As of now, we have all pretty much come to terms with the fact that the Red Sox season is over. Over the past couple of weeks, Mike Hazen has moved on to Arizona, Dave Dombrowski has committed to John Farrell as his Opening Day manager for next season, and David Ortiz has officially been named the Hank Aaron Award winner after his unbelievable final season. Now it’s time to look ahead to an offseason in which the tasks that need to be done are not nearly as clear-cut as they were following the 2015 season.
Last offseason there were some major moves that needed to be made. We needed a proven ace to lead the pitching staff, a strong back of the bullpen arm, and a fourth outfielder. To my disbelief, the man they call Dealin’ Dave got that done and then some. He was able to bring in David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Young, and Carson Smith in exchange for Wade Miley, a few prospects, and a very sizable chunk of change. These were some great moves despite the fact that not a single one of these players had the type of season that we would have hoped for whether it was due to injury, or a simple case of underperformance. This goes to show that while I believe the moves I’m about to propose may look good in theory, they could end up being a total disaster. But we’ll just have to worry about that if and when the time comes.
I’m not ready to talk about replacing David Ortiz the person. You simply can’t replace everything he meant to this team. However, Dombrowski is going to have to make some decisions as to how he’s going to go about replacing the 38 home runs, 127 RBI’s, and league leading 1.021 OPS that Big Papi put up this past season. There are essentially 3 options. The first one being the simplest, put all your eggs in one basket and throw pretty much your entire offseason spending budget at Edwin Encarnacion. You need David Ortiz’s automatic 30-100 seasons replaced, so you go to the next guy on the list of locks for 30 homers and 100 RBI’s. Much like David Price, this would be a big risk, big reward signing. Maybe Price’s failure this season discourages them from going after Edwin, or maybe they see the gaping hole in the middle of their lineup and decide it must be filled immediately. If they choose not to pursue Encarnacion, the next option would be to solve the problem in house. They could let Hanley DH and have either Travis Shaw or the recovering Sam Travis play first, or they could keep Hanley at first and let Pablo Sandoval take a crack at hitting full time. By doing this they will inevitably take a huge hit to their lineup, but maybe they decide that if they focus on pitching they can live without the extra run support. The third option is to sign someone and hope to strike gold like the Orioles did with Mark Trumbo. Trumbo and Jose Bautista are both free agents, but they will require way too much money for something that’s not a sure thing. If the Sox were to go with the third option, I’d rather see them sign an Adam Lind or a Carlos Gomez. Someone who we’ve seen have a big impact before that would not cost them as much as a current star. If I had to guess, I think it’s most likely that the Red Sox keep their search for a DH internal. Signing Encarncaion is going to require a lot more money than the Sox will be willing to give him, and any other free agent is nothing more than a big risk. If I were Dombrowski, I would slot Hanley in at DH and build around that. There’s no need for excessive spending when you have potential offensive threats already in your organization.
As far as the starting rotation goes, we have 6 pitchers fighting for 5 spots. Looking a little more closely, we have 2 pitchers that will be competing for the 5th spot. Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright will have to duke it out in spring training to get to see who will start the year in the bullpen. This is assuming that the Red Sox either pick up Clay Buchholz $13 million option or sign him to some sort of restructured deal; which I believe they will. Clay seemed to figure something out down the stretch this season and did manage to have the best start out of Red Sox 3 playoff game starters. I hate Clay with all my heart, but I have to give him credit and admit that he deserves another shot. As far the 5th spot, I’d prefer Drew Pomeramz as opposed to Wright. Yes, I admire what Steven Wright was able to do this season, but I know I can’t bank on a knuckleballer have two good seasons in a row. I also don’t want to have to hold my breath every time there’s supposed to be a little rain. I like Wright more out of the bullpen so we can pick and choose the spots that he is put in. If Pomeranz can work on his command and learn to pitch a little more efficiently, I believe that he can have a very good year as a starter.
The bullpen is going to be a bit of a wild card. Koji Uehara could very well retire, Brad Ziegler has pretty much announced via Twitter that he won’t be back (You can’t blame him after John Farrell terribly underused him despite his success), Junichi Tazawa is a free agent that they’d be stupid to bring back, they have to decide the fate of Fernando Abad, and nobody really knows when Carson Smith will be ready to pitch again. Depending on how these moves play out, we could see a very different looking Red Sox bullpen going forward. As far as free agents, they won’t be signing a closer such as Aroldis Chapman or Mark Melancon. They’d be looking for 6th, 7th, or 8th inning types of arms that are about the equivalent to a Matt Barnes. Based on what we saw in September and October, Joe Kelly could very well begin the season as the Sox set-up man. And outside of Kelly, Barnes, Kimbrel, and eventually Carson Smith, nobody really knows what’s going to happen with this bullpen. Luckily, Dave Dombrowski is a man who gets what he wants. And he is sure to have a plan in place to get the Sox ready to make another playoff run next season.