Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2018 season next week. The Gold Glove awards have already been announced. Doesn’t seem right that Ian Kinsler won one after that ridiculous throw set the Red Sox up to eventually lose Game Three of the World Series. Or at least didn’t seal up the win for the Sox. But since that was the only game of the Series that the Sox lost and it kind of was an epic game to boot, I suppose we can let him enjoy that award as he tries to find another team to employ him in 2019.
The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced. The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”. We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot. Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc. And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count. Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends. This will be important to remember when we look at Manager of the Year (spoiler?!). Anyway, let’s get on with it:
Most Valuable Player:
- Mookie Betts, Boston
- J.D. Martinez, Boston
- Mike Trout, LA Angels
- Alex Bregman, Houston
- Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
- Khris Davis, Oakland
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
- Justin Verlander, Houston
- Blake Treinen, Oakland
Now, it looks like I am a homer here, but how J.D. wasn’t a finalist in real life is beyond me. Sticking his big bat in the middle of the Red Sox lineup clearly made a colossal difference this year. They didn’t have that bat there in 2017 after the retirement of David Ortiz at the end of the 2016 season and the whole lineup seemed to suffer. Ask Betts himself, who had a huge 2016 and 2018 and a subpar 2017. I’ve been tempted to give Martinez the award, but I can’t overlook Mookie’s defense, nor his superior OPS and general all-around season. I know, it’s not J.D.’s fault he’s a DH…well, I guess it is since he ain’t that great defensively. But he WANTED to play more outfield, so I guess there’s that.
There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third. Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball. But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”. You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team. I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time. And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself. But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?
Bregman was the best everyday player on a 103 win team this year. Seems like fourth is a good spot for him. Especially when considering the rest of his lineup. Last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve, did not have the same year. Carlos Correa, George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez’s numbers were way down in 2018 as well. Ramirez is a finalist in real life. But he was putrid the last six weeks. So he’s no better than fifth here. Almost put him behind Lindor as well. Davis’ average was subpar, but his other numbers were all pretty damn good. Think someone from the A’s should be recognized. After all, it’s only seventh in my vote.
Pitchers round out the Top Ten for me. As you know, I don’t love pitchers in the MVP vote, unless they are extremely dominant. But I did not have a good feeling about putting any more hitters in here. Jed Lowrie? Nelson Cruz? Mitch Haniger? Xander Bogaerts? Nope, nope, nope and…nope.
Went with Snell eighth. Wished he threw a few more innings, but he was quite dominant for a surprising Rays team. Verlander seemed like a good choice next. More on these two later. Treinen? You know my general disdain for relief pitchers. But his numbers are hard to ignore. 9 wins as a closer too. That tells me that he wasn’t just coming in for a ninth inning with a three-run lead and an easy save all the time. He must have entered more than a few tie games. I could be wrong. But that’s what it tells me anyway. Plus we like having two guys named Blake in the mix.
- Justin Verlander, Houston
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland
- Chris Sale, Boston
- Blake Treinen, Oakland
Why Verlander over Snell here, after having the reverse in the MVP race? Welp, for one, the Cy Young is not intended to be the “Most Valuable Pitcher”. This award is generally given to the best pitcher, period. And Verlander made 3 more starts than Snell, pitched 33 1/3 more innings, had 69 more strikeouts and had a better WHIP (.902 vs. .974). That offset Snell’s ERA advantage (1.89 to 2.52) for me. Snell was probably more “valuable”, simply because Verlander also had Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, etc. on his staff to help carry the load while Snell had…Ryan Yarborough?
Kluber was once again a horse for the Indians. His numbers were also up there all around, though his ERA (2.89) was a full run worse than Snell’s. So that puts him third. Sale had this thing wrapped up in July…then pitched like 20 innings the rest of the year. Unfortunately had to penalize him for that. We talked about Treinen already. Again, when there are deserving starters with great numbers, it’s hard to recognize a reliever in this voting. But again, his numbers can’t be ignored. Similar to why we had Craig Kimbrel fifth last year. Have to recognize dominance when it’s out there.
I liked Treinen’s overall game better than Edwin Diaz’ 57 saves, but Diaz would be in the “second five” if we had one. Cole, Luis Severino, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco may have been part of that group as well.
Rookie of the Year:
- Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
- Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
- Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels
These were the three choices this year, with all due respect to Daniel Palka and his 27 dingers and the aforementioned Yarborough and his 16 wins. Andujar was the one with the full season and the better overall numbers so he gets the nod for me. Torres came up like a whirlwind and then cooled as the season went on. He played about 75% of the games so that gives him second.
