Watching the 2017 Postseason was an eye opening experience for Red Sox fans.
Losing to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros gave us a first hand glimpse of what our team is missing from being true championship contenders. The Astros are a pretty similar team to the Red Sox on the surface. Their core of Altuve, Springer, and Correa have just about the same amount of service time as our young guns – the “Killer B’s”– Bradley, Bogaerts, and Betts. World series hero, Alex Bregman, made his Major League debut just weeks before our fourth “B”, Andrew Benintendi made his.
As we saw in the World Series, the Astros just never seem to be out of it, and a three run deficit is just four at-bats from being a one run lead. Plenty of times one swing of the bat changed the entire complexion of the game.
The same can’t be said of our beloved Sox. Too many times after falling behind by three or more runs all we could do was hope our pitching could stop the bleeding and that there were enough outs left in the game to chip away at a lead like that so that we could steal a victory.
The loss of David Ortiz and his impact on our lineup was never more evident than in our playoff exit to those Astros. The Astros swung for the fences when faced with adversity.
With the season over, the front office made some swift changes to remind all of us that just making the playoffs isn’t good enough in Red Sox Nation. Manager John Farrell – winner of a World Series and 3 AL East championships was let go immediately.
Alex Cora was brought in and GM Dave Dombrowski announced that because of skirting the luxury tax threshold in previous seasons the team will spend beyond the luxury tax for the next season.
Now that the World Series is over and the off season has officially began, let’s take a look at what the Red Sox need to do to make 2018 a successful season…
It starts with power.
The loss of David Ortiz was felt beyond his slash line of .315/38/127/1.021OPS. The breakout seasons of Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley in 2016, as well as the continued offensive improvements from Xander Bogaerts and the renaissance of Hanley Ramirez all took a sizable step in the wrong direction in 2017.
While each of those players dealt with some health and injury issues at different points in the season, their production when in the lineup fell far short of expectation. Without the presence of Big Papi looming in the lineup opposing pitchers challenged them, and the results were down years for all of them – including terrible years for Bradley and Ramirez.
As a result. let’s take a look at four players that are available this off season that the Red Sox should consider.
Stanton is arguably the most prolific power hitter of this generation. Having just turned 28 this month and coming off of an NL MVP season that saw him hit .281 / 59 / 132 with a 1.007 OPS and a 7.6 WAR, players of his caliber rarely become available via trade. However, complicating matters, is the 10 years / $295 million left on his heavily backloaded contract. Further complicating matters is the fact that he can opt out of his current deal after the 2020 season.
His current team, the Miami Marlins, are under new ownership and new president of baseball operations, Derek Jeter, has stated that top two priorities this off season are restocking the farm system with premium talent and getting the opening day payroll around $90 million.
While on the surface trading a player like Stanton would take care of both issues, the details and dollars of Stanton’s contract likely are only going to accomplish one of those goals. If the Marlins simply want to unload his massive contract than a package of lesser players and prospects is what they should expect in return.
The last player of Stanton’s ilk to be dealt in the beginning of his prime like this was Miguel Cabrera – also dealt by the Marlins. The package that came back to Miami in that deal was headlined by two consensus top-15 overall prospects, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, and others.
Since the Marlins have the worst farm system in baseball, per Baseball America, they can settle for an average prospect package and cap assistance from Boston.
Martinez is coming off an impressive season in his own right, posting a .303/45/104 slash line with a 1.006 OPS. Since he’s a free agent the Sox don’t have to break up the major league outfield to trade for him, and he could essentially slot in as the full time DH and become the permanent replacement for Ortiz.
Making Martinez even more attractive is that he was traded mid season in 2017, thus exempting draft pick compensation for signing him as a free agent.
He’s not without flaws, however. His agent, Scott Boras, has said that it will take 7 years and $200+ million to obtain the services of JD Martinez.
Martinez is also a bit of an anomaly. He was basically plucked off the scrap heap by the the Tigers in 2014, and enjoyed a career resurgence in Detroit hitting in a lineup with Miguel Cabrera playing at an MVP caliber level.
He has missed some time with injuries in three of the last four seasons, but absolutely mashed when healthy. He put up his impressive 2017 stat line in only 120 games.
I also can’t help but think this entire conversation would be moot if the Red Sox would have just shelled out 4 years and $80 million to Edwin Encarnarcion last off season…
Hosmer is a good offensive player that will hit a ton of doubles and consistently drive in 100 runs. He’s a gold glove caliber first baseman and, like Stanton, will start the season at 28 years old.
He shares an agent with JD Martinez and will be interesting to see how Boras markets each player to the Red Sox. Like Martinez, Hosmer is looking for a $200 million dollar deal.
While he’ll likely get a deal in that range, and plays a position of need, I’m not sure if the Red Sox should be the team to give it to him.
Hosmer is linked to draft pick compensation after turning down a qualifying offer from Kansas City…
Signing Shohei Otani is a gamble.
He’s been labeled the “Japanese Babe Ruth” because of his ability to dominate as both a pitcher and a power hitter. He consistently tops 101 mph on the radar gun and has two additional plus-plus pitches.
He also has legit a 70 power rating on the 20-80 scouting scale and at 23 years old is projected to have 80 power if he commits to the craft of hitting full time. He makes hard, consistent contact and has the sweetest left handed swing since Ken Griffey Jr.
With the DH, it would seem that an AL club would be a preferred destination for Otani. He would also be the most cost effective of all of the options mentioned. His Japanese team will collect a $20 million posting fee, but after that the max signing bonus that he can collect is around $5 million.
He then enters the league at a minimum salary with pro-rated increases based on service time until he hits his arbitration years and ultimately free agency.
If the Sox were to sign Otani it would leave them with the additional funds to sign a second tier first baseman like Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso, or Matt Adams.
From a pure player perspective, Otani comes with the most risk because you’d have to figure out exactly how to deploy him, and then hope that he can realize his enormous potential while having never faced MLB competition.
For the money it seems well worth the risk. If he struggles, you can always switch his focus to either pitching or hitting, rather than both.
The reality is, Red Sox have won the AL East two years in a row. Dave Dombrowski has made major moves in each off season since his arrival, and I expect this off season to be no different.
One thing is for sure, the metaphorical Stove is going to continue to heat up.