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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Not The Ending We Wanted, But The Future Is Bright

Well, I think we can safely say this was not the way we expected or hoped the 2016 season would end but end it did.  The simple fact is that for three games the Cleveland Indians were the better team and that is that.

Despite that this was in my opinion an awfully successful season.  Division titles don’t come that often and doing it while rolling out a lineup featuring a truly impressive group of young talent makes it even better.  The old man in the outfield is 26 year old Jackie Bradley, the infield features youth in Bogaerts and the game’s top prospect (according to Baseball America) waiting in the wings to step in at third base sometime next year.

On the mound the emergence of Rick Porcello and the growth of Eduardo Rodriguez joined by David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Clay Buchholz and Steven Wright give the Sox a strong, deep and diverse group heading into 2017.  I don’t know that there is any evidence for it but the fact that all six of those pitchers are different from one another creates a bit of an advantage as they face teams in 3 and 4 game series.

Of course the year features some loss.  David Ortiz is the big one and that is going to create a hole in the lineup and a hole in the fanbase.  Few players have ever been as popular as Big Papi and he will be sorely missed in many ways.  I also had the thought as I watched the game Monday night that it might be the last time we see Koji Uehara in a Red Sox uniform.  He went from “hey, that looks like a nice pickup” to a fun guy to watch (#highfivecity!) to a truly devastating weapon for John Farrell.  I don’t think the Sox have ever featured a reliever who inspired the confidence that Koji did and if he is done, I will miss him terribly.

The off-season starts now.  But it shouldn’t begin without an appreciation of a terrific season.  Every time the Sox looked down out (the June swoon anyone?) they rallied and when the division was on the line they laid waste to their AL East foes demolishing Toronto (2 out of 3), Baltimore (4 in a row), New York (4 in a row) and Tampa Bay (3 in a row) as part of a 30-12 stretch that put champagne on ice and a division flag on the facade.

Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 12:56 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Toby Posted: October 11, 2016 at 08:07 AM (#5321154)
"That'll do, pig, that'll do."

Torch passed.
   2. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 11, 2016 at 08:39 AM (#5321167)
Successful season, with lots of young players integrated into a team that went from last to first place. Pretty good...a few questions that are outstanding for 2017:

1) Is Jackie Bradley Jr. really this streaky? His stats for the full season wildly exceed what anybody could have expected. For about a month (basically May) he was the best player in baseball. Since that streak ended (let's say June 1st), he went .231/.321/.432. That's pretty good power, but not much otherwise. He's useful even at the slash level of post-June 1st, I guess, but are we calling center field "solved"?

2) What David Price are getting over the next few years?

3) What does the team do with Travis Shaw in 2017? Does he keep 3rd base warm until Moncada is ready, and then move into being a supersub 1B/3B/LF power bat off the bench? And speaking of 3B, whassup with Panda?

4) Hanley's performance in 2016 means he'll be sticking at 1B most days, right?

5) Who is the starting catcher entering 2017? It's not Sandy Leon - it took the league a time or two around to figure it out, but by the time September started, he hit.213 with zero power, because all you have to do is throw him breaking balls. I think Farrell rode that horse waaaay too long. Swihart and Vazquez are a perfect combination for 2017, cheap, team control for many years

   3. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 08:52 AM (#5321169)
1 - I think JBJ probably is this streaky. The insane hot streaks the last two seasons I think make us forget that he's not a great hitter. That swing gets long. As you say even the post-streak JBJ was a solid player. I'm actually working on some post-mortem stuff that I'll start putting up later this week and I think with JBJ we should probably remember "hey, if he hits .250 with 10 homers the glove makes him a productive player." He was a 5 WAR player this year.

2 - I think Price + Porcello in 2017 = Price + Porcello in 2016 in a slightly different shape.

3 - I like Shaw. He reminds me SO much of Daubach and he's a solid defender at third. I'd roll with him next year and if/when Moncada is ready make the move. My gut is if we don't sign one of the Blue Jay sluggers that Panda is our DH and I kill myself.

4 - God I hope so. From what I've seen the last two years he needs to be involved and engaged.

5 - I can't discuss this rationally. Of all the good things this organization did this year the ########### with Swihart pisses me off so much. I don't disagree we saw way too much of Leon but options were not really abundant. Vazquez can't hit and Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan remain Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan. If Swihart is healthy I'd have him start and just ride it out. With that said I have a strong suspicion that Blake Swihart is wearing a different uniform in 2017.

