The Boys Of Summer…
…have started out like it’s still the middle of winter.
I don’t think we should be. But it is certainly annoying, I can say that much.
The starting pitching has been wretched…and that is being kind. Is it because they were babied in the spring and really aren’t ready for the start of the real games? Is it because catcher Sandy Leon didn’t make the team and the pitchers love throwing to him? Is it because they are starting the season on a loooooong road trip? Is it because they won the World Series last year and are fat and happy now?
I’d say, no, no, no and no?
Manager Alex Cora came out recently and said they had the same game plan for the starting pitchers last spring and things turned out just fine. I actually didn’t believe him so I looked up the innings pitched for the starters last spring and…looks like he was right. Of course. So we can’t blame that plan I don’t think.
Leon has a great defensive reputation, but it’s not like Christian Vazquez doesn’t. Blake Swihart sure does, but he’s caught one of the five games thus far. So we can’t blame him.
Long road trips? I don’t see it. These guys are used to the road. In fact, haven’t they been on “the road” since mid-February at Spring Training? And I don’t think the hunger is gone from the team. Though I will allow that oftentimes teams that win and then do not change personnel even a little bit the next year can succumb to that. Doesn’t seem to me to be in this groups’ DNA however.
Listen, it’s five games into a 162 game season. There could be a little bit of a “World Series Hangover”, but the Red Sox were bound to regress any way you slice it. Thinking they will win 108 games again in 2019 is pure folly.
Chris Sale will straighten out for sure. He’d better. More on that later. Of course, he will probably spend some time on the injured list (I still want to call it the “disabled list”, so can I?). But he will rebound.
Nathan Eovaldi will not be the pitcher we all saw in the playoffs last year, but he will rebound enough as well. Rick Porcello will be who he always is (innings-eater with a low to mid 4.00 ERA). Eduardo Rodriguez will be who he always is (injury prone with some untapped talent). And David Price will not be the same playoff guy either but will be reliable enough.
Let’s not panic one time through the rotation.
Let’s also not place all of the blame for the teams’ 1-4 start on the rotation. The bats haven’t exactly been on fire…other than J.D. Martinez and perhaps Rafael Devers. Of course, when the offense gets down 6 runs early seemingly every day, it’s a tough hole to continue to climb out of.
In any event, let’s let some games play out and take a look down the road. Then we can panic a little if needed.
Some other Red Sox thoughts, in no particular order:
*Opening Day Roster. We really didn’t do a roster projection like we would normally do towards the end of Spring Training for two reasons. We pretty much covered it in the mid-March pieces. And also because there really wasn’t much for us to talk about.
Sam Travis made the team because Steve Pearce suffered an injury late in Spring Training and started on the Disab…er, Injured List. But Travis won’t be around long. Colton Brewer made the team because the Sox decided to have Dustin Pedroia start out on that Injured List as well. The team went with an extra pitcher to start the year…and thank God they did since the bullpen has gotten quite a bit of work.
Nothing really to see there though.
The one “controversy” was Swihart over Leon. But was that really a controversy?
Leon may be a good defensive catcher. But he simply cannot hit a lick. Swihart supposedly can hit but is still a work in progress behind the plate.
The reality is, no matter how well Swihart hit in Spring Training, and he did hit over .400, he wasn’t likely to fetch much in a trade. The “top prospect” status has faded and teams still don’t know if he can catch.
Vazquez was always likely to be the main catcher, what with his defensive capabilities and the fact that they spent money on him after the 2017 season. Meaning, the Sox liked him. But also meaning, no one was trading for that contract.
As a good field, no hit catcher, Leon had no market either. Plus he was getting paid almost 2.5 mil as well. Steep for one of those types of guys you can find anywhere. And of course, the Sox found out about his market when they tried to shop him and there were no takers. Then they outrighted him off the roster into the minors and no one claimed him off waivers either.
