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Week Fourteen…

So I know this is generally a football pick column…and it will be eventually…but we would be remiss if we didn’t give some comments on the Boston Red Sox re-signing of Nathan Eovaldi earlier this week.

For a quick refresher, this is what we wrote about a month ago:

“…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…”

Has my opinion changed?  Actually, no.  All around.  Still will love the guy, no question.  But not backing up the Brinks truck for him.  Above all, he just hasn’t taken the ball enough in his career.

Turns out ol’ Nate got right about in the middle of what we had mentioned, about 17 per.  A lot of dough seemingly just to reward someone for one postseason.

On the surface, this must slot Eovaldi into the 3rd or 4th slot in the rotation for 2019.  Chris Sale and David Price go 1-2, Eovaldi and Rick Porcello go 3-4 and Eduardo Rodriguez would be 5.  Steven Wright, Hector Velasquez and Brian Johnson give you 6-8 depth.  Can’t complain about that staff on paper certainly.

The salaries?  Listen, the Sox can spend whatever they want.  We know this.  John Henry ain’t hurting for funds.  BUT…Price 31, Porcello 21 plus, Nate 17, Sale 15…heavy.  E-Rod probably gets a nice bump in arbitration as well…because…everyone always does in that process.

Some have speculated that maybe Eovaldi may close this season, what with the likely departure of Craig Kimbrel.  Unlikely.  Good closers may approach the 17 mil per.  But we don’t even know if Nate can be a good closer…he’s never done it.  And with his injury history, not sure the Sox should even consider it.  Despite his bullpen efforts in the postseason last season.

One thing it does tell me?  Either Sale or Porcello will be allowed to walk after the 2019 season.  And you heard it here first:  The Blowhard believes that there is a greater likelihood that Porcello will be back in 2020 than Sale.  Sale is clearly the better pitcher.  By far.  But with his health history, will they shell out probably over 25 million per for that uncertainty?  Heading into his age-31 season?  Not so sure.  The team babied him more than ever last year.  And he threw a mere 158 innings.

As mediocre as Porcello can be, he takes the ball every turn.  He will also be heading into his age-31 season.  The Sox may be willing to give him another 20 plus for a few years than 25-30 plus for Sale over likely more seasons.

Sounds silly, but let’s see how it plays out.

In summary, we obviously don’t love the Eovaldi deal.  Just a little too much risk for me.  But it’s not my money.  And after dissecting things a little more, it may not be completely insane.

Again, let’s see how all this plays out in 2019.

And if they win another World Series, I guess who gives a rat’s ass?

As for football:

Carolina (-1.5) at Cleveland 

Carolina has lost 4 in a row and is 1-5 on the road.  I really want to pick the Browns here.  But…I can’t…

Carolina 23, Cleveland 20.

New York Jets at Buffalo (-3.5)

Brutal.

Buffalo 17, New York Jets 13.

New York Giants at Washington (-1.5)  

Mark Sanchez.  And Josh Johnson.

Nice!

I know, Odell Beckham Jr. is not playing.  But it shouldn’t matter.  Let’s also talk for a second about Colin Kaepernick.  Washington is taking a lot of heat for signing those aforementioned stiffs over Kaep.  Welp, I can see both sides.  First off, a team would really have to change a great deal of their offense to sign and play Colin.  And with a mere four games left, is it worth it?  Johnson may be the literal definition of “journeyman”.  But he has a history with Redskins coach Jay Gruden.  That does matter, unfortunately.

One thing people fail to consider is the fact that Kaepernick is actually not very good.  And now he hasn’t played since 2016, where he “led” the Niners to a 1-10 record in his appearances.  Sure, there are so many bad backup QB’s in the league, he probably deserves a job somewhere.  But we have also heard, and maybe inaccurately, that he has had opportunities to sign…and they weren’t for enough money to his liking so he passed.  Yeah, this last point could be bogus.  But I’m not ruling anything out with this guy.

Bottom line, Kaep still stinks and hasn’t played in two years.  He’s probably good enough to hold a clipboard on some team…if he wants to.  But would it really make a difference in Washington?  That’s for everyone else to decide, not me…

New York Giants 20, Washington 13.

Atlanta at Green Bay (-5.5) 

Let’s now see if it was Mike McCarthy or Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay 38, Atlanta 24.

New Orleans (-8.5) at Tampa Bay

After that dud last Thursday against the Cowboys and the early season loss to the Bucs at home, this feels like some kind of hurtin’ is about to be put on.

New Orleans 45, Tampa Bay 20.

Baltimore at Kansas City (-6.5) 

Are the Ravens someone to worry about as we head toward the playoffs?

Baltimore 37, Kansas City 34.

New England (-8.5) at Miami 

The Pats…and Tom Brady, in particular, have been putrid down in Miami in recent years.  Even though the Dolphins ain’t very good, they will most assuredly keep it close.  I almost want to pick them to win.  But the Pats need this one.

New England 30, Miami 24.

Indianapolis at Houston (-4.5)

If you asked me last week, I would have picked the Colts here to end Houston’s 9 game winning streak.  But not after that putridness against the Jags a week ago.

Houston 34, Indianapolis 28

Denver (-5.5) at San Francisco

The Broncos are still in the mix…amazingly enough.  Losing Manny Sanders will hurt.  But not this week.

Denver 27, San Francisco 17.

Cincinnati at Los Angeles Chargers (-14.5)

The Bungles are cratering.  Seems like too many points here though, even for the Chargers at home.

Los Angeles Chargers 34, Cincinnati 20. 

Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona

I read something Saturday about Matt Patricia’s “father-son” relationship with Chandler Jones.  I was moved.  Really.  But maybe it’s because I read it right after I smoked some synthetic weed and ran shirtless to the local police station.  Oh wait…

Detroit 24, Arizona 14.

Philadelphia at Dallas (-4.5)  

Winner of this one takes the NFC East in my opinion.  Although…maybe not.  Before I looked at the remaining schedules, I had a feeling that the Eagles were ready to make a run.  Then I saw they play at LA Rams and then at home against the Texans after the Cowboys (finishing against the Redskins in Washington).  While the Cowboys play the Colts, Bucs and G-Men.  Advantage:  Dallas.

Dallas 27, Philadelphia 24.  

Pittsburgh (-11.5) at Oakland

The Steelers should win this game pretty handily.  But the way they are playing, who the hell knows?

Pittsburgh 38, Oakland 31. 

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at Chicago 

Can’t say I’m completely on the Bears’ bandwagon.  Whatever.

Los Angeles Rams 34, Chicago 24.

Minnesota at Seattle (-3.5)  

The Seahawks will be rolling into the playoffs.  The Vikes aren’t impressing anyone.  ‘Hawks are at home.  We are all pumped and jacked!!

Seattle 31, Minnesota 20.  

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  103-90

Season (straight up):  122-71

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American League Awards

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:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. J.D. Martinez, Boston
  3. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  4. Alex Bregman, Houston
  5. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  6. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
  7. Khris Davis, Oakland
  8. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  9. Justin Verlander, Houston
  10. 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.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  3. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  4. Chris Sale, Boston
  5. 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:

  1. Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
  2. Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
  3. 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:

  1. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
  2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
  3. 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

Offseason Chatter…Already?!

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.

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