If it is fair to label the Yankees' hot start as a surprise in spite of the team's history and payroll, then certainly the same should be said of the Red Sox. With a win today, the team noted in a press release, the Sox would move to an even 30-20, good for its best start since 2008. Let's check in on the team that sported the fourth-highest Opening Day payroll:
- Perhaps the biggest surprise in Boston is starter John Lackey, whose five-year, $82.5MM deal has long been viewed as a major drag on the organization. After a terrible 2011 season, Lackey missed 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now, explains John Tomase of the Boston Herald, a "vintage" Lackey is back throwing in the mid-90's and hitting his spots. He has thrown to a 2.72 ERA over 39 2/3 innings this year, and is sporting an enviable 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. He is producing ground balls at a strong 53.6% clip, and his performance is backed up by a 2.92 FIP and 3.03 xFIP. While it remains unlikely that the Red Sox will ultimately get full value for their investment in the 34-year-old righty, the remainder of the deal is starting to look much more palatable. In addition to the $15.25MM Lackey will be paid this season, he is under contract for 2014 at a $15.25MM rate. More importantly, as Ben Goessling recently noted at ESPNBoston.com, Lackey's TJ procedure triggered a 2015 team option at the league minimum. In addition to generating cap and luxury tax benefits for the Sox, that option year could be an incredible bargain if Lackey maintains anything remotely close to his current performance.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier wraps up his three-part look at Red Sox ownership and management by documenting changes in the relationship between the club's baseball operations department and its ownership/upper-management. He notes that principal owner John Henry, in particular, has been increasingly assertive. According to Henry, "Over time, I've become less of a chain-of-command guy because the issues in professional sports have become so financially oriented — there aren't that many issues that don't have a financial component that are of real substance. Having a stronger presence, in my view, was needed. I'm more hands-on than I was." I recommend a full read of this piece, along with the first two segments, as there is much more valuable material than can be passed along here.
- One benefit of Boston's miserable 2012 season, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, is that the club will have its first top-15 selection in the amateur draft in fifteen years. Sitting at number seven, Boston will have an opportunity to score a talented youngster to go with the high-upside prospects (and massive salary relief) that it picked up last season in last year's stunning blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Past years have seen such impact big leaguers as Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Clayton Kershaw, and Matt Harvey snagged with the seventh choice. While Britton discusses the possibility of the Sox going after an arm, several recent mock drafts have the Red Sox landing a bat, such as North Carolina's Colin Moran or Georgia high schooler Clint Frazier.