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So Where Do They Go From Here? Part II

No need for any preamble here.  We will jump right into the “non-Brady” positions:

Running back:

Under contract:  Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Free Agents:  None

Comments:  Now that we have vomited up all those words on Brady, how much can we say here?  Well, in this section, not much.  All of these guys but Michel and Harris will be entering the final year of their contracts in 2020.  If Harris is ready to contribute after essentially a redshirt year (read:  learning how to pick up blitzes), then that could make Burkhead or (gasp!) White expendable.  I doubt it on White, but at a 4.6 mil cap hit, maybe he gets an extension.  Burkhead’s 4 mil cap hit could put him in jeopardy, but honestly, I’d find a way to keep them all around.  Remains to be seen how Develin recovers from his neck injury, so that could factor into any decision making at this position.  Michel isn’t going anywhere, despite his largely disappointing play to start his career.

Wide receiver:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohammed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (Futures), Devin Ross (Futures)

Free Agents:  Phillip Dorsett

Comments:  Bye bye Phil.  At least I hope.  But there is work to be done here.  Is there going to be space on the roster?  You have to figure Jules, Sanu and Harry are locks to return.  Despite Sanu’s ineffective play down the stretch.  Maybe the ankle injury was worse than we knew.  Maybe an offseason in the offense will help.  Hard to believe the Pats will give up on him.  Jules isn’t going anywhere.  Hope he heals up and they can lessen his load a bit next year.  Harry needs to take that next step.  Meyers may also get that chance.  There should be one more quality veteran added here as far as I am concerned though.  And I am not talking about the return of Gunner.

Tight end:

Under contract:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Free Agents:  Benjamin Watson

Comments:  Great career Ben and thank you for your service.  I will never forget you chasing down Champ Bailey in 2005.  But the only thing that needs to be said about this group is that they all should be flushed and the personnel has to be completely revamped here.  Will Rob Gronkowski come back for one more run?  It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing that nonsense.  But I will say I won’t rule it out.  Hopefully, he won’t do all that garbage leading up to any kind of announcement.  But after a year off, it would not shock me if he felt awesome and wanted to give it one more go.  I’m not banking on it, however.

Offensive line:

Under contract:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Korey Cunningham (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Najee Toran (Futures)

Free Agents:  Joe Thuney (LG), Ted Karras (C), James Ferentz (C), Marshall Newhouse (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G) (Restricted)

Comments:  A return to good health for Andrews will be a huge boost…if indeed that is the case.  I don’t know where he stands with that though.  From people who actually analyze offensive line play, Karras was “ok”.  But the main criticism was that he “couldn’t block at the second level”, which seems important…especially for Michel.  Since, you know…Michel can’t seem to gain any yards on his own.  Have to imagine Thuney will get megabucks elsewhere and since the team is already paying one guard (Mason) a lot of money for the next 4 seasons, it’s doubtful they pay a second guard even more.  Mason had his problems last season and hopefully, they were injury related as many have intimated.  Wynn was hurt for a great deal of the year, but maybe he finally plays a full season next year.  Perhaps that is at Thuney’s old position since that’s where many felt he belonged when he was drafted.

Cunningham was rarely active after being traded for late in the preseason.  Seems like a waste.  But maybe offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia knew he was a project and was preparing him (and Eluemunor?) for 2020 instead?  Maybe Froholdt and Cajuste learned something in their year off and can apply that on the field in 2020 as well?  Cannon was kind of putrid this season and at his high cap number could be a casualty.  Especially if any one of those jamokes can contribute something going forward.

The bottom line was that this group was not very good this year.  Whether help comes from one or two or three of these guys from within or the outside, this position will be crucial to address.  Especially if the aforementioned 43 year old QB returns.  Kind of goes without saying I suppose.

Specialists:

Under contract:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

Free Agents:  Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Nick Folk (K), Justin Bethel (ST)

Comments:  Slater will have a contract if he wants one.  Bethel maybe too.  Hell, Likely Ebner as well.  I will say that I’m really not too worried about the gunners in any way, shape or form.  I AM worried about the kicker position though.  Does Gostkowski’s hip heal enough in order to justify the 5 mil cap hit on technically the last year of his deal?  Folk actually kicked pretty well for a fraction of that.  Mike Nugent sucked for likely that same fraction.  And Kai Forbath didn’t inspire confidence in his one game.  4 kickers this year after only 3 the last 23 years…with one of those for only 8 games.  I ask the people that wanted Gostkowski gone the past few years, how you feeling now?  Perhaps there is an open competition next summer between Gostkowski (if he is ready to go), Folk and some kids, perhaps a draft pick?  We will see how that goes.  But we cannot have any more Mike Nugent’s running around Foxborough.  Not if the Patriots expect to compete.

