In 2013 the media and the Red Sox told us that short term contracts were the wave of the future. No one questioned this philosophy because the season went so well, capped off by winning a Championship. It’s understandable how no one could find fault. The off season came and went without our beloved Red Sox signing any long term contracts (once again) but this time they didn’t sign any short term (Shane Victorino or the original Mike Napoli 3 year deals)either. Or for that matter they added no one of any real significance period.
Still we hoped that GM Ben Cherington knew what he was doing, especially coming off of a Championship season. He/We couldn’t have been more wrong. The 2014 season has been a complete and utter disaster to which Ben himself took all the blame publicly. Admirable as that may be he is not alone in the blame game.
Since last year the Red Sox have added Mr. Bill James, “the stats guru” back into the fold. If you look at his projections for young players such as Jackie Bradley Jr, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks you’d think Bill had lost his mind. None of these players have come anywhere close to the numbers he projected for them.
Did the Red Sox rely too much on Bill James and his projections? It would appear they had but just like Ben, Bill can’t take all of the blame.
The next logical place to look is at player development. For what amounts to the last year we have been sold a steady diet of just how good players like Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts are. The jury is still out on these players in my opinion because I feel as though they were “rushed” through the system.
The reason for the rush? The moment the Red Sox decided they were only going to be passive, short term shoppers in Free Agency. Between this, Bill James outlandish projections for the youngsters, the fact they could be considered rushed through their development faster than most of their previously successful prospects, all adds up to failure.
We could also question the development process for the positional players (at least) for the last few years. Not since Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury have the Red Sox developed a player that made a fairly immediate impact on their Major League team. Anthony Rizzo may be the best player they dealt away but his late development was done in the San Diego and Chicago Cubs organizations (nearly 1,700 plate appearances in the Minors in total).
We may be able to single out a player like Christian Vazquez but he himself has credited a big part of his defensive development on working with the Molina brothers, not the Red Sox.
So are the Red Sox developing prospects properly?
In order for them to continue with this short term contract philosophy they need to improve their player development program, perhaps even their Scouting department. They also need to take Bill James projections with a grain of salt and not Gospel.
One thing is for certain, if the Red Sox want to be a perennial contender going forward something has to give, whether that be a change in philosophy again or improvements to their staff. They can’t have it both ways.