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Hot Stove Is Heating Up…

…but where are the Boston Red Sox?

Yes, I know, Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has been tasked to slash payroll.  So he isn’t about to hand out 324 million dollar contracts to anyone, no matter how prolific a player/pitcher they may be.

But…something??

Thus far, the Sox’ moves have consisted of outrighting to AAA their third catcher from September, Juan Centeno; adding 5 guys to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule V draft; designating pitcher Brian Johnson for assignment, then outrighting him to AAA once no one claimed him (big surprise); non-tendering infielder Marco Hernandez and pitcher Josh Osich (then re-signing them to lesser deals); trading backup catcher Sandy Leon for someone light years away from the majors and losing reliever Trevor Kelley on waivers…oh and wait!  As I blink, they just selected a 21 year old Double-A SS named Jonathan Arauz in the Rule V draft!! Wow…and now I blink again and infielder Jose Peraza is in the fold too!!

Scintillating.

The biggest names have just recently signed:  Stephen Strasburg re-upping with the Nationals, Gerrit Cole with the aforementioned 324 mil from the Yankees and Anthony Rendon cashing in with the Angels.

A lot of the lesser names have signed as well.  Kevin Gausman, Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson, Didi Gregorius, Howie Kendrick, Drew Pomeranz, Tanner Roark, etc.

Not that the Sox need any of those guys in particular.  But a little bit of a slow start to the offseason, no doubt.

I guess I shouldn’t worry all that much.  There are still plenty of bodies out there.  Then again, also not a ton of good ones either.

On top of that, Bloom’s best track to improve the team may be by trades.  Actually, that is his best move to shave salary.  Not sure he’s going to get much for most of his trade options.

For example, rumors abound that other teams may be interested in David Price since his price tag looks a lot cheaper compared to some of the silly contracts being thrown out in the last couple of weeks or so.  But those rumors also say that either the Sox would have to eat some of that cash, or “throw something of value” along with Price in order to clear that contract.  There was some mention of outfielder Andrew Benintendi being that “something of value”.  Benny had a subpar year last year.  But is young and presumably has room to grow still.  So throwing him in a deal to clear other salary seems a little steep.  Then again, the farm system is bare.  So what minor leaguer would be “something of value”?  Would they actually trade one of their few good prospects, whoever they are?

Example #2:  Rumors also abound that the Sox are “aggressively shopping Jackie Bradley Jr.”.  It’s about time.  But about three years too late.  Who’s going to give the Sox anything for a guy who can’t hit, but will make 8 figures next year through arbitration?

Unless the Sox try to trade Mookie Betts, which I have been in favor of if he truly does not want to re-sign here, or inexplicably deal someone like Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers, how much will they get in return for ANYONE in a trade?

I’m actually wondering if the Sox are seriously considering dealing Betts this winter.  I don’t think they are, to be honest.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  But it won’t be great if he walks for nothing next offseason.  A trade deadline deal cannot be ruled out.  But if the Sox are in contention at the deadline, how can they deal him then?

Unless this is a true “bridge year”.  But how can that be true if Betts, Bogaerts, Devers, J.D. Martinez and Benny return in that lineup?  Sure, the pitching staff is more than suspect.  But how can this group of guys not be at least competitive?

Not to mention if Bloom walks in here and they AREN’T in contention at least somewhat this season, he will not be a popular man around town.  Not without divulging some sort of future plan…which you know he will not.

The way the 40-man roster stands now, with its current 38 players, there are holes all over the place.  Even if those stud players mentioned above stay and produce, pitchers like Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi (& Price?) rebound and contribute, the fact remains that there is all kind of dead weight still from those guys on down to the end of the roster.  Not to mention several minor leaguers that aren’t ready for prime-time.

Also…please don’t try to sell us on Dustin Pedroia playing 120-130 games at second base next year either.  Actually, don’t even get me started on Pedey here right now.  You all know how I feel about him.  Great career here, feisty little player over the years, lost some respect for him in recent years with his behavior, but in the end, he is simply done due to injury and it’s time to go.

