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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Questioning the Winter

With the AL East champs season having come to a disappointing end in the ALDS they are now looking forward to 2018.  The Sox are a young and talented team and the future should be bright.  However, with the emergence of the Yankee youth the division should be more of a challenge next year. I remain optimistic but there are plenty of questions to be addressed this winter and I thought I would lay them out here.

1. Who is going to run this nine?

Reports are coming out Thursday afternoon that Alex Cora is going to be in charge but there are likely other changes.  I won’t be too bothered if Carl Willis goes, I can’t help but feel he could/should have been able to do more about the first inning woes the starters had.  Despite down years across the board I get a positive vibe from hitting coach Chili Davis.  He is ALWAYS talking to guys in the dugout and that just has a good look.  I also hope Brian Butterfield returns.  I have no desire for a return to the Dale Sveum days.

2. What free agents will return?

My gut says “none.”  The list is; Addison Reed, Fernando Abad, Eduardo Nunez, Mitch Moreland, Doug Fister, Rajai Davis and Chris Young.  I think Nunez, depending on Pedroia’s health, and Fister, are the guys most likely to be desired by Dombrowski but neither guy is someone that can’t be adequately replaced elsewhere.

3. Who is the infield caddy?

Whether it is Pedroia with injury or the uncertainty of Rafael Devers at third base the Sox need a strong utility infielder available next year.  Brock Holt! is conceivably that player but I’d like to see the Sox augment the roster beyond him.  Even if he is healthy the Sox are likely to need more playing time from that player in 2018 as Pedroia recovers from his surgery and while Devers, like Bogaerts in 2014, has promise depending on him at age 21 comes with risk.

4. How does the starting pitching depth look?

So Eduardo Rodriguez’ surgery makes him unlikely to be ready for Spring Training and by extension at least in doubt for Opening Day (earlier than usual - March 29).  Add in the uncertainty surrounding Price and Brian Johnson and the Sox should be looking for an inning eater.  Whether that role gets filled by Fister, Steven Wright or someone not currently with the organization remains to be seen.  What does appear clear is that the upper level minors don’t really have much to yield in that regard.

5. What minor leaguers can make a splash?

Every year some kids jump into the mix in March and add something to the roster.  Sam Travis is likely to be in the mix for the first base job in some regard and I think Jalen Beeks has a real chance to be part of the club in some way.  It seems like Beeks is seen within the organization as a reliever at the big league level despite starting in the minors.  And whither Henry Owens?  It’s hard to pin any hope on him contributing and take it as a happy accident if it happens.  One guy to keep an eye on in a depth fashion is infielder Chad De La Guerra.  The 25 year old posted a .761 OPS in half a season in Portland splitting time between second base and shortstop which is the type of player the Sox need.

6. Where is the surprise?

Every winter the Sox make a move that we didn’t expect that turns out to be a big winner.  Cody Ross, Koji Uehara, Mitch Moreland, none of these moves caused the blogosphere to explode but in their own way each became a success story.  My guess is that if the Sox make such a move that the outfield might be the place that a player could come in as right now the fourth outfielder is Bryce Brentz and I don’t think that is going to continue.

7. Hosmer, Martinez and Hanley…what happens?

It is likely that the Sox will be aggressive in the free agent market and it seems like the question is whether Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez will be their number one target.  I go back and forth on this one.  Part of me likes the idea of Martinez with Hanley returning to play first base but if the shoulder is acting up again that gets troublesome quickly.  Hosmer has been an up and down player in his career but entering his age 28 season is he maybe ready for a sustained run of maybe not greatness but at least very goodness?

Whattya got?  For a 93 win team with returning starters at all nine positions it feels like there is still a fair amount of potential change this winter.  Dave Dombrowski is not typically one to sit around and wait for things to happen.  It is likely he will act quickly and decisively to fill the holes he perceives as needing to be filled.

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 19, 2017 at 03:10 PM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: October 19, 2017 at 05:01 PM (#5558323)
Part of me likes the idea of Martinez with Hanley returning to play first base but if the shoulder is acting up again that gets troublesome quickly. 

JD Martinez hasn't played 1B since getting into a couple of games there in rookie ball and the NY-Penn league back in 2009, but is there any reason to think he couldn't make the transition? I like his bat a lot more than Hosmer's.
   2. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 19, 2017 at 05:10 PM (#5558328)
JD Martinez hasn't played 1B since getting into a couple of games there in rookie ball and the NY-Penn league back in 2009, but is there any reason to think he couldn't make the transition? I like his bat a lot more than Hosmer's.


