Welcome to the 2017 Offseason Oracle, a brief series in which your favorite BP Boston authors will give their educated guesses as to how the Red Sox’s offseason will shake down. Every author will answer the following four questions and give a projected Opening Day roster. Will we all be wrong? Yep! Should it be fun? Yes to that, too. Enjoy!
It’s shaping up to be the most sedate offseason in a long while in Boston. The roster looks pretty set, much of the depth in the farm system has been spent, and the stable of youth on the Major League roster begs to be left alone to coalesce into a consistent championship core. Will Dave Dombrowski know enough to let well enough alone? Probably not! Let’s answer some questions!
How will the Red Sox replace David Ortiz’s production?:
The easy answer is to sign Edwin Encarnacion. The more I think about that, the more I hate it. Encarnacion is older (he’ll be 34), he’s a big name which will make him even more expensive, and signing him will cost extreme amounts of money and Boston’s first-round draft pick. The team is poised to take a step backwards offensively next season if for no other reason than regression to the mean, but this seems like killing an ant with a grenade launcher. Unfortunately for the future of the franchise, as we’ve seen over the past year, this is Dombrowski’s style. I’d prefer the team saved with an eye towards the huge 2018 free agent market and looked to a shorter-term solution like Carlos Beltran. He’s a name who has been getting some press recently, so it’s possible he requires two years rather than one, but even if so, he’s going to get a pittance compared to Encarnacion, and he won’t cost a draft pick. So I’ll cross my fingers and predict that.
However, if they’re going to go big, go really big and explore dealing for Joey Votto. He’s on a huge long term contract ($25 million annually until 2023 when he’ll be 39), but he’s also one of the best hitters in the game. He’s been at least a six win player by WARP every year but one since 2010. As we’ve seen with Ortiz and even Beltran, elite offensive players can maintain productivity into their late 30s (considering his late blossoming I’m less convinced this applies to Encarnacion). Votto is the rare player who can replace Ortiz’s on-field production one-for-one, and given their current state it’s entirely possible the Reds would be open to dealing him. He’d be perfect to plug into the middle of the Red Sox lineup. Imagine a three-four-five of Votto-Betts-Ramirez! Yummy.
But still, the guess here is just Beltran.
How will the Red Sox bolster the bullpen?:
Here’s another opportunity for Dombrowski to slam down a nail with a sledge hammer. He could throw $100 million (or more!) at Kenley Jansen but, again, I’d rather save that money and buy some portion of Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw or Bryce Harper a year down the line. The Red Sox pen could undoubtedly use some reinforcements, but the smart clubs either draft Jansen, or make the Andrew Millers of the world from failed starting pitchers. That doesn’t seem to be Dombrowski’s style, though, so expect the Red Sox to be heavily involved in the Jansen/Aroldis Chapman rumors. That said, in the end it’s going to be too heavy for even Dombrowski considering he already has Craig Kimbrel in the closer’s role, so expect a trade or two. Perhaps a sizable prospect package for a middle reliever (just enough to cause Red Sox Twitter to poop their collective pants) and/or a player like Clay Buchholz for a seventh-inning guy. Perhaps, dare I dream, a player like Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers. It won’t be the best use of resources, but it’ll plug the leak for another season.
Will the Red Sox add to the rotation? If so, how?:
For the record, I like the Red Sox rotation as it is. Porcello probably won’t be as effective as he was in 2016 but David Price should be better. Also, I expect more from Eduardo Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz should be around for the whole season. That’s a strong top four. And I didn’t even mention Steven Wright or Clay Buchholz, two more-than-capable fifth starters. Really, there’s no reason to spend the kind of prospect/player capital necessary to acquire a Jose Quintana or Chris Sale, but given the guy in charge, that kind of subtlety need not apply.
So, given that, one advantage to adding a free agent like Encarnacion or Beltran is all the big prospects can be devoted to upgrading the rotation. We recall last season when Chris Sale was heavily rumored to be available, and after the way the White Sox season finished, it seems he’ll at least be placed on the market to see what offers are available. We’re not breaking any news by saying Dombrowski loves Sale. In fairness, who doesn’t? Surely Dombrowski is intrigued by bludgeoning the AL East with a Sale-Price-Porcello top of the rotation. And really, it sounds fantastic. The issue is how much it’ll cost and what that cost will be to the future of the franchise. That’s the type of move I’d expect though. A big name for big prospects.
Will the Red Sox trade more elite prospects? If so, for what/who?:
Probably is the correct answer. Dombrowski is the antithesis of a prospect hugger, so for the right player (Chris Sale) he won’t be afraid to move a Yoan Moncada whereas most GMs would be terrified (rightly) that they’d just traded away the best and cheapest seasons of a young Alex Rodriguez. When it comes to Moncada specifically, it’s also worth noting, for as impressive as he’s been in the minors and as touted as he is (probably the number one prospect in baseball), Dombrowski didn’t scout or sign him. Moncada is the old GM’s guy. The vast millions spent on bringing him in were fought for and spent on Ben Cherington’s watch, so while Cherington might be all in on Moncada making an impact in Boston had he stayed with the organization, Dombrowski doesn’t have that burden. He sees Moncada as another asset in his prospect cabinet, another way to improve the Major League roster right now. That’s not to say he’ll give Moncada away, but with Dave Dombrowski, there are no untouchables in the minor leagues. If Chris Sale is available, and I expect he will be for the right offer, Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox will be first in line with Yoan Moncada the primary bait. Perhaps a package of Moncada, Mauricio Dubon and Eduardo Rodriguez would peak the White Sox interest.
Biggest Acquisition: Chris Sale
Biggest Departure: Yoan Moncada, Clay Buchholz
Biggest Surprise: Chris Sale!!!
Top photo by David Banks II/USA Today Sports Images