So let’s get to work Chaim.  More than Arrauz and Peraza for sure.  At least maybe re-sign Rick Porcello back to that one year deal he wants to try to reset his value.  He was brutal last year.  But at least he takes the ball every 5 days.  More than you can say for most of the rest of the starters still here…oops…shortly after I wrote this, Porcello inked a one year deal with the Mets.  Oh well…

Changing gears a smidge:

In one more piece of recent Red Sox news, Dwight Evans had a renewed chance to make the MLB Hall of Fame the other day as he appeared on the Modern Baseball Era ballot.

This committee meets “twice every five years” and covers players, managers, umpires and executives from the 1970-1987 time frame.  It gives everyone in this period a second chance at the Hall basically.

But does everyone actually deserve a second chance at the Hall?

I am not so sure.

The Modern Era’s first enshrinements were Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in 2017.  Then the “Today’s Game Era” (1988-present) committee put in Lee Smith and Harold Baines in 2018.  The winners this year the Modern Era put in Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller (Players Association head).

Are ANY of these guys Hall of Famers??!  I’d say perhaps Miller since he led the charge for collective bargaining agreements, free agency and arbitration.  But none of those players are Hall of Famers.  They just aren’t.

And that includes our old friend Dewey Evans.

Evans was a very good player.  Better in the second half of his career than the first.  Piled up almost 400 homers and 2,500 hits.  And I had no idea until recently that he had more homers in the 1980s than ANY other player.

Those are all nice.  But did anyone buy a ticket to watch Evans play baseball?

We did for Pedro.  We did for Roger (he WILL get in someday, and you know he belongs).  We did for Teddy Ballgame (well, not me, I wasn’t born, but you get the point).

I am not even sure Yaz is a Hall of Famer.  But people that watched him play in his early years swear by it.  And presumably bought a ticket to watch him play.

Not for Dewey.

Loved the guy when he wore the Sox uni.  But not once ever did I think he was a Hall of Famer.

And now, with all of these recent dudes getting in, Cooperstown is getting so watered down, it’s kind of disheartening.

Do we put Evans, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, etc. in because Baines is in?  It’s trending that way.

Evans got 8 of the 12 votes he needed for induction on this committee (75% of the 16 members).  And was next in line behind Simmons and Miller.

Does that mean he is a lock when they reconvene in 12/22?

Say it ain’t so.

You’ll hear more ranting from me soon in my annual Cooperstown column.  But that’s all for now.

2019 MLB American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2019 season next week.  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.  Let’s dive right in:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  2. Alex Bregman, Houston
  3. DJ LeMahieu, NY Yankees
  4. Xander Bogaerts, Boston
  5. Nelson Cruz, Minnesota
  6. George Springer, Houston
  7. Marcus Semien, Oakland
  8. Rafael Devers, Boston
  9. Carlos Santana, Cleveland
  10. Jorge Soler, Kansas City

This is what I wrote last year:  “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?”

Welp, I give up.  Trout is the best player in baseball.  He looked like he was on his way to his best season before being shut down in early September with a foot injury…and by “best season”, that is really saying something with the career he has had.  It may have been his best season anyway.  His team still sucked, that is nothing new.  It will always make one wonder how “valuable” he actually is to the team.  But that matters not anymore.

Alex Bregman would be the only other real option.  But how “valuable” was he to his team?  Well, he had some great numbers and showed his defensive versatility when he played a great deal of the season at shortstop.  But he also had guys like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa to go along with a top rookie and 2 Cy Young candidates that we will talk more about later.  So even though Houston won 107 games, Bregman had a lot of help.

So Trout is the choice.  Some people (Pete?) would say that is abundantly clear and always has been.  Perhaps that is true…but moving on…

Semien is the third finalist in real life.  Helluva a year for him for sure.  But 3rd seems to be a stretch.  LeMahieu is my choice.  DJ wasn’t even going to necessarily have a full-time job when he first started the season with the Yanks.  And, silly me, I thought once he left the cozy confines of Coors Field, his numbers would take a hit.  Wrong again.  With all of the Yankee injuries, DJ was out there every day and his numbers, specifically his power numbers, were the best of his career.

Maybe Xander is a little high at 4th, and if you switched him and Semien…I don’t know.  X was 5th in the AL in OPS and as a shortstop, I felt like that meant something.  We likely would have had Cruz and Springer higher than X, but they both missed about 40 games, so we pushed them back a bit.

