We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:
Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez
No need to rock the boat here. Other than having Vazquez take more playing time away from Leon, that is. Last year, they essentially split time and hopefully that will be adjusted a smidge in the upcoming year. It would appear that these two will be the tandem again. I can live with that. Defensively, they are a solid duo. They threw out about 40% of base stealers, an impressive number in this era. Swihart at one point was a “can’t miss” prospect. Think that one missed. He will be 26 in April and catchers supposedly do develop late. But he has been injured in recent years and also jerked around by the team position-wise. His bat was his primary asset as a potential pretty good offensive catcher, but .190 in almost 200 at-bats in Pawtucket last year does not inspire confidence. I’m not sure if he has options left. If he does, he will likely go back to Pawtucket. If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if he played a ton in the spring to try to pump up his value and then shipped elsewhere before the season starts. Too bad.
Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Deven Marrero (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Hanley Ramirez (1B), Sam Travis (1B)
This is where some work needs to be done. Based on what the rest of the 25-man roster would look like all around at this very point in time, it would appear 7 of these 9 would have to make the squad. With Pedroia out injured until around June, that would seemingly leave everyone else but Lin on the major league roster. Not ideal. Bogaerts and Devers obviously set on the left side of the infield. Ramirez, in this scenario, remains the designated hitter. That puts Travis full-time at first. And a combination of Hernandez, Holt and Marrero holding the fort at second until Pedroia comes back. Ugh…
Dave Dombrowski insists that Hanley will be ready to play first base next spring. That may well be true in a physical sense. But does anyone really think that Hanley will be up for that plan? Travis looks like he may be able to hit a little. But I’m not sure he is the full-time solution. I don’t think the Sox think he is either. And that is a positive, because it would seem to spur the team on to make a major move involving a 1B or DH. Or an outfielder, but we will cover that in a second.
Speaking of second, I can even live with that combination of stiffs at second base for 60 games or so until Pedroia comes back. Does it really makes sense to go out and (re)sign a guy like Eduardo Nunez to a decent sized deal when you are locked into Dustin for like 14 per until 2021? I think not. I’d personally try to move Pedroia, but the knees, age, contract and 10/5 veto rights pretty much make that impossible. Dombrowski has been talking up Marco recently. But maybe that’s for trade purposes, who knows?
The move to be made at 1B/DH? Could be Eric Hosmer. But I’m not sure I want to spend a ton of dough on a good glove but someone who (other than batting average) may not even be a better hitter than what you had there last year in Mitch Moreland. Carlos Santana? Meh. Again, would seem to be too much money for not much of an upgrade. I don’t care how many home runs Logan Morrison had last year, he’s probably the last guy I want them to sign. Lucas Duda? Surely, you jest.
Hopefully there are some big bats that may be available that we don’t know about. Because I can’t say I totally love the names being thrown out there now.
Oh, and Xander? Part of me (actually, most of me at the present time) wants to unload him now. Underachievement for the last year and a half. Frustrating. But the rest of me tells me they have to keep him. 25-year-old shortstop that presumably has his best years ahead of him. Push comes to shove, I’d probably deal him in the right situation. But it has to be EXTREMELY right. I’m not giving him away. Though I really wanted to last year…
Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), Bryce Brentz (LF/RF)
On the surface, Benintendi-Bradley-Betts left to right would seem to suffice, right? But when teams are searching for a power bat, that bat may be in the outfield. Which would necessitate some sort of adjustment to this outfield alignment.
And no, even though Brentz hit 31 homers in Pawtucket last year, he is not the “power bat” that the Sox are looking to add. Or he shouldn’t be anyway. It’s a nice story, since Brentz was designated for assignment last summer and anyone could have claimed him for nothing. But a nice story is all it is. Dombrowski has been talking Brentz up as the 4th outfielder too. But I’m not even buying that at this time.
Obviously, newly minted National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton is the hot name out there for the power bat. All sorts of reports on him this past week…he wants to play on the West Coast and won’t approve of a trade to the Sox; that his reps are trying to get him to Boston because they think it will be the best fit, on and off the field; the Marlins want the world for him, even though he has almost 300 million left on his contract and on and on.
Stanton is the easy answer. He plays right field though. Right field in Fenway? I suppose if that’s what he wants. You could move Mookie back to center and keep Benny in left. Maybe Stanton would agree to play left and then you would move Benny to center. Giancarlo could of course DH, but he may not be ready to do that. Either way, if he comes here, those “problems” will likely work themselves out.
I’m all for Giancarlo, even if the price is somewhat high. I suppose it depends what “high” is, but the Sox should explore all options to get this done. J.D. Martinez? Ok…it’s only money for him I suppose. And the Sox print money. If it’s a fallback option, I guess you could do worse. Other names? Haven’t heard much. Again, you never know who may be available, so maybe it’s a name we haven’t heard yet.
Any way you slice it, a big bat is absolutely imperative. The Sox never really replaced David Ortiz last year. Huge hole there, to state the obvious. Where that bat comes in positionally, it doesn’t really matter. Things could be maneuvered to make it work. Bradley is one way things can be maneuvered. I’d look to move him. His ceiling has been reached. Especially offensively. His glove is nice, but can Mookie or Benintendi do at least 90% of that? I think so. And that should work out fine. There has been rumored interest in JBJ. If that is truly the case, I would strike while the iron is hot.