That's a good question. I haven't seen enough of Martinez to even remotely have an opinion (and hell I thought Hanley would be a disaster last year so what do I know). I'd like to think if we absolutely had to put him there he could fake it but I don't know.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 19, 2017 at 05:17 PM (#5558330)
That's a good question. I haven't seen enough of Martinez to even remotely have an opinion (and hell I thought Hanley would be a disaster last year so what do I know). I'd like to think if we absolutely had to put him there he could fake it but I don't know.

Why not move Ramirez back to 1B (he was fine there) and just slate JD Martinez in at DH? Best way to keep him healthy, right?

I'd be far more concerned with keeping Martinez's bat in the lineup.
   4. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: October 19, 2017 at 05:39 PM (#5558344)
Why not move Ramirez back to 1B (he was fine there) and just slate JD Martinez in at DH? Best way to keep him healthy, right?

I'd be far more concerned with keeping Martinez's bat in the lineup.

I think Jose's (justifiably) concerned about Hanley coming off shoulder surgery. I think we all agree that if Hanley is healthy he's perfectly fine at 1B and that it would make no sense to make Martinez learn a new position.
   5. John DiFool2 Posted: October 19, 2017 at 07:34 PM (#5558404)
Hanley may also be one of those guys who simply doesn't hit well as a DH.

Or he may be deeply and irrecovably into his decline phase by now.
   6. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 19, 2017 at 07:45 PM (#5558410)
5 - There have been other factors at work but if I were running the Sox I would want Hanley playing first base next year. I think he’s a guy who needs to be involved to succeed. His attitude has always been an issue for him dating back to the minors but when he’s motivated he can be very good (check out his post-season career).

Like I said, during his Sox career there have been shoulder issues that can’t be simply dismissed for the bad years in 2015 and 2017 but at the very least I’d take away lack of involvement as a reason for failure for him.
   7. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 19, 2017 at 08:22 PM (#5558441)
The Red Sox should move Hanley back to the outfield. That was awesome, and ended after but one season.

But isn't the real issue with Ramirez whether the Red Sox try to finagle his playing time a bit to avoid his 2019 option vesting? That gets pretty divisive, pretty quickly, so I wouldn't recommend it, but it's not my money.

   8. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 20, 2017 at 12:40 AM (#5558735)
I've already seen rumors of Price being left in the bullpen.
   9. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 20, 2017 at 08:56 AM (#5558790)
I'd be shocked at that Vaux. I actually kind of like the idea of the fireman role and trying to get 120 or so high leverage innings out of someone like Price but I will be beyond stunned if it happens.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2017 at 10:28 AM (#5558869)
I'd be shocked at that Vaux. I actually kind of like the idea of the fireman role and trying to get 120 or so high leverage innings out of someone like Price but I will be beyond stunned if it happens.

I agree. If he gets hurt beacuse of unfamiliar usage, the Sox get stuck with a huge contract.

Also, I don't think you can justify paying $30M for 120 IP. There just aren't that many high leverage innings that Kimbrel doesn't already have covered.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: October 20, 2017 at 10:34 AM (#5558877)
Right, I think his successful late-season bullpen stints are positive hints at his health, and therefore his ability to be a SP.

If the Sox want to be the first contemporary team to invent a 120-inning reliever, I'm all for it, but I don't want it to be Price.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2017 at 12:19 PM (#5558974)
If the Sox want to be the first contemporary team to invent a 120-inning reliever, I'm all for it, but I don't want it to be Price.

Honestly, you do that with a pre-arb, or arb arm that you don't care if you break. Somebody should trade for Betances and try it. If he gets hurt, you non-tender him.
   13. Nasty Nate Posted: October 20, 2017 at 12:37 PM (#5558990)
Honestly, you do that with a pre-arb, or arb arm that you don't care if you break. Somebody should trade for Betances and try it. If he gets hurt, you non-tender him.
Yeah, or if there's a non-star free agent SP who lost the offseason musical chairs and is still on the market as February nears (if he is willing).
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2017 at 01:00 PM (#5559008)
Yeah, or if there's a non-star free agent SP who lost the offseason musical chairs and is still on the market as February nears (if he is willing).

Joe Kelly might be an option on the Red Sox. He was a starter. He's never made big money.

Maybe approach him with a 4/24 buyout of his 2 arb years and 2 FA years, with the proposal that he be a "super-reliever".

He gets financial security, and even if he breaks, $20M isn't going to kill the Sox.
   15. Bad Fish Posted: October 21, 2017 at 05:45 PM (#5559609)
I think this is the team they go to war with. Their back is against the salary cap for the next two years. After next year the only significant salary coming the books is Kimbrel (and maybe Ramirez, but I doubt it) but that cash will be absorbed by late arb guys, then after 2019 we lose Hanley, Sandoval, Sale and Porcello, freeing up some real money.

