Now that Masahiro Tanaka has finally signed, there could be more activity when it comes to the starting-pitching market. That said, there are still free agents out there for teams to sign, including Bronson Arroyo. I think the Red Sox will bring their perceived glut of starting pitching to camp and see how it all plays out.
Currently, Boston has six established starting pitchers vying for five spots. In other words, the Sox are one injury away from not having an overflow in the rotation. This is why they will go to camp with what they have and take stock of their own assets before subtracting from them. But you do make a point that some of the young pitchers might be on the verge of being able to help the team.
We know that Jackie Bradley Jr. won't be able to replicate the basestealing threat that Jacoby Ellsbury offered, but is it possible that he becomes the leadoff hitter at some point this season or beyond? It seems like a Daniel Nava /Shane Victorino combination will start at the leadoff spot, but as Bradley gets used to hitting every day, is this a possibility?
-- Chris F., Portland, Maine
It is absolutely a possibility. You always try to take the pressure off of a rookie player going into a season. Remember, Dustin Pedroia opened the 2007 season as the No. 9 hitter. If Bradley wants to hit his way into a more prominent spot in the batting order, the Red Sox would be all for it.
I am still concerned that we lost Jacoby to the Yankees. At times I think we are becoming a Yanks farm team. Why can't we grow more like Jon Lester, who want to give their all to the team that developed them? Why did Jacoby really go? I am not satisfied it was just for the money.
-- Elaine L., Yorba Linda, Calif.
This has been going on for decades, starting with Babe Ruth and continuing with Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon and now Ellsbury. There are times when it makes business sense for one of Boston's players to go to the Yankees. It happens. Ellsbury wanted to get the best offer he could get, and that's why he went to the Yanks. He is far from the first athlete to do this, and I'm sure he won't be the last.
Do you see a scenario (besides one necessitated by injuries) where both Bradley and Grady Sizemore are in the Sox's lineup, with Jonny Gomes taking starts against most left-handed starters and either Mike Carp or Nava traded or sent back to the Minors?
-- Tevi D., Mattapan, Mass.
I could see a scenario in which Bradley is the starter and Sizemore fills in off the bench, and perhaps Carp or Nava gets traded. Both players proved last year that they are Major League-caliber hitters. I don't see either of them returning to Triple-A. Outfield depth and options represent a nice problem to have.
Former Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn was my favorite player when I was a young fan. Is he still involved with the Red Sox in any way? Do you know what he has been up to for the past decade or so?
-- Nathan J., New Palestine, Ind.
Vaughn has been a visitor to Fenway in recent years and has done some reconnecting with the Red Sox. As a matter of fact, I think he attended Game 6 of the World Series. Mo has made a solid second career for himself after baseball, helping with urban housing developments in New York.
Are the Red Sox making any headway with retaining Stephen Drew at shortstop, or has the front office already planned for his exit? Reports suggest the Yankees are interested in signing Drew to shore up their middle infield. With Scott Boras as Drew's agent, he'll advise Drew to accept the highest bid, just like Ellsbury did.
-- Michael I., Mountaintop, Pa.
I think the Red Sox let Drew know early on in the offseason what their general budget was for his services. Boras and Drew think they can do better, but that obviously hasn't come to fruition yet. I still feel like Drew will wind up back with the Red Sox, and I'll be convinced of that until I see a true market develop for his services. I wouldn't put too much stock in the reports about the Yankees. Bryan Hoch, the intrepid Yanks reporter for MLB.com, made some inquiries, and his sources say that New York doesn't have the money necessary to sign Drew.
Is this the best Red Sox farm system you can remember? If not, when was the best farm system the Red Sox have had?
-- Nick S., Pittsfield, Mass.
Clearly, the farm system is on a great run at the moment. But there have been other great runs for the Sox. In the early-to-mid 1970s, the Sox's system produced Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. In the early-to-mid '80s, we saw Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd, Al Nipper, Boggs and Marty Barrett come through the system. And the 2007 World Series champions had key homegrown contributors like Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Ellsbury. We will eventually find out how this current system stacks up.
If David Ortiz would retire right now, given his postseason heroics and three rings with us after an 86-year drought, would the Sox retire No. 34?
-- Henry Q., Greenwich, Conn.
Absolutely. Ortiz has accomplished things that are unprecedented in Red Sox history. His legacy at Fenway Park will be permanent, I'm sure.
What is the possibility of Mookie Betts playing another position, such as outfield, since the Sox already have a pretty good second baseman?
-- Doug N., Rock Valley, Iowa
I'd say there's a very good possibility that will happen. Pedroia is going to be in Boston for a long time, and Betts is a player the team likes a lot. He definitely has the athleticism to move around the diamond.
My concern is that some of the Hall of Fame voters will hold it against Pedro Martinez that he pitched in the steroid era. Given that, is he really a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, or will he have to wait a year?
-- Kenneth B., New York
I think the steroid era actually helps Pedro. He has never been associated with PEDs, so the perception of his career is that he dominated from the mound at a time when a lot of the elements favored offense.
I saw Anthony Ranaudo pitch in the Cape League a few years ago, and he was absolutely dominant. Is it too early for me to pick him as my 2014 American League Rookie of the Year Award favorite?
-- David D., Jacksonville, Fla.
There is nothing wrong with your optimism. But I think the 2015 AL ROY Award might be a more realistic projection for Ranaudo.