If you were napping during the Boston Red Sox 2023 season or wished you were, the pitching and defense were a wee bit lackluster. Pitching and defense run in conjunction since they both have control of the ball, another aspect that makes baseball such a magical game.
The next victim in the General Manager position will have some construction work to do, which means building something where the staff does not resemble the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Fangraphs can give bad, good, or indifferent statistical information, and with the Red Sox pitching and defense, there is a bleak picture of pitching and defense gone asunder. One nugget of personal interest is the 43.9 GB% - second in the American League. Hitting a ground ball to that defense can inflate any Earned Run Average.
The numbers explain all, which means having a starter capable of going more than six innings. On those rare occasions when that is accomplished, one feels like taking out the duck boats and going old school with a torchlight parade to celebrate the event. A rare occurrence indeed. Then, to magnify the misery, it's sometimes classified as a quality start. This means that just a meager three runs were allowed in 6 innings or more.
What one gives up on the front end has to be paid for on the back end, which means the bullpen. The Red Sox bullpen status appeared to be a carousel.
New bodies came in to replace old bodies who were either designated for assignment or sent back to Worcester. The stability and consistency of the bullpen we're sorely missing, and Coupled with the starting rotation, it was a perfect storm of baseball ineptness.
What is the solution?
Build pitching within has been a classic failure through several administrations, with the lone success being Brayan Bello, and the baseball jury is still contemplating his future. Bryan Mata has found that home plate is somewhat illusive, and the rest of the staff will, in a pure Mr. Ngativity role, follow Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Trey Ball, and Jay Groome among those who were supposed to be the next great and faded. Forget the system for a while.
In far too many instances, the free-agent market is the house of contract horrors, but it is the one area in which Boston has the resources (money) to compete. How much, how many, how risky, how long? I have now run out of how's until the winter meetings.
The luxury tax is in play, or is it? The Braves and Dodgers have no problem exceeding in, nor should Boston, since the Red Sox are in the same financial generating wheelhouse. Boston may be forced to zero in on multiple targets, blowing fiscal restraint into orbit.
The topic of discussion between now and the final free agent signing will be: who do you make an offer? MLBTR has their usual extensive listings and generally does the statistic dirty work for us admittedly lazy folks. This will be an excellent exercise for the residents of RSN to pursue all winter, and my personal choice is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the supposed Japanese version of Pedro Martinez.
The other two options on the "Oh My God" potential contract scale are Blake Snell and Aaron Nola, but if you are building a staff, you don't look for going on the cheap, which is what Boston has done, and three wretched seasons in the last four show that. But I would take a flyer on Luis Severino as a throwback to the age of Chaim Bloom.
Boston will be forced to spend and trade to upgrade rotation
My failing memory recollects the notorious Frank "Trader" Lane, a GM genius or crank, who stated it was better to trade a wooden bat for a rubber arm that prioritized pitching over hitting. Boston has a few players with an excellent potential upside trajectory who are now part of that allegedly top-ranked farm system.
At the mere mention of trading our supposedly precious stock of prospects, I suspect the remnants of the Bloom supporters may need a defibrillator, but it has been done in the past. I would be okay to package Triston Casas with others - too bad Sandy Alcantara was 100% healthy. That is what you look for regarding trades. A trade is not for winners or losers but to make both parties get what they need.
The Red Sox are in a bind with pitching. The current rotation is not the material to win with, but they are the foundation for strengthing the bullpen that piled up innings at a prodigious rate. Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, and swingman Nick Pivetta, added to Chris Martin, Kenley Jansen, Josh Winckowski, John Schreiber, and probably a few I omitted, could make this 'pen a similar force to the 2015 Royals. You can win with a rotation that can barely hurl five innings a game.
The Royals won their championship with a rotation that resembled what we witnessed in 2023 in Boston. The rotation totaled 912.2 innings and ranked 12th in the AL. The bullpen was just the reverse and was ranked third in the AL with a cast of noted flamethrowers. That bullpen topped the AL in bullpen innings.
Management will likely not become bullpen-centric, but that is an option, and the risk is formidable. With the reliance on bullpens, the use of openers, and structure pitch counts, I do not dismiss anything, but looking at those four flags, they all had a solid rotation.
What happens if the bump is rebuilt? I am an optimist regarding the Red Sox offense, as they have the right formula for churning out position players and can hit. They must get a few who can combine the hitting and defense skill set.
The bitterness of 2023 will dissipate during the winter, especially if management is making moves to improve the product. Fenway Park was a place of empty seats as September dragged on, and that does not go unnoticed. Management made a strategic move, firing Bloom, and further failure will cement the blame on John Henry et al.