Also, none of this crop of free agents is exciting. The upgrade from any free agent is not worth the $$ or frankly the risk of trading away JBJ (for example) so we can sign FreeAgentDude, and watch Jackie turn into Travis Shaw rev2 while FAD is perfectly executing the first-year-free-agent-Fenway-swoon.

Last year we succeeded despite a weird total downturn of most of the starting offense, I think there is a very good chance for a significant rebound next year, which would make this team as constructed, pretty dangerous. I vote for tinkering at the edges, sign Nunez and Fister types for low money and ride the the #### out of this train.
   16. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 21, 2017 at 06:15 PM (#5559627)
I'm with the Fish generally. I think another bat is ideal (and I'll be surprised if they don't get one) and I agree that Fister/Nunez or reasonable facsimiles are needed.

I think the point about the downturn is significant. I think the Sox as of this moment are a much better team next year than they were this year simply by plexiglass principle. Moves will be made around the league and the Sox will need to do something to keep up but I think the future and the present are both still very very bright.
   17. Bad Fish Posted: October 22, 2017 at 01:47 PM (#5560135)
Of course, if DD can manage to straight-up trade Price for Rizzo, that could reshuffle the boot.
   18. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 22, 2017 at 04:56 PM (#5560164)
And to the surprise of not very many, Alex Cora is the new Sox manager. Jeez, 47th!, did not realize they burned through them quite so quickly. He got a three year deal, so if he makes it through that he'll have lasted longer than the average Red Sox manager's career.
   19. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 22, 2017 at 04:59 PM (#5560167)
Realizing that we don't know nothin' when it comes to managers Cora looks like a really good selection to me.
   20. villageidiom Posted: October 23, 2017 at 10:44 AM (#5560317)
Realizing that we don't know nothin' when it comes to managers Cora looks like a really good selection to me.
Agreed.

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data". But still...

(a) Much was said BITD about Cora's work with Pedroia when he came up. Cora recognized the position was going to be Pedroia's and focused on working with him to get him out of his initial slump rather than lobby for the position to be his own. He embodied the spirit of teamwork. I don't get the sense that they weren't operating as a team under Farrell, but worst case they're not downgrading, and best case they're upgrading, in this sense.

(b) Also BITD Cora, while in a part-time role in Boston, was cited a few times as being a future managerial candidate. Since Cora isn't white-n-gritty we can assume these comments were probably based on merit rather than conventional wisdom type of BS.
   21. Morton's Fork Posted: October 24, 2017 at 04:04 AM (#5560756)
Agreed, 19, regarding our lack of expertise in managerial hirings in general, especially at a time when the tactical game is changing so fast. Still and all, Bobby Valentine was always and obviously a colossal mistake, as would have been Brad Ausmus. Also agreed that Cora seems a good choice - he was a real good Red Sox player, and he reveres Tito, who admires him back.

And agreed, 20...
(a) Cora was a great teammate when a Red Sox. That should play well with the WD&R Youth Squad, especially in that the Pedroia connection provides an alternative avenue of communication between manager and team.
(b) at the time, adjusting for the embedded racism, I thought "future managerial candidate" in regard to Cora was code for "sure, he's not white, but he's still really smart." So yeah, merit-based.

Farrell getting canned is part of the price (no pun intended) we always knew we were going to have to pay when they hired Dombrowski; I don't see how JF failed at piloting the virgin "run-prevention" scheme unless DD was expecting him to hit more home runs. But if you're bringing in a new broom anyway, choosing a young guy like Cora, who was a very happy player with the Sox, to replace the rather stern and much older Farrell, helps to sweep clean.
   22. Textbook Editor Posted: October 25, 2017 at 03:30 PM (#5562032)
Pedroia has surgery, out 7 months per Pete Abe, which would apparently mean missing about the first 50 games of 2018.
   23. jmurph Posted: October 25, 2017 at 03:37 PM (#5562038)
Pedroia has surgery, out 7 months per Pete Abe, which would apparently mean missing about the first 50 games of 2018.

Welp, looks like Nunez's asking price will likely go up.
   24. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: October 25, 2017 at 03:50 PM (#5562058)
If the Sox want to be the first contemporary team to invent a 120-inning reliever, I'm all for it, but I don't want it to be Price.

The contemporary 120 inning reliever is a guy who also is a spot starter. He only started that many because of injuries, but he probably still would have passed 100 without the starts (he was at 36.2 IP in relief before his first start in the beginning of June; majority of his relief appearances were 2 innings or longer).

