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Red Sox Offseason Primer

The General Manager meetings started Monday.  I know the World Series has barely ended.  And all of the 2017 awards have not been handed out yet.  But free agency has technically started.  So let’s take a look by position group to see who the Red Sox currently have and what they potentially could (should?) do.

The 40-man roster presently stands at 37.  If they want to protect any prospects from the Rule V draft, they will have to do so by November 20th.  But since Dave Dombrowski has basically traded all their prospects, they may not have to add anyone.  This is not to bash Dombrowski, just to state a fact.  I probably would have done the same thing as him.  In any event, after scanning MLB.com’s list of the Top 30 Sox prospects and comparing it to the list on Soxprospects.com of eligible Rule V players, the top prospect eligible (at #16) is some lefty pitcher named Jalen Beeks.  Yup, someone most have never heard of, including myself.  He did go 11-8, 3.29 between AA and AAA last year and is only 24.  So maybe he takes up a spot.  But I’m not searching for other players that may occupy the three open spots.  Doesn’t appear to be any no-brainers that NEED to be protected, but what do I know?

Let’s just dive right in:

Starting pitchers (10):

Roenis Elias, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hector Velasquez, Steven Wright.

Hey, don’t yell at me because Elias, Johnson and Owens are listed first.  Blame the alphabet.  I think most of us hope that none of these guys are in the rotation at any point during the season.  Actually, I read somewhere that Johnson may be in the bullpen next year because he is out of options.  That sounds awesome, no?  Yeah…

In any event, barring health concerns, it appears the five starters are set heading into the season:  Sale, Price, Pomeranz, Porcello and E-Rod.  Presumably, Wright will have to make the squad as well.  So there’s seven guys already that are locked in to begin the year.  Not entirely a bad thing considering the time bomb that Price’s elbow is.  Plus, you can count on E-Rod having to miss time with…something.  And does anyone expect Pomeranz to hold up for a full season next year?  Not to mention that Johnson doesn’t exactly stay healthy often himself.

If Price can approach a return to past All-Star form, then it’s not a bad rotation, with a little bit of depth.  But what if he doesn’t?  One also has to factor in that with the heavy workload Sale had last year, in addition to his annual second half regression, even he has some question marks going in.  You may not know what you get out of any of these guys.

As for the rest…the way Velasquez was used at the big league level last year pretty much indicates he is a mop-up dude…maybe Elias is too.  Maybe the Sox think more highly of Elias than most others do though.  He was hurt pretty much all year, then they squeezed him back into a roster spot late.  I have no idea why Owens is still on the roster.  At some point in the past he was not only one of the Sox’ top prospects, but also one of the top prospects in all of baseball.  That ship seems to have sailed however, what with his pathetic performance all of last season.  Which included a demotion to AA.  Where he walked 55 guys in 57 innings.  Yikes!

All in all, it looks like the Red Sox hands are tied here.  There will be no major free agents coming in.  Maybe E-Rod gets thrown in a deal, but I’m not counting on it.  I think you will see all of these characters in camp.  And then probably the aforementioned seven breaking camp with the team.  And I believe the Sox brass will be satisfied if that is the case.

Relief pitchers (11):

Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Williams Jerez, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Austin Maddox, Robby Scott, Carson Smith, Ben Taylor, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman.

The Sox will probably bring another five or so fringe major league relievers into camp once the moves this winter are all said and done.  But if Wright and Johnson make the club as swingmen, then that leaves only five spots open in the ‘pen.  Some of the extra relievers will be signed to minor league deals, so they can stick with Pawtucket and be called up later if necessary.  Think Blaine Boyer types.  Any way you slice it, there are always a lot of arms in Spring Training.

As for the five spots?  As of right now, seems easy.  Barnes, Kelly, Kimbrel, Smith and either Hembree or Workman.  I’d take Workman, but if he still has options left, which I don’t know if he does, then he goes to Pawtucket.  I imagine Jerez and Taylor will start at Pawtucket as well.  The club seemed to love Maddox at the end of the year, especially since they included him on the postseason roster.  But I am sure he has options left, which puts him in the minors to start the year.  Scott is fungible and likely has options himself.  Thornburg of course should be in the ‘pen to start, and recent reports indicate that he may be ready for the start of Spring Training, but I’m not counting on that.  How can anyone after his saga last year?  There’s probably a pretty good chance they take it slow with him anyway.

