By Ryan Hogan
The Boston Red Sox have been the big winners in the 2010-11 MLB offseason. Most notably, they acquired the best position player on the free agent market, Carl Crawford. Not only is Crawford a great addition to the roster but his services will no longer be employed by the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox's divisional rivals.
The Red Sox didn't acquire Cliff Lee, the best pitcher in free agency, but then again, neither did the New York Yankees nor any other team in the American League (Lee resigned with the Philadelphia Phillies). Instead, Boston's General Manager Theo Epstein bolstered his team's bullpen, one of the worst in 2010, by acquiring free agents Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, and Matt Albers.
Finally, Epstein traded for 28-year old slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Clearly, the Red Sox are having one of the best offseasons in the American League and that's scary. If you recall, the Red Sox won 89 games last year despite sending 19 players to the disabled list. Fans with Boston Red Sox tickets for next season should be excited, very excited.
LF Carl Crawford (free agent from Rays)
29 years old, Bats Left, 9 Seasons
2010: .307 AVG, 90 RBI, 19 HR, 47 SB
In early December, the Boston Red Sox inked left fielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal worth $142 million. The acquisition means the Red Sox signed the best defensive left fielder in baseball; something extremely valuable for a club that plays in diminutive Fenway Park.
Crawford, a four-time All-Star, is a speedster that adds major depth to the Sox's lineup. He's also one of eight players to have at least 100 homers, 100 triples, and 400 steals in their career. Crawford once said he doesn't want to be a leadoff man. However, he has since backed off those remarks explaining they were a product of immaturity. Nonetheless, manager Terry Francona says he wants Crawford to hit near the top of the order but likes Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot.
The addition of Crawford gives the Red Sox tons of left-handed hitting (Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew). Look for the Sox to have back-to-back lefties in the middle of the lineup and for outfielder Mike Cameron to platoon against left-handed pitching.
1B Adrian Gonzalez (trade with Padres)
28 years old, Bats Left, 7 Seasons
2010: .298 AVG, 101 RBI, 31 HR, .511 SLG
The Boston Red Sox acquired first basemen Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for Single-A outfielder Reymond Fuentes, Double-A pitcher Casey Kelly, Double-A first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and the ever popular "player to be named later." Gonzalez, the Padre's four-time team MVP, has hit 30 home runs in each of the past four seasons. He's also durable. Since 2006, Gonzalez leads all big league first basemen in games played (792), games started (779), and innings played (6,978).
Besides being one of the most feared hitters in the National League, Gonzalez is also a solid defensive first baseman. He won gold gloves in 2008 and 2009. At the plate, Gonzalez tends to be a free swinger, meaning he'll never have the batting average of an elite hitter. Of course, he has mucho power and is a clutch run producer.
One of the questions Red Sox ticket holders have about the additions of Gonzales and Crawford is how will they gel with the rest of the team. Not that either one is a malcontent, but both were "The Man" on their respective teams. Now that they're with the Red Sox, how will they adjust to being just one of the men? Still, if that's the only thing Red Sox fans have to worry about, life is good.
RHP Bobby Jenks (free agent from White Sox)
29 years old, 9 Seasons
2010: 1-3, 4.44 ERA, 52.2 IP, 27 SV
Reliever Bobby Jenks is a bit of a reclamation project. He's coming off of a down year with the Chicago White Sox where he posted a career-high 4.44 ERA. The good news is Jenks comes at a bargain price. He made $7.5 million last season but the Red Sox signed him to a two-year $12 million contact. Jenks will have a chance to not only revive his career but to set the table for closer Jonathan Papelbon who just happens to be a free agent next offseason.
Jenks is a fierce competitor who can bring the heat—his fastball routinely reaches the high 90s. He doesn't walk a lot of batters and can keep hitters honest with his curve ball. Unfortunately, Jenks has some conditioning problems and issues with his secondary pitches. Both negatives limit him to pitching just one inning at a time. Still, Jenks is a nice and cheap addition to the Red Sox's bullpen.
RHP Dan Wheeler (free agent from Rays)
33 years old, 11 Seasons
2010: 2-4, 3.35 ERA, 48.1 IP, 3 SV
Red Sox continue to strengthen their bullpen with the acquisition of Dan Wheeler. The team signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract with an option for 2012. The 2012 option guarantees Wheeler another $3 million if he appears in 65 games in 2011. That figure jumps to $3.25 million if he appears in 70 games.
Wheeler has a great slider that foils right-handed batters. As a pitcher with good command, Wheeler can get you the much needed strikeout when your team is in a jam. On the downside, he can be predictable with his pitch selection and distracted by base runners. Bottom line, the former Ray is a very good middle to late-inning reliever.
RHP Matt Albers (free agent from Orioles)
27 years old, 5 Seasons
2010: 3-6, 4.52 ERA, 75.2 IP
Like Jenks, Matt Albers is reclamation project but unlike the former White Sox closer, Albers is not a lock to make the bully. The Red Sox signed the 27-year-old to a one-year contract mainly because the team wanted a groundball pitcher. Albers' fastball can hit the high 90s and his curveball really bends. His downside is a lack of stamina and giving up too many walks. Albers isn't going to solve the Red Sox's bullpen problems, but he will add depth. When he's on, Albers is a solid right-handed pitcher.