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The Red Sox may have missed on the big fish this offseason in Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Derek Lowe and saw the Yankees sign the first three, however, they have not stopped bringing in veterans to fill holes in the roster. They signed Brad Penny to bolster the rotation and Josh Bard to help fill the catching void.
Now, they have signed Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli and appear on the brink of signing John Smoltz. While the Yanks were writing long-term, long-dollar contracts, the Sox offers have all been short, affordable and incentive-laden deals.
Baldelli had been a Rays staple since breaking into the majors and showed tremendous talent as an all-around hitter and good defensive centerfielder with speed. Unfortunately, it seems he would suffer an injury during every season and miss significant time. Last season, he was almost forced into retirement until it was discovered that the mysterious condition plaguing him was a rare mitochondrial disorder, fatiguing him easily. In a part-time role with the Rays, he contributed to the World Series run and looks to have a similar role with the Red Sox.
He will likely be a reserve outfielder and part time designated hitter with the Sox, giving regulars days off as Terry Francona likes to make sure everyone gets their proper rest. With Coco Crisp having been traded to Kansas City and J.D. Drew almost assured of missing some time, his presence as a veteran outfielder on the bench could be a key.
Smoltz is a signing similar to Bartolo Colon‘s last season, bringing in a former Cy Young winner in a risk-reward situation. Colon’s was a non-guaranteed minor league deal, whereas Smoltz’ is a major league, incentive-based contract. Smoltz is rehabilitating from shoulder surgery, stemming from an injury which casued him to miss virtually all of 2008, but word has it he is progressing very well though he will not be ready for the beginning of the season.
What Smoltz will be is a sixth starter should one of the current members of the rotation be ineffective or suffer an injury of their own. Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny have had injury concerns of their own in recent years and Josh Beckett has always been dinged up with minor injuries as well.
For the dollars invested in these players, as well as the deal crafted for Penny, the Red Sox are ensuring that they will only pay for the performance these guys can deliver. If these gambles do not produce on the field, the Red Sox will be rid of them in short time and will not lose much of an investment. Conversely, for the Yankees, A.J. Burnett, another player with a history of injury concerns, could blow $80 million over the course of a number of years. Also, none of the Sox signees are expected to produce at a high level for the team to succeed; each of them provides depth behind the key cogs in the Red Sox machine.