John Farrell is coming back to Boston.
        After on-going rumors of John Farrell making a return to Beantown, it’s finally a done deal.  The former Sox pitching coach has agreed to a 4 year contract to manage at Fenway Park.  Since his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays is expiring next offseason, the Jays received shortstop Mike Aviles as compensation from Boston. 

       Farrell led the Blue Jays to a subpar 154-170 mark in his two seasons north of the border.  They also finished 8 games worse in 2012 than in 2011.  The Blue Jays willingness to negotiate with Boston signals they are ready to move on without Farrell being a part of their future plans.  Also, Farrell’s inclination to speak directly with Ben Cherington and the Red Sox about the position showed his desire to return to Boston.  It seems like a good fit, as Farrell has a great relationship with Ben Cheringtion after having a shaky partnership with Alex Anthopoulos.  Farrell had a history of being in disagreement with the Toronto GM with some of his roster moves.  Farrell was pushing to release veteran infielder Omar Vizquel in July and the Jays disagreed and kept him.  Farrell also called for help in the starting rotation and instead the Jays got bullpen help at the trade deadline.   These incidents did not escalate enough to receive the kind of attention and scrutiny Bobby Valentine faced in Boston.  Valentine had problems throughout the year with his players and the media which made it inevitable that he would be out as manager.  Comparing Farrell and Valentine’s managerial style, the Red Sox are receiving a more aggressive manager, with Farrell’s Jays attempting 164 stolen bases compared to the Red Sox’ 128 in 2012.  However, they both sacrificed almost the same amount of time with Farrell bunting 33 times compared to Valentine’s 34. 

                It is clear the glaring problem on Yawkey Way is the pitching staff.  As a staff, Red Sox pitchers posted the third worst ERA in the American League (4.72) in 2012.  Leaders of the staff such as Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz also fell apart in 2012.  With Beckett now in Los Angeles, Lester and Buchholz look to anchor the rotation yet again as they attempt to return to front-line starters.  Farrell is the optimal guy for Boston as he led his pitchers to great success during his time as pitching coach.  From 2007-2010 (Farrell era), Red Sox pitchers led the American League in strikeouts, opponent batting average, and shutouts.  They also ranked third in ERA during Farrell’s 4 year stint (4.11).  It may be coincidental, but Jon Lester is a perfect example of a guy who just seemed more comfortable with Farrell’s presence.  After winning the clinching game of the 2007 World Series in Colorado, Lester went on to post an ERA+ of 144, 136 and 134 from 2008-2010 under Farrell.  At this point, Jon entered 2011 at age 26, so it would make sense to expect similar results if not much better results.  However, after a nice start to 2011, Lester completely fell apart in September (the worst and most painful month in Red Sox history I might add) and has not been the same since.  He posted an ERA+ of 124 in 2011 and 90 in 2012.  90! Red Sox fans hope Farrell can help him become more comfortable again and aid him in regaining his confidence.  John is also liked around Boston because he coached under Terry Francona, who led the Red Sox to 5 postseason appearances and 2 World Series titles in his 8 year reign. 

       The other part of this deal that hasn’t received much attention is Mike Aviles.  The Jays are getting an average hitter (.277 career BA) who broke out in terms of power in 2012 with a career high 13 home runs.  However, the knock on Aviles is his lack of plate discipline.  He walked just 23 times in 546 plate appearances in 2012 and had a sub-.300 on-base percentage.  This also opens up a hole a shortstop for Boston.  The options they now have internally are Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco.  Iglesias, a magician with the glove, hasn’t shown any signs of hitting at the big league level (career .135/.210/.413 slash line).  Ciriaco hit for a nice average in 2012 (.293) although he plummeted towards the end of the year.  His .352 BABIP may have had something to do with that, along with swinging at a ton of pitches out of the zone.  He walked just 2.9% of the time he stepped up to the plate.  For now, all signs point to Iglesias being the front runner as Boston's starting shortstop.

First Impressions:

Winners: Red Sox and Blue Jays

                The Red Sox were able to grab the guy they had an eye on for 2 years now.  He is very well respected in Boston by players, management and fans as he enjoyed success as the pitching coach from 2007-2010.  Also, the Sox only had to give up shortstop Mike Aviles.  This is a position where the Red Sox have other options for going forward.

                The Blue Jays were able to get rid of a manager who had not had success and caused a few minor problems with management.  At the same time, they received a solid infielder in Aviles.  The Blue Jays, after coming off a tough season, can now start fresh with a new manager and perhaps change the atmosphere just like Boston is trying to do.  



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