The Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions once again and that feels so sweet on my finger tips as I type this from my cubicle. I was at the mall on Monday after work grabbing my fresh new champs hat and will be wearing that everywhere from work to the bar to Thanksgiving dinner. So make sure you enjoy the 4th Sox title in 14 years, but with a gaggle of free agents this winter and some serious question marks around a few core players, lets take a look at what’s next for the Boston Red Sox.
As we covered the other day, David Price has officially opted into the remaining four years and $127 Million of his Red Sox contract. After his excellent ALCS and World Series run it should come as no surprise he opted to stay. The guy seems to love his teammates, finally got over the hump in the toughest market in baseball, and is coming off a 108 win season and a World Series championship. Why leave now? Quite frankly, with Chris Sale’s health concerns, the Red Sox need him. But how will that contract age? Just about as well as you’d expect a 7 year $217 Million contract for a pitcher that will be 37 by the end of it. And that’s not a knock on Price at all, thats a knock on the cost of doing business in today’s MLB, especially for a team that said we don’t sign pitchers over 30 years old in 2014 only to then sign a pitcher over 30 in 2015 to a 9-figure contract.
I am extremely worried about the longterm health of Chris Sale and not just because of the recency of his shoulder issues. This is the second year in a row that Sale has worn down and gone on the DL with shoulder injuries. Sale is absolutely lights out dominant and one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy, but at 6’6″ and “180” pounds staying healthy has proved difficult for the big lefty.
Lets look at his K’s/9 IP (Baseball Reference refers to this as S09) real quick just to get a sense of how much he is whipping the ball around because that number jumped *significantly* from his last year in Chicago to his first year in Boston. Sale averaged 9.3 SO9 in his last year with the White Sox in 2016, which jumped up to 12.9 in his first year in Boston and then jumped up again to 13.5 in 2018. That is huge and is especially significant because Sale is a guy that the White Sox had tried to tame a little bit. Chicago had tried to get Sale away from chasing strikeouts in order to get more innings out of the lanky lefty. I can’t find a direct quote, but I remember Sale not being a fan of the approach as it resulted in his lowest SO9 since his first full year in the big leagues. His last two years in Chicago were also his worst two years ERA wise, granted they were 3.41 and 3.34, but still. Some guys just need to let it rip.
The Sox are in a tricky position here because Sale is grossly underpaid at $15M in 2019 (if healthy), but it’s also his contract year. So Sale will likely be looking for a huge payday after making peanuts his whole career relative to his performance. Seriously, take a look at the bargain he’s been his whole career.
Sale has barely made more in his entire career ($44M) than Price made last season ($30M). Even if you’re not about the money, thats gotta piss you off a little bit. And if the Sox have legitimate concerns about his shoulder are they really going to pony up $25-$35 Million a year for another 30-year-old starter? They might have to.
Over his four years with the Red Sox, statistically Kimbrel was very good. He had 108 Saves and a 2.44 ERA with 305 K’s in 184.1 Innings Pitched. He made the All-Star team each of the 3 years he was with Boston saving 31, 35, and 42 games respectively. But he has shown a knack for the high wire act save, which reared its ugly head in the playoffs this year. Kimbrel is very good, even if he simply cannot pitch effectively in non-save situations or for more than one inning, but for a guy with a “potential path to the Hall of Fame” he is going to command big money. I just don’t think the Sox need to invest that into a closer as we’ve seen effective relievers and closers come out of nowhere year after year across the entire league. You had one on your own team this year as the Sox leaned heavily on Ryan Brasier as a 7th and 8th inning guy in the playoffs. A guy that was pitching in Japan last year. Dave Dombrowski seems to agree with that line of thinking as well.
“We do think that we do have a situation where internally we have a couple candidates to do that. (Matt) Barnes and (Ryan) Brasier are the top candidates,” Dombrowski said, via WEEI.com. “They’re not Craig Kimbrel at this point in their careers. But I don’t think we go into the closer by committee approach. So if it wasn’t Craig it’d be either them or we’d have to see what other alternatives existed outside the organization.”
