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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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Never Gets Old…

…winning World Series Championships, that is.  4 times in the last 15 seasons.  Or 4 times in 14 years if you prefer.

After zero in the 86 previous years, we make no apologies whatsoever.

The Blowhard finally got one right as well.  Though we picked the Red Sox in Seven…and were hesitant about it (though simply not to jinx them…we said the Sox were the better team…really!).

Side note:  The Blowhard also hit on…Manny Machado trying to injure someone.  Ask Steve Pearce and his heel about that.  Pearce got the last laugh obviously.

In any event, all of us who doubted this team have been eating a lot of crow the last couple of days.  All year long we questioned this team.  Questioned the quality of opponents.  Questioned the pathetic bullpen.  Questioned David Price’s stones.

And then they simply shoved it right in our faces and down our throats.  On a personal level, I am glad they did.  But I am still not sure how they did it.  Price?  You know the postseason career numbers.  They honestly still aren’t great.  5-9, 4.62.  But they sure as hell look a lot better with his last 4 appearances (3 starts) in this playoff run.  Not really sure how he didn’t get the World Series MVP award, but Pearce at least wasn’t a horrible alternative.  The downside?  He’s letting us all know about it by running his mouth again.  I suppose he has earned the right somewhat.  But this is why the Blowhard still wants him out of town.  I said all year that if he stayed healthy, had a good year and the team won the World Series, there was a chance he does exercise his opt-out clause.  To top it off, he finished the postseason strong personally, as we said.

Most people laughed when we brought up the possibility of him opting out.  But I still think it’s real.  Will it happen?  I’m leaning no.  But it would not surprise me in the least bit if Price publicly opted out on one of the duck boats this morning.  After all, the fans railed on him just as much as the media since he has been here.  Wouldn’t shock me if he tried to stick it to everyone in the middle of a parade.  He has that in him for sure.  Anyway, we will see what happens there…

Other than Price, when did Joe Kelly all of a sudden become Mariano Rivera?  Pitching all five games of the World Series, he made himself some dough.  Let’s hope someone else spends it on him since he will most likely revert to being…Joe Kelly.  But that was a pleasant surprise out of nowhere for sure.

Speaking of Kelly, we want to clarify some things.  The bullpen was putrid this year.  Many pitchers had their hands in on that.  We all wondered how the bullpen was going to fare in the postseason.  Let’s be real, out of all those bums that were down there this season, the postseason bullpen was really only Kelly, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.  Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman made cameos, but never when it mattered.  The rest of the brilliant performance out of the ‘pen was handled by members of this seasons’ starting rotation.  Let’s not forget that.  Admittedly, Kelly was awesome, while Barnes and Brasier were useful.  Kimbrel was terrible for the most part.  But the point is, the bullpen will seem a lot better once you stop pitching useless arms.  On top of someone like Kelly somehow becoming unhittable.  But the change in the bullpen was mostly due to the starters throwing key innings.

We also doubted the manager, Alex Cora.  We said he has a great team and that anyone could manage it.  Welp, after listening to the players talk about him in recent days, it clearly appears we underestimated him.  Not only from what the players said but their actions as well.  Everyone was willing to do whatever it took to win this Series.  Like Nathan Eovaldi pitching the first two games in relief, then throwing six innings plus in Game 3.

Cora’s apparent work after Game 3 can’t go unnoticed either.  The tough 18 inning loss could have completely taken the steam out of the team and sent them down the wrong road.  Tough one to take for sure.  Especially considering that the Sox should have won in the 13th.  But instead, Ian Kinsler slips and uncorks a horrendous throw and…well, you know what happened from there.  Anyway, Cora may not have had his best game managing DURING the game (we didn’t think some of the moves were as bad as some were making them out to be.  I mean, who thinks the game is going 18 innings?!).  But it looks like he had his best in managing AFTER the game.  Sure, the team didn’t exactly come out blazing in Game 4.  But they finished it blazing.  Maybe some of that is Chris Sales’ fire mid-game.  But I’m betting it had a ton to do with Cora.  As well as the players’ actual talent too, let’s not get all crazy overanalyzing things.  But Cora certainly managed circles around Dave Roberts…you can take that one to the bank.

