…no, not the Dallas Cowboys. But they are close.
My picks are what’s useless.
But like every “also-ran” in every sport, we have to finish out the season.
For better or for worse.
Indianapolis at Tampa Bay (-2.5)
The Buc rush defense is tops in the league? Learn something new every day. No matter how unbelievable it sounds when you say it out loud.
Indianapolis 34, Tampa Bay 30.
Baltimore (-5.5) at Buffalo
God, wouldn’t it be great if the Bills could win this one. But alas…
Baltimore 34, Buffalo 17. Lock of the week (“reverse psychology”??).
San Francisco at New Orleans (-2.5)
I think the Saints are a good team. I just don’t think they are as good as people think they are.
San Francisco 31, New Orleans 24.
Miami at New York Jets (-5.5)
Just as everyone jumped on the J-E-T-S bandwagon with three straight wins, they lose to the previously winless Bengals. The Dolphins are all of a sudden a feisty team. Not sure any of the above means anything, however.
New York Jets 31, Miami 27.
Cincinnati at Cleveland (-8.5)
Freddie Kitchens is another dude that should be out of a job soon.
Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 17.
Washington at Green Bay (-12.5)
Green Bay 34, Washington 16.
Detroit at Minnesota (-14.5)
This is a huge spread for a divisional matchup. With the Vikes coming off a Monday Night loss and needing this win to keep pace for the division title and at least a playoff berth, combined with the Lions on to their third quarterback, losing 5 in a row and generally being pathetic, well, the spread fits.
Minnesota 38, Detroit 17.
Denver at Houston (-9.5)
Just a gut feeling about a slight Texan letdown this week.
Houston 24, Denver 20.
Carolina at Atlanta (-2.5)
These teams both stink. But the Panthers just fired their coach. RIVERBOAT RON!! We will miss you…ummmm, not really. It was more than time for that. Like with Jason Garrett. In any event, maybe the Panthers respond. Maybe they don’t.
Carolina 24, Atlanta 20.
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Jacksonville
This one should be scintillating. At least Uncle Rico is back!
Jacksonville 17, Los Angeles Chargers 13.
Tennessee (-2.5) at Oakland
An addendum to last week’s piece…Ryan Tannehill IS Jesus!!!
Tennessee 31, Oakland 17.
Kansas City at New England (-3.5)
This is the type of game the Pats of the Belichick era win. You know, where everyone counting them out for a variety of reasons. It’s hard to pick them in this one though.
Kansas City 27, New England 23.
Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Arizona
People are actually lauding Steeler coach Mike Tomlin for his…coaching?! Hard to fathom. But, amazingly enough, maybe there is something there. This year anyway.
Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 17.
Seattle (-1.5) at Los Angeles Rams
Where did that Rams performance come from last week? Two words: Arizona Cardinals. But you know what? Maybe it’s more?
Los Angeles Rams 27, Seattle 24.
New York Giants at Philadelphia (-8.5)
Last week, we saw the return of the Bengals’ Andy Dalton from a brief benching. This week, we get to see the return of…ELI! Dalton helped Cincy win its first game of the year. Does Eli provide a spark for his team or does he show rust from his quite a bit longer layoff against a Philly team that can remarkably still win the division? My guess is the latter.
Philadelphia 31, New York Giants 20.
Week (against the spread): 0-1
Week (straight up): 0-1
Lock Of The Week (season, ATS): 6-7
Season (against the spread): 94-99
Season (straight up): 123-70
…so the Blowhard has recently written about three of the four major sports teams in the local area, perhaps it’s time to cover the remaining one…the Boston Red Sox?
I know, it’s early in Spring Training and the team is puttering along (not meant to be a bad thing…just that Spring Training is too long…and…who cares what their record is in the spring anyway?!). But we may as well get a look at all of the players in camp to see what they have. What do we mean by “all”? Welp, every player on the 40 man roster, every player on the non-roster invite list and…every player that has appeared in a Spring Training game as of the day this piece is written. Yup, I did just say that last sentence. Once again, you’ve been warned.