8-10 could have been anyone.  Per usual.  I thought the three here should be recognized for their awesome seasons.  Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Austin Meadows, Yoan Moncada, Jose Altuve, Matt Olson, a couple of pitchers…if you put any of those guys at the back of the top 10, I would not argue with you.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Gerrit Cole, Houston
  3. Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay
  4. Shane Bieber, Cleveland
  5. Lance Lynn, Texas

It’s really Verlander 1A and Cole 1B.  It was THAT close.  I guess the tiebreakers included Verlanders’ lower WHIP and more consistent year.  Cole started a little slow and then dominated from June on in.  But if you gave the award to either you wouldn’t be wrong.  Morton is a distant 3rd.  Bieber could have made that spot as well.  I can’t believe I am writing Lynn into the last spot.  But who else would it be?  Mike Minor?  Lucas Giolito?  Eduardo Rodriguez?  A closer like Roberto Osuna?  I don’t know.  Does it matter?

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Yordan Alvarez, Houston
  2. Eloy Jimenez, Chi White Sox
  3. John Means, Baltimore

Alvarez only played 87 games.  But his numbers were so off the charts, he wins in a landslide.  Eloy had a better year than people think.  And Means actually made the All-Star team.  Though, yeah, someone had to go from the Orioles.

There were some other exciting rookies in the league this year.  But they either didn’t do as well as expected (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Oscar Mercado) or didn’t play enough (Bo Bichette).  Brandon Lowe was an All-Star and is up for the real award, but he missed the majority of the second half.  And didn’t have the numbers Alvarez had anyway.  Michael Chavis also contributed as a rookie then he himself missed the last several weeks.  Solid group here going forward though.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota
  2. Aaron Boone, NY Yankees
  3. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay

I was tempted to give this to Boone with the way he had to navigate all the injuries the team had this year.  But they are the Yankees.  And have enough resources to combat injuries in the first place.  It’s also impossible to ignore a 23 win improvement in your first year as manager, as the Twins did under Baldelli.  Cash could win this every year.  His team doesn’t spend and he has to have “bullpen games” like 3 days a week.  Not to mention, his best starter, Blake Snell, missed significant time this year.  But Cash always seems to keep the Rays in the mix.  Bob Melvin deserves consideration for the job he did with the A’s as well.  AJ Hinch gets penalized for his team being too good in the first place, unfortunately.

Next:  The National League

David Price…

…simple as that.

Nope, I am not just copying the post from right before the previous series against the New York Yankees, though this may seem to be the case.

It’s just that this time a different starting pitcher may now be the key to the Boston Red Sox’ success in the American League Championship Series.

Last round, we talked about Chris Sale.  Though Sale wasn’t quite at the level we know he can get to, he was pretty good in Game One.  We all likely wondered how he would look the second time around in Game Five, but I think we are also all glad it didn’t get to that point.  Most importantly, the fact that Sale was able to come out in the eighth inning of Game Four and mow the side down on 13 pitches was hopefully pretty telling.  That he was able to bounce back nicely in between starts and would be even more good to go for his next one.  Hopefully.

That leaves us with the Sox’ other “ace”, David Price.  A disaster in Game Two at Fenway against the Yanks, he is now again slated for Game Two against the Houston Astros.  Mistake?  Perhaps.

We all know the postseason numbers, 0-9 in 10 starts, ERA over 6.00…yada, yada, yada.  Embarrassing for a pitcher of his caliber…and of course at his current salary level.

Can it change?  Can Price finally do something right in a start and be a “hero”?  Get the hometown fans on his side for once?

I deem that unlikely.  I would say most others do as well.

In addition to the poor career postseason stats, Price himself came up with some other beauties this year.  He can’t pitch in the cold…his fingers get tingly.  Or do they get tingly because of the carpal tunnel, from which he laughably says playing video games don’t affect that?  Sure buddy.  Then there was some stuff about being allergic to dogs or grass or something.  Honestly, the guy is such an arseclown that I’ve lost track of all the excuses.

