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Alex Speier

Groundhog Day brings an optimistic outlook for Red Sox

The Red Sox are hoping both Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo can bounce back from a disappointing 2015 season.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Evidently, Punxsutawney Phil is ready to start thinking about baseball.

With the news that the groundhog ignored his shadow in favor of a prognostication of an early spring, the return to the field becomes a bit easier to fathom, something that will soon shift attention from front-office decision-making to the exploits of players. But for now, with the vast majority of free agents signed, baseball is in something of a reflective mood in the window between roster-building and the reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

True to the spirit of the eponymous film, has a terrific “Groundhog Day” series, featuring deals that a number of GMs would want to do over.


Among the most notable parts of the series:

■ Twins GM Terry Ryan told Rhett Bollinger that “there’s no hiding” from his decision to release David Ortiz. Of course, the move has worked out well for Ortiz, whose career has made him the subject of a limited edition Tommy Bahama shirt, as Peter Abraham explains.

■ Jordan Bastian writes that the Indians’ chaotic effort to sift through information in a trade of Roberto Alomar to the Mets helped to revolutionize how front offices do business.

■ Pirates GM Neal Huntington told Adam Berry that the three-way trade sending Jason Bay to the Red Sox (with Pittsburgh netting Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen, Andy LaRoche, and Bryan Morris) was the worst move of his tenure, and changed how his team gathered information in its future deal-making.

■ Cubs GM Jed Hoyer looks back on his time with the Padres, when he dealt righthander Corey Kluber as part of a three-way deal that netted San Diego Ryan Ludwick. In his suggestion that the worst moves are made by decision-makers who are new to an organization, Hoyer offers a cautionary tale that will hover over Dave Dombrowski’s coming season with the Red Sox.


A consistent theme permeated many of the reflections. In most of the regretted moves, teams spent more time thinking about player flaws and potential limitations than upside. The result was that, in several instances, another team ended up acquiring high-impact players as bargains.

Yet while most of the mistakes involved in’s series involved players who had yet to establish themselves in the big leagues, in the case of the 2015-16 Red Sox, the team has been built in no small part on a willingness to try to (re)capture the upside of players who are in their primes.

Obviously, the Red Sox extracted virtually no bang for the buck last year from Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Rick Porcello, and Rusney Castillo. Yet the team scouted all of those players as potential above-average regulars (or, in Porcello’s case, rotation members), and beyond the evidence of one terrible 2015 season, there is reason to believe that all are young enough to fulfill – or at least come close to – those projections.

Recent World Series winners offer reminders of the value of trusting veterans to recover from recent struggles to play up to their track records. The 2015 Royals lineup benefited from a huge bounceback by DH Kendrys Morales after a woeful 2014. The 2014 Giants enjoyed a considerable bounceback from Mike Morse. The 2013 Red Sox kept Jacoby Ellsbury rather than trading him, and signed Shane Victorino coming off of the worst season of his career; the duo gave the Red Sox nearly unmatched dynamism at the top of its order. The 2012 Giants rotation was stabilized in no small part by Barry Zito, who offered a solid presence one year after the worst season of his career. The 2011 Cardinals lineup featured Lance Berkman, acquired as a bargain, short-term signing after a career-worst 2010.


In other words, sometimes it’s necessary to let veterans exhaust their opportunity to be strong contributors – particularly when initial struggles come in a transitional season to a new environment. That, at least, is how the Red Sox are approaching their mix of veterans and young players, with the team willing to take some risks in an effort to capture upside that it did not receive last year.

It’s Panda-or-Bust for the Red Sox at third base in 2016, writes Nick Canelas of Baseball Prospectus.

Sean McAdam of looks at some do-over strategies that the Red Sox might have addressed differently this winter.

Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier.