Are the Boston Red Sox still a last place team? At this moment, before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12th, the answer is yes.
The unfortunate thing for the Red Sox is that they play in the ultra-competitive AL East, but the news isn’t all bad.
Boston enters this season with the deepest roster that they have had in years with the additions of Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Joel Hanrahan. The main thing the team lacks is the star power necessary to generate national media buzz.
The Red Sox could realistically improve by 14 wins over last year’s squad that managed to finish 69-93 and still find themselves in the basement of the division.
The reason that this isn’t a bigger concern right now is that the division looks to be bunched together at the start of spring training, meaning the Red Sox could sneak up on the other teams in the AL East.
The Toronto Blue Jays look to have improved the most in the division, with the mega-trade with the Miami Marlins sending Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle north of the border. The Jays also acquired 2012 NL CY Young winner R.A. Dickey in a separate deal with the New York Mets. The Jays look to be the class of the division, but winning the off-season doesn’t mean winning the division.
The 2011 Red Sox know this truth far too well. Adding Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford was supposed to make Boston the team to beat. Red Sox fans know how that went.
The New York Yankees look to have taken a slight step back with the departures of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Russell Martin. The Alex Rodriguez drama figures to be a distraction as well. The Yankees seem to be adhering to a budget right now, causing New York to have a muted winter.
The frisky Tampa Bay Rays also look to have taken a slight step back due to trading James Shields to the Kansas City Royals for top prospect Wil Myers. But, if any team in baseball has shown the ability to lose players and plug in replacements, it is the Rays. The Rays offense kept the team from the playoffs last season and it looks like it might be the case again this season.
The Baltimore Orioles took a huge leap forward last season, winning the one-game Wild Card playoff against the Texas Rangers and fighting the Yankees in the ALDS before falling short. It was a great season for the Orioles, but almost everything went right for the team and manager Buck Showalter last season. They could suffer a slight drop in wins next season based off of a quiet off-season.
What does this mean to the Red Sox? Winning 90 games might take the division. All of the five teams in the division look to be solid, meaning no one is going to be able to pad their win totals against a bad team.
If Boston can fix their starting pitching, then the Red Sox could compete for the division this season and surprise the other teams in the American League.
It all starts to come together next week.
You can reach Jonathan Cullen:
Twitter at jcullen71
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Writing about the Boston Red Sox at www.baseballslate.com