Ohtani may have been the most EXCITING rookie…not to mention the one with the most hype in years. But he simply didn’t play enough. He DH’d almost exactly half the games (82) on a normal regular season schedule. And threw up some pretty impressive numbers for that time…including 22 pinch-hitting appearances. Throw in the 10 games he pitched and you could probably make a case for him to win the award. And if he did, I wouldn’t argue. But as much as I hate the Yankees, I can’t penalize those guys for playing more…and also playing important positions in the field.
Manager of the Year:
- Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
- Bob Melvin, Oakland
- Alex Cora, Boston
I will be the first to admit that I underrated Cora this year. I thought he was just a “clubhouse” manager. Meaning, the Sox’ talent won the games and that Cora just had to manage a clubhouse full of egos. As the year went on, I realized he was more than that. Then in the postseason, that like we said above, does not count toward this award, he pulled ALL the right strings. Literally ALL of them. Starting with the construction of the rosters for each round, down to every in-game decision.
But although he had the 108 wins and gained more appreciation from me (and most assuredly many others) throughout the year, how can anyone not vote for Cash? The Rays won 90 games. Think about that for a second. Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs. But they were behind two 100 win teams IN THEIR OWN DIVISION. Look at that roster. They had Blake Snell and…Wilson Ramos? Mallex Smith? Ummmmm…no one really of relevance. Even a guy that usually is a key piece to their team, Kevin Kiermaier, had a putrid year. The team traded guys like Chris Archer at the trade deadline, per usual. And they won 90 friggin’ games. Plus, don’t overlook the new trend “Cashie” started…the “opener”. Yarborough won 16 games and only started 6. Lot’s of second and third inning entrances. At the beginning of the year, teams and players laughed at Cash for doing this. By the end, many teams were copying him. Ask Craig Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers, who worked some of that all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
Melvin gets second for winning 97 games with a team that had loads of power (and strikeouts), good defense a great closer, a good bullpen, yet only one real starter himself (Sean Manaea). He had to roll Edwin Jackson out there for 17 starts for Chrissakes! Jackson actually pitched well, but what was this, Jackson’s 20th MLB team? Being in a division with a 103 win Houston team, as well as a Seattle Mariner team that was right in the mix until late in the year. Seems to me he earned second for this one.
Next: The National League
We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster. I promise, this one will be a lot shorter!
Here: Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez
None of these guys hit a lick this past season. I think Swihart can hit a little, but it’s unlikely he will ever get enough at-bats here to prove it. Leon was particularly putrid this year. .177 average with a .511 OPS. Wow. That’s hard to do. In almost 300 plate appearances no less.
But you know what? I completely expect Vazquez and Leon to be the catching tandem next season. They are good defensively, the pitchers love them, the manager loves them and with this overall lineup, the catchers do not really have to hit.
Swihart will most assuredly be dangled in trade talks once again. But also once again there will likely be tepid interest. I’m not sure the Sox will keep trying to groom him on the “super utility role”. I suppose we will find out this winter. If they want to truly make him that versatile, wouldn’t he play winter ball and play all over the diamond? That would make too much sense though.
Here: Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Sam Travis (1B/LF)
Free agents: Ian Kinsler (2B), Steve Pearce (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B)
Minors: Tony Renda (UT)
The last of the World Series “heroes” to talk about? Steve Pearce. Love what he did. But he’s Steve Pearce. There are 1,000 guys that could play his role next year. If he wants a one year deal for short money to match the one year left on Moreland’s contract, I would do it. Then in 2020 maybe the team can get a real first baseman that can play every day instead of this platoon nonsense.
Who really thinks Dustin Pedroia will be ready to go Opening Day 2019? Besides Dustin Pedroia, that is. Pedey, you may be done. That knee injury is supposed to be no joke. He’s 35 years old. At this point, I’d cut him loose. But with 41 mil and 3 years left on his deal, that ain’t happening. Not to mention that the manager loves him. And he has some sort of untouchable status in the organization for whatever reason. So he’s here…unless he really cannot play. We will see. At least Holt will be here to back him up, for whatever that is worth.
Hopefully Devers takes another step forward next year, especially defensively. Nunez locked in his 5 mil player option, so he ain’t going anywhere and will likely take at-bats away from Raffy at third.
Marco missed the whole year and hopefully, he has minor league options so that he can get himself back up to speed and be organizational depth, along with Lin. I can’t imagine Kinsler will be back, but congrats to him on the Gold Glove! His career could be done, along with Phillips’. I think we’ve seen the last of Sammy Travis. Still only 25 years old, but had a poor year at AAA and his prospect days are essentially over. Renda? He was on the roster a few days this summer, scored the winning run as a pinch runner in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as his only major league action this season. And got himself a ring because of it. Not bad. But all of this and then being outrighted to the minors after the World Series does not bode well for any future major league prospects in Boston.
I’d say that a right-handed bat for first base, either Pearce or someone else, would be the only thing the Sox address this offseason.