I’m not expecting any major moves here this winter either.  Not even a semi-major move, something like bringing Addison Reed back.  I expect them to sign several more relievers, as noted above.  But none that will move the needle.

I think the pitching staff that ended last year will be the bulk of the pitching staff that starts 2018.  I believe that, especially in the bullpen, that the Red Sox feel that getting a couple injured guys back at full strength will account for any upgrades that need to be made.  If Smith and Thornburg get back to where they were before their injuries, then they may have a case.  Time will tell on all of that.

What SHOULD the Sox do on the staff?  Believe it or not, I’m ok with throwing all of the above bodies up there, adding those fringe bullpen arms as well and then seeing what sticks.  I’m not sure a major move needs to be made anywhere on the pitching staff.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t LOVE everyone listed, probably not even half of them.  But they can get by with these guys.  After all, they did win 93 games last year with plenty of time missed by a few significant pitchers noted above.

I’d say anything major being done with this team needs to be done to the offense…which we will cover soon…

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Ezekiel Elliott…and Week Six…

…no, I am not really going to talk much about Zeke here.  But I will say, now I know how the rest of the world felt about the Deflategate circus.  Well, I knew how they felt anyway on that, since I felt the same way.  Dragged on for far too long, with all the appeals and all the lawyers and all that nonsense.  Serve the suspension already.  That’s how I felt about Tom Brady at the time, even though I thought the offense was ridiculous and that every team likely does something similar, just that the Patriots were dumb enough to get caught.  In a nutshell anyway.  But I just wanted him to serve the suspension so that the whole thing went away.

Now, Elliott is supposed to start serving his six game suspension after the latest court ruling this week.  But does anyone think it is really “over”?  Zeke’s men are “considering all options” and, though I am far from an attorney, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the field during the Cowboys next game in Week 7.

The reality is, he has (allegedly) a brutal history of domestic violence.  Again, serve the suspension already.  You know you deserve it.  Not to mention some jail time too.  Zeke gets six games for “allegedly” beating women on a regular basis.  Brady got four for taking the air out of footballs.  Sigh…

That’s enough of that…from me anyway.

As for the picks, almost picked the correct score for Thursday Night this week (picked 27-24 and ended up 28-23).  Solid.  Better game than I thought it would be as well.  We shall see if this is a good sign for the rest of them…

Green Bay (-3.5) at Minnesota

Minnesota is always a tough place to play.  Divisional matchup to boot.  But Case Keenum under center again.  No Dalvin Cook.  No Stefon Diggs.  Tough for me to take the Vikes here.

Green Bay 27, Minnesota 17.

Cleveland at Houston (-9.5) 

All aboard the Kevin Hogan bandwagon!!  Hell, I don’t know if Hogan can actually play.  But with the Texans injury issues, I feel like taking the points with the Browns here.  I know, Houston put up 57 on the Titans at home 2 weeks ago and even 34 at home against the Chiefs in a loss a week ago.  How does anyone think the Browns are going to stop these guys?  I don’t know.  I just feel like the spread is too big.  I’ve been wrong plenty though.

Houston 24, Cleveland 17.

Miami at Atlanta (-10.5)

On the flip side, this spread may not be big enough.  In Atlanta, who is off a bye and off a terrible loss at home to Buffalo before the bye.  This could be over by halftime.

Atlanta 44, Miami 10.

San Francisco at Washington (-9.5)

Yup, I’m taking the points with another awful team on the road.  The Niners have lost all five games they have played.  But did you realize that 3 out of the last 4 have been on the road and they have lost all 4 by a field goal or less?  Sure, some of the competition has stunk too (Colts, Cardinals).  But the other 2 (Rams, Seahawks) were decent foes.  Similar to Cleveland, they may not win.  But I’m looking for them to keep it close.

Washington 31, San Francisco 24.

Chicago at Baltimore (-6.5)

Mitchell Trubisky looks like he has some skills.  But he looked nowhere near ready to play in the NFL when I saw him last Monday night.  I don’t expect that to change against the Ravens.

Baltimore 23, Chicago 13.

