Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan joined Dennis & Callahan to talk about the Red Sox' offseason, the Angels' signing of Josh Hamilton and other baseball offseason news.
The Red Sox have acquired Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster this offseason (assuming the Napoli and Dempster deals are made official), and Passan gives the team mixed grades for the moves.
"Napoli I get. Napoli makes sense," he said. "I'd prefer to pay a guy $13 million a year if he was going to catch more. But I think that he had a down year last year. And I'm not saying he's more like 2011 Napoli than 2012, but I think he's a comfortable in-between, and he's got a swing that was built for that ballpark, and he's got a personality that fits there. I didn't mind Napoli very much.
"Victorino was absurd. Shane Victorino might be a good fourth outfielder these days. Look, he can catch the ball a little bit, but they're paying him center field money to play a corner outfield spot with Jacoby Ellsbury there now and Jackie Bradley coming. Center field money for a guy who hits like a center fielder, like a mediocre center fielder that they're playing in a corner outfield, that one made absolutely no sense to me.
"Dempster's fine. There's a reason that nobody would give him three years, though. He had Tommy John surgery back in 2003. Elbows tend not to last very long -- somewhere usually between seven and 10 years or so. We're getting to the 10th year of his elbow holding at this point. I know that the medicals on him turned out all right, but there was still quite a bit of concerns from other teams about his arm holding up. Especially with all the sliders he throws. You'll see, he throws about one-third of his pitches are sliders, and those can be very, very harmful on the arm. I think that was the big question mark about Dempster and the reason that nobody gave him a third year. You just hope for the Red Sox' sake he lasts two."
All three new Red Sox are known as solid clubhouse guys, but Passan questions the team's strategy in that regard.
"That's the thing that I don't understand about this plan. Just because you bring nice people together doesn't mean that they're going to get along. … It doesn't always work that way," he said. "Sports chemistry is a very organic thing. It is something that happens, it is something that comes together. And when you try to force chemistry through people's reputations, I think that's a very dangerous way and a backward way to build a ball club -- and a very surprising way, for a general manager and a team that has been steeped in analytics, in numbers driving so much of what they do, to go out and do this, a lot of which is based on having a better, friendlier, more-palatable-to-the-fans clubhouse, that's the part of the Red Sox' offseason I just don't get."
Looking at the 2013 season, Passan said the Sox appear to be in for another challenging campaign.
"I still think their rotation is mediocre," he said. "I think they'll hit. They will hit. I think they're sort of like an off-brand Angels roster right now. They're built like the Angels, but they're not as good as them.
"To me, this is a year where I'm going to look down at Pawtucket as much as anything. I want to see how Jackie Bradley looks. I want to see eventually how Matt Barnes and Allen Webster look. I want to see how Xander Bogaerts looks. Because that's the linchpin of this team right now. Those guys should all be there come 2014. If that's the case, then I think 2014 and beyond is going to be very exciting for them. They're not going to be down in the doldrums for a long time. They're not -- they're the Boston Red Sox. But I don't see this year being a ton better than last year."
With Hamilton leaving Texas for Los Angeles, Passan noted that the American League West rivalry between the Rangers and Angels has become the game's most intense, surpassing the one in the AL East.
"This is a better rivalry than the Yankees and Red Sox. I firmly believe that," Passan said. "The Yankees and Red Sox right now are dead. The Yankees and Red Sox right now are stale. There's nothing to that rivalry. The Red Sox are rebuilding in a weird way, and the Yankees can't get a contract for more than one year except for a 39-year-old outfielder [Ichiro Suzuki]. Is that really where they're supposed to be going at this point?
"It's a weird situation in the AL East right now, where the three teams that seem positioned best for the future are the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays. How the hell did that happen?"
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