As a Red Sox fan, I'm as happy as anyone that the Red Sox have acquired Adrian Gonzalez. However, Boston's work is far from done in this offseason: if they are to succeed in 2011 and beyond, the Red Sox need Carl Crawford and several relievers.
While the prospects dealt to San Diego in the Gonzalez blockbuster are tremendous talents, they'll probably hit the bigs too far in the future to help a Red Sox team poised for success now. Casey Kelly would find himself logjammed behind a locked-up rotation, Anthony Rizzo is a first baseman, and Reymond Fuentes is years away from achieving anything close to the success of his cousin Carlos Beltran.
San Diego snatched a strong haul, but it's a much stronger haul for a small-market team than for a team capable of filling any need through free agency and less reliant on a farm system's continual production. While the Red Sox need quality homegrown players like Bard, Buchholz, Ellsbury, Lester and Pedroia to produce at a high level for a relatively low cost, they don't need to fill an entire 25-man roster with low-cost pre-arbitration youngsters. The Sox can afford the Adrian Gonzalezes of the world.
So, yes, I'm a big fan of this deal, which also means that Boston avoids committing four or more years to a productive but inconsistent and aging corner infielder like Adrian Beltre. This move gives Boston tremendous flexibility moving forward.
That said, Boston cannot rest on its laurels and settle for only minor improvements between now and spring training. Boston needs both Carl Crawford and multiple relievers.
Although Gonzalez may hit .320 and provide more than 40 homeruns and 100 RBI per season, he less than replaces the combined 2010 production of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Those two sluggers launched 48 bombs, drove in 181 and averaged .310 for the season.
The Sox need another bat, and it had better be in an outfield that's only one year removed from losing JD Drew and Mike Cameron. Crawford's dominant speed and defense make him by far the best available option for years to come.
Just take a look at the potential free agent outfielders next Winter, and you'll quickly recognize what an opportunity teams have right now to sign the likes of Crawford. The Sox shouldn't be afraid to sign two franchise players to six or eight year deals at the same time. Crawford and Gonzalez can carry this club for a long time.
Then there's the bullpen. Young flamethrower Daniel Bard recently commented to the Boston Herald that the pen needs a veteran presence. They need some help out there.
With Hideki Okajima non-tendered, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez dealt away last season, and Jonathan Papelbon diminishing each time he takes the mound, the Sox need to bolster the pen for 2011. Recently, they've been connected to Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, Koji Uehara, and Ron Mahay.
The smart money's on Fuentes and Guerrier. Either way, the Sox cannot rely on recent acquisitions Andrew Miller and Taylor Buchholz. Soon the free agent relievers will be gobbled up like holiday leftovers.
The Sox need to get in on this arms race.
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