Pretty much everyone contributed to this World Series victory.   Mitch Moreland with a huge pinch hit homer in Game 4.  Eduardo Nunez throwing his body around.  Rafael Devers with some big hits…and a huge defensive play late in Game 4.  Even Drew Pomeranz contributed…by NOT pitching.

Just a lot of fun to watch.  Even if a lot of us were getting it stuck to us…though again, gladly.

What’s next?  Glad you asked!  Sale’s 2019 option was picked up…big surprise!  A steal at 15 mil…even if the shoulder is junk.  Nunez picked up his player option as well.  We will find out soon about Price.  Those I think were the most pressing matters.  The rest will come in due time.  There will be some thoughts in this space about the 2019 season soon enough.

Right now, let’s keep the party going.  Congratulations to the 2018 Boston Red Sox!!

 

Was the Price right?

Of course it was!  We are of course talking about David Price…in case that was a mystery.  Well, he did sign with the Red Sox about a week ago, so maybe it was…

Sure, he has underperformed in the playoffs, to put it nicely.  He has a history of listening too closely to fans/media/outside noise…not a great thing when pitching in Boston.  After Game 1 against Texas this past postseason, he claimed that he is nervous in his first postseason start of the year (fair enough), but also nervous during his “first spring training start” and “first bullpen”, etc.  And then used some sort of duck analogy.  Ok, a little weird.  So maybe some of these things are a little concerning.  Or a lot concerning.

But the Sox needed an ace…and thankfully they have moved on from the “5 aces” crap of last year.  Price was the best out there.  The Sox have the money.  This move HAD to be made.

You may say giving a 7 year contract to a 3o year old pitcher is stupid.  John Henry would have said that last year, but since he changes his mind every year, he didn’t care last week.  You may also say well, Jon Lester was age 30 last offseason and Henry and the Sox wouldn’t give him 7 years.  I would say the Sox didn’t really want to sign him at any price.  I think Larry Lucchino’s original offer of 4 years, 70 million should have told you that right from the start.  We’ve covered all that before though…

Let me also ask you this:  Would you rather have David Price at 7/217 or Jon Lester at 6/145 (plus 25 more in a 7th year or a 10 mil buyout)?  I don’t care how well Lester pitched in Boston, especially in the playoffs.  I don’t care if Lester came through the Sox’ system.  I don’t care if Jon Lester loves Boston.  The answer is easy…and it’s Price.  Price is a clear #1.  Lester, as good as he was here, really is more of a #2.  Take a look at his first year in the National League too.  11-12, 3.34, 207 K’s in 205 innings.  Not horrible, pretty good actually.  But not worth 25 laaaaaaaaaahge.  Obviously there is a long way to go to judge both of these deals.  But I’d take Price any day of the week and I think most of you would too.

If you are balking at the deal because of the 217 mil, well, have you seen the other contracts out there?  Greinke:  6/206.5.  Yikes!  But it goes way beyond that.  Johnny Cueto is still unsigned.  But he wants 25 mil plus.  These 3 were the “Big Three” of the free agent pitchers.  Fine, give them a boatload of dough.  Look deeper at the next “tier”.  Jordan Zimmerman:  5/110.  Jeff Samardzija:  5/90.  Hisashi Iwakuma:  3/45.  Mike Leake:  Unsigned, but looking for at least 15 mil/per.  Mike Leake??  If you ask me, John Lackey’s 2/32 is a steal when compared to the above contracts.  But still 16 per for a 37-year-old pitcher.

Sure, the money on the next level is less and the years are less.  But I’d still take Price’s contract over any of those.  Dig a little deeper.  Look at these:  Marco Estrada (2/26); JA Happ (3/36); Brett Anderson (1/15.8).  Rich Hill had 4 meaningless September starts for the Sox and got 6 mil from one of the cheapest teams out there in Oakland.  Switch gears to relievers:  Darren O’Day (4/31); Ryan Madson (3/22); Joakim Soria (3/25); Shawn Kelley (who?) (3/15); Tony Sipp (3/18).  Throw in position players:  Ben Zobrist (4/56); Chase Utley’s corpse (1/7); Colby Rasmus (1/15.8); Asdrubel Cabrera (2/18.5).  Chris Iannetta, a 32-year-old backup catcher who hit .188 last year…4.25 mil for him.

