Since Bobby Valentine was ran out of town and the Boston Red Sox officially began rebuilding, the Red Sox have made a series of what I’d consider bizarre moves involving player personnel. Most maddening to me is letting reliever Scott Atchison get away. This is a guy who pitched 50+ innings of relief for the Sox last year, compiling a tidy little ERA of 1.58. But the two new players the Sox have brought in thus far, Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, leave me equally bewildered. While both will supposedly factor into the Red Sox plans in a major way, both come with a series of issues that I’d say raise at least noteworthy red flags.
Let’s start with Gomes, the lesser of the two signings both in talent and in contract. A two-year $10 million contract isn’t going to scare me away from any player with potential, so I’m not overly concerned there. Better yet, I get the Gomes signing – the guy clearly is dying to play for the Red Sox. He knows many of the Red Sox core players, and refers to Boston as “the Mecca of baseball.” I think Gomes is a great signing chemistry wise, and it’s clear that that’s a priority. But at the end of the day this guy can’t hit off of righties and generally seems to lack talent. His career high is 21 home runs, and he’s topped 60 RBIs just once while hitting .244 for his career. Sounds pretty mediocre to me.
Then there’s Napoli. I’ve always liked Mike Napoli, but 3 years and $39 million is a lot – heck, you can get Mark Sanchez for that kind of money. While Napoli likes hitting in Fenway and has some pop in his bat, he did throw down a .227 average last season (en route to being named an all-star?). His numbers at the plate are also eerily similar to Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s, who is a far cheaper option. Which brings me to my next point – the Red Sox clearly plan on playing Napoli at first base, despite his recent comments that he views himself as a catcher. This guy is certainly cheaper than Adrian Gonzalez, but he’s a massive downgrade at first base both offensively and defensively. While he’ll be a great fit in the clubhouse, as evidenced by Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester rallying to sign him, again my concern is he’ll be a good fit in a line-up lacking the fire power to truly compete with the elite teams in the league. And all of this of course assumes that his health issues aren’t a concern.
Alas, I won’t allow myself to get too worried yet. Ben Cherington has clearly been addressing the team’s chemistry issues, and there’s a lot of players still left to be signed. And better yet, I think one thing is clear – the 2013 Red Sox will play with a chip on their shoulder like few teams in baseball history ever have. That’s a significant X-factor that no coach, GM, or statistician can put a value on. Now let’s get some starting pitching!