New Signings Look to Improve Boston Red Sox On and Off Field

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY| After a quiet start to the offseason, the Boston Red Sox have ramped up efforts to build for 2013. Five new signings have not only changed the face of the team on the field but also inside the clubhouse.

Are they blockbuster deals? Not necessarily. But, they are moves that should help bring a new culture and more wins to Boston next season.

The Red Sox's first significant move came with the acquisition of David Ross. The catcher had spent the last four years as a backup for the Atlanta Braves. Ross finished last season with a .256 average in 62 games. He was also efficient defensively, with a very respectable caught-stealing percentage (27%). Ross had a brief stint with Boston back in 2008, but it was too short a time to merit a comment. Is a backup catcher that big of a pickup? Not necessarily. However, Ross is known for being a great character for the clubhouse, something Boston has been short on recently. Look for Ross to be the primary backup and one of the popular dugout vets on the team.

The Red Sox followed Ross' acquisition by bringing in another player known more for being a great teammate than a great player. Jonny Gomes signed a two-year, $10-million deal to join Boston and compete for a starting position in the outfield. Gomes had good numbers as a platoon player last year for the Oakland Athletics. He hit .262 with 18 home runs and 47 RBIs in just 99 games. He also has plenty of experience in the AL East, having played with the Tampa Bay Rays for six years. Known as a great teammate, every Red Sox fan should remember how many times Gomes was in the middle of any scuffle between Boston and Tampa. He is sure to be a fan-favorite right away.

The Red Sox turned to the infield next, signing Mike Napoli to a three-year, $39-million deal. The former Texas Ranger will be the primary first baseman for Boston. Napoli struggled in his final season in Texas, but still put up decent power numbers. He finished with 24 home runs and 56 RBIs in a year hampered by injury. It wasn't great production, but was better than what Adrian Gonzalez did at first last year for Boston. Napoli won't be "wowing" anyone at first with his defensive skills, but he should be adequate enough. Another quality guy, Napoli should bring a lot of smiles to Fenway with his power.

Shane Victorino was acquired during the Winter Meetings and is expected to start in right field. The "Flyin' Hawaiian" is a career .275 hitter and averages 30 stolen bases a year. He also brings valuable postseason experience. Victorino is a career .269 postseason hitter with 30 RBIs in 46 games. He wasn't his best in 2012, hitting (.245) and stealing (15) -- well under his averages -- but Boston still confidently threw $39 million over three years toward him. There is no concern about his fielding ability. Victorino has one of the strongest arms in the league and will have tremendous range in Fenway. Not many balls will drop between Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Red Sox finished the spending with a one-year deal for pitcher Koji Uehara. The reliever was fantastic for Texas last season, finishing with a 1.75 ERA with 43 strikeouts and a WHIP of .64. His most amazing stat was throwing just three walks in 36 innings of work. The Red Sox certainly have a need for relief pitchers, and if reports are true, one of the best in the league is coming to Fenway.

The first wave of signings is in the books. Overall, it's a good haul of players, at least on paper. The Red Sox addressed many needs, improving the clubhouse culture while building depth. However, the primary need is still unattended. Is it now time to transition to the starting rotation?

Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or at thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSedenka.

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