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Boston Red Sox in Transition Mode

December 3rd, 2013 at 2:43 PM
By Ron Juckett

'Boston Red Sox' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license:
Tuesday’s signing of catcher A.J. Pierzynski by the Boston Red Sox is the beginning of what will be a turbulent month for the club and fans.

By the time Christmas rolls around, we should know the fate of all four frontline free agents and who their replacements are going to be. Rest assured, by the time general manager Ben Cherington finishes putting together the squad headed south for Spring Training, it will make sense.

In the short term? Not so much.

You need to be prepared for all four players—Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli—to leave. With Pierzynski on board, Saltalamacchia is gone. The only question remaining is where he will go, Minnesota or Miami. Ellsbury is headed where the money is best. Drew will go to a place that truly needs him and Napoli will go with the first team that gives him a concrete three-year package.

Is this a bad thing? Not at all.

After the boondoggle of 2012, the Red Sox decided that they were building for the future. They brought in good clubhouse guys like Napoli and Shane Victoriono to play and old friend John Farrell to run the team.

An 80-85-win effort was expected. Instead, the team won 97 games and their eighth world championship. You cannot ask for more than that.

That does not make it easier, however, to say good-bye to those who did their best. With Boston, that is where the Red Sox are right now. What happens this offseason is about the next five years, not trying to repeat as champions.

By the reaction on Twitter, you would have thought the Sox had signed Alex Rodriguez to a long-term deal.

A.J. Pierzynski may not be the most loveable player in baseball, but it is not as if the Red Sox have a history of having Choir Boys and boy scouts on the team either. If you can tolerate John Lackey, or looked the other way when Manny Ramirez was being Manny, then you have nothing to fear with the dour Pierzynski. It is not as if Bobby Valentine is coming back.  

Would you really rather have settled for three years of Saltalamacchia at $9 million per year or—gulp—taken the huge contract the New York Yankees gave Brian McCann?

When the Dioner Navarro to Toronto signing went public Monday night, you knew we would see a deal at catcher within 48 hours. Navarro is getting virtually nothing over two years. The Sox were not going to pass on that unless they had something else planned.

Twelve hours later, we found out what that plan was.

Saltalamacchia improved a good deal in his time at Fenway. Although he did not have a great arm, he learned to hit and became a better player. His desire for stability will pay off and, hopefully, he will be happy wherever he goes. He deserves it.

It will be very hard to watch the team that brought so much joy last season break apart—like it was after 2004—but, with a prudent restocking of the farm system, a new generation of players is about to take the stage at Fenway Park.

You never know what might happen next.

* * *

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Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, MLB, Stephen Drew

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