Looking beyond those additions, the value of the past two months really comes to light. Following a season in which almost nothing worked out well, Boston essentially had everything go the way it wanted through the remainder of the calendar year, or at least it made the most out of every situation.
It didn’t necessarily start out that way. Joaquin Benoit’s three-year, $16.5 million deal with Detroit set an extremely favorable market for relievers, as did outfielder Jayson Werth's massive contract with Washington. Knowing they would need upgrades in the bullpen and in the outfield, the Red Sox had to delve deep into both markets to get what they wanted.
However, when the dust settles and spring training begins, Boston will be sitting pretty, for several reasons.
When Adrian Beltre and the Texas Rangers finalize a deal, the Sox will get another first-round draft pick to go along with the one they received when Victor Martinez went to Detroit. Plus, both players will have signed outside of the division, despite being pursued by other A.L. East teams. If either had signed with someone like Baltimore, which had interest in both players, the draft pick would’ve been protected, locking Boston out of any first-round compensation, and the Sox would be forced to face them 18 times in 2011. Talk about a win-win scenario.
Boston did lose its own first-rounder when it signed Crawford, but it should still be ahead one pick in this regard when it is all said and done. Once infielder Felipe Lopez finds a new home, a likely late-winter scenario, you can add another sandwich pick for the Sox, who will then have three high-yield choices in a potentially loaded draft.
The organization has also managed to play the market for relievers to perfection. In picking up both Jenks and Dan Wheeler to two- and one-year contracts, respectively, it avoided having to commit three years to a reliever, as several other teams were forced to do in the wake of the Benoit shocker. Jenks and Wheeler are under team control for three years combined, giving the club considerable flexibility going forward if one or both struggles in Boston.
General manager Theo Epstein was loath to commit that many years to a reliever.
Additionally, Wheeler was not offered arbitration by Tampa Bay. By failing to do so, the Rays spared Boston another draft pick, allowing them to retain their second-round selection. The timing was right to bring the Rhode Island native into the fold, as it was for Jenks, who was coming off a down year, was unranked as a free agent and non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox That made the latter a rather easy, no-frills, high-upside free-agent signing. Again, a pair of win-win scenarios.
This all makes no mention of the fact that Tampa Bay has been forced to tear down its roster in a cost-cutting maneuver, and fellow division rival New York has struck out on several fronts, including the great Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Lee shunning the Yanks and going to the National League is just icing on the cake for Boston, which is packed with left-handed hitters and would love as many superstar southpaws as possible to stay away from the AL East.
The focus is and will remain Crawford and Gonzalez, but the real value of the Red Sox’ offseason indeed goes well beyond those two moves, and could have positive effects for several more years.
What has been the most influential acquisition outside of Boston or underrated move by the Red Sox that will have the greatest effect on the team in 2011? Share your thoughts below.
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