Let’s face it, Price has to take a start in this series.  Because if he doesn’t, are you giving that one to Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez or Drew Pomeranz?  No thanks.  Eduardo Rodriguez perhaps, but are we at the point where he can’t really give you a ton of innings now since he hasn’t started much in recent weeks?  I don’t know, but something to think about.  Either way, wouldn’t it be better to give Price only ONE start, say Game Four?  That way, since he actually has a good track record of pitching well in relief in the postseason, maybe he can throw a few innings in Game Seven, should the series get there.  Also, Houston will be warmer for him, though admittedly the dimensions of that field, as opposed to Fenway, may be a worse scenario for him.  But still…

This is not to say that Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello are better pitchers than Price.  They are not, though they both pitched well against New York in the Division Series.  But Porcello doesn’t necessarily have a sterling postseason career record either.  And Eovaldi has only that one playoff start to his credit.  A great one, but just that one nonetheless.  But they maybe should have priority in the ALCS because they are quite simply pitching better NOW.

I suppose, either way, manager Alex Cora is going to do plenty of mixing and matching with his pitching staff all series long.  Starters pitching in relief and all that.  Anything to get outs.  Unless you want to see Joe Kelly in a close game, that is.  Which absolutely no one wants.  Except for the opposition.

So maybe it all doesn’t matter?  We’ll see…but with Price having to potentially make two starts in this series is concerning.  And he better not lay two more eggs.  That makes him a huge key to the series.

Since it seems that all we do in this space is make predictions, let’s see how things stack up on paper for the teams:

Lineup:

The Red Sox top four of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are pretty damn good.  But are the Astros’ top four of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel even better?  Could be.  But let’s call it a wash.  The rest of the lineup?  Astros all the way.  Looks like 5-7 is some combination of Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick.  None of those guys have performed like they did in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series.  Correa has been hurt of course.  But wouldn’t you still take these guys over the Sox’ 5-7 of Steve Pearce/Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez/Rafael Devers and Ian Kinsler/Brock Holt?  I would.  Top it off with anyone the Astros throw out there at 8-9 will be better offensively than Jackie Bradley Jr. and whoever the catcher is.  Looks to me like the Astros have the edge here top to bottom.

Defense:

Not going to spend a lot of time here because I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of Houston Astros games to know specific defensive skill sets.  But on a macro level…at catcher, while Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez can certainly handle the defense for the Sox, Martin Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year, for whatever that’s worth.  If Pearce, Holt and Devers are out there, the Sox infield defense probably pales in comparison to the ‘Stros.  Though, I know, Holt is good enough at second.  The outfield most certainly goes to the Sox.  Sssssooo…an edge here either way?  I’m not sure there is one.

Starting pitching:

Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton against Sale, Price, Eovaldi and Porcello.  Can’t be any debate here.  At first, I was thinking Astros by a mile.  But at a deeper glance, it’s probably closer than we think.  Sale and Verlander are probably a wash.  Cole a huge gap over Price.  But the other four could go either way.  Though Morton was sensational last year in the playoffs.  So you kind of have to give the edge to Houston here, no doubt.

Relief pitching:

We have written (and spoken) ad nauseam about the Red Sox’ bullpen woes.  And now their closer has had problems getting people out.  With Lance McCullers likely in the ‘pen for the ‘Stros, along with Collin McHugh and Ryan Pressly, who seemed to have been lights out, there are some strong middle guys right off the top.  Add in some other useful pieces such as Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith before you get to Roberto Osuna, now you’re talking.  Although Osuna is apparently a piece of crap in real life and the Sox have had success against him in the past, how does he look compared to Craig Kimbrel at this very moment?  Shoot, it looks like the Astros don’t even have Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Brad Peacock on their active roster for this series.  And those guys have been pretty valuable over the years.  Landslide here for Houston.

Coaching:  

People locally have been acting like Cora and A.J. Hinch are equals.  But didn’t Hinch’s team win the World Series last year?  Yes, with Cora’s help of course.  But still.  And though Cora has done a great job with the Sox this year, this is still his first year managing anywhere, so also we need to remember it is his first foray into the postseason.  We all saw first-time manager Aaron Boone puke on himself in the ALDS.  Who is to say Cora doesn’t do the same in the ALCS?  I’m not saying he will, but we have to consider the possibility for sure.  Hinch has been there.  Cora has not…as a head guy.  That counts.

Adding it all up?  What it says “on paper” to me is Houston in five.  That’s what the Blowhard is going with.  Hope the Sox make it closer of course.  And if they can get it back to Fenway for Games Six and/or Seven, maybe things go their way.  And that’s why they play the games…

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