Strengths: Well, they’re the defending champs, right? In addition to that, they have excellent starting pitching and a well-balanced offense that knows how to use the ballpark that it plays in. From a front office perspective, GM Ben Cherington is decisive and unafraid, as evidenced by the huge blockbuster trade from last season with the Dodgers that one could actually argue benefitted both teams.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to poke holes in the armor of the team that just won the World Series, but no team is perfect. So, the bullpen, apart from Koji Uehara, is a question mark. But mainly, a lot of key parts are going to be testing the market, if not departing for different colored pastures (doesn’t get greener than winning, does it??? Unless you use green in terms of money I suppose…). Is Jackie Bradley ready to inherit Jacoby Ellsbury’s spot in center if the latter departs? Assuming Stephen Drew is leaving, is Xander Bogaerts ready to handle shortstop? What if Mike Napoli leaves? Jarrod Saltalamacchia?
Off-Season Needs: Well, for one, fill some of the holes I just mentioned in the roster. More specifically, you need some veteran help on the left side of the infield if Bogaerts needs more seasoning or Will Middlebrooks regresses again. A right handed thumper to play first base part time wouldn’t hurt either. And an honest conversation with catcher David Ross, who has always been criminally underrated for what he brings to a team. If at age 36 he can take on more playing time than the 36 starts he got last year, losing Saltalamacchia won’t hurt as much.
2014 Outlook: Playoffs, most likely. I just can’t shake the notion that this team overachieved a little. Top to bottom, there are more talented rosters out there, and a repeat title is unlikely. More likely, in my opinion, is an ALCS loss to the Tigers in 6 games. Still, what a great two year run that would be just one year removed from a disaster.