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Red Sox – Slow Off-Season

A fairly typical ho-hum off-season for the Red Sox?

A quick summary:

1.) GM fired (granted that was prior to the off-season).

2.) Chaim Bloom hired as rookie GM.

3.) Manager canned as part of Astros cheating scandal (official word is it was mutually agreed upon by coach and team).

4.) Mookie Betts and David Price traded to the Dodgers.  Your best offensive and defensive player and your 1 or 2 starter.

So, nothing to see here.

1.) Dombrowski – as advertised, gutted farm system to win now.  He won a World Series and now he’s gone, with the farm system a mess.  John Henry must have know this when he hired Dombroski, it was a lazy hire, not a courageous one.

2.) Chaim Bloom – To be determined, but he certainly started his GM career with a very difficult decision.

3.) Alex Cora is gone, and his past caught up to him.  My lasting take on him was his arrogance starting the 2019 season, he refused to put the 2018 title to bed and instead chastised those who suggested he was living in the past.  Well the 2019 Red Sox face-planted and now he’s gone, a victim of his own making.

4.) Betts and Price and cash (to offset Price’s salary) gone for, we think so far, 2 prospects.  Betts: we will never know why the Red Sox couldn’t lock him up but rumors are he turned down 10/$300.  I’m all for athletes getting all they can get but at some point they must start to wonder where they will be most happy and clearly Betts didn’t think Boston was his place.

Another local team, Boston Bruins, have managed to tie up several key players to below market contracts because they have some kind of locker room culture that is deeply desired.  That culture doesn’t exist for the Boston Red Sox and I would suspect the locker rooms of most pro sports teams.  So that doesn’t make Betts a bad buy.  Sure it’s disappointing he isn’t here anymore but I suspect he was going to test free agency and that meant the Red Sox would be left holding the bag with no insurance he’d return.

David Price?  Great pitcher, but aging, coming off a down and injury plagued season and 3 years left on his deal.  And totally unlikable.  He is better off away from Boston so he we don’t have to hear him rip Dennis Eckersley and talk about how unfairly he is treated. Or just talk in general.

But it’s the return, or lack thereof.  The Red Sox are reportedly getting from LA, Alex Verdugo, a lefty who has produced a high average in the minors (most highly touted prospects do that) and posted very good splits in the majors last year in limited action.  He will be an intriguing player but lord knows his ceiling and how he’ll turn out.  Also, they get Twins pitcher, Brusdar Graterol, a hard throwing, very large (6’1″, 265 lbs) pitcher.  Both Verdugo and Graterol, are interesting but they are both ponies for the horse that is Betts.

I’m terribly disappointed that Betts is gone, he was a favorite of mine and a tremendous player.  Yes, he wasn’t overly consistent with his 2016 and 2018 being other worldly but his 2017 and 2019 less so, but he was fun to watch and a rare talent.  Now I’m probably wearing Red Sox colored glasses, but if a player gives the indication he doesn’t want to be in Boston, and the GM is new, meaning he had no control over trading the player during the 2019 season, then perhaps this is the best they can get.  The trade will bring them below the luxury tax threshold and it will get Price out of time, a bore of a player who isn’t trending in the right direction.  If the Red Sox end up paying half of his salary the next 3 years, that will be especially tough but he’s gone and I’m happy about that.

Today is a tough day for Red Sox fans, Betts is a star and they didn’t get guaranteed stars in return.  Chaim Bloom, I don’t envy you at all and feel for you for what Red Sox fans will remember as your first major move.

Dombrowski

Dave D was a very known quantity when the Red Sox hired him. We knew he would spend to the hilt and trade away prospects for proven, expensive talent.

His formula works, in the short run. It’s just that eventually it doesn’t. Part of running a successful team means balancing the roster with proven talent and younger, team controlled players.

I was surprised the Red Sox hired DD in the first place (wow, two general managers with the same initials, Dombrowski and Duquette, just put that together). It seemed like a lazy hire for John Henry, a man who was so thoughtful back when Theo Epstein ran away from the Red Sox in the gorilla suit.  Remember Henry blaming himself?

I’m happy Dombrowski is gone as his approach doesn’t build long term success. That said, I’m grateful for the World Series he delivered but am very much worried with what’s next.  It sure seems Mookie Betts doesn’t want to be here, so an off-season trade seems likely and we have fat contracts allocated to Chris Sale and David Price, the former seemingly in tough physical condition and the latter a complete bore of a person and oft injured this year.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting word of who the Red Sox hire to fill the GM job (or whatever title they gave Dombrowski.  Might Theo return?

