Mike Napoli is back with the Red Sox after signing a two-year, $32 million deal this past December. Credit: Getty Images
A year ago at this time, “Truck Day” was met with a collective laugh by the Fenway fatigued in Boston. The famed sell-out streak was a sure bet to end in April and most pundits were picking the Sox to finish in the basement of the AL East.
In other words, anticipation for Red Sox spring training was something close to an all-time low. A stunning World Series championship later, combined with the fact that the Celtics are now Boston’s basement dwellers and the Bruins are taking a mini-Olympic vacation has the Hub brimming with baseball fever in February.
While spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20, many members of the defending MLB champs are making their way to Fort Myers, Fla. this week. We take a look at moves the Sox did and did not make this winter as well as young players to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:
Moves they made Few are arguing with the front office’s new strategy of signing players to short-year and short-money contracts. This approach worked wonders in 2013. Gone is Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher but in is veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who inked a one-year, $8.25 million deal in December. The 37-year-old is durable, having played in at least 125 games in each season the past 11 years and provides the Sox with power in the bottom half of the order.
- The signing of Edward Mujica could very well wind up being a steal for the Sox. Mujica had a 2.78 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and recorded a whopping 37 saves for the Cardinals in 2013. The righty reliever has great command, having walked only five batters in 2013.
Moves they didn’t make As expected, the Sox didn’t re-up with Jacoby Ellsbury, as the center fielder took New York’s seven-year, $153 million contract and ran. The Sox are betting that Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready to take over in center and that veteran Grady Sizemore could possibly provide some insurance in the outfield. - Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that the team had “conversations” with coveted free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but getting the Japanese righty to Boston never truly seemed to be in play. Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan, signed with the Yankees for seven years and $155 million. The Red Sox will have six starters (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront) vying for five spots this spring.
Young players to watch Xander Bogaerts had 34 plate appearances in the 2013 postseason and hit .296 with a .412 OBP. Interestingly enough, the 21-year-old walked more times (six) in the postseason than he did in 50 plate appearances in the regular season (five). But will he be the starter at short on Opening Day? That will all depend on where Stephen Drew, who is still on the market, winds up.
- Will Middlebrooks has had an extremely strange start to his career, as he looked like a world-beater in 2012 but spent 51 days in Pawtucket due to performance in 2013. Trade rumors have been consistently popping up regarding the third baseman.