I’d actually like two bats, even if one is a little inferior to the other. Can’t have enough power. But, all in all, this may be the only move the Sox have to make. Some tweaks to the pitching staff, sure. But the big bat should be the one move the Sox should be all in on. Anything else after that should be gravy, no?
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…
As we sit back and wait for months for the NBA Finals to begin…ok, an exaggeration of course. But we can all admit the week-long gap between the end of the Conference Finals and the beginning of the NBA Finals is ridiculous. As always, we can thank the television networks for that.
In any event, it’s time to put a cap on the Boston Celtics season. The Celts lost to the Cavs in 5. Exactly what I had predicted! But regardless, a sweep or five games is what pretty much everyone thought. So the Blowhard doesn’t deserve any extra props there, unfortunately.
Whimpering out of the playoffs certainly isn’t ideal. However, their performance in the series certainly does not diminish the great season they had or the organizational progress they showed.
What the series does reveal is that there is still a great deal of work to be done. No question there. The 4 losses were by an average of 26 points…and it really was worse than that. #1 seed in the East or not, the Celtics were just not in the same league as the Cavaliers.
So what do the Celtics do going forward? Getting the #1 overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history certainly was a nice start to the offseason. What else? Here’s one man’s look at the current players on the 15-man roster, along with some added commentary on other random players. Starting in alphabetical order, but maybe not finishing that way:
*Avery Bradley. I know what I would do with Avery…I’d shop him. I don’t hate the guy. But the fact remains that Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, Boston’s top 3 guards, are all free agents after next season. Though Smart is actually restricted. All are going to want sizable raises. Not to mention that they also have Terry Rozier. Jaylen Brown, though listed at small forward, stepped in for Bradley in several games when Avery was hurt. The elite draft prospects are all guards, etc…
We will get into IT more later, but Smart may command less money than Bradley. There are possible free agents coming. Bradley signed a 4 year, 32 million dollar deal after the 2013-14 season, which many thought was a steep overpayment at the time. Bradley got better, then pretty quickly became dissatisfied with the contract he signed. You think he will “settle” this time? Not likely. Bradley also always seems to have plenty of nagging injuries that affect his availability.
Something has to give. He’s a good player. I’m guessing we have seen his ceiling however. It just makes too much sense for him being the one to depart, based on all of the above. This offseason. Why let him walk after next year for nothing? So I am moving him…we shall see what Danny does though.
*Jaylen Brown. Easy here. Keep him and play him more than the 17 minutes a game than you gave him this season. 20 years old, the third overall pick from last year had his moments this year, including the playoffs. Sure, he looked like a rookie quite often, but what did you expect? Hopefully, Year #2 will be another step up for the kid, with added responsibilities. I have to say, he shot better than I expected this season. That was the biggest knock on him coming out of college. The physical tools appear to be there. Take the training wheels off next year, and live with any bumps in the road.
*Jae Crowder. See Bradley, Avery. Move him. Good player. We’ve likely seen his ceiling. Also see Brown, Jaylen. They both technically play the same position and Brown needs more minutes. There may be another impact small forward coming via free agency. And all that.
Problem is, Crowder has an extremely team friendly contract. He has 3 years left on a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal. Great by today’s NBA standards. I’d have no problem keeping him if he accepted a lesser role off the bench. I don’t see that happening though. Especially with Brown here and potential Free Agent Player X coming. That’s one too many small forwards. He also should have some good trade value, especially with the contract. So in the end, I try to move him too. I don’t know if Danny will though.
*Gerald Green. I’m not really sure why he was here in the first place. Sure he can shoot and get hot in a hurry. But what else does he do? And did you really need him? I would’ve given his 11.4 minutes a game to James Young to see what you could salvage there in Young’s third year. No need to bring Green back. Brad Stevens may feel compelled to give him minutes again.
*Al Horford. Welp, he’s going to be here for the next three years, whether we like it or not. Would love to see him down in the paint more offensively and also grabbing more rebounds. But he is what he is now. And Brad loves his big guys to fire up threes. So we have to deal with it.
That being said, he is a good piece to have. Played pretty well in the playoffs. Hopefully the C’s can find a true center next year and Big Al can play power forward. Though I guess all of these “small forward, shooting guard, power forward” designations don’t necessarily mean as much as they did in the past, what with the current NBA style of play. Either way, I’m ok with Al in my starting five next year.
*Demetrius Jackson. Who? Yup. 2nd round pick from last year, played in 5 games for a total of 17 minutes the entire year. 17 minutes. On the roster the whole year. Let that sink in for a bit. That being said, if you have to fill the end of roster next year with cheap “talent”, it can’t hurt to have another ballhandler in tow. Contract is non-guaranteed for next year, so your guess is as good as mine on what his situation will be. Not sure it really matters anyway.
Next: Wait, I can’t believe I wrote that many words about DEMETRIUS JACKSON!! Because of that, I don’t even know what’s next…