Next:  The defense.

So Where Do They Go From Here?

As promised at some point in the recent past, let’s have a really, really, really early look at where the New England Patriots could be headed next season.  Take a look at the players on the current roster and their status.  What I think might happen going into next season.  Some thoughts about what should happen.  And perhaps some chatter about what we in this space here WANT to happen.

I know, the 2019 NFL season isn’t even over, free agency doesn’t start for about two months and the draft is about three and a half months away.  But QB Tom Brady’s future has been speculated upon all season.  And there are about 20 other free agents that will need to be accounted for.  So it’s fun to think about, even at this early juncture.  Well, for me anyway…

But think about it.  Arguably the best player of all time could leave this organization.  Several other marquee players could jump ship as well.  The Pats could have some significant roster turnover next season and be led by a 2nd year quarterback who barely played his first season.  Although that storyline sounds eerily familiar, let’s not put Jarrett Stidham in Brady’s class yet, ok?  Despite some late season stories by beat writers that said Stidham was making “wow” throws in practice all season.  Let’s pump the brakes on all that please.

Seriously, however, not only is Brady a free agent with some significant other players, there could be some additional salary cap casualties involving older, high priced, consistently banged up players.

Also consider the way coach Bill Belichick likes to trade, especially during the draft, when you add it all up, it is going to be a FASCINATING offseason.  Even for non-Patriot fans, as they wait to see what happens with Brady, first and foremost.  And if it indeed is the end of an era for the organization.

Per usual when we do these things, let’s take a look by position, starting today with the offense:

Quarterback:

Under contract:  Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler

Free Agents:  Tom Brady

Comments:  The elephant in the room right off the bat.  Brady.  What happens?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Brady spent all year kind of whining.  His behavior appeared to be about the weapons he was given to work with throughout the year.  But you have to believe it was about the money too.  How they have made him work for his money with incentives, voidable contracts and all that.  And how, after all these years, they just wouldn’t give him a three year contract to play until his goal of 45 years old.  Not for top dollar, mind you.  But I am sure for decent money.  Maybe his attitude had to do with that he is sick of coach Bill Belichick and his methods.  And even offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as rumors had it later in the year.

Any way you slice it, Brady’s demeanor was different this year.  And it has led many to believe he will be gone as soon as he gets a chance.  For the first time in his career, he is a free agent.  So he will have that chance.

Recent rumors have indicated that he may have softened his stance however.  That he really doesn’t want to “start over” in a new city, system, etc.  If he felt that way it would be unsurprising.  But it also would be quite a sudden turn of events from what he portrayed all season.

That all being said, how much is any team across the league going to pay a 43 year old quarterback, despite being arguably the best player of ALL-TIME?  Sure, some bottom feeder could open the coffers to get Brady in and draw fans in.  Would Brady do something like that?  Hard to believe.  He has always been about winning and not the highest bidder.  And what would it feel like to him to just be an attraction?

Does Bill even want him back?  I am not so sure that is the case.  Not that Stidham is ready.  Or is even the long term answer.  But Bill may be ready to move on.  Especially if Brady doesn’t go to the offseason stuff like he used to and work with the young/new receivers to help ensure a more seamless transition into the real games?  But also…BECAUSE HE IS 43 YEARS OLD!  People seem to think this guy can go on forever.  There is simply no data for QBs to be successful at his age.  Not to mention the fact that Bill usually gets rid of guys “a year too early rather than a year too late”.  And everyone already assumes he had wanted to move on from Brady when Jimmy Garoppolo was ready to go.

Brady is not done.  He has declined, despite what a lot of people think.  But he is far from done.  But could he be next year?  Sure can.  If I was Bill, I wouldn’t hand him a 3 year contract either.  Doesn’t matter who he is.  If he would come back on a one year deal, would he be better than Stidham or a veteran stopgap such as Andy Dalton?  Damn right.  But Brady may not want to do that.

All of the above would probably be moot if owner Robert Kraft stepped in.  Don’t rule that out either.

No one knows what is going to happen.  I don’t know the right answer as to what should happen.  I am not sure what I even WANT to happen.  I could go either way.  Let Brady walk, root for him on another team, see if he can win, see if Bill can win with the replacement QB in New England, etc.  Or bring him back for at least one more year (if he will do it), surround him with better talent and make one more run at it.  After all, the last time Brady had this kind of crew at receiver, Randy Moss and Wes Welker came walking through that door the following year.

