Red Sox are setting the stage for significant roster shift for 2020

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26: Clouds form over the grandstand before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 26, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26: Clouds form over the grandstand before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 26, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have begun moderate housekeeping that will magnify in the offseason. What names will be back and which will not? Time will tell.

The Recent DFA of Eduardo Nunez is just one of several moves that the Boston Red Sox will do during the current season and accelerate during the offseason. Roster turnover is not unusual and is an integral part of the baseball landscape in the era of free agency, high-priced contracts, and the specter of arbitration years.

Nunez, a 32-year-old utility player, is symptomatic of what has inflicted the team this season – disappointment with a damning -1.3 bWAR. Nunez – a free agent after the season – will undoubtedly latch on elsewhere since the Red Sox are responsible for the rest of his $5 million contract for 2019.

Joining Nunez in the exodus was former feel-good story Hector Velazquez who was optioned to Pawtucket with his 5.27 ERA. Velazquez is a gritty pitcher who certainly earned his baseball chops in the highly competitive Mexican League, but his excellent 2018 is now forgotten and buried by a disappointing 2019.

Then there is the possible closer at the beginning of the season – Ryan Brasier. Brasier is now on the I-95 express – either permanently or a temporary demotion to get his game back in gear. Brasier served serious time in the minors and Japan before successfully catapulting on the scene in 2018, but it is now 2019.

Before the Nunez, Brasier, and Velazquez departures was that of Tyler Thornburg who simply could not find his lost talent after a string of injuries. Added to that list is Carson Smith who managed to self induce his departure with a self-inflicted shoulder injury. The Red Sox are on a roll in providing plane and bus tickets to lands elsewhere. It will only intensify.

World Series hero Steve Pearce is also on hiatus with degrading talent and an accompanying curse of injury. The left-handed swinging part of the first base tandem – Mitch Moreland – is currently in rehabilitation mode and may soon return to add some punch and defense to the lineup. Moreland and Pearce are both soon to be free agents and their Red Sox career will end with that.

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The most notable free-agent – notable meaning his $21.125 MM contract – is Rick Porcello – he of a 0.2 bWAR. Newcomer Andrew Cashner may supplant Porcello if Cashner can corral his $10 million option and continue his surprising 2019 season, going 9-3 for the dreadfully embarrassing Orioles. Porcello is a long – very long -shot for being on the 2020 staff.

The most insidious part of 2019 is the much-maligned and rightfully deserved bullpen. Overtaxed? Possibly. But when you have Colten Brewer getting too many high leverage situations you have a rebuilding task. Right now the trials are on for 2020 as Josh Taylor and other imports from Pawtucket attempt to impress. I wish them well but expect no baseball miracles.

The arbitration issue is surfacing as Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have their last fling before becoming free agents after 2020. The Red Sox – depending on the outcome of 2019 – may be on the hotline this offseason getting a feel for just what other GM’s may have to offer.

Management is aware of what isn’t working and adjustments are being implemented to attempt to salvage 2019. The exodus of players recently is no surprise since their performance made them vulnerable. Expect more this season and especially the offseason.

This may seem a Debbie Downer approach but it is not. The Red Sox rotation is solid and signed with Chris Sale, David Price, and an under control Eduardo Rodriguez. I also feel comfortable adding hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi into that mix after the bullpen fiasco is addressed in the offseason. Cashner certainly can provide the innings missed with Porcello if he makes his option.

The core of this team is solid and young. I will argue that Christian Vazquez is close to Gary Sanchez with the bat and better with the tools of ignorance. Xander Bogaerts is now the face of the Red Sox with Rafael Devers a tad behind in the talent department. And then Michael Chavis. Will Chavis produce 30+ home runs? I would not bet against it.

I expect the Red Sox to dangle Andrew Benintendi – a personal disappointment – and Bradley for some bullpen help. The money situation will somewhat shrink with free-agent departures and even the Pablo Sandoval contract being just a meager $5 million hit in 2020.

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In the meantime, the target for 2019 is still the playoffs, but that goal is becoming less fluid as the games pile up. Boston has demonstrated no real resilience this season as they continue to stagger along. Maybe you will see Dustin Pedroia as a very expensive bench coach for 2020?