So while he was very good while he was here, I think Kimbrel’s time with the Red Sox is over.
Alex Cora has already said Pedroia will hit lead off on Opening Day next year if he’s healthy. Pedroia has traditionally hit in the 2-hole (4,115 Plate Appearances) or as a No. 3 hitter (1,290 Plate Appearances) in a pinch, but Cora said it would be more out of respect to Pedroia if he’s able to come back.
“If he’s ready to go, I think that’s the only game he’s going to lead off next year. He’ll lead off Opening Day,” Cora said. “I told him that a few months ago because he deserves it. So Mookie won’t lead off one game next year. That’s the goal.”
Stuff like this worries me because despite all the shit Pedroia took on the airwaves the last couple of years, like being snidely labeled “the little leader,” he still is the heart of this team. So Cora saying Pedroia deserves this ceremonial at bat has a certain “last hurrah” type feel to it. I’ve blogged about it in the past, but I think Pedroia’s days as a full time second baseman are likely done. Even Dombrowski had said that Pedroia’s knee was something they would have to monitor for the rest of his career, so we might start to see the beginning of Pedroia the platoon player next year if healthy.
The real life Rick Vaughn could be a guy the Sox turn to for closer duties in 2019 if he can replicate anything close to his 2018 postseason performance. I would think a player who has had such an up and down career with 2 Saves on his resume wouldn’t have a huge price tag, but you never know. For a guy that seemed to really buy into Alex Cora’s plan and became someone that fans adored after inciting a riot with the Yankees, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t on the Red Sox in 2019.
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) April 12, 2018
I’ve stuck to my take 2+ years that the Red Sox lost the Drew Pomeranz trade and I think I’ve generally been proven right. He seems like a really nice dude so I’m not gonna trash him (plus he can snatch beers out of the sky with the best of them), but I just never loved the move. Look I know the prospect we traded for him, Anderson Espinoza, blew his arm out and hasn’t done much in the minor leagues, but thats never been the point. The point has always been that Espinoza was the Boston Red Sox No. 1 pitching prospect and the No. 13 prospect in all of baseball at the time. In fact he’s still the No. 89 prospect in all of baseball despite not throwing a pitch last year. The Sox sold incredibly low on that kind of equity. You should have been able to get a much better return than a starter/reliever one-time All-Star with injury concerns in Drew Pomeranz. Not to mention a guy who was INJURED AT THE TIME as the Padres got caught fudging his medical records. All that combined with the fact that Cora acted as if Pomeranz was Boston Kryptonite and kept him securely fastened to the bullpen bench, I still think the Sox lost that trade.
He exercised his $5 Million player option for next season so he’ll be back. While Nunez had a bit of a down year, he showed in the playoffs why he is such a valuable bench player. He can play multiple positions, pinch hit, and generally plays balls to the wall all the time. If he can stay healthy this is a great guy to have on your bench.
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) October 29, 2018
Have you ever gone to a concert of your favorite band and been so blown away that you legit started getting emotional? That’s what Nathan Eovaldi did in the playoffs this year. He was so good in the World Series that he literally made Rick Porcello cry.
“That was the most incredible pitching performance I’ve even seen. After the game was over I started crying… he literally gave everything he had on every single pitch and it was special.” — Rick Porcellohttps://t.co/kQkEj0x04n
— Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) October 27, 2018
He went 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in 6 appearances (2 starts) with 22.1 Innings Pitched, 16 K’s, and only FOUR Earned Runs. Incredible. I was on the brink of tears when he wasn’t named MVP and I watched my +5000 lottery ticket float away, but still an incredible month from Nasty Nate. I would love for the Sox to bring him back, but Eovaldi likely pitched his way into a 9 figure deal with his dominant postseason run and I just don’t think the Sox have the payroll flexibility or the stomach to pony that up. He is a guy with two Tommy John surgeries already on his resume so that could be another reason the team shies away, but with Chris Sale already dealing with injuries, Eduardo Rodriguez constantly on the DL, and Rick Porcello on the last year of his contract next season, the Sox could certainly use another young stud pitcher (he’ll be 29 at the start of next year) for now and the future.