We are kind of shocked here that the Sox didn’t “play it safe” and keep the two defensive-minded catchers this season. After all, they rode them to a World Series championship last year. But we also would have made the same choice with Swihart over Leon. Let’s see what the “kid” can do now.
I just hope they give him enough playing time to truly find out.
And on top of that, Sandy is waiting in the wings in Pawtucket anyway. We have not seen the last of him, I can assure you of that.
*Contract extensions or lack thereof. Sale and Xander Bogaerts signed lucrative extensions. Mookie Betts and Rick Porcello did not.
Sale signed for 5 years and 145 million. Seems steep based on his health issues from last year and the fact that he typically wears down each year in the second half. That being said, in the last piece I said I would extend him for 3-4 years even if the money was silly. So another year or two at silly money? What the hell?! The Sox have the money and it’s not going to preclude them from signing anyone else if they wanted to. More importantly, if he is the Chris Sale we normally see, then the dominance for even 3/4 of a season is probably worth the dough. Although the 5 year no trade clause seems a little excessive. It’s like Peter Chiarelli was brought in just for that part of the deal.
As for Bogaerts…shocking. Not that I wouldn’t do it. But it’s shocking he would sign for “only” 6 years, 120 million. With Scott Boras as his agent, no less! I honestly felt that Xander would hit the market, some team would wildly overpay and he would be gone. Regular MO for Boras clients. What a deal for the Sox.
Porcello, yeah, I guess it’s not a big deal he hasn’t been extended. Rumor has it he offered a “discount” though. How much is anyone’s guess. Not to mention if it is actually true. And maybe his money can be better spent elsewhere. That all being said, at least we know he’s almost always taking the ball every 5 days. Can’t downplay that.
Betts is the main one. That kind of goes without saying. Now yes, we know Mookie has 2 more years here before anything HAS to happen. But he has given no indication that he even wants to be here. Does he like it in Boston? Does that matter? Especially if an 18-wheeler full of dollars is dumped in Mookie’s driveway? It might.
In the wake of a whole slew of veterans signing lucrative extensions prior to entering free agency in recent weeks (Sale, Bogaerts, Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Verlander, etc.), in addition to many younger players that are a ways away from free agency signing long-term deals way before they need to (Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuna, Eloy Jimenez, Brandon Lowe (who?), German Marquez, Aaron Nola, etc.), maybe now Mookie be up for doing the same?
Doesn’t appear likely. Let’s get into 2020 before we do anything drastic, however. “Drastic” meaning considering dealing Mookie because he is leaving. We have a little more time before that comes into play.
Also makes you wonder what J.D. Martinez will do when he gets the chance to opt out of his deal after the season. Even if he has another monster year, will he test the market again? The market was slow to develop for him prior to the 2018 season. He will be 2 years older and pretty much be labeled only as a designated hitter. With the way these guys are all signing to guarantee their money now, it would seem that J.D. should stay in this deal, similar to what Price did last year.
Time will tell on that one as well.
*Bullpen/closer. Welp, hard to tell thus far, since their two “best” relievers, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, have pitched one game apiece. Barnes got a save in his game, but I am not convinced he is the sole closer.
The rest of the bullpen has been used often because, as discussed, the starters have been awful. We will never know if Tyler Thornburg can ever regain any competence. But at least he is getting some action to try to find out. Pitching 3 out of the first 5 games has to be encouraging as well. Heath Hembree had an abysmal spring, which has continued into the regular season. Simply because he cannot find the plate it appears. This is a slight concern because although he is nowhere near elite, Hembree did have plenty of positive moments out there in 2018. Yes, I just did say that.
I still think the bullpen stinks overall…but at least I can’t bash them too much for what they have done thus far this season.
And well, at least the Sox are winning tonight as I wrap up this post…oh wait…
Posted on April 3, 2019, in Uncategorized and tagged AL East, Alex Cora, American League, Baseball, Boston Red Sox. losing, bullpen, catching, Chris Sale, contract extensions, Money, road trip, runs, Sandy Leon, Spring Training, starting pitching, World Series, Xander Bogaerts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.