The Boston Red Sox are fresh off their ninth World Series championship in franchise history. President Dave Dombrowski made some savvy midseason acquisitions, and, in his three years with the organization, headline-grabbing transactions to put a championship-caliber ballclub on the field. First-year manager Alex Cora took over in Spring Training and panned out to be a great hire, as he pushed all the right buttons in the postseason. With that said, the 108-win Red Sox have lost some key pieces to their World Series team.
Joe Kelly signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers; Ian Kinsler signed a two-year deal with the San Diego Padres; the Red Sox also don’t appear likely to re-sign closer Craig Kimbrel, as he searches for a six-year deal. While the Red Sox re-signed right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman/designated hitter Steve Pearce, there is tweaking that needs to be done to their roster for them to be in position to defend their crown in 2019. Here are four steps the Red Sox can take to accomplish that goal.
Sign Cody Allen
The Red Sox biggest need is backend relievers. With Kimbrel still on the open market, it’s difficult to say if he will definitively return to Boston, and the Red Sox can’t wait around for months for him to make a decision. Allen, who spent the last seven seasons with the Indians, would make sense as a potential target to man the ninth inning.With the @RedSox losing some key talent from their 2018 championship club, @RPStratakos lays out the blueprint for what Boston should do during the rest of the offseason.Click To Tweet
Last season was, easily, the most discouraging season of Allen’s career, as he recorded a lackluster 4.70 ERA. But before 2018, the 30-year-old was one of the most reliable closers in the sport. He recorded an ERA under three from 2013-17, was lights-out in the Indians’ run to the World Series in 2016, surrendering zero runs in 13.2 innings, and has the arsenal to strike out the side on any given night.
Allen’s shaky 2018 campaign should make him an easier get, in terms of dollars, than he would’ve been one year ago. A two-year, $18 million deal with a player option for the second year would be fair for both parties. In the scenario that Allen doesn’t rekindle his old self, or simply struggles to close games, the Red Sox should have another proven closer/set-up man to swap roles.
Sign David Robertson
Adding a closer is vital, but having bullpen depth is just as crucial, and a versatile arm like Robertson would do wonders for the Red Sox pen. The 33-year-old Robertson is one of the best relievers in the sport. While his velocity usually peaks in the high 90s, the right-hander has good control, can work out of trouble, and pitch in big moments. He also has a lot of postseason experience under his belt (Robertson has pitched in the playoffs in six of his 11 MLB seasons).
Last season, Robertson recorded a 3.23 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while totaling 91 strikeouts in 69.2 innings. While those statistics aren’t mind-blowing, he sports a career 2.88 ERA and has been utilized as both a setup man and closer over the course of his career. Robertson and the Red Sox should be able to reach an agreement along the lines of a three-year, $27 million deal.
A backend duo of Allen and Robertson comes close to offsetting the departures of Kimbrel (potentially) and Kelly.
Sign a Long Reliever/Flex Pitcher
The Red Sox have a proven and reliable starting rotation in Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez, but having a flex pitcher, or sixth starter so to speak, would be extremely beneficial. For starters, Sale and Price have encountered several injuries over the last two seasons and having someone capable of starting every fifth day for a one-to-two month stretch on standby is pivotal.
While Rodriguez has made 20-plus starts a season dating back to 2015, he’s never reached the 30-start mark in a single season and has been inconsistent. If he struggles and/or has an ERA over five by the All-Star break, Cora could make a switch in his rotation and utilize Rodriguez out of the bullpen.
Don’t Trade Away Veterans
A significant talking point of the MLB Winter Meetings was the Red Sox potentially looking to relieve payroll by trading away some of their significant players. Porcello, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. were among the names mentioned as potential trade candidates. Last season, the Red Sox had the highest payroll in MLB, and, for the time being, are second behind the Chicago Cubs for 2019.
Next offseason is going to be a pivotal period of time where the Red Sox will have to make some difficult decisions with some of their most prominent players. Sale, Porcello, Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, and Brock Holt will be free agents after 2019. Meanwhile, J.D. Martinez has an opt-out in his contract after 2019 while Bradley and American League Most Valuable Player of the Year Award winner Mookie Betts will be free agents the ensuing offseason. The reality is that all of those players have positioned themselves for raises and perhaps longer contracts than the ones they inked, or were on, with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will have to let some key players walk if they aspire to give Betts the mega-deal he will likely command in two years. At the same time, this is a team that has the talent to repeat as World Series champions — though, it will still be challenging to do so. And for that reason, trading away soon-to-be free agents for prospects shouldn’t be on the agenda. Instead, the Red Sox should be focusing on winning the AL East for a fourth consecutive season and staying ahead of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays for, at least, one more season.
The Yankees have a deep core of position players, a reliable starting rotation, and a lockdown bullpen. On the other hand, the Rays won 90 games in 2018 with one of the youngest rosters in MLB and signed right-hander Charlie Morton to a two-year deal. At some point, the Red Sox are going to take a step back, but they should look to capitalize while their core is still in place.
In 2018, Betts, Martinez, Bogaerts, Moreland, Holt, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers headlined a Red Sox offense that finished first in MLB in runs (876), hits (1,509), total bases (2,550), batting average (.268), on-base percentage (.339), slugging (.453), and OPS (.792). Their starting rotation had its fair share of blunders, but Sale, Porcello, Price, Eovaldi, and Rodriguez showed up when it mattered most and finished the job in postseason. And Cora’s bullpen, while criticized often, was serviceable and could be so again in 2019 with reinforcements.
The Red Sox are the team to beat in MLB in 2019. A window for success only lasts so long, and teams rarely repeat as champions in professional sports. But the Red Sox have the talent to test that logic as long as they make some moves for the remainder of the offseason.