By: Jake Perda
Now that we’ve been given some time accept the fact that the 2017 Red Sox have been eliminated from the postseason, it’s time to start looking forward and thinking about what the future may hold. All we know at this point in time is that there is a major need for a power bat, and that there aren’t a ton of options that can provide the Sox with the pop that they lacked this past season. That being said, we have Dave Dombrowski at the helm. For better or for worse, he gets things done, and he fills the voids with the best available option for the team.
I would like to preface this by saying that Dombrowski made a mistake by not going after Edwin Encarnacion last offseason. I understand that he wanted to stay under the luxury tax, but if they were going to go out and get Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg, they might as well have said “Screw the luxury tax” and completed their mission with the signing of Encarnacion. Instead, they relied on an improved pitching staff and a combination of Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland’s offensive production in order to make up for the absence of David Ortiz. As we now know, it didn’t work. Thus, it is Dombrowski’s job to recognize this and fill the offensive void that this team suffered from all season long.
The popular opinion on how this problem should be solved is the Red Sox signing J.D Martinez. Within the structure of the lineup, it’s a perfect fit. All season long they lacked a guy who pitchers were afraid of facing at any given time. Martinez, a 45 HR 104 RBI hitter in 2017, could be that guy. However, the Red Sox outfield is already overflowing with talent. Martinez would have to DH for the majority of games, which is fine, as long as you trust Hanley Ramirez to play first base. While his performance in the field was admirable in 2016, he is now older, has suffered additional injuries leading to yet another surgery, and has grown accustom to the lifestyle of a DH. Saying that he is paid to do whatever he is asked is an entirely valid argument, but just remember who we’re talking about. David Ortiz is gone, and Hanley has proven that he lacks the self-motivation to go into each game with the mindset that he needs to be the game-changer for this team.
Beyond J.D Martinez, the only other top-notch free agent would be Eric Hosmer. I personally don’t want Dombrowski to go this route. Yes, Hosmer had a career year when it came to batting average, but he doesn’t have the power that the Red Sox lack. Hosmer is a 20-25 HR a year guy, which is something the Red Sox could get at a much cheaper price if they choose to resign Mitch Moreland. The only other potential move that the Red Sox could make for someone who could hit for 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI’s is a trade for Giancarlo Stanton. I’m not saying it will happen or even that it should happen, but it could. The Sox would likely be giving up guys like Benintendi, Devers, Groome, etc., and in return they’d be getting the BEST power hitter in baseball. While I don’t think this trade would be great for the Red Sox in the long term, I can’t imagine it’d be too hard for Sox fans to buy into.
One final, and far less reliable, option is to bank on the players who had a down year in 2017 to bounce back. Maybe Alex Cora and whoever comes to Boston with him can pull off the seemingly impossible and get Hanley to hit consistently, Mookie Betts to stop popping out, and Xander Bogaerts to remember how to hit a baseball after June. While this is a lot to ask of Cora and his new staff, it may be their only option if J.D Martinez decides to sign elsewhere and Dombrowski can’t find a trade that he sees as beneficial to the ball club. This would likely result in a 2018 season that is eerily similar to the year that we just witnessed. One with a whole lot of men on base, but nobody to drive them in.
Photo: (CBS Boston)