Red Sox 2019 Preview

Coming off a world championship, it would be OK if you think nothing needs to be changed for the 2019 Red Sox, but let’s be real.  The main concerns are the bullpen, second base, the catcher situation and the 2020 season which will see major changes.

Bullpen:

Gone are Craig Kimbrall and Joe Kelly.

Adds are Colten Brewer.  There are some minor leaguers too that might be in the mix as well.

That means we have Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Hector Velasquez, Tyler Thornburg, Stephen Wright, Bobby Poyner and Brian Johnson as returning bullpen candidates.  That really doesn’t strike fear in anyone’s heart.  And considering the 2018 team supposedly had a weak bullpen, this could spell disaster.   This all falls on David Dombrowski.   His cavalier attitude towards the bullpen could come back and haunt him and really has in his years as a GM. 2018 as perhaps the only exception.

While Craig Kimbrel remains a free agent and Joe Kelly didn’t exactly light the world on fire during the regular season, both guys throw hard and can sometimes throw strikes and Kelly was other worldly in the postseason.

At catcher, I’m not completely worried about this position but there are three catchers for what is traditionally to 2 catcher allocation.  Christian Vazquez is signed to a long-term deal, starters love throwing to Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart is running out of options.  Swihart is really the trick here, he’s been kept around because of his potential offense of production but he’s never truly shown it at the MLB level.   My guess is he will be down during spring training. Leaving Vasquez and Leon is your primary catchers.

-update on catcher.  Leon was designated fo assignment, shows you what I know.  That means Vasquez and Swihart are the tandem.

Second base, Justin Pedroia is back and the team hopes he can play 120 games at second base. Given his recent health history, I think that’s a longshot. Then again the Red Sox used spit and bubble gum to fill the position last year rotating between Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez.  As it turns out, Pedroia is starting the season on the IL.  So you’ll get your fill of The Brock Star at least early on.

I implore Red Sox fans to enjoy 2019 and 2020 as so many core players are coming up on free agency: After 19 and 20: Xander, Mookie, Porcello and JBJ.  Mookie is the real key.  With Trout signing a $430m deal, the Red Sox will have to give Mookie, what, at least $300m?  $400m?  They already have two $30m per year players on the team, just how many can one team have?

This is my problem with Dombrowski, I’ll admit he is a good talent evaluator but has zero interest in long term planning.  He runs up the payroll to epic levels, while ignoring the bullpen and draining the farm system.  Is there a front line starter in the minors?  Is there a 30 home run threat who hasn’t been pinched for PED’s in the minors?  Invest in the future Dave otherwise there won’t be one.

I’ll try to post more as the season gets under way.

Puddles

A wise YankeesRedSox.com writer once wrote:

Price owns a 5.12 career postseason ERA. That’s not what you are hoping for with your ace.

That was November 24, 2015.

Well, Price’s post-season ERA has gotten worse since then and tonight was a perfect summary of his career as a pitcher.  When there’s nothing on line, Price is your man.  When there’s something on the line, Monster and Bleacher seat fans, wear your helmet and cup.

Now I’m ok with being a lousy pitcher, but don’t be a grade a jerk when asked about it.  Price is the guy who gives nasty answers to long-time WBZ Red Sox beat writer Jonny Miller and who embarrassed Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on a team flight last year, all because he thought Eckersley was being unfair to a Price teammate.

Jackie Bradley looks bad too, if you click that link, he of the career .466 post-season OPS.

Sorry, that was a tangent.  Back to Price.  He has folded and left the Red Sox again in a brutal post-season spot as I write this in the 4th inning of game 2.

But I can criticize Price all day long when the real criticism should be saved for Dave Dombrowksi.  He signed Price 3 years ago and did nothing to help the bullpen this year and whose Achilles heel has always been the bullpen.  Why John Henry made Dombrowski GM/President is beyond me.  Dombrowski has spent his team’s money while always cleaning out the farm system (Keith Law ranks them 24th, MLB 25th, Bleacher Report 27). I could do that, no?  Spend money, deplete the farm system?  That sounds easy.

Recall that Dave traded the number one pitching prospect in baseball for…grab some popcorn for this, Drew Pomeranz.

