Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we check in on the state of the Red Sox front office and their plans for addressing the issues with the major league squad, look at the value of Brock Holt when used sparingly, the adjustments that players like Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. are making, and welcome David Ortiz back for another year.
There is no real debate about whether the construction of the 2015 roster was a failure. It was. Eleven Red Sox players are making at least $9 million this season. Combined they are earning $147 million in salary, but have only returned 6.32 WARP. With that recognized, the critical next step in the organization’s process should be to identify what thing, or combination of things, led to the disaster. Michael Silverman of BostonHerald.com talked with Ben Cherington about where the problem lies for the baseball operations department, and what can be done to correct it. After much introspection on the issue Cherington has determined, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the problem is isolated to major league performance. The foundation of the farm system is strong, support and investment from ownership is strong, and the communication among the various baseball operations departments is strong. Alas, fixing the major league product will be the primary focus for Cherington and his group this offseason. A task that, in his discussion with Silverman, Cherington reminds us is not simple. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe has chimed in with a number of offseason move suggestions, a few of which are sensible (i.e., make a run at signing David Price). But, even acquiring the oft-talked-about rotation ‘ace,’ while it would certainly help, is not a panacea. There are simply too many players on the roster that need to resume producing at previously established levels for the Red Sox to get back to being a contending club. Making trades and/or shuffling the positional deck – move Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval to first base – are fine options but also introduce new ways the team could fail. Another option is to stay the course, making minor adjustments where necessary. Keep in mind that preseason projections had the Red Sox as a favorite in the AL, so perhaps the team’s blueprint was not flawed; they just ran into some terrible luck. Cherington has a complex puzzle to solve.
While some players on the Red Sox roster, like David Ortiz and Ramirez, cause problems their positional inflexibility, Brock Holt’s flexibility stands out as a real asset for the team. Over the last two seasons Holt has played every position on the field except for pitcher and catcher; although with the departure of Mike Napoli, he could now be the team’s emergency catcher. Holt’s versatility is a clear reason to keep him as at least a bench option for next year’s team. I say bench option because over the last two seasons it has become clear that Holt is not suited for handling the rigors of playing everyday. For his career he has a remarkable split between the first and second halves of the season. While his first half numbers are excellent: .309/.373/.430 (594 plate appearances, 123 wRC+), his second half numbers reveal that he tends to wears down considerably: .223/.271/.274 (395 PA, 49 wRC+). Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal says that John Farrell is aware of this issue and would like to avoid playing him everyday in order to maximize his potential, but the season’s circumstances have rendered that difficult. As much as many Red Sox fans would like to see the ‘Brockstar’ in the lineup everyday, using him in a super-utility role off the bench is a better option. His occupying only one roster spot but presenting the equivalent of two or three spots offers tremendous value, but, in Holt’s case, it’s value that appears to depreciate significantly when used too heavily.
A lot of attention has been given to Hanley Ramirez’s defensive shortcomings this season, which has obscured attention from his career-low offensive output (.266 TAv, 101 wRC+). The combination of poor offensive and defensive performance has evaluators from other teams telling Alex Speier of The Boston Globe that Hanley is ‘almost untradeable’. Nevertheless, Jason Mastrodonato of the BostonHerald.com has an excellent article detailing how Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis is working to increase the consistency with which Hanley makes contact.
With the Red Sox officially out of playoff contention, Rusney Castillo is getting his much needed chance to play everyday. As it stands right now Castillo is probably the favourite to be the starting right fielder in 2016, but there remains a lot he needs to learn about playing at the major league level. The good news is that, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes, the adjustments are coming quickly for Castillo and the Red Sox coaching staff is perpetually impressed with Castillo’s ability to adjust and see positive results.
Jackie Bradley Jr. had a huge game on Sunday, making a spectacular catch and going 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run and a triple, collecting five RBI in the process. After the game, a hullabaloo was made over a JBJ tweet that appeared to take a shot at Dennis Eckersley. But, like the David Ortiz illness at the All-Star break, it was just another non-story. Of greater interest should be the comments Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe got from Bradley Jr. about his potential at the plate.
David Ortiz will be back with the Red Sox in 2016. His contract option vested following his first plate appearance in Saturday’s game against the Tigers. Catherine Slonksnis, contributing to MLB.com, writes about the extra time and effort required of Ortiz at his advanced age to be physically and mentally ready everyday. Despite all the proclamations of his being done early in the year, Ortiz has been a threat in the middle of the order (23 HR, .282 TAv, 120 wRC+) and he will be important to the 2016 team.
Three Good Game Stories
Although the Red Sox lost last Thursday’s game to the Yankees, Eduardo Rodriguez had another strong outing, which, as Sean McAdam writes, provides more hope for the Red Sox’s rotation next year.
David Ortiz knocked his 489th career home run on Saturday, but the Red Sox were on the losing end of Saturday’s game after Junichi Tazawa gave up a long 2-run home run to Victor Martinez late. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com points out that Tazawa struggling has been all-too-familiar since the All-Star break.
Henry Owens made his second major league start on Sunday, earning his first win with a decent, albeit wild-at-times outing against the Tigers. Scott Lauber of BostonHerald.com notes that Owens was sure to get himself a souvenir from the game.
Photo by Rick Ostentoski/USA Today Sports Images