MVPearce would be a great fit to return and platoon with Mitch Moreland as the two formed a bash brothers duo this season. However, after putting on an absolute show in the playoffs and taking Clayton Kershaw out behind the shed to earn World Series MVP honors, it would not surprise me if a team threw way more money at him than the Sox are comfortable with. This is a toss up, but we’ll never forget the short time we shared together. Steve Pearce does owe me $2,500 after he stole the MVP away from my guy Nathan Eovaldi though…
The Catching Situation
Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart are all under contract for next season so what does a team do with 3 catchers? Vazquez recently signed an extension, the team loves Leon’s game calling, and the Sox also made room for Swihart rather than dishing him at the trade deadline. Something has to give though, especially with Swihart all but requesting a trade earlier this season due to lack of playing time. You could probably get a prospect back for Swihart, but I think the team has tanked his stock to really make it worth it. I would expect the team to move on from Leon and integrate the switch hitting Swihart more into the mix while Vazquez takes over primary duties. Especially after Vazquez started 12 games in the playoffs with more than twice as many Plate Appearances as Leon.
We Hardly Knew Ye, Carson
Oh and the Red Sox finally kicked Carson Smith to the curb after his tour de force asshole performance back in May.
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) November 1, 2018
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) May 16, 2018
After throwing 14.1 innings and getting taken out of a game Smith slammed his glove and blew out his shoulder doing so. You may remember though that he threw Alex Cora and the coaching stuff under the bus blaming his workload for his injury. The guy who was never healthy was now throwing a fit in front of the media. Hit the bricks pal, best of luck.
The Barren Boston Red Sox Farm System
The Red Sox farm system is BARREN right now and everybody knew that would be the case from the second Dave Dombrowski walked in the door. It’s just how he operates. Trade any and all prospects to acquire proven MLB (preferably Tigers) talent. And it won you a World Series so I am not going to complain for one second about that. But, if you take a peek down the road, there are no reinforcements coming for this team. God forbid the Sox are unable to re-sign their own young studs like Mookie Betts and/or Xander Bogaerts. Not to mention David Price is 33, Chris Sale has had shoulder injuries 2 years in a row, Porcello is in a walk year, and the rotation behind them consists of JAGs like Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Steven Wright.
Back in 2016 the Red Sox had the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball in Yoan Moncada and the No. 5 overall prospect in Andrew Benintendi leading the way for their six prospects in the Top 100. Obviously some of those guys were involved in the Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades, moves that helped you win the World Series. But, keeping an eye on this team’s long term viability, the Sox now only have ONE prospect in the Top 100 in Michael Chavis, who got popped for PEDs last year so your guess is as good as mine for how he’ll pan out.
One of Boston’s most exciting prospects, Jay Groome, was ranked No. 43 by MLB in 2017 before he blowing out his arm last year. Groome has the build that makes scouts drool as a 6’6″ lefty, but after Tommy John surgery won’t be back on the mound until late in 2019 at the earliest. He would likely start at Single A when he comes back from injury so Groome could still be years away from making an impact at Fenway. I still have sky high hopes for the kid, and not just because he was working out last offseason with current Red Sox ace Chris Sale. Just look at this MLB.com scouting report from 2016:
“Groome works with a 90-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97 with armside run, and he could throw harder as he gets stronger. Nevertheless, his best pitch is a curveball with power and depth that many evaluators believed was the best breaking ball in the 2016 Draft… Groome’s 6-foot-6 frame is built for durability and he uses it to generate good downhill plane on his pitches. His athleticism enables him to repeat his clean mechanics and fill the strike zone. He has the potential to become an ace if his makeup issues don’t get in his way, and he could be the best pitcher signed and developed by the Red Sox since Roger Clemens.”
So there are a ton of questions to answer for this team, but first there are a ton of beers that need drinking and a ton of Schrute Bucks that need spending on all of the World Series Champions swag.