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…
Moving on…not much more left to cover I don’t think. Well, as I said, there is one big one left:
*And it’s Tyler Zeller!! Ok, no it’s not. But he’s the 2nd to last one on the current roster to go over. 8 million dollar non-guaranteed contract for next year. To no one’s surprise, I’d rather spend that money on someone else. Like…someone a lot better perhaps. There’s really not much more to say.
*Isaiah Thomas. Of course. IT. What do we do with Isaiah?
I can tell you I have gone back and forth on this one all year…and longer actually. I know, he averaged almost 30 points a game this season, so how can there be any debate?
Well, when thinking about it during the regular season, the fact remained that IT hadn’t done much in the playoffs. Yes, I also know that he hasn’t always had a lot of help. But it was a concern. Another concern was that at his size, how will he hold up over the years? Legitimate question, especially if we are talking about giving him max dollars…or close to it. And his negative value on defense. Ultimately, is he the kind of player you really want to build around?
Lots of question marks. I feel like he played better this playoff season. Of course the Celtics played more games, but I felt better about his overall performance. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding him with the death of his sister at the beginning of the playoffs. And sure, he struggled some on the court. But let’s face it, you are going to face better competition in the playoffs, so things are going to be tougher to come by.
Then…the hip. Was this the reason he struggled in some games? Who knows? He supposedly had the injury for several weeks. But then it got to a point where he couldn’t go anymore. I don’t know Isaiah personally of course. But I have to believe that if he was sitting playoff games out, it was pretty serious. I’ve heard some question that and I don’t buy that argument. I believe that if he could have played, he would have.
But the injury adds another layer to it all. We still don’t know how serious the injury is. Early indications were that if he had to have surgery, he’d be out 6-9 months or something like that. But we don’t know if he needs the surgery yet. So…another lingering concern.
Add it all up and what to do with Isaiah is a little tricky. But I’ve made my decision.
I’m keeping him and giving him some dough.
Maybe that’s me just getting caught up in his regular season performance this year. Loving how he keeps proving people wrong. I don’t know. But I do know he has been successful here. He has one year left on his current contract at about six and a quarter million…another bargain year. Sure, he will have to get his money after next season. But the C’s will be able to give him more, based on his Bird rights or some sort of cap mumbo jumbo that no one really completely understands. This will also give the Celtics more room to sign other guys too. So giving IT max or close to max money won’t kill them. From what I hear anyway.
I’ve discussed offering IT in trades before. I wouldn’t totally rule that out either. But the hip injury dampens his value a bit. Plus, he fits this system and may have more value to the local team than any others. Brad Stevens has been able to maneuver things where he can “hide” Isaiah on defense. Maybe not always, but seemingly a lot. Danny Ainge has always loved him and he usually hangs onto guys like that.
I think he stays, gets huge money after next season, but the team continues to build around him and he becomes just a piece and not necessarily the main guy. Just one of the main guys. Hope he will be ok with that…and I think he will be.
That does it for the end of season roster. But we are not done. Some more players/points to talk about:
*Geurschon Yabusele/Ante Zizic. 2016 first round draft picks. These two will be here next year. Not sure how much they play though. Both averaged about 100 points a game overseas I believe. But against Chinese and Turkish competition, I also believe. Noted powerhouses they are not. Zizic HAS to be better than Zeller and has some size, so hopefully he can add something. I don’t really have much more to say really…
*Abdel Nader. 2016 2nd round pick. He will be here I bet too…because they got him to stick around last year up in Maine instead of going elsewhere. Likely made him a promise for 2017-18, since the 2016-17 team had a roster crunch. But again, he has to be end of bench material. I guess he played well for Maine, but that is the WNBA…er, I mean the NBA Development League. I think James Young put up 40 every time they sent him there. So I am not expecting much.
*The “other”Marcus Thornton/Ben Pepper. 2nd round picks, Thornton from 2015 and Pepper from 1997. Ok, they won’t be here. But the team still holds their rights. That has to count for something.
*Lonzo Ball. Please God, nnnnooooooo…
*Markelle Fultz. I think the C’s keep the #1 pick and take Fultz. Since I know nothing about college hoops, my analysis may really end here. Fultz seems to be the consensus #1. Maybe some other guys are good too, but it looks like Fultz is the guy.
And if he is, he needs to be the 3rd guard (presumably behind IT and Marcus Smart, with Terry Rozier the 4th guy, if he remains here…and Avery Bradley traded…as I see it anyway). Fultz needs to play. But not start…yet. He definitely needs to come in and play meaningful minutes though.
*2018 Brooklyn first round pick. Giddyup!!
*Three 2017 second round picks. Yaaaaawn.
*Gordon Hayward. And there’s this offseason’s Al Horford. Maybe he likes Utah and will stay there. I just don’t see it. Sure, a lot of people are talking about this because of the Brad Stevens/Butler connection. But I also hear that Boston can offer Hayward more money over the long haul. I have no idea if this is true, but if so, that has to mean something too. Boston over Utah, just in general? Has to be a no brainer. Ok, maybe another team makes a run at him too. But it just feels like a done deal. I’m probably wrong.
Is Hayward a top 10 player in the league? Maybe not. A pretty good player nonetheless. And many believe he will actually come here. No small feat when you consider the Celtics have problems attracting marquee free agents in their history, despite being the most decorated NBA franchise. Then put him with IT, Horford, Fultz, Smart, Jaylen Brown, etc. and you may start to have something.
*Paul George. Seems hell-bent on eventually landing in Lakerland. At least that is the popular opinion. I’m not sure I would trade for him if that is the case.
*Jimmy Butler. Whatever. Good player. I just think the other options available to the Celtics are preferable.
*Big man X. I don’t know who this is. Hopefully someone who can bang around in the paint. I know Brad likes his big guys to heave up threes and all. But they should have a better presence inside somewhat next year. I think anyway. Ideally, they can dangle Bradley and/or Jae Crowder. We’ll see.
Ok, so where does that leave us? What it may look like:
Center: Big Man X, Zizic
Power forward: Horford, Yabusele, Jerebko
Small forward: Hayward, Brown, Nader
“Shooting” guard: Smart, Fultz
Point guard: Isaiah, Rozier, Jackson
A cheap veteran and/or 2nd round picks fill out the roster. Bradley is your trade chip, tough to keep Crowder if Hayward is here and Brown needs minutes, Jerebko could be cheap and Brad loves him, Kelly Olynyk is still an option, but he may get some dough…or get squeezed by the team needing his money for other guys. Moving pieces here and I’m certainly not looking to give Crowder and Bradley away. Hell, they could still end up being here under their reasonable contracts. They probably will, to be quite honest.
Championship team? Nope, but one with some promise. Especially if “Big Man X” is a player.
BUT if Anthony Davis is available and can be had…well…I may have to rewrite these three posts in their entirety…