While Fenway Park crews were removing the rink from the Frozen Fenway event, the Boston Red Sox front office was preparing for the upcoming baseball season. The 2012 roster is beginning to take shape for new manager Bobby Valentine. The Red Sox had their busiest week since hiring Valentine. Boston general manager Ben Cherington made some of his most notable moves since taking over as GM.
On January 21, the Red Sox dealt starting shortstop Marco Scutaro to Colorado in exchange for right-hander Clayton Mortensen. Scutaro’s stellar 2009 season in Toronto earned him a three-year deal worth $17 million to become the Red Sox starting shortstop in 2010. The 36-year-old had his second solid year for Boston in 2011 and was one of the few bright spots in September, but his high salary made him expendable.
Mortensen will join the Red Sox after spending parts of each of the last three seasons with St. Louis, Oakland and Colorado. The 26-year-old made 24 big-league appearances, including 13 starts. Mortensen pitched a MLB career-high 58 1/3 innings with a 3.86 ERA and 1.354 WHIP with the Rockies in 2011.
Mike Aviles, who was acquired last July from Kansas City, will pick up much of the playing time at shortstop. Aviles batted .317 and played all infield positions except first base and played some outfield for Boston. Another recent addition, Nick Punto will join Aviles in the infield. Punto spent most of his 10-year MLB career with Minnesota, but last year went to St. Louis and had an injury-plagued season as a utility player. Punto recorded a .278 average and an OPS of .809 in only 63 games played due to his three stints on the DL. Expect shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias to continue his development and spend most of 2012 in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Only a few days after trading Scutaro, the Red Sox spent some of the freed up money. Boston signed outfielder Cody Ross, pending a physical according to ESPN.com. The one-year deal will pay Ross $3 million and give the Red Sox a right-handed bat in the lineup and a replacement for J. D. Drew in right field. The recently acquired Ryan Sweeney, who came from Oakland with new closer Andrew Bailey for Josh Reddick, could have been slotted to battle Darnell McDonald for the position, but the need for Carl Crawford to undergo wrist surgery gave Boston a second hole to plug for opening day.
Ross hit .350 with three home runs and five RBI in the 2010 NLCS to take home the series MVP Award. It was the highlight of an otherwise average career. At age 31 Ross has played in eight MLB seasons and has a .261 batting average, a .779 OPS and has 100 home runs. He will likely be in the opening day lineup, but needs to show he is more deserving than the other options to keep a starting role once Crawford is healthy and Ryan Kalish recovers from surgery and is ready to be called up from Triple-A.
Cherington still has some money to spend and the team still needs a starting pitcher. The rotation lost John Lackey for the season and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return date is still unknown. Daniel Bard is expected leave his setup role to compete for one of the starting spots. Bard was never a viable option to close games. A transition to starter may suit him. Alfredo Aceves will also compete for a starting job, but the Red Sox maybe looking outside the organization. Rumors are swirling that Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson could be drawn in if the price is right.
In other news, changes are being made at the team-owned television station. NESN is on the verge naming a new member to their staff as well. Barstoolports.com is reporting that Jenny Dell will leave ESPN to replace Heidi Watney, who left for Los Angeles.
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