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!
Around these parts, the offseason is almost as exciting as when actual baseball games are being played. We get to play GM, and try to decide what the smart and dumb moves will be. We get to overreact to even the smallest news as we try to escape the boredom that comes with the winter months. This is especially true for Red Sox fans, whose team not only has a near-limitless budget and elite farm system, but also a front office head who is not afraid to use them. And yet, the more I try to wrap my head around the coming offseason, the more I see it being mostly quiet for the Red Sox. I’ll get more into the specifics below, but I see a roster that is mostly set. For as aggressive as Dombrowski likes to be, there are few places to show that off, and he’s not stupid to make moves just for the sake of making moves.
How will the Red Sox replace David Ortiz’s production?
As Matt Kory said on Tuesday and as many are speculating, Edwin Encarnacion is the obvious answer. He’s a dynamic hitter who has thrived in the AL East, and he slides right into the DH/1B hole that the team would like to fill. Of course, there are going to be a ton of teams in on the slugger and his price will be driven up by a significant margin. I expect the Blue Jays to make a strong push to bring him back that will ultimately end up successful as they push Jose Bautista out the door.
In this scenario, I’d expect Bautista to be another hot name attached to the Red Sox in rumors. In the end, though, I see the team going with one of the mid-tier options on a shorter term deal. Front office executives always speak out of both sides of their mouths, but I believe Dombrowski when he says he believes there are enough hitters coming through the system that a long-term solution is not necessary. As such, I think they’ll go with an aging hitter like Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. They were attached to the former at the trade deadline, and there have already been reports they’ll be interested again this winter. Although I prefer Holliday, I think Beltran will be brought in on relatively lucrative one-year deal, possibly with a vesting option for a second.
How will the Red Sox bolster the bullpen?
God, this is so boring. Once again, I think Dombrowski and the Red Sox will go with a mid-tier option to fill this need. Expect their name to constantly be brought up with respect to Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, but don’t expect it to actually happen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those rumors are brought on from leaks on the player’s side, which will be willing to exaggerate facts to make their market appear more bullish among the big-market teams.
Instead, I think the Red Sox will search for that middle ground. Mark Melancon could be the best fit, as he’s proven himself to be outstanding, will cost a fraction of the big two, and won’t cost a draft pick. However, given his history here and the speculation that playing in a big market affected his performance, I wouldn’t bet on him either. I think they’ll be in play for Koji Uehara and/or Brad Ziegler, but will ultimately let both walk. The same goes for Greg Holland, whose market should be fascinating to watch. The group I believe they’ll be looking for would be Santiago Casilla, Joe Blanton, Sergio Romo, Neftali Feliz and Daniel Hudson. If I had to guess, I’d say Feliz will be the target, but it’s a large group and any one of the options would be a fit, albeit an underwhelming one.
I would also say that, if I were running the Red Sox (thank god that’s not the reality), I’d also target a left-handed reliever. Someone like Brett Cecil or Marc Rzepcynski could be big upgrades over what they’ve run out since Andrew Miller left. I don’t see it happening, though.
Will the Red Sox add to the rotation? If so, how?
This really doesn’t sound like a Dombrowski offseason, but once again I don’t see them doing anything here. The big step forward from Rick Porcello was a huge development for the Red Sox, and with the weak starting pitching market I can’t see them paying big dollars or a big price in a trade for a spot they don’t really need. I believe this is a big part of why they traded for Drew Pomeranz in the summer, as he was both a help for the stretch run and something of an early offseason acquisition for 2017. David Price was Dombrowski’s biggest get as a member of the Red Sox, and I have to think they still believe in his ace potential even after a disappointing season. With him, Porcello and Pomeranz at the top, an intriguing Eduardo Rodriguez in the middle and Steven Wright and Clay Buchholz as back-end and depth options, I think they’ll be satisfied with their in-house options. If anyone is added, I’d guess it’ll be someone who will sign a minor-league deal and will serve as depth in spring training.
Will the Red Sox trade more elite prospects? If so, for what/who?
Everyone assumes Dombrowski can’t resist trading his prospect, but I don’t see it that way. To me, he’s a guy who’s not afraid to deal the necessary pieces in hopes of landing a big fish. As I’ve made abundantly clear, I don’t think they’ll feel the pressure to make that big addition like last year, when they needed both a closer and an ace. If they do make a trade, I think it’ll be for the set-up man they seek, which could cost one or more of their bottom-half top-ten prospects (hands off Dubon, though). Chris Sale will be the popular trade target, but I don’t think Chicago will trade him unless they get Yoan Moncada and either Andrew Benintendi or Jackie Bradley (plus more), something I don’t see the Red Sox doing. In the end, Sale appears to be the next Felix Hernandez and Giancarlo Stanton for Sox fans. With all of that being said, it wouldn’t shock me to see a big trade, but it’s not something I’m anticipating.
I would also say that I’d keep my eye out for a trade for a catcher. I don’t necessarily see it happening, and I wouldn’t predict it with Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart in house. If someone like Miguel Montero becomes available for pennies on the dollar, though, I could see the Red Sox diving into the market.
Biggest Acquisiton: Carlos Beltran
Biggest Loss: Koji Uehara
Biggest Surprise: Dave Dombrowski stays mostly quiet
Opening Day Roster Projection
Photo by Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports Images