EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 4, 2012

Red Sox building team on character, short-term deals

Victorino ink $39M pact

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — Two days down at the Winter Meetings, two impact free agents signed by Boston. And both are known for being clubhouse leaders with outgoing personalities.

The Red Sox last night agreed in principle to a three-year, $39-million deal with Shane Victorino, a center fielder who will play right field for Boston.

Victorino is known for his amiable personality and wit. He even was hired as a TBS studio analyst during the playoffs this fall.

The Victorino signing came one day after Boston inked the gritty Mike Napoli for three years, $39 million.

Victorino, who turned 32 on Nov. 30, thrived in a large-market, Philadelphia, for 7 1/2 seasons before being traded to the Dodgers at the July 31 deadline this past season.

One thing is for sure: The Red Sox are building their team on character and short-term deals.

The 5-9, 190-pound Victorino has made two All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves. Nicknamed “The Flyin’ Hawaiian,” he is a .275 career hitter with a .341 career on-base percentage, 90 homers, 409 RBIs and 201 stolen bases.

Victorino’s best year came in 2011 when he finished 13th for the NL MVP after leading the league with 16 triples and also bashing 17 homers with a .279 and a .355 on-base percentage.

He suffered through a down year in 2012, batting .255 with 11 homers, 72 runs, 55 RBIs in 154 games.

With the additions of Napoli, Victorino and outfielder Jonny Gomes, the Red Sox have added clubhouse leaders and extroverts who have reputations for playing hard and being gritty.

Napoli and Gomes won’t provide much defense, but they can slug.

Victorino, meanwhile, provides strong defense and another hitter who, like Napoli, can grind out at-bats.

Boston, who may add another outfielder, reportedly did “extensive background work” before signing Napoli. The same probably can be said about Victorino.

Right after the Red Sox traded Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers, they stressed the importance of finding new players whose personalities jelled with Boston.

So what goes into extensively researching a player’s background anyway?

Former Expos GM and current Toronto major league scout Jim Beattie does that type of work.

“You talk to coaches, you talk with any players he’s played with,” Beattie recently told The Eagle-Tribune. “To be honest with you, that’s where I come in. We have all like the guys who will do the statistical analysis. But then I can get (coaches). So I can call them. ... Across every single major league team I know someone who I can call — a trainer, a coach, a manager, someone in the front office.

“If we’re trading for a player who’s with say Texas, I’m not going to call someone with Texas. I’m going to call someone who the guy was with his last club maybe and find out from them.”

There are no guarantees that extensive background work will work. After all, the Red Sox did their homework before signing Crawford, and he never fit in Boston.

That said, by limiting the contracts to three years — unlike what the Sox did with Crawford and Gonzalez — Boston won’t be hindered longterm if Napoli and Victorino aren’t a perfect match.