The Red Sox Needs Are Many Going Into The Winter Meetings

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The baseball world will be coming together this week in San Diego for the annual MLB Winter Meetings.  These meetings have traditionally been a hotbed for trades and free agent signings as teams reset, retool or rebuild for the upcoming season.  While in recent years the big name free agents have delayed signing until the start of spring training (and in some cases after the start of the season) there should still be a number of lesser moves made at this year’s event.

Photo courtesy of bostonherald.com
The Winter Meetings is where the Red Sox new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom will make his debut on the big stage.  Bloom has been tapped with returning the Red Sox to the upper echelon of American League contenders while also reducing their payroll below the luxury tax threshold.  Not only will he likely not be in the running for the big name free agents, he will also might have to trade away veteran players to fit the Sox new budget.

After a disappointing 2019 season, in which the team finished 84-78, good for only third place in the AL East and out of the playoffs, the 2020 Red Sox will have a very different look then the past three years which remained essentially the same, winning one World Series and two AL East titles.  Bloom’s shopping list is lengthy, with needs to fill holes at first and second base, starting rotation, the bullpen, utility player and back-up catcher.  Let’s take a closer look.

First and Second Base

Both positions were revolving doors in 2018.  Mitch Moreland and Steven Pearce were expected to platoon at first base, but that plan never came to fruition as Pearce was injured in Spring Training and spent most of the season on the Injured List.  Moreland started out hot, leading the team in home runs in April, but as is his history he also landed on the disabled list and his contributions were limited.  Both Moreland and Pearce have become free agents, and neither is expected back in 2020.  Pearce is reportedly considering retirement, and while the Red Sox would like to have Moreland return at the right price, they can’t tie up payroll on a player who can’t stay on the field.

Shop for officially licensed MLB Jerseys from Majestic at Shop.MLB.comDustin Pedroia was not able to return to health as hoped, and played in only three games at second base.  The Red Sox will still have to carry his $13 M salary in 2020 (and another $12 M in 2021).  He underwent yet another surgical procedure on his knee last year, and we know he will do all he can to play again.  But the Red Sox can no longer let sentimentality or loyalty get in the way - they need to find a long term replacement at second.

Brock Holt played the most games at second base last season, and was a serviceable replacement.  He is now a free agent and has already said his goodbyes to Boston.  Don’t expect him to return.

Michael Chavis will factor in at either of these positions.  He arrived on the scene last May and injected life into a listless start.  He quickly tailed off and ended the season on the IL with shoulder issues.  If health he offers a low cost option at either first or second.

Bobby Dalbec has been shifted to first and could contribute at some point, though he is likely to start the season in Pawtucket.  Like most modern players he strikes out a ton, but he was a standout for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament this October, slashing .250/.364/.500 with two homers and eight RBI in eight games.  If he will also be in the mix.

The Red Sox non-tendered Marco Hernandez, then brought him back on a two-way deal.  That’s a sign they aren’t confident he can be a full time option at second base.  Expect him to fill Holt’s slot as a utility infielder.

Starting Pitching

The downfall of the 2018 Red Sox was their pitching, both starters and the back end of the bullpen.  The most reliable starters were Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello with 203.1 and 174.1 innings pitched, respectively.  Rodriguez will move up to at least the number three slot in the rotation, if not higher.  Porcello’s days in a Boston uniform are likely done as he is now on the free agent market.

Chris Sale and David Price, the two biggest names in the rotation, have major question marks attached to them for 2020.  Sale had a disastrous 2019 and missed the second half of the season with an elbow injury.  Dr. James Andrews are the three most ominous words for any pitcher.  The other two are Tommy John.  Sale appears to have avoided that surgery for now after successful PRP injection and reportedly has begun a throwing program.  Keep your fingers and toes crossed.

Price also missed the final two months with a cyst in his left wrist.  He should return fully healthy in 2020, but it’s always a drama with the mercurial left-hander.

Nathan Eovaldi also missed significant time in 2019, and his mid-season return to be the savior was a failure.  If he can stay healthy he’s a good number four starter, but to expect more would be to ignore his history.

Assuming Porcello goes elsewhere, Bloom will be searching for a at least two starters to round out the rotation and provide depth.  Don’t expect the Red Sox to be in the mix for the likes of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, or Madison Bumgarner.  Could we see a return of innings eater Wade Miley?  Yeah, that’s the type pitcher we’ll likely be looking at.

Bullpen

What else is left to be said about this group?  The group overall wasn’t bad, they were all just pitching in roles slightly above their level.  If you can add a legitimate back end of the bullpen arms, the returning candidates should slot well into middle inning roles.  Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.  It does not bode well for the reliever market when Drew Pomeranz recently inked a four-year, $34 million deal with the Padres.  If $8.5 M per year is the going rate for the likes of old friend Drew, the Red Sox are probably better off going for their lower cost options in house.

The Elephant in the Room

Of course, the main thing to keep an eye on for the Red Sox at the Winter Meetings is the $64 thousand dollar question – will Mookie Betts be traded?  Trading Betts could accomplish goals of reducing payroll and rebuilding the farm system with prospects, but will a team trade away top prospects for what could be a one year rental? 

The Betts’ situation is unquestionably the biggest challenge for Bloom.  If his first major move as Baseball Chief is to trade the perennial MVP candidate, he better nail the deal and get a hefty return.  If not, his tenure will be a rocky one with Red Sox fans. 

If Bloom decides to hold on to Betts, what other deals does he have up his sleeve?  Either way, the direction of the 2020 Red Sox should be coming into focus over the next week.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Red Sox Needs Are Many Going Into The Winter Meetings
The Red Sox Needs Are Many Going Into The Winter Meetings
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