The Boston Red Sox are moving slowly along to prepare for the 2019 season. Just what is the status of some needs as we approach the new year?
Every baseball team has needs and the needs vary based on roster complexity. For the Red Sox, needs are certainly impacted by free agency, injuries, contract status, and how other teams have responded to their own needs. I expect in the next six weeks the Red Sox management will most certainly address and update the following.
When an élite closer like Craig Kimbrel is out of the picture a rather significant gap appears in your bullpen. Kimbrel’s stay in Boston was successful despite a knee injury and some rather serious postseason meltdowns. Will he be back? The market for Kimbrel is slim, but the market does exist, but not at his demands. If Kimbrel signs elsewhere the Red Sox may be on the outside looking in as other potentials sign elsewhere.
Joe Kelly is gone and so is Andrew Miller who may have surfaced in Boston. Both have contracts that pin replacement value for Kelly somewhere in the $25-30 MM range – if the Red Sox go in that direction. Frankly – “Fighting Joe” was inconsequential for half a season and that half was one where Boston separated from the Yankees. The Red Sox could go internal and may just forego shoveling money to the David Robertson‘s of the pitching world.
The Red Sox have some notable depth in the rotation and if history is any indicator they will certainly need it. The big question mark is the shoulder of Chris Sale and more may be known when Mr. Slim has a 100 innings tacked on to that shoulder.
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Then there is Eduardo Rodriguez who manages to get injuries of the strange kind. Last season it was an ankle on a quirky play at first base. Maybe E-Rod will finally get 30 starts, but I’m not betting on that.
Next is Steven Wright. If – a very, very big – if Wright is the Wright of 2016 the Red Sox will have something special. Wright can spot start, relief – long or short – and take over full-time in the rotation. And do not dismiss Brian Johnson who filled in capably for 13 starts. This is an excellent rotation.
With Ian Kinsler gone the picture remains a bit cloudy and dependent upon a healthy Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia will be 36-years-old in August and has an illustrious history of injuries. The latest is a knee that may or may not be responding. Spring training will tell.
The Red Sox have replacements in Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez, but neither will be found in any discussions on great defense. Both Holt and Nunez are considered utility players and both have had their moments of glory. Dependable replacements who you grow weary of long-term at any position – at least defensively.
Defensively Rafael Devers leaves some substantial room for improvement and surprisingly so does offense. Devers hit only .240, but attached to it was 21 home runs and some real damage to the Astros in the ALCS. At 22-years-old the lefty hitter has a high plateau on the potential scale.
Devers made an important move this offseason and that was a more dedicated approach to training. A personal trainer is now on the books and Devers – a notoriously hard worker – may show up looking a little less like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man.
Trades of prospects have consequences and that is a depleted farm system. That is the bad news, but the good news is simply the historical track record of player development. Those prospects that once made the farm system one of the best were not entirely the result of luck, but of hard work.
Expect a new wave on the horizon of talent, but that wave is just a distant ripple and a few years away from cresting. Look for some draft results starting to show promise and international signings to take root. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have a young core to succeed until replacements arrive.