The 2018 Boston Red Sox capped off their historic regular season by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games to capture the World Series Championship. Doubters were silenced, champagne bottles were popped, and the team will bask in the glory of their victory on Halloween as they parade through the streets of Boston on the city’s trademark duck boats.
After the parade is over, however, there will be work that needs to be done, specifically by Boston’s president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski. The Red Sox have a total of seven players from their official 40-man roster that are free agents this offseason.
Among those seven names, the ones that jump out the most are Kimbrel, Pearce, Eovaldi, and Joe Kelly, since all four of those players were crucial in helping the Red Sox win the World Series this year. Steve Pearce crushed two home runs in the deciding game to earn himself the World Series MVP award, while Kelly, Eovaldi, and Kimbrel were all nearly invincible out of the bullpen.
The question surrounding all seven of these free agents is this: who should stay and who should go?Fresh off their World Series title, the @RedSox have a slew of intriguing free agents. @ColouroftheIris tells us which of these players the Sox should let go, and which they should retain in 2019.Click To Tweet
Who Should Go: Ian Kinsler, Drew Pomeranz, Brandon Phillips, Craig Kimbrel, Steve Pearce, and Joe Kelly
Due to Dustin Pedroia‘s knee injury, the Boston Red Sox found themselves in need of depth and leadership at the second base position heading into this past postseason. Hence, they went out and acquired Ian Kinsler from the Los Angeles Angels and signed Brandon Phillips, who was a free agent at the time, to a minor league contract.
Kinsler saw much more time at second base at the end of the season and, ultimately, made the postseason roster over Phillips, who did not end up contributing much towards the end of the season. The decision is easy when it comes to these two veterans. They were brought in as insurance policies for the second base position, and since neither player performed exceptionally well they will both likely be allowed to hit the free agent market this offseason.
Drew Pomeranz will also, most likely, be let go by the Red Sox due to poor performance. The big left-hander followed up his strong 2017 campaign, during which he won 17 games, by going 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA in just 26 appearances with Boston this season. Pomeranz, 29, struggled both on and off the field, dealing with more injuries that have plagued him throughout his entire career. With inconsistency and injury problems mounting, the Red Sox are unlikely to extend a contract to Pomeranz this offseason.
The biggest piece that the Red Sox should let go of is their closer, Craig Kimbrel. The hard-throwing right-hander had himself another fine season in Boston and was a big contributor to the team’s success. However, Kimbrel struggled mightily in several key spots through Boston’s playoff run, giving up 7 earned runs in 10.2 innings. Kimbrel also sported a worrying 10-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio through the postseason, which lent credence to the belief that his control was starting to slip.
Kimbrel, despite his struggles this postseason, will likely still command approximately $10-15 million per year on a new contract, which may turn out to be just a bit too pricey for the Red Sox.
Steve Pearce won the World Series Most Valuable Player award for his multi-home run heroics in the deciding game, and that is certainly something that Red Sox fans will never forget. However, Steve Pearce is also a classic example of a “don’t get fooled” scenario. Pearce is not an effective everyday player and, at times, even struggled in a platoon role with Boston this season. His World Series performance will likely raise his asking price this offseason, which is why the Red Sox should resist the urge to re-sign the 35-year-old infielder. The cheaper and more sensible option for Boston to replace Steve Pearce with comes from within their own organization in the person of Sam Travis. Travis is a 25-year old right-handed hitting first baseman whom excels against left-handed pitching. He has also proven his ability to play several outfield positions as well as third base.
Rather than dishing out a pricey contract to Pearce the Red Sox should turn to their younger, more affordable talent in Sam Travis going forward.
Joe Kelly is another player whose asking price was elevated due to his World Series performance. The 30-year-old fireballer was lights out in the World Series, surrendering no runs and striking out 10 of the 22 batters he faced. Kelly was an absolute force out of the Boston bullpen in that series, but it does not erase the struggles and frustrations that he faced throughout the stretch of the entire season.
Kelly finished his 2018 regular season with a 4.39 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched, a far cry from the impressive 2.79 ERA he posted in his 2017 season. Unless he is willing to come back at a reasonable price it would be best for the Red Sox to spend their money elsewhere to bolster their bullpen.
Who should stay: Nathan Eovaldi
Nathan Eovaldi is the one man out of this group who deserves every penny that he asks for. Eovaldi was tremendous for the Red Sox, not just in the World Series, but throughout this entire tenure with the team in 2018.
Eovaldi went 2-1 in the postseason with a 1.61 ERA and an extremely impressive 16-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His performance in Game 3, in which he pitched eight near-scoreless innings out the bullpen in that preposterous 18-inning marathon, was one of the most impressive performances by a pitcher in MLB postseason history.
Eovaldi was also masterful in shutting down the vaunted lineups of the Yankees and the Astros this postseason, two teams that will absolutely be right back in the mix next season as well. The 28-year-old right-hander would be the perfect candidate to round out Boston’s 2019 starting rotation, joining the likes of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Retaining Eovaldi will be costly, as he will likely command a contract of 3-4 years and approximately $10-15 million per year, but the Red Sox should bite the bullet and give it to him. His stuff is exceptional and, as long as he stays healthy, he can be a valuable weapon for the Red Sox as they go forth and defend their championship in 2019.
The Red Sox will be faced with several decisions this offseason pertaining to not only 2019 but also 2020. Boston has many prominent players, including Sale, Xander Bogaerts, and Porcello, who will be free agents at the conclusion of the 2019 season. On top of that, there is Mookie Betts, whom the Red Sox will likely attempt to lock up with a massive contract extension. Hence, any decisions the team makes this offseason will also affect how they handle the 2019 offseason.
Keeping all of their pending free agents will be too costly, both in the short term and in the long term. The Red Sox will have to be prudent in their decision making in order to avoid jeopardizing the future of the team.