Of course, if DD can manage to straight-up trade Price for Rizzo, that could reshuffle the boot.

See, this #### is why I have to lurk over here now and then. :)
   25. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 25, 2017 at 04:11 PM (#5562082)
The news about Pedroia is disappointing because I love the guy so freakin' much. It doesn't really change what the Sox should be doing too much. As I noted in the initial post the Sox were going to need some sort of infield caddy whether it's Nunez or someone similar. I don't think that type of player should be difficult to find.
   26. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 25, 2017 at 04:23 PM (#5562092)
Pedroia has surgery, out 7 months per Pete Abe, which would apparently mean missing about the first 50 games of 2018.

Reportedly a cartilage restoration procedure. Seems a bit murky about what is involved and the degree of effectiveness. Apparently, it depends. Boston will miss Pedroia on the field, but it's tough to play a leadership role when not playing or playing poorly, so there may be a void there, too.
   27. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 26, 2017 at 03:09 PM (#5563098)
So apparently the coaching staff will be completely different. Butterfield and Chili are going to the Cubs and Carl Willis is going to Cleveland.
   28. Textbook Editor Posted: October 26, 2017 at 04:44 PM (#5563193)
#27--that's really not great news. I think both Davis and Butterfield were above average coaches. Cubs are getting two good coaches there.

I remain more pessimistic than most about 2018.
   29. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 26, 2017 at 06:07 PM (#5563229)
#27--that's really not great news.


Agreed. Be interesting to see how differently (if at all) the team develops next year.
   30. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: October 26, 2017 at 07:22 PM (#5563248)
#27. I thought Butterfield was quite well respected around the place. That seems a surprise. I suppose the team didn't really hit all that well this year, I can see them removing Davis for that.
The lack of power, in that stadium with the juiced ball, did seem a bit odd this year.
   31. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 26, 2017 at 07:27 PM (#5563249)
I suspect this is just a function of letting Cora pick his own staff.
   32. Jay Seaver Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:09 AM (#5563330)
To me, the interesting thing is not so much that Cora gets to pick his own staff(*), but that the entire coaching staff got vacuumed up by Theo Epstein's and Terry Francona's teams right away. I'm trying to get better about letting go of that, but that these playoff teams headed (one way or another) by guys I still trust a bit more than what I've got wanted them makes me worry.

(*) As much as Cora probably gets most of his own guys, I'd kind of be shocked if Brian Bannister isn't the new pitching coach. He certainly seems to be the front office's guy, to the point of putting him in uniform even though I think most of his work was still behind-the-scenes.
   33. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 27, 2017 at 03:11 AM (#5563338)
That's a good call about Bannister. From what I've read Gedman is the leading candidate to be the hitting coach. Bullpen coach Dana Levangie is another name I've seen bandied about as possibly being pitching coach.
   34. Morton's Fork Posted: October 27, 2017 at 04:43 AM (#5563341)
Happy to have Cora. Fan-boy hopes for new coaches: Mike Lowell? Bench coach? Is Varitek maybe ready to come out of his cave?

Sad to see Willis and Butterfield go, but like Jose says, that's just the new broom sweeping clean. (Plus, neither of them hit any home runs, either.)

Running the '18 version of the Sox is not going to be a low-stress job for anybody involved. Interesting that Girardi is out as well; rookie pilots in both spots, maybe - I wonder if Showalter's licking his chops?
   35. Morton's Fork Posted: November 02, 2017 at 07:20 AM (#5569655)
If it's Stanton coming our way, with, say, Prado too, and Boston assumes all the money; would JBJr (and stuff - Chavis?) to the Marlins be appealing? From there you could sit pretty well tight going into 2018. 1B and backups and stuff.
   36. Nasty Nate Posted: November 02, 2017 at 08:24 AM (#5569661)
The Sox add ... Tony LaRussa?
   37. Nasty Nate Posted: November 14, 2017 at 02:28 PM (#5576078)
The Sox are talking to the agents' of Carlos Santana and Logan Morrison: http://www.espn.com/blog/mlb/rumors/post/_/id/37531/rumor-central-carlos-santana-logan-morrison-on-red-soxs-radar. Neither would be a shocking addition.

There are also Otani rumors.
   38. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: November 14, 2017 at 02:51 PM (#5576100)
LoMo strikes me as a guy who would be a good pickup. I assume he won’t be outrageous money and it wouldn’t shock me if he was 85% of Hosmer at much less of the cost in years and money. He’s far from a sure thing though.

Santana makes a world of sense though. I’d be thrilled if the Sox landed him.

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