Of course, the 25 man roster is pretty much already all set. Just a minor tweak here and there, specifically in the bullpen I would say. But it can’t hurt to take a look at everyone that is in FLA anyway…because, well, I have nothing better to do at the present time.
Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position (numbers in parenthesis next to the players on the “prospects” line are what each player is ranked by Redsox.com):
Locks: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez
Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster: None
Actual prospects on their way to the minors: Darwinzon Hernandez (#4), Mike Shawaryn (#13) Denyi Reyes (#19), Kutter Crawford (#20), Jhonathan Diaz (#30)
Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors: Chandler Shepherd, Dedgar Jimenez, Kyle Hart
Comments: Doesn’t get any simpler than this. There has been some scuttlebutt about Eovaldi ending up in the bullpen, specifically as the closer. But the Sox didn’t throw him 68 mil over 4 years to do that, I can make you that promise.
Sale and manager Alex Cora can rave about Darwinzon all they want. But he’s quite some time away from the majors. Besides, being #4 on the Red Sox’ prospect list isn’t anything to be fired up about. What, do they have one prospect on Major League Baseball’s Top 100 prospect list? Just one of a hundred on most lists out there. Unimpressive…an understatement, I know. But I suppose we can hold out some hope, at least for him. The numbers on the rest of the “prospects” tell you that we probably don’t ever need to talk about them again. But we will see…
Dedgar may not actually be flotsam…yet…since he is only 22. But he isn’t even among the Sox’ top 30. So I suppose that should automatically give us some pause. Shepherd and Hart are 26, so their time has likely passed.
With the contracts of Sale and Porcello expiring after this season, the Sox better figure something out throughout the year and into the next offseason. I’m hoping that they won’t be replaced in 2020 by anyone in the section immediately below. I’m sure they won’t…but there’s not exactly anything promising coming up from the minors anytime soon either.
Then again, news has come out that Sale and the team are mutually interested in a new contract. We will see what comes of that. It will be interesting to see the particulars if that gets done. Sale has been “underpaid” for years, by baseball standards. He has not exactly been durable, often wearing down in the second halves of seasons. Dominant when healthy, can we expect that going forward? Not sure.
Would I give him a new contract? Hell yes! But would aim for a shorter term. If they could get him at 3-4 years, even if the money is somewhat silly, I’d do it. Once again, not much in the farm system. And a dominant Sale for even 150 innings could be worth it.
Did you also hear though? E-Rod is in the “best shape of his life” and looks electric! He’s ready to take the next step! Sigh…those “feel-good” Spring Training stories…gotta love them…
Locks: Brian Johnson
Suspended: Steven Wright
Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster: Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden
Actual prospects on their way to the minors: None
Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors: Erasmo Ramirez, Josh A. Smith, Domingo Tapia, Daniel McGrath, Josh Taylor
Comments: I am making this an official category for when Sale and/or Eovaldi and/or E-Rod spend their obligatory time on the DL. Maybe Price too, if he needs another “mental break”. Hey, he seemed to finally break through in the playoffs last year. But I’m not guaranteeing the page has officially been turned on him heading into this season. Just call me skeptical, that’s all.
In any event, none of the aforementioned five starters are likely to get anywhere close to 200 innings, with the possible exception of Porcello. So there will be starts available for this group of guys that aren’t really good enough to start but won’t have key roles in the bullpen either.
Actually, Wright may be the only one that can be considered for either. But can you ever really trust a knuckleballer? I would as the #5 starter on this kind of team, I will admit. General Manager Dave Dombrowski has thrown his name into the mix at closer. Although Wright pitched well both starting and relieving last year when healthy, I don’t think anyone wants closing games to be part of his repertoire. Then again, I wrote this paragraph before his suspension came down. So the point is now moot…until July anyway.
