Red Sox primed to be top contender in 2017

Red Sox primed to be top contender in 2017

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Red Sox squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the vision?

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have a loaded roster on paper heading into 2017, thanks to a collaboration of current president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and the leaders of the past two regimes (Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington).

Epstein and Cherington helped build the foundation with strong Draft selections (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi), signings on the international market (Xander Bogaerts) and shrewd trade acquisitions (Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez).

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Dombrowski took it from there, adding elite power pitchers like Craig Kimbrel, David Price and Chris Sale.

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There is excitement entering Spring Training because the organization is now in terrific shape and looking primed to be a top contender, not just for 2017, but for the next several years.

"I think the positive is that we didn't trade any players from our big league roster in the Sale trade," said Dombrowski. "Look at the amount of young players we still have at the big league level. And I know we traded a lot of guys, but I give a tip of my cap to the organization, the regime, with Ben and Mike Hazen and the rest of the group that's still here. We have still some really good young players at the big league level."

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During consecutive last-place finishes in 2014 and '15, the young players were developing in the Major Leagues.

Betts, Bradley and Bogaerts all made the All-Star team last year, and now it's more about results than development.

"That's what you want to do and where you want to be," Bradley said. "We always heard at a young age that getting to the Majors isn't the hardest thing; staying in the Majors is. Last year being my first year being able to stay in the Majors the whole time, I kind of feel like I used last year as a stepping stone or as a platform for myself. Hopefully I continue to grow, to learn and get better."

It was the first postseason trip for Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley, and an eye-opening experience.

The feeling is that they will be ready to flourish in the next postseason. And without question, Dombrowski and the front office have put the team in position to make a deeper playoff run in the coming year.

The trade for Sale gives Boston a rotation with three potential aces.

Of course, it cost Dombrowski two top prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Such is the cost of doing business for a team that wants to win a fourth World Series championship since 2004.

Boston rotation full of aces

Dombrowski also dealt highly-regarded Minor Leaguers in the deals for Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Thornburg. No longer do the Red Sox have the top-rated farm system. Instead, they have one of the best Major League rosters in the game, at least on paper.

"Nothing is guaranteed in life," Dombrowski said. "I think you keep taking a chance and going for it as much as you possibly can and hopefully it works for you some day. Every one of these moves made us better. Because of the strength of the system that people built and because of the young players that we still have, I think we're still strong for many, many years."

Backed by power pitching and a strong lineup that has Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez supplementing the young stars, it could be a thrilling summer in Boston.

This doesn't mean there aren't questions. How will the lineup perform without David Ortiz? Can Pablo Sandoval bounce back and give the Red Sox what they need at third base? Who will be the starting catcher?

Dombrowski and his staff will monitor all these issues and be in position to make another move if necessary by midseason.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.