Detroit at New Orleans (-4.5) 

I put my faith in the Lions last week, while acknowledging it could be a mistake.  Surprise!  It was.  Not this week.  The Saints at home off a bye.  Stafford banged up.  Feeling good about N.O.  I’m sure I’ll be wrong on this one though.

New Orleans 27, Detroit 20.

New England (-9.5) at New York Jets

Battle for first place!!!  Who saw that line ever being printed in 2017, regarding the AFC East?  No one.  But this is where the Pats kick it into high gear and take off.  So says me.  Brady hurt?  Pffffffft.  This one won’t be close.

New England 38, New York Jets 17.

Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville (-2.5)

Goes without saying that these two teams, both sitting at 3-2, are the biggest surprises (on the positive side) in the league this year.  Unless you count the Bills and the Jets with the same record…which I don’t.  Although maybe I should count the Jets, since they did beat Jax.  Anyway…the Jags have been kind of inconsistent this year, alternating dominant efforts with mediocre to poor ones.  So I haven’t bought in on them at all.  But last week’s demolition of the Steelers in Pittsburgh finally got me to take notice.  So I guess it’s time for me to actually pick them to win for once.

Jacksonville 28, Los Angeles Rams 24.

Tampa Bay (-2.5) at Arizona

The Bucs stunk a week and a half ago and still almost came up roses at the end.  Arizona simply stinks.  Don’t try to convince me that AP is going to save the day here either.  Certainly not this week.

Tampa Bay 31, Arizona 13.

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland (-3.5)

I don’t believe that the Chargers have been as bad as their record.  Oakland probably has played as bad as their record.  Derek Carr is back after missing the last game.  Maybe Amari Cooper will finally show up too.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that I think Oakland takes this game.  They were supposed to be battling for one of the top seeds in the conference after all.  Maybe this is the springboard.

Oakland 31, Los Angeles Chargers 24.  

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-3.5)

Is Big Ben done?  I hope so!  KC seems like a juggernaut.  Typically, this is where the underdog wins and makes everyone look foolish.  Sticking with the Chiefs at home this time though.

Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 23.

New York Giants at Denver (-11.5)

The Giants lost 14 wide receivers for the year last week.  Zero running game.  Plus their coach seems to be a buffoon.  And they plain suck this year.  Denver coming off a bye should be ready to roll in this one.

Denver 34, New York Giants 17.

Indianapolis at Tennessee (-1.5)  

Could go either way on this one.  Mariota or Cassel, does it matter?  Indy has surprised to go 2-3 in the absence of Andrew Luck.  The Titans have underachieved for sure.  Divisional matchup.  I have no idea.

Tennessee 20, Indianapolis 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread): 38-40

Season (straight up): 49-29

Cancerous…

…well, I actually hate to use serious words for something sports related.  Kind of like calling anyone in the sports world a “hero”.  Sports figures are not heroes.  Law enforcement personnel, doctors, soldiers…now, those are real heroes.  I guess it’s how you personally choose to define the word yourself.  But I am already digressing…

What we are talking about here involves the Boston Red Sox.  Maybe a better word is “toxic”.  I don’t know.  Either way…though the Sox are in first place in the American League East, as well as having the second best record in the entire AL, something doesn’t seem right.

And it goes deeper than this whole David Price fiasco.  Which David Price fiasco?  Take your pick I suppose.  There is the one that involves confronting Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on the team plane roughly a month ago.  But once the specific details came out this week in a Boston Globe piece, the story has taken on new life.  You’ve all heard and read what apparently happened, so no need to rehash those details.

But combine that with Price yelling at reporters weeks before the Eck incident, his social media whining and everything else that has gone along with him…that’s kind of the tip of the iceberg.  Heck, there was even a rumor being thrown out there yesterday that Price almost came to blows with manager John Farrell at some point in the spring…with General Manager Dave Dombrowski present.  I think that one may be a little far-fetched, but with Price, who knows?

What I do know is that apparently 217 mil does not give you thicker skin.  Price never should have come to Boston.  Sure, he couldn’t turn down the cash…and the Players Association probably wouldn’t have let him (a la A-Rod when he was going to take discounted cash to come to Boston years ago).  But he clearly can’t handle Boston.  And it seems as if he is trying his hardest to be moved now…though the likelihood of him being traded is slim to none…and that’s closer to none.  Our best bet to be rid of this tool is for him to pitch well over the next year-plus and opt out.  I know, that means another year-plus of this clown.  May be the only avenue though.  How many playoff losses do you think he can accumulate before then?

