I will now take the mantle of the Fellowship of the Miserable and look at the dark side for the 2019 and beyond for the Boston Red Sox. I foresee another gap between titles.
The giddy excitement that now reverberates within Red Sox Nation will continue to be unabated through the offseason and into the 2019 season, but just what does the future hold once the victory fever has ebbed?
Just a glance at the previous three championships does not have me, as Mr. Negative, doing any enthusiastic cartwheels for the 2019 season or the following seasons. After each previous duck boat tour, the following season was one of disappointment, frustration, and often rebuilding. Why the ire? Why the negativity?
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Things just go wrong and, unfortunately, things go right for those who we are going into baseball battle against. That, however, does not put me in a total funk since this is about as solid a team as possible and most certainly proved that with a bushel of wins. They could repeat and they most certainly will be among the top candidates and should be the favorite. Didn’t we see that in the past?
My primary concern is two-fold with the first being the opposition especially the group in pinstripes. They – like the Red Sox – have money, youth, and talent. They also have considerable flexibility to spend which is somewhat limited with the Red Sox. And the youth part is what is in the farm system and that is one area the Red Sox have some work to do. The talent? New York has it and it will get better this offseason.
The second impediment is in Texas and that means the Astros. According to rumors, the Astros made a real effort to get Bryce Harper before the trading deadline expired. Houston like Boston – has some free agents to deal with most notable being Dallas Keuchel. Maybe the Red Sox can poach Marvin Gonzalez?
The second fold is the team itself.
As previously stated this is as solid a Red Sox team as I have ever seen constructed, but I have swirled around inside my limited brainpan the one issue which happens with regularity – questionable pitching. We saw that during the season when the Red Sox rented Nathan Eovaldi and now are faced with resigning him. And those nasty injuries that happen at the most inopportune of times.
Just what will you get from the tattered shoulder of Chris Sale? Or the now idolized David Price? Eduardo Rodriguez has a world of talent and invariably misses starts with his yearly visit to the disabled list. The one consistency is Rick Porcello who makes his starts and goes deep into them. Both Porcello and Sale have incentive galore in being free agents to be. Performance success is easily translated to dollars – just ask Drew Pomeranz.
Then there is the bullpen that certainly surprised naysayers with an exceptional run in the playoffs led by Joe Kelly who is also on the market. Craig Kimbrel is testing the free agent meat market and therefore closer may become an issue if Kimbrel leaves. Undoubtedly the Red Sox management will aggressively address all pitching concerns, but address does not necessarily equate to success.
In 2007 the Red Sox staff posted a 20.6 fWAR and dropped to 13.9 fWAR the following season. This was repeated in 2007-08 with an 18.4 fWAR lowered to 17.5 fWAR. The surprising 2013 team had a 16.0 fWAR and sank to a 12.1 fWAR in 2014 when they finished last in the American League East.
Mr. Negativity does see in his magical Amazon purchased crystal ball an offense that will match that of 2018 with some prolific run scoring. The offense managed to improve after the 2004 and 2007 season if you are an advocate of the fWAR offensive collective. In 2013-2014, however, was a nightmare shrinking to a 15.8 fWAR after a 35.8 fWAR.
But the pitching is where the vulnerability will center. What would normally transpire is the Red Sox getting a top of the line starter and at least two similar bullpen additions. But it is always about the money and the farm and despite public statements from Dave Dombrowski regarding exceeding the luxury tax, I doubt that means a boatload of money being spent.
The Red Sox are on the precipice of a perfect financial storm with key players reaching the inevitable situation where their market value matches the GNP of a small or in the case of Mookie Betts a large country. I fully expect the Red Sox to make every effort to eventually get under any tax threshold just like the free-spending Dodgers and Yankees accomplished. That will cause emotional and performance pain, but not for 2019. All bets are off for the following seasons.
The second issue is the consequences of making trades that coalesced into a title, but the price was a bare pantry in the prospect kitchen. The Red Sox system has particular issues revolving around developing pitching. The system has long been unable to get arms to replenish the bullpen and rotation. Just look at the home grown on the roster for that and that seems to be sticking to form.
Most of what I have droned on about are already understood by even the casual Red Sox fan so there is nothing that represents a eureka moment, but the dark storm clouds are forming. I anticipate a hectic race in 2019 and I also expect the Red Sox to be in the playoffs. Most certainly a regression in wins, and a general malaise from too much glory of 2018.
The Red Sox will be in a reset mode for 2020 and beyond as they attempt to address payroll and development issues – no real difference from the past, but the next title may have to wait until the next decade – if at all.