As we come out of spring training, here are some of my thoughts:
1) I think the rotation will outperform current expectations. Things entered a downward trend after Farrell's departure, and that went crazy under Bobby V. I think conventional wisdom doesn't account for the true talents of our returning 4 (Dempster excluded), and the ability of Farrell to get more out of them. I still fear that Salty is a little bit of an anti-Tek in terms of game calling, but hope the coaching staff and even Tek himself can improve this. Dempster/Lackey will be at an advantage as confident veterans calling their own games, Lester will likely get Ross, so my concerns would be focused on Clay and Felix suffering slightly, and hope coaching can keep this from being a drag on performance.
2) I think our bullpen is obviously a big strength compared to last year when Bailey was out, Bard was in the rotation, Tazawa in the minors, and Uehara and Hanrahan on other teams. I think getting Aceves back to his flexible role gives him a chance to maximize his value while reducing his destabilizing nature.
3) On the subject of Bard, I am still greatly disappointed that he is the one who pays the biggest price for the Bobby V regime. I think Farrell will get him going back towards his relief ace role little by little, hopefully without a shattered psyche. But I think he is the single greatest failure of the 2012 season, and obviously that ship has already sailed and he will never be converted to a starter again. I feel strongly that Joba, Champan, and Bard should be trying to dream of being Clemens, Randy, and Verlander. If Bard had waited one year longer for the conversion or Farrell had come one year earlier, I am confident that the transition would have been a success, and we really miss out on this.
4) Bradley needs to start in Pawtucket for arbitration clock rules. His 10 game Wins-Above-Nava (Nava better than replacement) is very small, and the long term financial disadvantage is significant. If it was good enough for Longoria/Trout/Harper, I think that Bradley can continue his tear in triple-A. It is exciting to have him in the near term pipeline, but opening day doesn't make sense.
I do think one piece being missed in the equations however wouldn't be "losing a whole year" of him, because by moving up his arb years and free agency, chances are you are paying less in each arb year catching them in lower producing parts of his upswing to his peak. But I don't know if you would reasonably expect his actual free agent value to be lower by him hitting the market one year earlier since he probably is pretty much at peak in either case.
5) I think Iglesias outhits expectations, but not enough to steal the position from Drew. It will be fun to watch his glove paired with a weak bat instead of an embarrassing bat for a while, and I think there is about a 25% chance that he can grow enough to steal the position later in the season if Drew has an injury or slump and keep his career window open between the Drew signing and Xander being MLB ready.
6) I am very worried by the Ortiz injury and the implications on the middle of our lineup. While I am bullish on Napoli, I don't expect Ellsbury to return to his level from two years ago, and I see us likely to score fewer runs than expected. There is room for a few things to go right and be fine, but while I think we will score more runs than last year, we are more likely to be under 800 than over (after eclipsing that mark every year from 2002 to 2012).
7) When all of that dust settles, our significant run prevention improvement combined with some run scoring improvement has us in the 84-89 win range and a better team than most are expecting, and very much in the two wild card race.
I can't wait for opening day and our first nine inning small sample size to overreact and adjust our expectations wildly up and down!