April 3rd at Fenway vs. Pittsburgh.
   4. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 11, 2016 at 09:12 AM (#5321183)
The way the Red Sox are treating catcher right now is like how the Expos use to treat second basemen in the late 70s and early 80s. They kept producing good young players at 2B, but could never solve the problem because they kept screwing around, and ended up playing Doug Flynn and crap like that.

I don't think catcher is real tough for the Sox in 2017: Start Swihart. Vazquez is the backup. In order to keep Swihart fresh, and his bat in the lineup (presuming he hits), you let him DH sometimes. Thus, Vazquez and his amazing defense get to start about half the time. If you can get a legit bullpen arm using Leon, great. We'll have Carson Smith back in 2017, Kelly out of the bullpen the whole year, probably Robbie Scott, Kimbrel, Ross, Hembree - we'll need a few bullpen arms to replace Tazawa and Uehara.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: October 11, 2016 at 09:54 AM (#5321230)
Despite that this was in my opinion an awfully successful season. Division titles don’t come that often...
Yep. The big winning streak to get first place was great.
   6. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 09:55 AM (#5321231)
Nate where did you sit last night?
   7. Textbook Editor Posted: October 11, 2016 at 10:09 AM (#5321244)
5 - I can't discuss this rationally. Of all the good things this organization did this year the ########### with Swihart pisses me off so much. I don't disagree we saw way too much of Leon but options were not really abundant. Vazquez can't hit and Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan remain Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan. If Swihart is healthy I'd have him start and just ride it out. With that said I have a strong suspicion that Blake Swihart is wearing a different uniform in 2017.


Yeah, this. I wish I understood the rationale for how quickly Swihart got buried at C this year. It's really a mystery to me. The only rationale I can think of is that (somehow, off the radar of the local media, which is unlikely) the pitchers revolted, or thought Swihart wasn't prepared, or that he started half-assing pre-series meetings or something... Again, I really doubt any of that happened (because, Boston being Boston, I figure we'd have heard about it), but to me that's the only rationale I can think of for dropping him from C so quickly and sticking him in LF.

Or... Or I guess we could all be wrong, and the plan was always going to be trying to "solve" LF early in the season (after Holt got hurt) by turning Swihart into a Schwarber-ish C/LF type, since they had depth at C. But then he got hurt and that was that.

Assuming there's nothing to my speculation there were off-field issues, I'm not sure he gets dealt unless it's part of a package for a really top-line starter. Yes, in theory we have a bunch of depth at C and could (I guess) go with Leon and Vasquez, but Swihart is really the guy who could be a net + with the bat at the position (even in a limited role), and he's of course super cheap.

I'm resigned to the fact that, unless dumped for someone else's day-old fish, Panda will split time at 3B and DH with Shaw--at least early on, in an attempt to resuscitate his value so that when he gets dealt the Red Sox get 30 cents on the dollar instead of 5 cents in return.

As for JBJ, even if he never does better than Garry Maddox-level offense that's an incredibly valuable player. He might not be a guy I'd extend, perhaps (I'd prioritize Betts & Bogaerts over him), but I'd sure as heck keep in in CF unless his glove completely craters along with his bat.

Sometimes you need to crawl before you can walk. The Phillies in 2007 were swept out by the Rockies, and while they weren't as young as the core Red Sox group is, there was not a lot of playoff experience there, and it showed in those 3 games, even though they had played insanely well in the month or so leading up to the playoffs (to catch the Mets). They regrouped, bounced back, and then went on their 2008-2011 run. For Papi's sake I'd have preferred a different ending, but now these guys have the experience and I'm guessing next year's team will benefit from it.

Oh. One last thing. Despite the "holy ####, Panda could DH 80 games!" I don't want them signing Encarnacion. It's time to put on the big boy pants and start using the DH slot differently.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: October 11, 2016 at 10:11 AM (#5321246)
Grandstand 25. But around the 6th, we decided to walk around a little, didn't see the homer, and ended up going up to the Monster (no one asked for our ticket) and watched the rest of the game from the standing room up there. The view was obviously worse up there than the third base grandstand, but the crowd was lively without being boorish and I was full of nervous energy so being on my feet was nice.
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: October 11, 2016 at 10:18 AM (#5321250)
How close to being hits were the Betts and Bogaerts outs in the 8th?
   10. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: October 11, 2016 at 10:44 AM (#5321273)
Extremely. I still can't believe Ramirez nabbed Betts' screamer down the line. Bogaerts' was more of an atem ball, but struck really well. Good positioning by the defense (as the Indians had all series).
   11. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 11:17 AM (#5321320)
Yeah, both were scorched. Couple of feet either way...

