the kid, which must be read to be believed. Seriously, it's great. Less-hyped, but still likely to be productive, is Bradley's veteran soon-to-be teammate Shane Victorino, who ought to be a perfect fit for Fenway Park.
The season ahead promises to be... well, I honestly don't know what it promises to be. A playoff berth, a last-place finish, it's all on the table. One thing this season will certainly do is reveal whether the Sox can rely on their current core going into the future, something I examined on Monday. Another thing that will definitely happen: it'll be cheaper to go to Fenway early, thanks to a drop in food and beer prices. As is standard in Boston, people are complaining about this. Cheaper beer. Complaining. I can't.
Anyway, happy weekend, all. Two days(!) till Opening Day.