Another AL East team, another somewhat bizarre off-season (so far). Even after the Boston Red Sox get past the Epstein/Francona exodus, there are still the specters of Christmas past, with overpriced closers, Big Papi looking elsewhere, and Crawford's contract looking a little worse than it did even when it was signed.
But still, there's that lineup, and what a lineup it is. Buster Olney is ranking it first overall, and Alex Speier of WEEI says it's unquestionably the team strength. In other news and notes, the Carlos Quentin signing has the team taking stock of its plans in right field, the Rich Hill signing inspires hopeful reactions, and Ryan Kalish may not make the opener:
Olney Ranks Red Sox 1st Overall Lineup - ESPN (Insider)
"The 2011 Red Sox will be remembered for their September collapse, for beer and fried chicken. But they also led the majors in runs, and there's no reason to think they won't continue to generate a whole lot of offense, with so many elite hitters -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford. Run production won't be a problem."
Still the strength: Taking stock of Red Sox 2012 lineup - WEEI | Alex Speier
"The Sox will continue to explore the market to see if there is an affordable outfield upgrade, whether a right-handed platoon bat or a player who deserves a larger role. That said, an opening day right field platoon featuring Sweeney and Darnell McDonald -- while lacking in name recognition -- could still represent an upgrade for the Sox."
Carlos Quentin didn’t fit into Red Sox’ right field plans - WEEI
"The Red Sox’ right field scenario currently includes newly-acquired Ryan Sweeney from the left side of the plate, along with holdovers Darnell McDonald and perhaps converted infielder Mike Aviles from the right side. Ryan Kalish, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, figures to enter the mix once cleared to play the outfield sometime early in the season."
Ryan Kalish Expected To Miss Season's Start - Over the Monster
"Kalish, who was already expected to just DH in spring training and begin the year at Pawtucket due to recovery from the neck issue, likely won't even get to do that as he recovers from the procedure on his labrum."
Boston Red Sox Sign Rich Hill - MLB Daily Dish
Hill, 31, started off the 2011 campaign with eight scoreless innings and striking out 12 to only 3 walks, before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery. The southpaw is hopeful to be ready by Opening Day and make the team as a lefty reliever for the Red Sox major-league club.
- Rich Hill Re-Signs With The Red Sox - Over the Monster
"Hill, if healthy, has the potential to be the top lefty in the Red Sox pen, and that's coming from someone who is oddly optimistic about not-Coors Field Franklin Morales. "If healthy" is a legitimate question, though, and the optimism surrounding Hill has more to do with his repertoire and previous prospectdom than it does those 12 frames. Regardless, it's good news for the Sox, who have added yet another possible bullpen piece to a unit that might have improved despite the real loss of Jonathan Papelbon and hypothetical loss of Daniel Bard."
- Mending Hill has high hopes for Sox bullpen - BostonHerald.com
"The risk for the Red Sox is minimal, but the payoff could be great. Two years into his transformation from up-and-coming starter with the Cubs to left-handed specialist with the Red Sox, Hill still hasn’t allowed a run."
- How Bailey-Melancon duo compares with Papelbon-Bard - The Providence Journal
"Papelbon will close games for the Philadelphia Phillies next season. Bard is likely destined for the Red Sox starting rotation. In acquiring Andrew Bailey from Oakland and Mark Melancon from Houston, however, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has put together a duo that might complement one another just as well as Bard and Papelbon did."