Bogaerts used the time off to good effect. He was a different player last night. It's one of the reasons I'm such a fan. He seems to really address his shortcomings, very Dwight Evans-esque in that regard now that I think about it.
   12. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 11, 2016 at 12:03 PM (#5321373)
It's time to put on the big boy pants and start using the DH slot differently.


You mean 'resting' guys and having them hit in a spot they aren't comfortable with instead of continuing to put a legitimately good hitter at DH? So the owners can save some money? So Fat Panda has something to do?
   13. Nasty Nate Posted: October 11, 2016 at 12:04 PM (#5321375)
Thanks, guys, I didn't see a replay of either. To the naked eye, the Betts one especially looked like a hard-hit ball. The Indians just seemed to play a mistake-free series.
   14. Textbook Editor Posted: October 11, 2016 at 12:18 PM (#5321395)
Paying Encarnacion $20 million a year for 5+ years to DH is insane (to me). YMMV and I get that my position is probably a minority one. Has nothing to do with saving the owners $; I just think the money could be put to better use elsewhere.
   15. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 11, 2016 at 12:52 PM (#5321428)
I just think the money could be put to better use elsewhere.


Where? I'd like them to get another top end starting pitching, but I see filling 3rd and C with internal options, and no changes to any other fielding position. The bullpen will always need work, but the Sox have $12M+ coming off the books with Uehara and Tazawa. So why not spend on DH?
   16. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 01:12 PM (#5321442)
I'm all for spending the money elsewhere but as jacksone asks; where? I don't want to spend stupid money but the Sox have to replace 626 PA of .315/.401/.620. Upgrades in left field and third base could potentially do some of that and they can get some of that improvement by making their run prevention better but this isn't a minor guy they have to replace.
   17. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 11, 2016 at 01:38 PM (#5321455)
they can get some of that improvement by making their run prevention better


Not to be annoying, but again, where? RF was a huge + , Bradley Jr will be better in CF, LF seems to be ok with Young and Benintendi, Hanley was acceptable at 1B, Pedroia is still a + at 2B, Bogaerts will be better at SS, and the pu-pu-platter worked ok at 3B and C. Shifting Shaw to 1B would improve the defense there, but not enough to fill the drop in offense from Hanley to Travis. If the Sox do that, then they need to sign a legit 3B - and transition Moncada to supersub until 2B opens up?
   18. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 01:47 PM (#5321463)
The pitching can always be improved. I have questions on the bullpen and with all due respect to Steven Wright that's a 3.33 ERA that ain't coming back. EdRod/Pomeranz/Buchholz are likely to be better but one option would be to go get another big time starter (trade for Greinke?).

The other thing they can do with the money is try to extend X and Mookie which while not having an immediate impact would be a good move in my opinion.

But I'm with you. I'd love to see them sign Encarnacion.
   19. Nasty Nate Posted: October 11, 2016 at 01:58 PM (#5321482)
Where?
Really good question. But we should remember that it's not payroll resources for just 2017 that will be affected by a multi-year contract for EE (or anyone). So even if it's hard to specifically spot other needs over the next 4 years, we can be assured that they will be there.
   20. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 11, 2016 at 02:01 PM (#5321487)
The pitching can always be improved. I have questions on the bullpen and with all due respect to Steven Wright that's a 3.33 ERA that ain't coming back. EdRod/Pomeranz/Buchholz are likely to be better but one option would be to go get another big time starter (trade for Greinke?).


Oh, for sure, I do think they need someone else that is a bit more of a known ability than any of the current 3-6 guys Wright/Rodriguez/Pomeranz/Buchholz. Thought you were thinking more on the fielding side of things.

I am also all in favor of extending early, but that is not something that should hinder the Sox at all - they've hit the Yankee payroll action, yeah it's high, but every year a large contract falls off the books, meaning they can always sign another large contract. ####, Allen Craig is going to make $11M next year! That goes to $1M in 2018 'saving' them $10M for one of the young guys.
   21. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 02:51 PM (#5321528)
I don't think it was ever a question after winning the division but Dombrowski confirmed that Farrell (and the entire coaching staff) will return in 2017.
   22. Textbook Editor Posted: October 11, 2016 at 03:12 PM (#5321545)
one option would be to go get another big time starter (trade for Greinke?).


Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Yeah, in a nutshell that's the sort of thing I want to spend $20 million on. The D-backs have so many holes, you'd think we'd match up well, but... I'm sure every team with cash-on-hand and any kind of farm system is thinking the same thing.

