Which needs will the Red Sox prioritize this offseason?
The Boston Red Sox made the playoffs and made a positive initial impression running over two division rivals. Then Houston brought a close to the storybook and also exposed some team flaws. Every team has weaknesses, and the idea is to minimize them and limit the opposition’s tactics to take advantage.
Red Sox Pitching
Rare is the team that does not seek out depth in that most important of items – pitching. You never have enough. I 2009, there was talk about a seven or even an eight-man rotation. Ancient Paul Byrd and a neophyte Justin Masterson were tossed into the buzz saw by the end of the season.
The Red Sox have three options to bolster the rotation and bullpen. The first is internal, and the farm system is making strides, but reinforcements are not ready. Maybe 2023? Maybe never?
The second pathway is more traditional for the Red Sox – you throw money at the problem. The free agency class in 2021-2022 is loaded with viable arms. And conversely, there is an abundance of arms that may or may not be on the rebound. There are wants and needs, and the wants are to get the best and risk the price. Chaim Bloom is a bargain hunter of note and may find another Garrett Richards or Garrett Whitlock.
The third is the most painful since to get talented pitching; you pay a trade premium. Bloom could get a Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling or some respectable roster-filler like another Nick Pivetta, but it will be painfully pricy for an up-in-lights pitcher. Do you trade a wooden bat for a rubber arm?
Red Sox Hitting
The 2021 team was no different than most Red Sox teams, and that was the ability to hit. What seemed to be missing is a few more Kyle Schwarber’s. Players that draw out at-bats and inflate the team’s BB%. Schwaber posted an astronomical 19.6 BB%.
Again the Red Sox can search the free-agent landscape for what I term that mid-range hitter. Not a bundle of home runs, but consistently solid contact, OBP ability, and a noted run producer. A lower-end Wade Boggs. I doubt Jarren Duran can fill that role. Freddie Freeman would be my ideal, but that would mean a wheel barrel full of Henry’s cash.
The Red Sox will have a new hitting instructor, and unless Walt Hriniak wishes to un-retire, the task will be a philosophical challenge. The good news is enough has leaked from manager Alex Cora regarding patience and controlling each at-bat. Red sox need to get back to consistency on grinding it out.
Red Sox Speed
The Red Sox were slow afoot, a station to station team for the most part. Much is dependent upon the players who appear to have cornered the market on ponderous base running. I do not expect to see Hunter Renfroe or Schwarber on StatCast’s spirit speed top ten.
Trea Turner would be a delightful addition to this Red Sox team, providing bat talent previously mentioned, foot speed, and defensive skill. But I would also find it delightful to have eternal youth.
The Red Sox could shop for that fleet afoot player who could also be a late-inning defensive addition. Dave Roberts provided such a role in 2004 and, to a lesser extent Quintin Berry in 2013. Maybe newly acquired Tim Locastro? This type of player would be a minimalist in payroll and certainly avoid having pinch runner by committee.
The most significant aspect would be having someone capable of scooting from first to third or home late in a game. Somehow watching J.D. Martinez lumbering around will not solve the problem. I wonder if Steven Wright is still available for that chore?
Red Sox Defense
The Red Sox were a sloppy outfit defensively. The infield is below average, and the outfield needs Enrique Hernandez for an entire season. Alex Verdugo and Renfroe are corner outfielders, which is evident to anyone who watched the 2021 season unfold.
Watching the Red Sox, there was a defensive balance between mental errors and physical errors. Physical is part of the game, but mental becomes inexcusable when they increase.
Christian Vazquez, Christian Arroyo, and Hernandez are the three players that are not fright-inducing defensively. Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts can at least compensate for defensive weakness with a booming bat.
Neither Schwarber nor Bobby Dalbec will be carrying home Gold Glove iron in the future. To solve the infield issue may require a few bold moves by Bloom to shore up the sieve. Does Jose Iglesias have anything left in the tank? Is there a trade that could bring in a player that can light it up both defensively and offensively?
The free-agent names for viable defensive upgrades without offensive sacrifice are no bargains. If the Red Sox wishes to bankroll a move for the infield upgrade, expect a deal stretching into the next decade.
The minor league system is loaded with abundant infield potential, but the potential has an eerie way of disappearing as the rungs up the minor league ladder are climbed. Just how good defensively will a Nick Yorke or Marcelo Mayer be?
Do the Red Sox switch players around? A carousel by Cora to hide weakness as best you can? Does that complicate the situation by just shifting one weakness for another? From my perspective, this is the most challenging need to address.