The Boston Red Sox stand just one game away from an American League pennant and a World Series berth after barely edging out the Detroit Tigers in Thursday night’s Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. But how did they get to this point?
Just a year ago, the Red Sox were a team in shambles. They had a disaster of a season under the tutelage of manager Bobby Valentine, who was a questionable hire from the outset. They traded three of their highest paid players, in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. A long rebuild looked to be on the horizon in Beantown.
Yet, here we stand, barely even a full calendar year later. Determining how the Red Sox got to this point requires looking at the free agent additions they made over the course of last year’s offseason. Despite the initial expectation that they’d shy away from bigger names on the free agent market, the Red Sox actually dabbled rather heavily in it.
Seven notable names were signed by the Red Sox, and none of them were for less than $4.5 million a year, save David Ross. The thing was, however, that virtually none of the deals are/were long term contracts. Of those seven players that were signed, Shane Victorino was the only player to get more than two years, and he only got three.
Nonetheless, each of the free agents that the Red Sox went after last winter has had a positive impact on the season, in one way or another. Victorino has been his solid self, while both he and Ryan Dempster have provided positive attitudes in the clubhouse, even if they haven’t starred throughout the year.
Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli each added a power bat to the mix, and despite the initial concerns over Napoli’s health that resulted in an initial three-year deal being reduced to one, he’s been very good. David Ross has provided stability behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew has been a good source of secondary offense, while providing decent defense.
Then there’s Koji Uehara. He’s helped to make that Red Sox bullpen an excellent one, with a terrific year as Boston’s closer. His peripherals aren’t terribly impressive, but the results speak for themselves. He’s been great, and he’s only in on a one-year, $4.5 million pact.
The free agent moves by the Red Sox have made Ben Cherington look like an absolute genius. They’re notable names, but they’re in on low risk, short term deals. Those deals have paid off, as the Sox now stand on the cusp of another World Series appearance.