Red Sox big splashes make them compelling again


Red Sox big splashes make them compelling again

By Sean McAdam

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It was August of 2006 and, as luck would have it, the New York Yankees were in town. The Red Sox were falling from contention, the Yankees had just acquired Bobby Abreu at the trade deadline, and general manager Theo Epstein was facing the music.

"We are not the Yankees,'' insisted Epstein at the time. "We feel our best way to compete with them year-in and year-out is to keep one eye on now and one eye on the future and to build something that can sustain success. We've gone toe-to-toe with those guys taking that approach. I think we're one or two games under .500 against them since '03 and have won one more World Series than they have. So we're not going to change our approach and try to all of a sudden build an uber-team."

And yet, four years later, the Red Sox very much resemble an uber-team.

Although the Red Sox haven't yet gotten Adrian Gonzalez's signature on a long-term contract extension, when they finally do the franchise will have laid out a staggering 300 million to two players -- Gonzalez, and of course, free agent outfielder Carl Crawford.

In a stunning show of both their resources and aggressiveness, the Red Sox stunned the baseball world with their signing of Crawford, emerging as the winners of a bidding war some believed they had dropped out of when they acquired Gonzalez in a trade with San Diego last weekend.

The off-season isn't over, but already, the Red Sox have made the biggest trade acquisition (Gonzalez) and signed the best position player (Crawford) on the market.

In so doing, the Sox changed the landscape in the American League East for the short- and long-term. Crawford is signed through 2017, with Gonzalez soon to be secured through 2018 (seven-year extension, plus 2011 contract in place).

After missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Sox are apparently determined to change their makeup, and with it, the rest of the division.

Tampa Bay has now lost Crawford, Carlos Pena and reliever Joaquin Benoit and will soon lose Grant Balfour and Rafael Soriano, too. The Yankees, meanwhile, are placed on the defensive, knowing that they must land Lee.

Of the projected starting nine for the 2011 Red Sox, the lineup now boasts All-Stars at first base (Gonzalez); second base (Dustin Pedroia); third base (Kevin Youkilis); left field (Crawford); right field (J.D. Drew) and DH (David Ortiz).

In the last two offseasons, once Gonzalez's extension is made official, they will have committed 446.5 million to four players -- Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett and John Lackey.

The investments in both Crawford and Gonzalez will take the Red Sox' payroll to about 157 million, including a scheduled arbitration raise for Jonathan Papelbon and increases for 0-3 players such as Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard. And, the Red Sox insist, they're not done yet, with bullpen upgrades still to come, as well as maintaining interest in catcher Russell Martin.

"If things come together the way we expect,'' Theo Epstein said Thursday, "we'll be really satisfied. You go into every winter with a Plan A and sometimes it's hard to pull that off and you move on to Plan B or C. But adding an impact player was very important for where we were for the short, medium and long-term. Adding two -- as long as they were the right players, in the right spots, in the right situations -- would be even better.

"I'd like to think we don't do anything purely on a short-term basis. The moves we make have to make sense from a short-term standpoint, medium-term standpoint, and long-term standpoint. It has to make sense on the field in terms of talent, the way the parts fit together, the makeup of the players, the long-term roster and payroll forecast. A lot of thought went into whether we could be aggressive as we needed to be on certain fronts and whether it was viable.

"The more we assessed those different variables and crossed those different perspectives -- and we did this objectively over months and months and months -- we realized there was a shot, if things came through the right way, we could be pretty aggressive on a couple of players we really liked.''

Though Epstein insists the Red Sox don't like to make reactionary moves, it's hard to view the events of the last week in a vacuum. As in 2006, when the Sox also failed to qualify for the postseason, they spent freely to lure J.D. Drew from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It's also difficult to dismiss the team's dip in popularity in the crowded and competitive Boston marketplace. The club's ratings -- both on TV and radio -- are down significantly, and where once the Sox had to worry only about competing with the Patriots, the resurgence of the Celtics (one title and another trip to the NBA Finals in the last two years) and, to a lesser extent, the Bruins, had created more of a sense of urgency.

And delayed though it might have been, this winter spending spree can be seen as a counter-response to the Yankees' unprecedented splurge two winters ago when they outspent the Sox for Mark Teixeira and added starting pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett -- a commitment of 423.5 million.

The Sox now have a powerful left-handed-leaning lineup that features speed and energy in the top-third of the lineup (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford), power and selectivity in the middle (Gonzalez and Youkilis) and plus defenders -- or at least the potential for such -- at all three outfield spots and three of the four infield positions.

And yet, despite the cost of doing business in the last week, Epstein maintained Thursday that the additions of the last week do not signal any philosophical conversion.

"Sometimes things align that allow you make big moves and sometimes they don't,'' he said. "If things come together a certain way, we'll have executed a little bit better than we have in the past. That said, I think it's fundamentally important that the basis of your thought process as an organization has to be principles and discipline. We have had those over the years and we still do.

"In other words, we didn't have to set aside principles and discipline or do things we don't believe in in order to execute some of these moves. I think it's aggressive, but we've been operating within our belief system.''

But this much is clear: The Red Sox are, as a group, a lot more expensive and, for that matter, a lot more compelling than they were a week ago.

And that is no accident.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Eduardo Rodriguez strong, Red Sox down Mariners for 5th straight win

Eduardo Rodriguez strong, Red Sox down Mariners for 5th straight win

BOSTON (AP)  Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Boston Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners to earn their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third consecutive win for Rodriguez (4-1), who went six innings, gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span.

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs. Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help from his defense. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.


Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBI in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what manager John Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.


Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.


More AP baseball:

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP