Article Written By: Manny Alcala
Boston Red Sox
2013 Record: 97-65 (1st place in AL East)
Key additions: A.J. Pierzynski, Edward Mujica, Grady Sizemore, Burke Badenhop.
Key losses: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew (unsigned).
Most important players for 2014: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Koji Uehara.
The Boston Red Sox reached the top of the world last season. After having an awful season two years ago that ended in a last place finish, the Red Sox completed the famous “worst to first” feat last season not only by winning their division, but by going all the way and earning the World Series championship. After the horrible scene experienced at the Boston Marathon bombings, It felt like the title was meant to be for Boston as they went on to play very emotional baseball. With the amazing support of the fans and hot streaks by players like David Ortiz and Koji Uehara, no one stopped the Red Sox from their 8th championship. Now it is a different year, Boston has made some interesting moves, but all the big acquisitions the Yankees have made has taken plenty of attention away from the Red Sox.
Boston began this off-season by signing catcher A.J. Pierzynski and letting Jarrod Saltalamacchia go. Although both of these catchers produced similar numbers at the plate, A.J. gives the Red Sox a more established catcher with more experience than Saltalamacchia. Pierzynski hit exactly one point lower in batting average and three more home runs than Saltalamaccia last season, that’s as close as you’re going to get when looking for similarities. Edward Mujica, another FA signing, is in an interesting position with this team. If nothing unexpected happens Uehara will be the closer this season, and if manager John Farrell uses a similar strategy as late last season, he will probably use Junichi Tazawa as the set-up man. Mujica will provide great bullpen depth as he has experience closing out ballgames, but can also be a late inning relief pitcher. It will be fascinating to see how each role of these pitchers results.
Red Sox fans once again saw a team favorite player become the enemy by signing with the New York Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury brought back memories of what Johnny Damon once did when he signed with the Bronx bombers for the 2006 season. But the Red Sox might have found Ellsbury’s replacement in Grady Sizemore. Let’s be clear that Sizemore has been hurt, and boy has he been injured a lot! Since 2009 Grady has had seven, yes, seven surgeries. Being injured has been his Achilles heel since he was considered an all star caliber player earlier in his career. If Sizemore can stay healthy and get even a little bit close to the level he used to play, the Red Sox will use him as Ellsbury’s replacement, especially considering their very similar styles of play.
Boston’s season will eventually come down to the leaders of this team which are David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz. Mike Napoli will also play a big role this year for the Red Sox as he showed he can thrive under pressure in crunch time. Many speculated that Ortiz overachieved this past season, I think “Big Papi” showed that he still has some good years left in him and he can still produce as a designated hitter. He will once again hit near a .300 batting average and also around 30 home runs. Jon Lester will enter his free agent year, so he should be on top of his game especially if he wants to get paid big bucks next off-season. Clay Buchholz bounced back last season after some bad seasons. He did suffer an injury though that limited his playing time, but if he can maintain the way the was pitching last season throughout a whole season, we will hear his name in the Cy Young award candidates. As for now the Boston Red Sox are still the champs, and even though they might not seem like instant favorites to win it again, keep in mind a famous quote by Rudy Tomjanovich. “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”