Here’s another thing to consider as well: Bogaerts is a free agent after the 2019 season. He is coming off his best season. 26 years old, right in his prime. He is going to want to get paid, Several other Red Sox will want to get paid. Scott Boras is his agent, so that means X will want to be unreasonably paid.
Would it shock anyone if Bogaerts is dangled in trade talks?
Here: Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), J.D. Martinez (OF/DH)
Speaking of guys that want to get paid, J.D. can opt out after 2019 and Mookie is a free agent after 2020. So you have these two, Bogaerts, Sale and I suppose Porcello all looking for big money within the next two years. Again, the Sox can pay them all if they want. But they won’t. So are there some trade talks this offseason? I think there might be.
And out of all these guys, I’d start with…Bradley. Jackie has two arbitration years left before free agency. He will be looking for over 10 mil in arbitration this year for sure. I’d try to snow some dumb teams into overvaluing the Gold Glove and the ALCS MVP. If you don’t want to play Benny or Betts in center on a regular basis, you can find some other guy that can’t hit and play a decent center field for a fraction of the cost.
Sure, if we want the Sox to spend 500 mil on their payroll, we keep JBJ. And everyone else. But you know that just isn’t happening.
Good thing that they did win the World Series this year. Because there’s going to be some tough decisions made over the next couple of years whether they have the money to spend or not or whether we like it or not. Be ready for some of those decisions to be made as soon as this winter. And when you have a barren farm system, letting some good players go at the major league level because of money and contracts…well, that might not be a good combination.
Rest assured, the Sox will remain competitive, maybe even for championships. As noted previously, they have plenty of money to spend and will spend a great deal of it. But there could be more bodies going out the door over the next few years than we care to accept…
Didn’t the World Series just end? Sure did. Never too early to look at next year, I say. Especially for the team that just won the World Series. Several of the Boston Red Sox’ World Series “heroes” are now free agents. Anticipation is already building on what the team plans on doing with those particular guys. Several key players on the team are also due up over the next couple of years as well. It’ll be interesting to see how all the chips fall. So let’s start thinking about it!
As for the budget, the Sox were up against the luxury tax this past season. Not sure exactly where they stood on that luxury line. But I do know that they apparently couldn’t stomach a potential call-up of the immortal Rusney Castillo this summer, he of the 10 plus mil yearly salary that has done next to nothing when given chances in the majors. Now, Castillo is not a difference maker. But he could have helped. He had a pretty good year in Pawtucket. But the consensus was that he did not get recalled because his huge salary would put them into a significant penalty regarding the luxury tax.
That’s kind of unacceptable for a team in a major market that can clearly afford it. But that’s kind of where I am going here. I have a feeling that the Sox pare some payroll in the next couple of years. Especially after the World Series victory. Now, don’t get me wrong. The Sox will spend PLENTY of money. Some guys will depart, sure. But some dudes are due significant raises. And again, those aforementioned players whose contracts expire soon need to be dealt with. In any event, I feel like the gap over the second place team as far as payroll goes won’t be as huge as it was this past season. Just a hunch. Let’s face it, it’s an opportune time for ownership to slash payroll a bit if they wanted to…what with them coming off a championship.
The 40-man roster presently stands at 34. The end of the year tally was 44…with 4 players on the 60-day disabled list that didn’t count. We will account for all 44 in this piece. If they want to protect any prospects from the Rule V draft, they will have to do so by November 20th. But, as we said last offseason that since Dave Dombrowski has basically traded all their prospects, they may not have to add anyone. They will add players of course, and maybe there is someone of note. But I am not going to pretend that I know who they are. Well, I mean, I know who they are. I just don’t know if they are required to be added to the roster this offseason or in some future year. Free agency has technically started and even if the Sox sign several players, there will be room to add any youngster they want to the 40-man. Still some deadweight among the 34 and we will get to that.
So let’s take a look by position group to see who the Red Sox currently have and what they potentially could (should?) do.
Starting pitchers (9):
Here: William Cuevas, Brian Johnson, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Chandler Shepherd, Hector Velasquez, Steven Wright.
Free Agents: Nathan Eovaldi, Drew Pomeranz
Minors: Justin Haley
Obviously, Sale, Price, Porcello and E-Rod are the main four here. Johnson, Velasquez and Wright spent a great deal of 2017 in the bullpen, but are technically starters. Either way, they are cheap depth, so they will probably be around next year as well. Velasquez may actually still have options, so maybe he can go back to Pawtucket if needed. Shepherd has spent his entire career in the minors as a reliever until he started every game he was in for the PawSox last year. But he’s 26 and since he has never pitched in the majors, I am not sure anyone is counting on much from this dude. Haley was on the 40-man at the end of the year but was outrighted to the minors a few days ago. Guess no one claimed him on waivers.