Time for me to wrap up my ramble. Price has been a terrible pressure situation pitcher and Dave Dombrowski has won 1 World Series since becoming a GM in 1988.  The law of averages suggest, especially when working for big market teams, that he’d have won more than that.

Enjoy the traffic free ride home tonight David Price.

I write this from Keene Valley, NY, deep in the Adirondacks, where I’ve listened/watched many a Red Sox post-season game.

Best Red Sox Team Ever?

No is the answer.

Thrilled to see the Red Sox clinch the AL East last night in New York (John Sterling’s turn in the booth notwithstanding…but to be fair, his call was actual perfectly fine as it didn’t include some of the usual silliness that accompanies).

Is this the best Red Sox team ever?  Certainly based on their regular season record it will be, but unless they run the table and win the World Series, then no.  A World Series win is a must.

Looking at the Red Sox playoff prospects means we have to look at Red Sox rotation:

Post Season Record:

Chris Sale – 0-2, 9.2 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 12 K’s, 8.38 ERA, 1.44 WHIP

Rick Porcello – 0-3, 24.2 IP, 29 H, 15 ER, 5 BB, 23 K’s, 5.47 ERA, 1.378 WHIP

David Price – 2-8, 61 IP, 66 H, 40 ER, 10 BB, 54 K’s, 5.90 ERA, 1.246 WHIP (as a starter)

Yikes?

If you think Eduardo Rodriguez will come to the rescue, here is his post season line:

Rodriguez – 0-0, 0 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K’s, 1 HBP, Infinite ERA, Infinite WHIP.

Drew Pomerantz?

Pomerantz – 0-1, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K’s, 9.53 ERA, 2.118 WHIP

 

There’s really nowhere to hide with this staff.  It all boils down to pitching, we know the Red Sox can hit, but if they don’t have starters who can go 5-6, heaven forbid 7 innings, there’s really nothing to talk about.  The existing cast of characters has had no post-season success so I’m not overly optimistic about their chances at another World Series.

Maybe this will be the year each starter figures it out, but the odds look long.

Any don’t get me started on the bullpen…

A Bad Look for the Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia is right, the Red Sox certainly did mishandle the Manny Machado situation in Baltimore this past weekend.   Specifically, he threw his teammate and manager under the bus.

While I don’t necessarily expect him to approve of a retaliatory pitch against the Baltimore slugger, I do expect him to act as though he approves of it.

There’s no doubt Pedroia is one of the clubhouse leaders for the Red Sox and his word carries some weight, but to publicly denounce Matt Barnes’ action and tell Machado that he, Pedroia, had nothing to do with it, is a very bad look and feel for this team.  Of course, all of those concerned came out today and told us all was well, but if I’m Barnes, I’d be steamed.  Farrell?  Who cares what he says, he is the biggest polisher of garbage there is.

This is one of those make or break moments for a clubhouse.  If a division occurs, you can certainly point to this moment.  Pedroia isn’t necessarily one to care what others think, so if he didn’t convince Barnes and perhaps others that his intent wasn’t to alienate, this could be trouble.

 

Sale

Red Sox news has been scarce on this site, my apologies, life and lack of time has gotten in the way.

That said, I feel compelled to comment on new Red Sox starter, Chris Sale.  Keeping in mind this is a very short sample size, Sale, in his first 4 starts, has pitched 29.2 IP, allowed 15 hits, 6 bb,  3 ER with 42 K’s.  His starts are must-see TV and are reminiscent of Pedro Martinez’s time in Boston.  Sure the Red Sox have had good pitching since Martinez but none has been this dominant and dynamic.  And please don’t accuse me of comparing him to Martinez’s overall time in Boston, but so far he has been that exciting.

Of course, with today’s blown save by Craig Kimbrel, Sale only has a 1-1 record on the year.

Thank goodness for Sale, as the other Red Sox starters have posted the following ERAs:

Porcello – 5.32

Wright – 8.36

Rodriguez – 4.76

Pomeranz – 5.23

Johnson – 7.20

What’s that old saying, “Sale and then pray for rain?”  Has there every been 4 rain postponed games in a row for one team?  That’s how bad it is with this rotation.

Worst Loss Ever!

To quote Comic Book Guy, last night was the worst loss ever.