Ok, so the last paragraph was likely unnecessary.  But I like numbers, so deal with it.  The point has been driven home though I think.  The money is being spent out there.  May as well spend it on the best.  Especially when you still have guys like Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Wade Mil…ummmmmm, nevermind on him…still in your rotation.

So I liked the Price signing, that’s pretty clear.  Did I like the Wade Miley trade?  Glad you asked!  The answer is…I don’t know.  But I think I do.  Wade Miley is a nice #4 starter who you can seemingly lock into 30 plus starts and close to 200 innings.  That is a positive for any staff.  But he is still…Wade Miley.  Who is to say Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright…or any other Joe Blow can’t step into the #4/#5 starter role and replace him decently enough?  Plus, as much as I am not excited about John Farrell coming back as manager next year, when Miley pulled that stunt in the dugout with him after being shelled earlier last year, well, let’s just say I didn’t love that.

So Miley should be replaceable.  Maybe his replacement will be Roenis Elias…who knows?  Elias is a couple of years younger, so that is a positive…for whatever that’s worth.  Losing Jonathan Aro?  Meh.  Carson Smith?  Kind of makes you wonder why Seattle would give up a cheap guy under control for several more years.  But trading a reliever for a durable starter?  Maybe that’s why.  I often would not trade starters for relievers.  But again, Miley can be replaced by…anyone.  And if Smith can help solidify the back-end of the bullpen…probably worth it.  I can’t really get all that worked up about it.

I AM however all worked up about trading Garin Cecchini for a bag of used balls and a couple of beat up fungo bats.  Ok, I am not.  I did find it surprising that Cecchini was DFA’d over a guy like Bryce Brentz…but since absolutely no one but me cares, I’ll save those thoughts for myself.

So with the signing of Price and 4th outfielder Chris Young and the trades for Smith and Craig Kimbrel, Dave Dombrowski says he is essentially done.  (Aside on Kimbrel:  I usually don’t love trading for closers when they can be “found” (see:  Uehara, Koji).  Nor do I love giving up prospects for 60-70 innings a year…4 of them to boot.  But I normally would trade prospects for proven players.  And I am not sure I am worried about any of the 4 prospects becoming someone the Sox regret they gave away.  Even Manuel Margot.  The Sox need bullpen help.  Sooooo…I came to terms with it).

Anyway, Dombrowski said something to the effect of that he “doesn’t like to lie as it sets a bad example…”.  I hope he is stretching the truth then anyway.  There is more work to be done.  I’d still like to see a solid #2 starter.  Is it Eduardo Rodriguez?  Maybe.  But I sure as hell hope it ISN’T Clay Buchholz.  I’d love to see him dealt.  It isn’t Rick Porcello…though his contract doesn’t look so bad anymore, no?  Maybe Ben was somewhat right on one thing at least.  Anyway, there is rotation depth yes, but I’d take another upper end starter.  Bullpen?  Good start with Kimbrel, Uehara, Smith and Tazawa.  Maybe Elias.  Maybe Joe Kelly?  Matt Barnes?  I guess.  Robbie Ross Jr. is a decent 10-11 guy I suppose.  I wouldn’t mind seeing another proven guy out there though.

Hanley Ramirez has to go as well.  Easier said than done, I am well aware of that.  But the outfield experiment did not work last year.  Do we really think the first base experiment is going to work this year?  Cancer in the clubhouse…all that.  Just do whatever it takes to get him out of here.  I think it happens.  But it’s going to take some time…and the Sox eating a lot of dough.  Maybe even until spring training when someone on another team gets hurt and a team panics.  I don’t know how it will happen, but it needs to.  I’d also investigate trading either of Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo.  I’m not sold on either of those guys really.  Maybe trade one of them while they still have some value.  Although I can live with the 4 guys (Young and Mookie Betts the other 2 of course) in the outfield if I have to.

A couple more months until Spring Training…still time to make some decent tweaks to the roster…

 

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