One thing is for sure:  I can’t wait for this to play out.  I am sure everyone else is in the same boat.

Next:  The remainder of the offense and specialists.

Chaim Bloom??!!

Been about six weeks since we last wrote about the Boston Red Sox.  But why would we?  The season ended with a whimper, so there was nothing really worth talking about, to be honest.

What went wrong?  Whether it was the babying of pitchers during the spring, no closer, awful bullpen, expensive and mediocre (bad?) starters, bringing back basically the whole team from last season, therefore being complacent (though they will never admit it), questionable managing at times, a noncommital President of Baseball Operations at the trading deadline, etc…well, we’ve been through all of this before.  MANY times.

There was no joy in following this team last season.  We never felt good about the squad, right from the beginning.  So there is really no need to rehash it at this point.  In my opinion anyway.

Time to move on.

So where does the team go from here?

By the way, it feels like a good time to talk about next season, what with it being about the one year anniversary of their 2018 World Series win…and with the 2019 World Series just wrapping up the other night.  Nationals…wow!  But good for them.  Also, any year the Yankees don’t win makes it a good year for the Sox anyway.

But no need to talk about the Nats.  Or the Yanks.  As Bill would say, we are on to 2020!!  And a year after winning the World Series, now we are possibly talking about tearing the Red Sox team apart.

Seriously?

Well, that’s not my call.  Ownership has already said that they want to (read:  WILL) be under the luxury tax number of 208 million next season.

Being north of 240 mil last year will make that a pretty good challenge.  And tells me we could be looking at significant turnover.

Sure, contracts such as Rick Porcello’s 21+ mil, Steve Pearce’s 6.25, Mitch Moreland’s 6.5, Eduardo Nunez’ 5, Brock Holts’ 3.6 and Pablo Sandovals’ 18+ (??!!) are coming off the books.  Maybe even J.D. Martinez’ 23+, which by the way is not necessarily a good thing.  Wait, Panda will still be on the books for 5 million next year…SMH…

But then you factor in Xander Bogaerts going from 12 mil to 20.  Chris Sale going from 15 to 30 mil.  Certain significant arbitration raises for Mookie Betts (if he is still here), Jackie Bradley Jr. (ditto), Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi and perhaps even Brandon Workman.

Ssssssoooo…there is some work to be done.

Which brings us to…Chaim Bloom!

Bloom is the Red Sox’ new “Chief Baseball Officer”.  A nice new title…whatever that means.  The degree in classics I particularly love.  I know, Yale.  But still an interesting nugget.

Bloom comes from the Tampa Bay Rays.  So he has experience with shaving significant payroll…or not having any payroll in the first place, more accurately.  Let’s hope John Henry doesn’t plan on matching that Ray budget of like 50 million or whatever minuscule figure that may be.  Red Sox Nation would not stand for that.

But no, I don’t believe Bloom will slash that much.  But there will be significant changes.  How can there not be?

Senior advisor Bill James is gone.  Is that good?  Perhaps.  But I am sure Bloom will continue to carry his torch.  You know, the “nerd” torch.  Which is not a good thing, again, my opinion.  But this is the era we live in…

In any event, what will the team look like next year?

Not sure.  But here’s what I think they will do…with the current roster anyway.  I’ll, of course, be adding some colorful commentary on whether I think what they will do is something I would do.  In typical fashion, let’s take a look by positional group.

40 men on the 40-man roster at the end of the year (go figure!).  Plus 4 on the 60 day injured list (sigh…I will finally cave on calling it this instead of “disabled list”, as Major League Baseball did to start the 2018 season).  So we will look at 44 players.  Invariably, the Sox will have to add some players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule V draft this winter.  But we don’t know who those guys are at this point, so we will leave them out for now.  And I am not anticipating any of them, or any other minor leaguers, making an impact with the major league club next season.  And yup, that includes outfielder Rusney Castillo, who will likely be buried in AAA again next year.  There has already been some roster movement as well.

So let’s get to it:

Catcher:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Juan Centeno

Free Agents:  None

Already Gone:  None

Comments:  Vazquez is the unquestioned starter.  Had a great offensive year (for a catcher anyway), including a career high (by far) 23 homers.  His salary bumps up about 3 mil.  Speaking of 3 mil, Leon could get that in arbitration, amazingly enough.  Centeno had 15 at bats as the third guy in September.  He really doesn’t count.

