Finishing last in the American League East in 2012 cost Bobby Valentine his job, so the Boston Red Sox ended up making the first high-profile trade of the off-season by moving infielder Mike Aviles to the Toronto Blue Jays for their manager, John Farrell. Since then, the Jays have made a series of deals that have not only upstaged their division rivals, but almost all of the major leagues as well.
In the last few weeks, Toronto pulled off (arguably) two of the biggest trades in club history. The team got a package of high-profile front-line players, including shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, in a fire-sale swap from the Miami Marlins for (essentially) a handful of prospects. Then on Tuesday, they finalized a move this week with the New York Mets for National League Cy Young-winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey involving highly touted catching prospect Travis d’Arnault.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have attempted to solidify their own roster. First came the re-signing of DH David Ortiz to a two-year, $26-million deal, with an additional $4 million in incentives if he stays off the disabled list. That was a move the club had to make: if they didn’t bring the 37-year-old left-handed hitter back, the Fenway faithful probably would have rioted. It’s significant, though, that the team put the health-based incentives into the contract; there are some questions around the aging slugger and his troublesome Achilles heel.
Age could also be a consideration in their front-line pitching: they inked former Rangers and Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster — who will turn 36 in May — to a two-year, $26-million contract.
With the acquisition of free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, infirmity may also play a role. Drew, who signed for one year at $9.5 million, has missed a good chunk of the last two seasons after he broke an ankle in a home-plate collision in July 2011. Even so, the shortstop’s older brother, former Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew, is confident his sibling will fit in.
One Boston-area media pundit is not impressed by Boston’s moves. Kirk Minihane of WEEI-TV had harsh words for the acquisitions of Drew, 29, and 32-year-old outfielder Shane Victorino, who was signed to the club for three years and $39 million.
A snag also seems to have developed with another potential acquisition. Mike Napoli, who was expected to take over at first base and as the backup catcher and right-handed DH, should have been signed by now, but no announcement has been made. That deal might be at the point of collapse: possibly concerned with the state of Napoli’s health, Boston could be negotiating to shorten their original offer of three years and $39 million.
If Napoli doesn’t go to the Red Sox, they could pursue free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher, who last played for the New York Yankees. It’s all part of what has already been one of the more active off-seasons the major leagues have seen in years.