If you sign EE to a 5 year deal, during the course of that deal it is very likely Pedroia will have to start logging DH time (where he goes on the defensive spectrum once he's not a viable 2B is an open question, but one that will have to be answered before his deal is up in 2021). And unless you get rid of him or just buyout the contract, Sandoval will need to DH before his deal's up too. Add to that possibly wanting to get Swihart's bat into the mix, rest days for Hanley, etc. and there's no shortage of options for DH. Yes, it's not ideal and yes, I also believe the DH penalty is real, and yes it takes a certain kind of player to succeed in that role but... EE will be 34 in January. Not all players age like Ortiz, and any deal he's likely to agree to would take you through at least his age-37 and age-38 seasons. Yes, the back-end $ should be looked at as a sunk cost and yes, a 5 year/$100 mil deal is basically a 3 year/$100 mil deal with 2 years of possible suck on the end but... I don't trust long-term deals for bat-only guys; there's a reason why we never handed Ortiz a 5-year deal; I would hope the same thinking applies here.

Looking elsewhere:

Zeigler and Uehara are FA; I wouldn't mind having both of them back.

Do we pick up Hanigan's option ($3.75 mil) for 2017? Or are we fine with Leon/Swihart/Vasquez? (I am, wondered what others thought... As a trade chip at that pice he might be good to have.)

Pomeranz will be getting a raise.

Do we keep Abad?
   23. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 11, 2016 at 03:41 PM (#5321564)
I'm actually working on a series of posts for all the positions but;

Zeigler and Uehara are FA; I wouldn't mind having both of them back.


Agreed. I suspect Ziegler gets an offer he can't refuse from someone and Koji either retires or returns on a one year deal.

Do we pick up Hanigan's option ($3.75 mil) for 2017?


I wouldn't but I think a lot hinges on whether or not they deal Swihart.

Do we keep Abad?


Just a hunch but he and Robby Scott are fighting for the last reliever spot. Scott has options, I don't think Abad does.
   24. SandyRiver Posted: October 11, 2016 at 05:04 PM (#5321650)
Extremely. I still can't believe Ramirez nabbed Betts' screamer down the line. Bogaerts' was more of an atem ball, but struck really well. Good positioning by the defense (as the Indians had all series).


Like Napoli hugging the line and stabbing Ortiz' hotshot to end the 4th. (No one was on base, so maybe not a game changer.)
   25. toratoratora Posted: October 11, 2016 at 07:09 PM (#5321772)
That Betts play was the game.
Just a terrific play and its baseball-whatchagonnado?
Hats off to the Indians. I'll be rooting for Terry and the tribe to take it all.

Anywho, a few years ago, on one of these discussions I said I thought that the Sox long term plan was Hanley taking Papi's spot at DH and Panda playing first.
(I was mercilessly mocked for the post, BTW. Somewhat justly as the idea was crazy but that's how I saw the FO's thought process)
Back then I was under the impression that the Sox saw DH as a way to keep Hanley healthy and a healthy Hanley is a 30 hr 100 RBI guy and that they envisioned Panda as going across the IF and being a guy that hit .300 with 45 doubles and medium (15 hr or so) power.
It's a new regime and I have doubts DD has the same vision, or at least sees it the same way, but WTH, Hanley may play first but he doesn't do it well (-5 rField) and Panda is still under contract and they have to pay him all that money anyhow, so why not give it a try.
That's my call and I'm sticking to it.
If not, dang, it would be fun to see EE doing the parrot walk in Fenway. He gets hurt a lot though, and that's a real concern for me.
Spend the money on a pitcher. I see Porcello and Price being about equal in value as a pair, have zero cue re Pom and would like to see a beast at the top of the rotation. The idea of a salary dump Grienke trade sounds simply juicy to me
   26. esturminator_CT Posted: October 12, 2016 at 02:29 PM (#5322837)
Zeigler and Uehara are FA; I wouldn't mind having both of them back.

Agreed, but at the same time I want to keep Kelly, Hembree and Barnes active in the bullpen. If Ziegler turns out to be expensive because of his steady ability to log significant innings, I'd take a year of Koji, especially with Carson Smith coming back. I really like that kid and think he will turn out to be a great addition to the pen.

Just a hunch but he and Robby Scott are fighting for the last reliever spot. Scott has options, I don't think Abad does.

I am so much higher on Robby Scott than on ABad Fernando. I realize the Red Sox never truly used Abad as designed and he may be a totally cromulent LOOGY, but I get this feeling that Scott can do anything Abad can do at half the price and as knowledgeably alluded to by Jose, his remaining options that Abad does not have provide some valuable mobility/flexibility.

