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Offseason Review


Whether or not the Red Sox resign Jason Varitek, they have made some considerable moves this offseason, and, despite the Yankees big-budget trading, still have a equal chance to be competitive in the AL East this season. However, given the Yankees moves, the Sox' acquisitions have been much overlooked, and while not as costly as the Yankees, equally vital and certainly savvier.
Most importantly, the Sox trimmed the fat--starting with Manny Ramirez last season. Whatever his batting average, his destructive behavior and various sick days were lethal to the Sox clubhouse and needed to be fixed. This was possibly the most important trade the Red Sox made not only in 2008, but this offseason as well, as they got Jason Bay out of the deal who was, and will continue to be a key aspect to the team.
This offseason, the Red Sox also lost Coco Crisp, after he signed with Kansas City, which was no surprise, especially after Jacoby Ellsberry made his mark in Boston. However, the Sox will miss his defensive heroics in center. However, for Crisp, the Red Sox got RP Ramon Ramirez. Despite his up and down days with the Colorado Rockies, last season Ramirez had strikeouts in 71.2 innings, only giving up 21 earned runs in the process. With Timlin possibly on his way to retirement, the Red Sox could always use more relief in the bullpen.
Also making his mark in Boston is SP Brad Penny. After spending his entire career in the National League, we know little about Penny and how he will adjust to the AL and Boston. However, after two impressive years with the Dodgers, Penny struggled last year, in large part due to a shoulder injury, landing him on the DL three times. However, when healthy, Penny will provide the Red Sox rotation a versatile starter or lengthy relief pitcher.
The Yankees may have inked AJ Burnett and C.C. Sabathia, but the Red Sox also bulked up their pitching staff by signing veteran John Smoltz. While Curt Schilling may be on the outs, and the Red Sox looking to decrease the average age of their team, Smoltz was a smart deal, especially for $5.5 million. After 20 seasons in the majors, all with the Atlanta Braves, Smoltz is a Curt-Schilling type of pitcher, and will be much needed on a far younger, less experienced pitching staff. Last season was plagued by season-ended shoulder surgery, however, Smoltz is dependable. In 2007, he went 14-8 in 32 games with a 3.11 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 205.2 innings pitched. The Red Soxare definitely taking a chance with Smoltz and his shoulder, however, given his credibility and proven ability to perform, Smoltz will certainly add greatly to the Sox this season.
Notably on their way out of Boston are Kevin Cash, Bartolo Colon and Alex Cora. Although not back-breakers, these are definite losses for Boston. Cash, not only was Varitek's much needed backup after Doug Mirabelli left, was Tim Wakefield's catcher, and in baseball, the only thing more impressive then throwing a knuckleball, is catching one [or attempting to]. To put salt in the wound, Cash went to the Yankees. However, in his time with the Sox, he was a critical part of the team.
Colon never got to show his stuff in Boston, after dealing with persistent elbow problems that forced him to be sent down to Pawtucket. However, given his career numbers, Colon is a big loss, and could have worked will in the Sox rotation if 100 percent healthy. Colon signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox on Jan. 15.
Lastly, Cora was practically a staple in Boston, and, despite a slumping average, provided much needed pitch-hitting, defensive replacements and pitch-runners, as well as filling wherever the Sox needed him. Cora's versatility will be missed in Boston.
Headed to Boston are Rocco Baldelli, Josh Bard and Takashi Saito. Baldelli is very familiar with the Sox and vice versa, due to his days with the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays. Though his average is not what it once was, he still hit a decent .263 with 21 hits in 28 games in his last season with the Rays. Baldelli's defense is what he's known for, and although center field at Fenway may be a challenge, Baldelli is a good replacement for Crisp, and can scale a wall like the best of 'em.
Bard signed a one-year deal with the Sox, most likely to be Varitek's backup (or whoever the starting catcher may be). Bard's decent, consistent ERA throughout his days with the San Diego Padres and the Cleveland Indians, makes him appealing, as catchers rarely have strong batting stats. Bard will be a quality replacement for Cash.
Saito is another acquisition from the Dodgers, and another relief pitcher for the Sox. In three seasons with the Dodgers, Saito has a 1.95 career ERA in 180 games, with an impressive 12-7 record. Though Jonathan Paplebon is the Sox closer, Saito will serve as a dependable middleman.
With 14 days until opening day, the Red Sox have an impressive roster and will be more then ready to compete with the likes of the Yankees, despite clear financial differences. This offseason, the Sox were selective, yet savvy. Although taking chances in their signees, if they pay off, the Yankees will be shaking in their gold-encrusted boots.

Rani Smith

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