FT. MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox badly wanted to re-balance their team, and they have done that in a big way, remaking the left side of their infield and outfield and turning their overall defense from a so-so one into a superb one.
But they also know that to beat the Yankees, they simply needed more great players, and along those lines they made sure to get ex-Angels ace
The Red Sox still aren't going to beat the Yankees' star power, but in an offseason where the New York lost
Boston has indeed re-balanced things nicely. One big bat (Bay) is already gone and another one (the diminishing
No one can suggest they failed to do what they set out to do. Although, Epstein constantly hears criticisms from an intense fan base used to a lineup of bashers. He says, "We still like our offense. If we end up scoring a few fewer runs, we're going to allow a lot fewer.''
That should be true, thanks to the rejiggered defense that should reverse a season in which they let more grounders through the left side than any team in baseball. And also to Lackey, a Texas tough kid who was made for Boston. "It was time for a change of scenery,'' says Lackey, who happily went from a placid winning atmosphere to a rabid one. He loves it. And they should love him.
How good a competitor is Lackey? When equally tough Angels manager
The Red Sox, one of baseball's smartest front offices, understand they need impact players to beat the Yankees, so they spent time early assessing their chances at landing the very few available and thought-to-be-available stars at the beginning of winter. When they looked at
Here's how they assessed their chances at the others ...
They figured this would drag out and go too high, but on the off chance Holliday badly wanted to be in Boston, they offered $82.5 million for five years. They were willing to go a bit higher but weren't amenable to a deal for seven or eight years, and they figured -- correctly -- as it turned out -- that that's what he would get.
The Red Sox doctor said Bay failed their physical due to a bone-on-bone situation in his knee even though he remained asymptomatic so last summer they lowered their offer to Bay to two years from four and $60 million. They kept quiet about their medical exam out of fairness to Bay and figured someone would beat that two-year offer. Bay wound up getting $66 million and the full four years from the Mets, despite the fact that they knew about the knee situation from the start.
The Blue Jays named
The Red Sox probably had a very good feel for the situation regarding Gonzalez because Epstein's former assistant
That left Lackey, who quietly agreed to the same $82.5-million, five-year deal Holliday turned down. As a kicker, they got him to agree to pitch for the minimum salary in year six if he misses any of the first five with the elbow trouble that knocked him out of the last two Aprils.
Speculation was that Lackey wanted to be in California or possibly Texas, where the Abilene native could be close to his favored Dallas Cowboys. But his wife has strong ties to New England, and he badly wants to win, making the Red Sox his secret wish.
"It worked out great,'' Lackey says. "I ended up in a great place that has a chance to win.''
Great for him. And better for Boston.
One reason the Yankees were reluctant to go for a two-year deal for
After the shock of the Yankees' mild interest in Damon wore off, he got an $8-million deal in Detroit, not bad considering the treatment of 35-plus players with defensive limitations (
In any case, he's sure to be happy to join
With Damon off the board, there are still some quality players left. Here's a look at a few of them ...
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