I will assume that Taz is likely not returning. I'm a little sad about that because I think he provided some significant value to the Red Sox for a few years and I actually liked him up until about June of 2016 (was there an injury we didn't know about? - his September wasn't horrid), but he is just not reliable enough to bring back at a reasonable salary and he can't be depended to come in with guys on base without giving up a blast to clear the bases.

Do we pick up Hanigan's option ($3.75 mil) for 2017? Or are we fine with Leon/Swihart/Vasquez? (I am, wondered what others thought... As a trade chip at that pice he might be good to have.)

I think at that price I would bring Hanigan back because of the flexibility it provides with Vazquez and Swihart. Truly, I'd like to see Swihart and Vazquez split time moving forward with Hanigan and Leon as possible trade chips, but I also realize that either Vazquez or Swihart might bring much more significant return in the way of a starting pitcher or 3B and Leon and Hanigan are certainly serviceable back-ups moving forward.

I said I thought that the Sox long term plan was Hanley taking Papi's spot at DH and Panda playing first.

This certainly is a thought, but one that scares me. I think Hanley will stay more productive if he is playing at least half his time at 1st base and I am a firm believer it is time to punt on Panda if at all possible. My Preference would be to include Panda in a some sort of trade where we are not only picking up a salary dump from our trade partner but also covering an onerous majority portion of Panda's salary. Any chance the Red Sox could trade Buchholz, Panda, a young prospect, Hanigan and significant cash to offset salary to Seattle for Felix Hernandez? Similar without the prospect for Iwakuma? How about Buchholz, Panda, Vazquez and $$ to Oakland for Sonny Gray? I've got to believe the team money and depth of talent can help improve the top end of the rotation!

And, in response to David Price . . . yes, please - We are dying to love you, just please figure out how to win a big game!



   27. Famous Original Joe C Posted: October 12, 2016 at 03:29 PM (#5322924)
Any chance the Red Sox could trade Buchholz, Panda, a young prospect, Hanigan and significant cash to offset salary to Seattle for Felix Hernandez?


No.

Similar without the prospect for Iwakuma?


No.

How about Buchholz, Panda, Vazquez and $$ to Oakland for Sonny Gray?


No.
   28. esturminator_CT Posted: October 12, 2016 at 03:42 PM (#5322947)
I know I may have somewhat rose tinted glasses, but I am still reasonably impressed with the talent level of Buchholz and I wonder if a change of scenery and organization could really propel him to a top of the rotation status. Perhaps no one else would value him that way, but when he is good he can be very good, and he seemed to bounce back quite well after the demotion to the pen this season. I'd like to see him succeed, but I'm not sure whether that is ever going to happen at the highest level with the Red Sox, his history and the Boston microscope. I think his upside elsewhere may be higher, but I guess that is a hard thing to get value for.
   29. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 12, 2016 at 03:58 PM (#5322970)
I wouldn't be in any hurry to get rid of Buchholz. One of the bigger surprises to me this year was how maturely he handled the demotion to the bullpen. We aren't going through next year with five starters (and if we are we are running away with the division) so having him around as a sixth starter ain't a bad option. $13 mil is a lot of money but a known commodity who can start and relieve is worth having and the pitching market is so ####### volatile it's probably worth it. The Sox are better having Buchholz on the roster and while he's overpaid the money isn't keeping the Sox from doing anything else so it's not really a problem other than for Henry's wallet.
   30. esturminator_CT Posted: October 12, 2016 at 05:23 PM (#5323066)
I'm not in a hurry to trade Buchholz either, unless it means an upgrade to the starting rotation. I would not trade any of the 6 starters for a position player or bullpen arm, only as part of a package for an established, more consistent starter.
   31. toratoratora Posted: October 12, 2016 at 06:31 PM (#5323100)
How about Buchholz, Panda, Vazquez and $$ to Oakland for Sonny Gray?

How bout that same deal for Grienke?

And I never mentioned Carson Smith in my post which I should have.
I love this kid.
He has crazy good stuff.
I see him setting up Kimbrel until the loser job opens and then Smith steps in for the next five years or so.
   32. Ken Griffey Junior Bacon Cheeseburger Posted: October 12, 2016 at 09:46 PM (#5323169)
If not, dang, it would be fun to see EE doing the parrot walk in Fenway. He gets hurt a lot though, and that's a real concern for me.


EE's had at least 620 PA in four of the last five seasons, with 624 and 702 these last two. Are you thinking of Bautista?

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