At least as far as regular season games go.  Bases loaded, no one out in the bottom of the 9th.  How did the Red Sox mess this up?  John Farrell found a way.  First, he pinch hit Dustin Pedroia for Travis Shaw.  Shaw would have been going against a lefty, so I have no major beef with this move, except that Christian Vazquez was on deck and he has been a complete disaster at the plate for the past several weeks.  Why not let Shaw have a crack at it and pinch hit for Vazquez instead?  Both Shaw and Vazquez have been struggling but Shaw is the better hitter.

Pedroia struck out, Vazquez hit a fielder’s choice to the catcher.  Next, Farrell pinch hit for Marco Hernandez with a guy making his major league debut in Ryan LaMarre.  Nothing against LaMarre, but when your first major league at bat is with the bases loaded and 2 out in the bottom of the 9th, there is a fair chance you’ve never been more nervous.  And nervous he was.  First pitch, foul.  Second pitch, swing and a miss and a miss by 1 foot, a very weak and nervous swing.  Third pitch, swing and a miss, inning over.

Craig Kimbrel coughed it up in the top of the 10th and the Red Sox went on to lose 3-1.  This was a crushing loss.  If any one of those 3 had a hit, I probably wouldn’t be writing about but a manager’s job is to improve the odds and put people in positions they can succeed.  LaMarre was in way over his head and that blame falls on Farrell.

We’ll see how the Red Sox recover from this one.

Progress!

The Red Sox have announced that it will be Travis Shaw and not Pablo Sandoval taking the field as the everyday 3b.

This represents a massive change in philosophy for the Red Sox as they normally would forced the starting roll on their high-priced talent such as Hanley in left field last year or Rick Porcello staying in the rotation despite significant struggles.

It also sends a message to the other high-priced veterans that no one is above being benched.  This is a great development.  And considering how Sandoval showed up to camp this year, it means all the reports saying he was out to improve his play and show Boston fans that he is serious about baseball were just hollow words.  In other words, Sandoval got paid.

Here is the line-up: Betts – RF, Pedroia – 2b, Bogaerts – ss, Ortiz – dh, Ramirez – 1b, Shaw – 3b, Holt – lf, Swihart – c, Bradley – cf.

Your rotation is: Price, Buchholz, Porcello, Kelly and Wright with the bullpen being: Kimbrel, Uehara, Tazawa, Ross, Layne, Barnes, Ramirez and the bench consisting of: Castillo, Young, Sandoval, Hanigan.

The Red Sox are certainly better than a last place team and certainly better than last year’s last place team but they have serious issue with the rotation.  After Price, I have very little confidence, especially with Eduardo Rodriguez out with a knee injury.

Pain Points

As camp progresses for the Red Sox, there are some major sources of pain, or at least potential pain.

Pablo Sandoval: No surprise here but he showed up in poor shape.  His fielding was poor last year and he had to abandon hitting from the right side.  And his hitting from the left side (.744 OPS) wasn’t worth nearly as much as he is being paid.  If Sandoval can’t figure it out, the Red Sox can use Travis Shaw at 3b.

Hanley Ramirez: After failing as an outfield last year, the Red Sox are trying to spin the idea of Hanley being a good candidate for first base.  It seems to make sense that a former shortstop could handle this roll but we are talking about Hanley Ramirez, the first baseman who showed up to camp without any first base gloves.  I know the idea here is to bridge the 2016 season and slot Ramirez into the DH spot once David Ortiz retires, but if he fails as a 1b, then that will essentially be 2 lost seasons on his 4 year deal.

Rusney Castillo: This is his 3rd season in pro ball and I sure hope he figures things out, he’s being paid to do so after all.  Castillo posted a .647 OPS in 289 plate appearances last season, not what we were hoping for but perhaps understandable for someone who was facing major league pitching for the first time aside from 10 games in 2014.  2016 is a big year for him, he needs to prove he can hit.

John Farrell:  First off, I’m very happy to learn Farrell is cancer free and his health isn’t an issue.  That said, he hasn’t done a very good job of late while managing the Red Sox.  When he took his leave of absence last year and Torey Lovullo took over, the team played much differently.  Farrell went 50-63, Lovullo 28-21.  Add to that the recent distraction of a local tv personality resigning her post when it came to light she and Farrell were involved.  Nothing against love, but if the players sense any resentment or feel there was a mole when it came to her reporting, that can’t be a good thing.  I wish them nothing but happiness but Farrell caused a major distraction for himself and his players.  He is on a very short leash, should he stumble out of the gate, he’ll get the boot from above.

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