Johnson sticks because he is out of options. And even at 28 years old now, the Sox may want to try to salvage his former status as a “top prospect”. Most of the year he will pitch mopup though. He’s useless out of the bullpen and has proven that time and time again. If he’s on my roster, he is starting games. There is no room for him for that on this team, but he will be the official #6 guy in 2019 I would predict.
Velasquez and Walden have options, I think anyway, so they will be on the outside looking in. I’m sure we will see them at some point. Walden is actually having himself another fantastic spring thus far, for whatever that is worth. I’m sure we will see Erasmo at some point as well. But he’s on a minor league deal. So they can start him in the minors.
If we see Smith, Tapia, McGrath or Taylor at any point, that will likely spell trouble. It’s doubtful they actually see starts if they are up, but they have been both starters and relievers in the minors, so that is why they are listed here.
Locks: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman
DL: Carson Smith, Zach Putnam
Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster: Bobby Poyner (#22), Colten Brewer (#23)
Actual prospects on their way to the minors: Travis Lakins (#17), Matthew Gorst
Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors: Brian Ellington, Trevor Kelley, Adam Lau, Jenrry Mejia, Mark Montgomery, Dan Runzler, Daniel Schlereth, Hunter Smith, Jordan Weems, Ryan Weber
Comments: Sssssooooooo…Craig Kimbrel is no longer here. And for the regular season, that could be kind of important. Machine Gun Joe Kelly is no longer here either. But despite how well he pitched in the postseason last year, I could care less. Because the fact of the matter is he still stinks. Even late season 2017 wunderkind Austin Maddox is no longer here. I think he’s out the whole 2019 season, but I can’t really find him anywhere.
So this is what we are left with. Yikes!! Kimbrel was not good in the postseason last year and can be shaky at times in the regular season. But he is by far a better option than any of the jamokes on this list. He is still out there. I would consider bringing him back. But that ship has sailed apparently.
Dombrowski has been touting Barnes, Brasier, Thornburg and Wright as potential closing options. Really?
Barnes is barely an 8th inning guy. Brasier had like 30 great innings last year, and most of his earlier appearances were low leverage, though he did pitch well enough in the postseason, I will allow. Thornburg has missed the better part of the last two years with injury. We’ve already talked about Wright…and he’s no longer an option now anyway.
Not ideal. And completely uninspiring.
The way the “locks” have been summed up thus far, looks like 11 spots. Wright was my eleventh initially. But his suspension allows Workman to get one of the last spots. Why? Out of options, velocity supposedly up, blah, blah, blah. Now who is #12? Who knows? Poyner or Velasquez I suppose would be the front runners…or Walden if he keeps doing what he’s doing. He is becoming Mr. March, I guess? A DL stint or two could affect things of course.
I can’t believe Carson Smith is back after he got hurt (again) last season by throwing his glove against a wall or something and then blamed Cora for pitching him and/or warming him up too much. I guess that shows you how much demand there was for him. That being said, if he ever gets healthy, he could possibly be an asset. Same goes for Putnam. But we won’t see them until the summer I would bet, at the earliest.
Lakins got some buzz for a possible call up late last year, but as a #17 prospect, I am not sure we can be too excited. The fact that Poyner and Brewer are listed in the Top 30 is scary enough. Gorst isn’t even listed as an “official” prospect, but I put him here because he jumped up three levels last season and pitched fairly well…including 20.1 scoreless innings in his middle stint in AA in Portland.
The last group? Mejia is interesting enough. But he hasn’t pitched essentially since 2015 with his own suspensions. Worth keeping an eye on for now, but that’s about it. Weems is interesting only because he spent the first 5 plus years of his minor league career as a catcher. Now is 26 years old, but has only pitched for 3 years. Many of the rest of the names listed here have some major league experience. But I don’t think any of us should be excited to see them in a Sox uniform this summer. They can help the Pawtucket Red Sox all they want though.
Next: The bats
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.