At Home Plate: Red Sox adding role players, not stars

When the Boston Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it signified a change of philosophy within the organization. More importantly, it also cleared a large chunk of payroll for the team to be big spenders this offseason in an attempt to acquire quality players to be a competitive team again.

As the offseason progressed, the Red Sox had been linked to prized free agents Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke. However, both signed with a Los Angeles team: Hamilton the Angels and Greinke the Dodgers.

Despite missing out on the top free-agent targets, the Red Sox have been busy bolstering their squad with role-type players. Boston has signed or agreed to sign Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew and Koji Uehara.

Mike Napoli (Photo by Keith Allison, used under Creative Commons License)

Mike Napoli (Photo by Keith Allison, used under Creative Commons License)

That’s four new starting position players, a new starting pitcher and a new reliever.

Barring any major moves, the Red Sox will head into the season with a lineup similar to the following: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF; Victorino, RF; Dustin Pedroia, 2B; David Ortiz, DH; Napoli, 1B; Will Middlebrooks, 3B; Drew, SS; Gomes, LF; and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C.

That’s definitely a solid lineup, but considering the moves by the new-look Toronto Blue Jays and the always-dangerous New York Yankees, this lineup on paper may not be enough to challenge for the AL East crown.

Victorino, Napoli, Gomes and Drew were tremendous role players on their former teams but will now be expected to amp up their production, especially Victorino and Napoli who both signed three-year, $39 million contracts.

Rather than adding Victorino and Gomes, Boston could have signed Hamilton to play one of the corner outfield spots and used Daniel Nava or Ryan Kalish in the other.

The team had the money to do so after last summer’s blockbuster trade. However, instead of bringing in one superstar player, Ben Cherington and the Red Sox front office decided to use their increased funds to fill multiple holes.

As far as pitching, the veteran Dempster joins a rotation featuring Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and John Lackey. There are plenty of injury concerns with this rotation, and again it’s lacking when compared on paper to R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buerhle and Ricky Romero of the Blue Jays.

Maybe with Bobby Valentine out of town and John Farrell taking over as manager, the chemistry of the Red Sox will improve, which will in turn lead to wins.

While they may not have as much pure baseball talent as the Blue Jays or the Yankees, the team has the pieces to be successful. If all the role players played near or above their potential, the team will likely compete for one of the AL wild card spots.

But of course, if this team gets hot at the right time, an AL East crown is by no means out of the question.

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