SOX HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE
The Boston Red Sox will contend for a postseason berth in 2013.
General manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell made it a priority to build a strong clubhouse with character guys and they've accomplished that goal with such players as outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, pitchers Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan, catcher David Ross and shortstop Stephen Drew.
But it doesn't matter what the team looks like on paper during the winter because it must translate onto the field during the regular season.
I believe it will.
The core of players already in place, including Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, have all the motivation in the world after a disgusting 2012 season.
Speaking of being motivated, starter John Lackey missed the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. The veteran right-hander is healthy and preparing for spring training. Farrell knows a healthy and productive Lackey will be key for the rotation's success. Lackey understands that too, and I believe he's ready to earn his money in Boston.
Many may think the team's offseason acquisitions are solely complementary pieces and not true impact players, but this Red Sox roster has character, depth and something to prove.
TOO MANY IF'S WITH THIS TEAM
Deciding that the Red Sox have rejoined the ranks of contenders in the American League requires a leap of faith that I'm not yet willing to make.
There are simply too many "ifs" in the equation that have to break Boston's way for the Sox to improve by the 20 or so games in the standings that will put them in the playoff mix. If Jon Lester regains his ace form; if Shane Victorino bounces back from an off year; if Stephen Drew can be the player he was before he fractured his ankle; if Jacoby Ellsbury returns to MVP form; if David Ortiz can defy age on a balky Achilles; if Will Middlebrooks builds on his rookie season; if Ben Cherington can find a productive first baseman in the event the Mike Napoli deal falls through; if John Farrell can make a greater impact than he did in Toronto; if John Lackey and Ryan Dempster can provide rotation depth that was missing last season; if Felix Doubront is the real thing; if the Red Sox can avoid the injury plague that has proved ruinous in recent years.
That's a long list of ifs.
Are Victorino and Drew significant upgrades over Cody Ross and Mike Aviles? Don't think so. Will Sox fans cringe when Adrian Gonzalez hits .300, 35 home runs and drives in 120 for the Dodgers? You bet.
Should anyone plan on October baseball in Boston? Good luck with that.