by Jacob Gurvis
With the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals facing off in this year’s Fall Classic, we saw incredible pitching, clutch hitting, and incredible comebacks. It was a great week of baseball, and the two young teams show promise for the future of Major League Baseball. That being said, I am quite okay that the 2015 season has come to a close.
For the first time, I have been looking forward to baseball ending. It is finally time for the offseason, and I think it’s safe to say the offseason will be more exciting for Boston Red Sox fans than the actual season was. Fingers crossed…
In 2015, the Red Sox were hard to watch. The pitching was atrocious. None of the big signings panned out. The only redeeming quality of this sad Sox team was the success of several promising young players. The team played better baseball towards the end, but all in all, it was not a good season for Boston. But I am feeling optimistic heading into the winter.
With new president Dave Dombrowski and his team at the helm, the Sox are poised to make a splash this offseason, or several splashes. Everyone now agrees that the team needs a clear-cut ace. Having a bunch of mediocre back-of-the-rotation guys does not add up to an ace, sorry, Mr. Cherington. But with Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Jordan Zimmerman all on the market, as well as many more possible trade targets, the Red Sox better add (at least) one top arm. And I believe they will. I am not sure I really have a strong preference as to whom they target. As long as they get one or two very good pitchers, all will be well.
In addition to the rotation, there are a few other holes the Red Sox must fill this winter. Keeping with the pitching theme, the bullpen needs some work. The Kansas City Royals have an unreal bullpen, and could possibly be the biggest reason for their dominance these past two seasons. In 2013, the Sox had a fantastic ‘pen. So it’s no secret what needs to be done. Assuming Koji Uehara is healthy, there are few others in the bullpen that impress. Craig Breslow, Heath Hembree, Junichi Tazawa- this just doesn’t cut it. Dombrowski knows what needs to be done. It is just a matter of finding the right players with the resources available. We shall see.
Other than pitching, most of the Red Sox lineup is set. The team has unusual depth at catcher, with the stellar Christian Vasquez coming back from injury, the impressive Blake Swihart who had a solid rookie season after being thrust into the starting role, and then veteran backup Ryan Hanigan who was great when healthy. At first base, there’s (gulp) Hanley Ramirez (we’ll get to him) and Travis Shaw. Second base? Good one. Dustin Pedroia isn’t going anywhere. Third base, as of now, belongs to Pablo Sandoval, but we will see about that. There’s also Brock Holt who could start. Shortstop belongs to Xander Bogaerts for a long time, and nobody is upset about that. With the trio of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rusney Castillo, the outfield is set. Maybe a veteran backup is needed, but all in all, we’re set.
Oh and did I forget David Ortiz? Silly me.
So, here’s the biggest question: what the *bleep* do we do with Sandoval and Ramirez? The two were signed to five and four-year deals worth 95 and 88 million, respectively. Both basically had the worst years of their careers, and their defensive play was laughable. Ramirez essentially became the worst defensive outfielder in the history of baseball in one season.
Take that, Manny.
I do believe Sandoval may be salvageable. If he can lose some weight and stay healthy, he can still be a productive bat in a potent Sox lineup, and can be an elite defender. Hanley, though, should be gone. I feel bad for the guy, but a player with a history of an attitude and effort issues cannot be expected to come to a new place and master a new position each season. Get. Rid. Of. Him. Thanks.
So the agenda for this winter is quite full: One or two top starting pitchers, a few bullpen arms, a fourth outfielder, maybe a first or third baseman, dumping Hanley Ramirez anywhere possible. It’s not gonna be easy. It’s not gonna be cheap. But if all goes well, I fully expect the 2016 Boston Red Sox to be back on top. We already went worst-to-first once this decade. Why not again?