The way Major League Baseball is trending, with “bullpen games”, the Sox technically don’t have to do anything here next year. WHAAAAAAAT???!! WHAT ABOUT EOVALDI??!! Nate Eovaldi has a special place in my heart for the way he pitched in the postseason this year. He always will. Especially that relief appearance in Game 3 of the World Series…in a game they actually lost. What an effort though. A guy with past arm trouble and free agency looming could have easily begged out of that game at any point…even at the beginning, seeing he had pitched in relief the first two games. He didn’t and became somewhat of a legend.
But give him 15-20 mil a year for 4-5 years? I’m not so sure about that. Seems like a risk. Past arm problems. But more importantly, past mediocrity. 44-53, 4.16 career heading into his age-29 season. Love the guy to death. But I think I am passing.
I’m definitely passing on Pomeranz. Speaking of past mediocrity. That being said, wouldn’t shock me if the Sox re-signed him to a short deal to see if he can regain his 2017 form. He may want the change of scenery, however, especially now that he has that ring. Plus, some team could absolutely overspend for a lefty arm. And probably will.
One thing to keep in mind here: Sale and Porcello are free agents after 2019. What do you do? Both are heading into their age-30 season. Free agents at 31. Porcello has been bad to serviceable to good in Boston. Of course the Cy in one year. But are you handing him another 20 plus mil per after next season? I didn’t think so.
Sale? Ugh…if this shoulder/arm thing is real, and I believe it is, then do you give him a fat deal at age 31? I’m not sure I do with him either. If healthy? Absolutely. But I think there could be a real issue there, despite the Sox brass telling us there is nothing to see.
I’m not sure this is in the cards, but I’m not ruling out a trade among Sale, Porcello and…Price? Sure. Price just locked himself in for another 4 years. But did the postseason performance open up a door for the team to legitimately unload that contract? Do we want to? I think I do. I’m grateful for his playoff performance. But I’m still tired of his act. I’m open to anything. And I think the Sox should be too. If one of those guys are traded, they may well hand out a horrible deal to Eovaldi…or some other mid-level starter.
If I had to guess, however, the Sox open up with the aforementioned 4 and have any of the rest of the guys fight for the 5th spot…along with another cheap veteran or two. Eovaldi prices himself out of town. Or rather, other teams price Eovaldi out of town. And Pomeranz tries to find his stuff again elsewhere.
Relief pitchers (9):
Here: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Austin Maddox, Bobby Poyner, Robby Scott, Tyler Thornburg, Marcus Walden, Brandon Workman.
Free Agents: Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith
WE NEED TO BRING MACHINE GUN BACK!! NO WAY WE CAN LET HIM GO!! Yes, we can. Another postseason “hero” that will have a special place in my heart. But Joe Kelly is an average pitcher at best. A guy that throws 100 mph and for the most part doesn’t miss any bats. Great postseason run and we are all grateful for that. But let some other stupid team overpay for that performance.
Kimbrel is likely gone as well. He won’t accept that 1 year, 17.9 mil qualifying offer the Sox offered him. Some other team will give him dough and term. He was up and down in a Sox uniform…ok, he was mostly up, but made us chew our fingernails quite often. Unhittable in 2017. But shaky in the 2018 postseason. And that’s what we will point to as we watch him go.
For the record, Smith won’t be back either. Injured and generally useless while he was here. But it also doesn’t help when you blame your manager for your troubles…especially when your manager wasn’t the one who got hurt throwing their glove in the dugout. Then missed the last several months of the season as a result.
So what does that leave? Not much. Scott and Walden make up some of the deadweight we talked about earlier. Poyner is a lefty. Maybe he has promise, maybe not. Maddox is slated to miss all of 2019 after having rotator cuff surgery. Hembree and Workman are end of staff filler. Not to be trusted when it counts. Thornburg? Please. He pitched 3 times after September 1st. He wasn’t good when he came back from his injury, but I’m still waiting for someone to talk about his inactivity down the stretch. Has been nothing but crickets there.
That leaves us with Barnes and Brasier. Brasier has no track record, can we really trust him going forward? Barnes is inconsistent, but he’s the best guy left. YIKES!!
You have to believe that this is where the most work will need to be done this offseason. Bringing in all kinds of arms and see what sticks. Impact arms? I’m not sure. I doubt they let Kimbrel walk and then sign a big-ticket closer. Same perhaps for Joe Kelly and middle relief/set up options.
Maybe sign a Fernando Rodney-type guy (ouch) to close and also give Brasier or Barnes the opportunity to close as well (double ouch!). And perhaps some proven veteran relievers coming off a down year (is Andrew Miller a free agent? Think that type).
In any event, I think volume will be the name of the game in the bullpen, instead of quality. With bullpen arms being unpredictable every year, this actually may be the proper approach.
Next: The offense.