The Boston Red Sox roster puzzle work so far for the 2021 season
The Boston Red Sox roster is a work in progress but apparently, the skeletal structure is being filled in. There are still some possible trades and some money remains in the coffers. That said, I cannot recall a recent Red Sox team with as many question marks at this point in the offseason.
There are a lot of “ifs” that have to fall into place for getting above .500 and even into the playoffs. If it is a puzzle, the Red Sox are creating Dogs Playing Poker and not the Mona Lisa. Here are a select few “ifs” or question marks.
Chris Sale has to be as close to his former talent level as possible. That will take time. In Sale’s last fully healthy season (2018) his pitching percentiles were off the charts. That may be a task of disappointment since his recovery from Tommy John will be an ongoing process.
Garrett Richards needs to get back to 2015 form and that certainly is a difficult task. Richards simply gets hit hard by lefties. After five seasons with a grand total of 198.2 innings expecting a regular turn is not – to me – realistic.
The possible ace in waiting is Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod nailed 19 wins to the wall in 2019 and sat out 2020. COVID-19 and a subsequent heart condition finished his season. The very good news is Rodriguez will be a free agent and a great season means great money. E-Rod has to prove himself – again.
Continuing the pitching triage is Nathan Eovaldi. The fragile righty managed nine starts and 48.1 innings. Eovaldi rang up some impressive stats especially a 3.5 BB%. Eovaldi has lost nothing off his fastball (97.8 MPH) and posted a 3.45 SIERA. Eovaldi has to remain in one piece. A long-shot.
I will remain in the pessimistic category on Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta. Both impressed – especially Houck despite some walks on the wild side. The Red Sox last produced a viable starter when Warren Harding was president. And Pivetta? Sometimes a new team, new approaches, new everything and it clicks. Could the Red Sox be that lucky? I’ll take one out of two.
A closer with a career 48% success rate is not a comfort zone. Matt Barnes has been issued his closer papers. In 2020, Barnes had a phenomenal 30.4 K%. Everything else was as bland as having a succotash dinner. Start with a -0.1 fWAR and finish with a 1.6 HR/9. Barnes has great “stuff” and his only consistency is inconsistency.
The Red Sox in 2020 brought in just about anyone to pitch but Dr. Fauci who displayed his limited skills on opening day in D.C. Many tried and many failed and apparently a lesson that should have been learned was not. The same methodology has been applied to this offseason. This will not stabilize the bullpen.
How the mighty have fallen. J.D. Martinez was a hitting machine in 2018-2019. The optimum word is was. A 77 wRC+? A -1.0 fWAR? Martinez needs a rebound or his career will be on life support and so will the Red Sox lineup.
What about second base> Will that be for Kiké Hernández? Will top prospect Jeter Downs get the call? Christian Arroyo? I can’t click my heels over Hernández. A so-so hitter with limited power and an average glove at second base (career -6.2 UZR/150). A career .240 hitter who gets shaky against right-hand pitching.
Michael Chavis went down the tubes in 2020 and on the other end Bobby Dalbec went up. A tremendous start just like Chavis had in 2019. Both hit massive home runs and accumulate strikeouts by the bushel. Expect trying times with both. But if they start bombing? This could be fun to watch. I’m leaning to bomb and not the home run type.
Another mystery without any clue is the outfield. Hunter Renfroe has arrived and he can join in with Chavis and Dalbec with the K club. A career 28 K%. But Renfroe has power, hitting eight out for the Rays. Forget about the .141 average. The real key is Andrew Benintendi. Will his sweet swing turn back from sour? Getting back to 2018 hitting .290, 123 wRC+, and .357 wOBA would be a nice recovery. Hernández is always available.