The pitchers love throwing to Leon.  But when the team panicked early and got rid of Blake Swihart in order to bring Leon back up from the minors, Sandy sure as heck didn’t help the staff ERA.  And he can’t hit.  You can pay a guy like that the league minimum.  And I suspect that they will.

By the way, Arizona dumped Swihart too, after playing him like once every ten days…and maybe that once was a pinch hit at bat.  So maybe I was wrong about him too.  But it’s not like anyone has exactly given him a chance though.  And that ship may have sailed.  That is too bad.  I always thought he could at least hit.  But who knows?

It would not shock me at all if the Sox tried to capitalize on Vasky’s career year and tried to move him.  This position could be completely different next season.  And…would it matter?  But I am going to assume that Vazquez will be back with another random backup.

Infield:  Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Michael Chavis (INF), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Marco Hernandez (INF), Sam Travis (1B/LF), Tzu-Wei Lin (INF).

Free Agents:  Holt (INF/OF), Pearce (1B/OF), Moreland (1B)

Already Gone:  Chris Owings (INF)

Comments:  This one may be easier than we think.  Bogey and Raffy will man the left side of the infield.  Chavis will probably play first, with Pearce and Moreland likely gone…unless Mitch comes back on some sort of really discounted deal.  Then Chavis would presumably play 2nd.  But…

…are we ready for another spring of Pedroia nonsense?  Sigh…

I really think that Pedey had that late season surgery to be able to play next season.  As silly as that sounds.  So I am expecting him to report to Spring Training to try to play.  Ugh.

Hernandez would be the utility guy in this scenario.  If Pedey truly is done, Marco will be given a chance to win the 2B job.  At a salary of less than 1 mil, it would fit with the plan.

Believe it or not, I honestly expect someone to give Holt decent dough.  And therefore not be back.  Travis and Lin aren’t really worth spending any time here…or real life playing time on.  Same is true for Owings, who was a waste of time last year already.

Outfield:  Mookie Betts (RF), Andrew Benintendi (LF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)

Free Agents:  None

Already Gone:  Gorkys Hernandez

Comments:  Quite the opposite of the infield.  We could be looking at three of these four being gone.  Well, not counting Gorkys here.  Along with Owings, he was a complete waste of time in September.

Mookie.  What’s going to happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Well actually, I think he is gone this offseason.  He wants to test free agency after next season.  Has no interest in re-signing here beforehand.  We have no idea if he even would WANT to re-sign here when he goes through the free agency process.  Even if the Sox back up the Isaiah Thomas Brinks truck.

If that is the case, don’t you HAVE to deal him this offseason?  And get some sort of decent return?  I think it’s a no-brainer.

Some may argue that the team should keep Betts and trade him at the trading deadline next season.  But what if the Sox are in the race?  They are going to give up their best player at that point in the year?  Doubtful.

Dealing him with one year of arbitration left you would think would get the best package from another team.  Without dealing with a sticky situation at the trading deadline.  And also without losing him for nothing at the end of the season.

Again, hate to say it, but I think Betts is gone.  And I think that was one of the reasons the Sox moved on from Dave Dombrowski.  Get someone in here that SHOULD be a better fit for planning for the future that includes rebuilding the farm system.  DD did what he had to do here.  But he was probably not the right guy to move the team to the next stage.

As for J.D., I feel like the team wants him to opt out and move on.  Reports indicate that the Sox have not approached him about anything.  J.D. didn’t have as good a year in 2019 as he did in 2018, but he still had a damn good year.

But as pretty much a DH only and having assorted minor injuries throughout the year and at 32 years of age…you wonder if they hope he leaves.

They would miss his bat, but you’d have to imagine that there will be some other options available for cheaper dough on the free agent market?  I have not studied any prospective free agent lists.  But that line of thinking would not surprise me.  Oh wait, Edwin Encarnacion’s 2020 option was just declined by the Yanks.  So he may fit in nicely on a shorter deal…at smaller dollars.

Bradley?  You all know how I feel about him.  I HOPE he is gone.  His salary will reach 8 figures next season.  No thanks.  But what is the market for him?

I think they will try to move him.  But unfortunately for me, I am thinking he will be back after all the other salary is cleared and then his new salary all of a sudden looks “reasonable” and fits in the budget.

Benny ain’t going nowhere.  He will get a nice raise in his first year of arbitration, despite his very average year.  They’d be presumably selling low on him.  Hopefully, he can bounce back at least a little next year.

