How’s your offseason going?
It’s now been three days since the Red Sox lost the series we all expected them to lose, and we’ve all had some time to reminisce on what went right, what went wrong, and that Rafael Devers inside-the-park home run. Brett Cowett summed up the ALDS pretty thoroughly, so we won’t go there again, and if you really want to find more obituaries, I’m sure Dan Shaughnessy wrote a reasonable, not-at-all-incendiary one that you can find somewhere. So let’s talk about what comes next.
There are seasons that require overhauls and seasons that require tinkering – this season falls under the latter.
On the surface, this Red Sox team seems pretty set. They have one of the more enviable rosters in the league, full of young stars on affordable contracts. They have all the money in the world and from all accounts aren’t going to pay the luxury tax any mind when it comes to crafting an offseason approach. They won 93 games for the second straight year and have reason to believe that trotting out the exact same roster next year would net them even more than that. There are seasons that require overhauls and seasons that require tinkering – this season falls under the latter.
With that said, the Red Sox certainly have some question marks. An argument can – and probably will – be made about about how significant those question marks are, but they’re still question marks nonetheless. The fact of the matter is that this is a young, talented team that’s been significantly overwhelmed in the first round of the playoffs for two straight years. While I personally feel that we’re not there quite yet, an underwhelming ALDS appearance is going to stop being good enough pretty soon. It’s the double-edged sword of playing in Boston – you’re going to get your chances to play on a winning team, but first-round exits can’t be the status quo for long. So what are the biggest questions for this team, in this window?
This will more than likely be the first issue the team addresses, as people seem to expect a decision about his fate as early as the end of this week. Last year, Dombrowski came out almost immediately after the team’s playoff exit and reaffirmed that Farrell was the guy, so there’s no reason to think the team will dilly-dally with a decision this time around.
The decision with Farrell, in my opinion, isn’t nearly as cut-and-dry as people want to make it out to be. He’s not the reason they’re not winning World Series titles. He’s a capable manager and does seem to generally have the support of the clubhouse – or at least its more vocal leaders. Bobby Valentine found out what happens when Dustin Pedroia wants you fired, and Pedroia’s post-game quotes about Farrell were generally supportive.
On the other hand, Deven Marrero started a playoff game and Brandon Workman had an at-bat in the 2013 World Series. If you want to see what another manager brings to the table, I don’t blame you.
My guess is that his ALDS performance probably helped him regain some trust, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if his roster security isn’t set in stone. He’s not a first baseman; you know that, I know that, and the Red Sox know that. He deserves kudos for giving it more of a shot than he gave left field, but it’s just not a feasible fit going forward. His .253 TAv was the worst of his career, as was his .242 batting average. His wOBA, wRC+ and ISO all cratered as well. He’s owed 22 million dollars next season, which makes him especially difficult to trade. The best Red Sox lineup probably doesn’t include him anymore. Maybe he has a bounce-back year next season – people thought he was cooked after his abysmal 2015 campaign – but the shoulder issues keep cropping up. The Red Sox can’t afford to waste a power position like DH or 1B on someone who can no longer hit for power, which brings me to…
This is what I view as the most interesting on-field dilemma the Red Sox have to face this offseason. The pragmatic approach says resign Mitch Moreland, and quite honestly, I don’t hate it. Moreland was excellent when healthy this year, and could be retained for a fraction of what the other options represent. But making the cost-efficient, practical signing is to Dave Dombrowksi what using Craig Kimbrel in non-traditional save situations is to John Farrell – it’s just not going to happen. There are dingers to be bought, and Dave is surely not interested in hearing about how the Red Sox are the worst power-hitting team in the league all next summer. Here’s your obligatory Giancarlo Stanton mention, because you just might as well get used to it now. Eric Hosmer will be attached to the team’s hip, and Joey Votto presents an intriguing option in the sense that he is 1. a good first baseman and 2. that’s it. Good first basemen, regardless of feasibility, will be linked to the Red Sox all winter, solely because Dave Dombrowski runs this team and has a few young, talented outfielders to burn. The team clearly needs some power hitting, and where or who it comes from figures to be the team’s biggest winter storyline.
Photo by Bob DeChiara – USA TODAY Sports
2 comments on “What Comes Next”
I think the moves the Red Sox make in the offseason really depend on their view of Bogaerts. Will he blossom into the middle of the order, .300/.400/.500 hitter he was in the minors and people thought he would be in the majors? Or is he the good-not-great player he’s been? The comp he had as a prospect, and the comp ZiPS assigned to him prior to the 2017 season, was Tulo. When Tulo was 24, he put up a 132 wRC+ and never looked back until he turned 30 and injuries caught up with him. If X did that, he would be a borderline MVP candidate and the Red Sox offense would be back where it should be, top 10 in baseball. With their rotation and bullpen that is a team that is one of the best in baseball and could go up against anyone.
If he doesn’t do that, this offense is unlikely to be significantly better than it was this past year without the addition of power hitter in the middle of the order. For any serious improvement, you are hoping that Mookie or Benintendi can make a McCutchen-esque leap to elite hitter, or Hanley turns back the clock, or Devers immediately hits to his ceiling and doesn’t struggle. All of those are unlikely to happen though.
The moves they make will tell us if they are bearish or bullish on him, because I think it’s either put up or shut up time. He’s not a baby anymore, they have given him a lot of leash and at this point he has been a useful player but not any type of cornerstone of an elite team. If they are bearish, they will blow through the cap and get Stanton or JD Martinez. If they are bullish, I don’t think any major moves will be made, maybe a slight upgrade at 1B somehow. Time will tell.
I think Bogaerts suffers from the same problem that Travis Shaw had, which led to his deportation, namely, they both look awful when they are striking out. Some players look like they simply missed the ball when they whiff. Bogaerts and 2016 Shaw look(ed) like the proverbial deer in the headlights, which is such a bad look that you just don’t want to see it anymore. Bogaerts adds to it a strange-looking kind of piroutette, which is just downright awful to behold as he spins away back to the dugout. These are just really bad at bats, and it’s hard to imagine Bogaerts recouping his 2015 form from this place he now inhabits. Deal him, but my deal to propose in this space now is JBJ, E. Rodriguez, and someone like Jalen Beeks for Marcell Ozuna.