Enough about Price himself.  The most disturbing thing about the airplane incident with the Eck is that supposedly a great deal of players applauded Price being an A-hole.  So people’s feelings were hurt because Eck made some critical comments?  Grow the F up.  Athletes today are worse than ever.  Can’t say a bad thing about them or they lash out.  Please.  The funny thing about it was that Eck was just commenting on a poor Eduardo Rodriguez rehab start.  Just saying “yuck” when that particular pitching line came on the screen.  That’s all it allegedly took for Price to lose it?  Amazing.  How ’bout just recognizing that it was fact?  That the start was indeed actually poor?  Yeah, why would anyone do that?

Eck is no doubt more critical of players than pretty much any game analyst across the country…probably in any sport.  But is he THAT critical?  Maybe.  I don’t hear every inning of every game he calls.  Or all his studio work.  But I doubt it.  Players are just babies now.  I don’t know if it’s because it evolves from the “everyone gets a trophy as a young athlete” mentality or not.  But it’s a discouraging trend to say the least.  Social media ain’t helping things either.

Moving on…I didn’t want this whole piece to be about Price.  Just couldn’t help myself.  But when I say “toxic” as well, there is more to consider.  Hanley Ramirez, for one.  He’s finally playing first base on a regular basis…glad he finally agreed to.  But how long will it last?  I’m not counting on it being long.  D-O-G.  I’d love for him to be out-of-town as well.  At least he’s hitting some bombs again.  Though they may be the quietest 17 dingers you’ve ever seen.

John Farrell?  Ship him out too.  Though that is old news for me.  How many times can I say it?  Managing is bad, clubhouse may be bad, every time he flaps his gums…yup…bad.  But you know how I feel.  Nothing more needs to be said.  Although…have you noticed what Torey Lovullo is doing in Arizona with essentially the same roster the team had in 2016?  Just sayin’…

You know who else I am down on?  Dustin Pedroia.  No, say it ain’t so you will say.  But things are starting to add up.  On the field, he is a gamer, absolutely no doubt.  Battles every second, offensively and defensively.  He seems to be the only guy hitting recently, to boot.

But Pedroia “behind the scenes”?  Starting to lose some luster…to me anyway.  The whole Manny Machado thing earlier this year where he seemed to throw his teammates under the bus.  From all reports, he apparently supports Price’s antics.  Bobby Valentine was an assclown for sure.  But when Pedroia confronted him with the whole “we don’t do that here…” nonsense, what was that?  He’s the player, Valentine was the manager.  Deal with it.  Leadership?  Where was ol’ Dusty back in 2011 when the team was folding down the stretch and cost that manager (Terry Francona) his job?  Where was Jason Varitek’s leadership that year as well…but that’s a story for a different day.

This last paragraph may rile some people up.  Too bad.  Again, completely and wholeheartedly appreciate Pedroia’s game on the field.  His “off-field” stuff has bothered me for a while.  And this year it has seemed to elevate to a new level.  My opinion…

These are the players that stick out to me…plus the manager.  For the clubhouse type stuff anyway.  Maybe there’s more.  And there probably is.  But we may never hear any specifics on those players.  These veterans are kind of the easy ones to point to of course.

I will say that all the crap above is not the only reason “something doesn’t seem right”, as noted earlier.  The squad essentially only lost David Ortiz from last years’ lineup.  And all of a sudden the rest of them can’t hit?  Kind of inexplicable, no?  As noted previously, Pedroia has been in line with his career numbers and has hit very well the last month or so.  But everyone else has regressed.  Yes, even Mookie Betts.  I have no idea what the hell is up with Xander Bogaerts.  I expected another step up from last years’ numbers.  Nope.  You can run through the rest of the lineup and see the same things.

The trading deadline is Monday.  Despite my feelings above, the Sox are indeed in first place.  What would I do?  Glad you asked.  But since I rambled on about Price and bad mojo in general, that will have to wait another day…

 

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