Jacoby Ellsbury’s arrival, along with that of several other Sox farmhands, brought the team more than free tacos.
As arrogant as it may sound, the 2007 Boston Red Sox were a success not primarily for their ability to win the World Series. Their true success lay in the franchise’s ability to simultaneously utilize young talent to both win games at the big league level and also acquire the veterans it sought to give the club legitimate championship aspirations.
Dustin Pedroia, Manny Delcarmen, Kason Gabbard, David Murphy, Engel Beltre, Brandon Moss, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz, among others, were used in key roles or in trades during 2007. What the arrival of this young talent meant for the 2007 Boston Red Sox was the same thing it means for the 2008 version and beyond of the team: less reliance on outside sources for the talent needed to win year to year.
The new dogma brought to the Red Sox by Theo Epstein and the three-headed ownership monster of Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner, and majority owner John Henry of building a player-development machine has wrought success quickly in the group’s four year tenure, and should continue to do so for many years. The cost certainty that exists due to the presence of so many quality young players cannot be overstated. While the Red Sox operate at a significant economic advantage compared with the rest of baseball, they still must compete with their neighbors to the south, the New York Yankees. Thus, having the ability to outbid the Yankees, a task not easily done, is extremely important for the continued success of the team.
It is the low-level salaries of Sox farmhands that has enabled them to re-sign both Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling this off-season, despite concerns about slips in their performances in the coming years (or in Schilling’s case, year). The Red Sox can afford Mike Lowell returning to his pre-2007 level of performance because they have lower-salaried players ready to shoulder a bigger offensive load, and specifically AAA SS/IF Jed Lowrie ready to make an impact on the Major League level as soon as 2008.
Meanwhile, in the rotation, the Red Sox boast as many as 7 viable starting rotation candidates in Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Julian Tavarez, enabling the team to limit Lester’s and Buchholz’s innings, which should help them avoid injury or cases of late-season fatigue. The Red Sox also figure to bring back a strong core of relievers in 2008 and beyond, with Jonathan Papelbon, Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, and Mike Timlin already in the ’pen, awaiting the potential arrivals of Craig Hansen, Justin Masterson, and Michael Bowden.
While some have jumped to the conclusion that the Red Sox have become baseball’s next dynasty, having won two World Series in four years, this claim is a bit rash. The Red Sox still have much work to do before they can be compared with the Yankees and Braves of the past 15+ years, but if 2007 is any indicator of the future, the Red Sox are baseball’s best bet at taking up that mantle.