Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we review Manny Ramirez’s chances to be enshrined in Cooperstown and the likelihood that Pablo Sandoval is the starting third baseman. Then we look at the idea that Boston’s quick exit from the 2016 postseason was a positive learning experience, consider two ways the team can be improved for the 2017 season, assess looming decisions to pitch (or not pitch) in the World Baseball Classic, and finally check-in on some young players who could make it to the big leagues for the first time this year.
Before looking ahead to the 2017 team and beyond, it is worth looking back at the career of ex-Red Sox star Manny Ramirez, who is now eligible for the Hall of Fame. By the numbers, Manny, a player many have considered one of the best right-handed hitters to ever play the game, looks like a Hall of Famer: 555 home runs, .312/.411/.585 slashline, critical part of two World Series winners, 76.3 WARP, this play, and on and on. Manny was so great:
By Jay Jaffe’s JAWS, Manny was slightly better than the average Hall of Fame left fielder, meaning he would raise the quality of enshrined left fielders. Ian Browne of MLB.com has a great retrospective of Manny’s career. So elect him, right? Not likely. As Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald details, Manny’s multiple suspensions for violating MLB’s PED policy makes it a longshot that he gets the Hall call. Along these lines, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe considers Manny’s place among Red Sox greats who have not been enshrined, ultimately ranking him third behind Roger Clemens and Curt “how can I tarnish my image further today” Schilling. Regardless of his election, it will be interesting to see how long Manny remains eligible on the ballot. Will he lurk around for a few years like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have? Will he get bounced immediately? Manny certainly represents an interesting case for the voters. If he does get in, I am sure that his speech will be incredible.
The Red Sox have sorely lacked production from third base in recent years. Pablo Sandoval’s first season in red socks went terribly, and last year, outside of two good months from Travis Shaw, the group of players who occupied the hot corner posted a .238 TAv. As such, what to expect from the position in 2017 is remarkably unclear. Regardless, Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe writes that Sandoval should get the opportunity to be the primary third baseman in 2017. I agree with Abraham for two reasons. First, it is unlikely that Sandoval will be as bad as he was in 2015, and second, the other options will be better used in bench/utility roles (Shaw, Brock Holt) or need more development time (Yoan Moncada). The 3-to-5-win Sandoval of San Francisco Giants fame is likely not going to be seen in Boston but that doesn’t mean there should be a rush to trade him for pennies on the dollar. And, no, the Giants don’t want him back. Sandoval slots nicely into the bottom third of the already potent Red Sox lineup, and hopefully his focus on conditioning over the last year helps his agility on defense. It is reasonable to expect him to be a 1-2 win contributor in 2017, which is great for the 2017 club and also allows Moncada more time to learn the position at the minor league level so that he can be ready to assert himself as the primary candidate in 2018.
For a number of Red Sox players, the 2016 postseason, was their first taste of playoff baseball at the major league level. Unfortunately, after getting swept in the Division Series, it was over before they could get acclimated. Despite the poor result, Scott Lauber of ESPN.com outlines how getting a taste of playoff experience this past season could prove valuable in the future for the young core of the team.
While that young core is in place for the 2017 season, there are still areas of the team that can be enhanced. Carlos Beltran, an excellent offensive-threat from both sides of the plate, has been mentioned as a Red Sox target. Beltran would be a nice addition to an already strong offense. However, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes, the Sox are not alone in being interested in adding Beltran. The Yankees, Astros, Rangers and (maybe) the Blue Jays are all vying for the aging slugger.
Adding to the offense is one approach for this offseason, however Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald thinks the Red Sox should focus on getting someone from the starting pitching market. The Red Sox’s league-leading offense is still likely to be a top-five group, but the pitching is murkier. Mastrodonato suggests that adding Chris Sale or Justin Verlander is feasible and would make things much more comfortable.
Two members of the current starting rotation have different views on pitching for their country in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). American League Cy-Young winner Rick Porcello wants to repeat his 2016 Spring preparations in 2017 and will therefore skip pitching for the American squad. However, Porcello’s rotation-mate Eduardo Rodriguez has made it known that he would like to pitch for Venezuela. While it is an honour to compete for one’s country, John Tomase of WEEI.com writes that, given the knee injury that affected his mechanics and contributed to a mostly mediocre season, Rodriguez should skip the WBC.
Even after all of the big league promotions that have happened over the last couple of years, the Red Sox’s farm system remains one of the best in the game. There are many players at the lower levels who could contribute in the big leagues in 2017. Christopher Smith of MassLive.com has notes on six players who could make their big league debut this season.
Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports Images