Boston Red Sox: Offensive elixir already in the fold

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Jackie Bradley Jr.
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Jackie Bradley Jr. /

Something must change in the Red Sox lineup. But help doesn’t have to come from outside the team; the pressure is on the players, not the front office.

Heading into the long winter offseason, excitement builds around the possibility of making a meaningful splash in the free agent or trade market. Especially so for a team like the Boston Red Sox who are so often in contention and just a few pieces away from a deep postseason run.

But sometimes the excitement builds a little too much. People want to see the shiny new object dangling in the distance and not the assortment of talent already assembled behind them. Fans clamor for J.D. Martinez, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, whoever. Yes, the fit for a power bat in the middle of the lineup is obvious. Yes, it would be an all-too-welcome addition to a lineup that sorely disappointed last season. But if what happened to the players already penciled in the lineup last year happens again, none of it will matter. An outside addition is not going to magically make everything okay.

In 2016, the Red Sox had the best offense in baseball: tops in runs, OPS, slugging, pretty much everything. Fast forward one year and all of those ranks fall into the middling twenties.


Mookie Betts

Xander Bogaerts

Jackie Bradley


Hanley Ramirez

Dustin Pedroia















Say what you will about David Ortiz’s unbelievable 2016 campaign and how much the team missed his presence, but chalking it up solely to that is absurd. The difference is just too big and too noticeable to be attributed to a singular cause.


Mookie BettsXander BogaertsJackie Bradley Jr.Hanley RamirezDustin Pedroia











Behold, the number one reason for the offensive struggles of 2017. It’s really quite simple but somehow largely under-the-radar – the Red Sox offense was so much worse predominantly because the returning regulars hit so much worse. Not because David Ortiz left, not because they couldn’t find a suitable middle-of-the-order bat to replace him (of course, Ortiz’s impact was greater than just his numbers due to the nature of lineup construction and veteran presence). No, and I’ll say it one more time for emphasis: the Red Sox needed more from its core.

Between the five players of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Ramirez, and Pedroia, they dropped an aggregate 335 points in SLG, 440 points in OPS, 132 points in wRC+, 184 points in wOBA and 12.6 oWAR.

That’s ridiculous, that’s alarming, and that right there is the problem.

However, the beauty of one-year trends is that they are liable to change. Betts and Bogaerts are just 25 years old and Bradley is 27. These are young guys who have barely scraped their “prime” years. Pedroia and Ramirez are both 34, but nagging injuries could explain some of the downturns in recent production.

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If those five players can even go halfway toward recuperating their 2016 value, we’re looking at a massive overall upgrade in the offense without spending one dollar or trading one farmhand. That would be an addition of 168 points in SLG, 220 points in OPS, 66 points in wRC+, 92 points in wOBA and 6.3 oWAR. Only going halfway to 2016 production, that’s roughly replacing 2017 Hanley Ramirez with the career line of Mike Trout. Someone get the Angels on the phone?

Add a J.D. Martinez-type to last year’s output, however, and the improvement is marginal. Maybe that lineup is a league-average one, but anyone dreaming that even a big-name addition automatically puts Boston in the Yankees’ league offensively better keep on dreaming. Realistically, it would take a combination of a major addition plus a widespread resurgence. But given the option of one or the other, the resurgence is unquestionably more valuable and should be the greatest focus of the team.

To end on an optimistic note: the Red Sox won 93 games last season. Sometimes I feel like that needs to be said more often, given the overall pessimism and outrage of the Red Sox fan base this winter. They won 93 games with a putrid lineup – a lineup that, by reasonable expectations, is bound to improve to some degree on its own.

Next: Red Sox should not trade for Manny Machado

All in all, the biggest takeaway message is that whatever the Red Sox end up doing this winter plays second fiddle to the development of its in-house options. For most contenders, December and January is the most important time of the offseason. For the Red Sox, it’s the minute the batting cages open for Spring Training.