Starting pitchers:  Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez

Free Agents:  Rick Porcello

Already Gone:  None

Comments:  Welp, everyone wanted to blame the bullpen last year.  No doubt about it, they played a huge role in the teams’ struggles.  But we may want to point the fingers squarely at the starters instead.  Sale, Price and Eovaldi gave them 59 starts.  And a mere 322 1/3 innings.  Oh…and a 15-17 record.  Awesome return for 63 million…roughly a quarter of the payroll.  Porcello did give them his usual 32 starts.  And actually was 14-12…I didn’t remember that.  What I did remember was a bunch of those starts being horrendous, leading to his 5.52 ERA.  E-Rod was the saving grace here.  200 plus innings and 200 plus strikeouts to go with his 19-6 record…which would have been 20-6 if Matt Barnes didn’t blow the lead in the 162nd game of the season.  But we will get to him.

So between giving the likes of Hector Velasquez, Brian Johnson, Ryan Weber, etc 37 starts and having the bullpen have to regularly pitch 4-6 innings a night…it’s no surprise the bullpen struggled.

So what do we do here?  Sale’s ridiculous 5 year, 145 million dollar extension kicks in next year, with what appears to be a no-trade clause.  Combine that with the uncertainty of his elbow, he ain’t going anywhere.  (Editor’s note: please remember, we had no problem with AN extension for Sale, despite his fragility.  BUT the one he GOT was silly.  3/80-90 would have worked for us.  But 5 years?).

Would not be shocked if the team tried to deal Price or Eovaldi.  Perhaps both.  They will have to eat some salary.  But it still wouldn’t surprise me.  3/96 left for Price, 3/51 for Nate.  If they could unload that colossal baby Price, I think Sox fans would rejoice.  All the goodwill earned by Price after the 2018 World Series, where he should have been MVP, was lost during the 2019 season.  He reverted to his previous Red Sox form in so many ways.  It’s exhausting to even think about it.  Too bad he opted in, but you knew he would.  You would have to for that dough.  I hope he’s gone, but I honestly don’t expect it.

Porcello will undoubtedly be gone.  He actually wants to stay.  And I’ll be honest.  If they can get rid of Price, I would take Rick back.  Something like 1 year, 10 mil or less would be a no-brainer in my opinion.  But no more than that.  I don’t know what other options will be out there.  And there will no question be better ones.  But at least we know Porcello can handle the environment.  And usually can give you 200 innings.  Worth considering anyway.

In any event, there will have to be some additions here.  Innings guys for sure.  I know Bloom comes from Tampa.  Birthplace of the “bullpen game”.  But for these to take a regular turn in the rotation in this market?  I can’t see how that would go over well.

Bullpen:  Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Ryan Brasier, Colton Brewer, Travis Lakins, Darwinzon Hernandez, Bobby Poyner, Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez, Ryan Weber, Jhoulys Chacin, Trevor Kelley, Mike Shawaryn, Denyi Reyes

Free Agents: Andrew Cashner (Not a free agent yet, but he has a 10 mil club option, so he will be one soon)

Already Gone:  Steven Wright, Josh A. Smith

Comments:  Just a colossal bag of garbage.  There needs to be some huge turnover here in the offseason.

Workman had an excellent year, ending it as the closer.  But I’m not sure anyone wants to see him close games next year.  Barnes and Hembree are major league pitchers, but likely more suited for the 6th & 7th innings.  Barnes maybe the 8th, but I’ve honestly seen enough of him there.  Walden had a pretty good year, but like Brasier in 2018, can we depend on him in 2020?  There’s a reason guys are in the minors for over 10 years.  You can’t count on relievers from year to year in a general sense.  Less so for guys of Walden’s and Brasier’s ilk.

Darwinzon flashed some stuff at the end of the year.  But walked way too many dudes.  He’s 22 years old though, so let’s get him back in the rotation next year in the minors and continue to develop him.  Reyes will be 23 tomorrow and he hasn’t been up yet, but let’s see about him in the minors too.

Taylor is lefty and throws high 90’s.  So he’s worth keeping around.  I don’t know if Lakins will be any good.  But he got some hype at the end of 2018.  I’d like to see more.  Kelley was unhittable in the minors.  But sidewinders that make it are few and far between.  Poyner?  Whatever.

Pretty much no use for the rest of the lot.  But the reality is, some of those dudes will be back.  Some will take the shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston regularly.  There will be a handful of more arms with similar talent that will be added.

But I think we all hope they add a couple of quality arms over the winter.  Quality bullpen arms will cost money…but when they shave all that money we talked about above, there should be some room.

Whew…that was quite a bit of words there.  Sorry about that.  But I think we covered everything?

It’ll be an interesting offseason, any way you slice it.  Can’t wait!!

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