FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For two years in a row and three of the past four seasons, the Boston Red Sox have been the least in the AL East.
"I think we're optimistic," said chairman Tom Werner. "The charge was obviously not to have a season like the last two seasons. I think Dave (Dombrowski, president of baseball operations) and Mike (Hazen, general manager) and the baseball ops have done a great job in strengthening the front end of the rotation, the back end of the rotation, acquiring (outfielder) Chris young. So I'm optimistic but we have to play a lot of baseball."
Dombrowski -- who joined the team in August with general manager Ben Cherington being fired - made several moves in the offseason with the goal of ensuring that the Red Sox turn their fortunes.
He signed Price to a seven-year, $217 million deal in December and acquired Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres for four prospects. Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner who came in second last season, will be the ace the Red Sox lacked and Kimbrel will replace the aging Koji Uehara in the closer's role.
Expectations are the easy part.
Manager John Farrell will be under the microscope after his team's performance in the last two years.
"Collectively, we all know that getting off to a good start would go a long way," Farrell said, of his job security. "If that's to suggest there's a tentative nature to my position or my status, I don't look at it that way. No one wants to win more than I do. Yet we all recognize the last two years have not met our own internal expectations or certainly my own. It doesn't change the intensity or the thoroughness that you go about each and every day. We just want to put every guy in a position to succeed and that should allow us as a team to hopefully get off to a good start."
"I think everybody can lead," Price said. "That's not something you stand up and say hey guys I'm going to be a leader. Everybody has leadership qualities. Guys go about it in different ways. I'm not going to change, I'm going to stay the same."
The bullpen is not yet set. Carson Smith begins the season on the DL. The Red Sox will rely on Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in set-up roles. Uehara, who will be 41 on April 3, made just three Grapefruit League appearances while he dealt with general soreness. Tazawa posted a 4.14 ERA in 61 appearances after a 2.86 mark in 71 games in 2014.
All the buzz over the investments made in Boston are positive entering April. But last year's biggest ticket newcomers failed to deliver. One of them, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, enters the 2016 season with a $17 million salary and a spot on the bench behind Travis Shaw.
Sandoval, who is entering the second year of a five-year, $95 million contract, lost his job to Shaw in March and Farrell made it official four days before Opening Day.
Sandoval caused some controversy when he reported for camp appearing to be well over his listed weight of 255 pounds. The Red Sox said they were not concerned about his weight and principal owner John Henry said Sandoval's 17 percent body fat ratio is below the 21 percent of last season. But the way spring ended - Shaw winning the start job - said even more.
Ramirez will be attempting to play another new position for the second straight season after an abysmal performance in left field in 2015. He appeared adequate at first base in spring training but will be closely watched.
Rusney Castillo, who is entering the third year of a seven-year, $72.5 million contract, entered spring training as the left fielder. But at the end of the spring Farrell said super utility man and left-handed hitter Brock Holt -- Boston's only All-Star last season -- would get the majority of at-bats there against right-handers in a platoon with right-handed hitting Young, leaving another high-priced player - Castillo -- in a bench role.
"His importance on our team continues to grow with each passing month just because of the versatility," Farrell said of Holt. "Setting that aside, he's a good player. There's the utmost confidence to put him at any one of seven positions on the field and that's a rarity. Not to mention that his at-bats are consistent. He's maybe one, if not one of our best, our top two or three baserunners on our club. He's grown in his own confidence and he's done one hell of a job."
The Red Sox should be better. Expectations are the easy part.