The Boston Red Sox are World Series champions! What’s next?
108 regular season wins. 3 total postseason losses. A World Series win. The 2018 Boston Red Sox were thoroughly dominant, even as they faced the critics and skeptics from the first day of Spring Training to the final innings of the ALCS. “Can’t match the Yankees power. Didn’t make significant trade-deadline moves. Don’t have the pitching to get by Houston. The bullpen is a mess. Too many flaws.”
It’s possible the continual bullpen material was a motivator, but ultimately, the Boston Red Sox are the last team standing, and with ultimate goal accomplished, defending the championship is the next logical step. Most of the team is under contract, or controlled through arbitration going into 2019, but there are some holes to be filled and some areas that can be improved.
Let’s take a too early look at the off-season priorities for the Red Sox.
Steve Pearce / 1B:
The freshly crowned World Series MVP is the first of three mid-season trade acquisitions that make their way onto this list. Acquired for his bat and his defensive versatility, he slotted quite nicely into a platoon at first with Mitch Moreland.
Peace was enshrined in Red Sox lore when he hit three home runs against the Yankees in a crucial series in early August. He continued to hit, and found himself as a regular presence in the middle of the lineup during the postseason. He also shined defensively at first, stretching to catch countless throws from Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers on the game’s biggest stage.
All in all, he’s seen his stock rise, and with a good number of 1B / DH types available in free agency, his contributions during the playoffs and World Series may have moved him to the top of the list. After witnessing Mitch Moreland struggle mightily in the second half, the signing of Pearce looks to be an important move. If he’s priced himself out of the Red Sox budget, there may some bargains out there in players like Matt Adams or Mark Reynolds, but the Sox should take a hard look at bringing him back.
Ian Kinsler/ 2B:
Kinsler’s veteran presence and defense brought some stability to second base position for the stretch run. The continued injury woe’s to Dustin Pedroia thrust super-utility player, Eduardo Nunez, into an everyday role at the position, despite poor defensive metrics.
When Rafael Devers went to the DL in the second half, Nunez was thrust into the starting third base role, where he fared slightly better defensively, and the Red Sox other super-sub, Brock Holt, took over and preformed brilliantly at the keystone corner. The last minute trade-deadline acquisition of Kinsler shored up the position, allowing Holt to assume his utility role. With Dustin Pedroia expected to be ready to start the season, and Nunez and Holt on the roster, the re-signing of Kinsler looks to be low priority for the club.
Nathan Eovaldi / SP:
Is there anyone in all of baseball that raised their stock as much as Eovaldi did with his postseason performance? After missing all of 2017 after undergoing two major surgeries to his throwing arm, Eovaldi seemed like more of a project than a pitcher that could be counted on to take a regular turn in the rotation, but that has drastically changed.
Nate has always had premium velocity, but pitching to contact rather than using his pure stuff to blow away hitters during his 7 big league seasons had produced middling results. His fastball, cutter and splitter were on display for the world to see this October. The durability issues seem to be nothing more than a whisper, as he pitched on short rest as a starter and on back-to-back days as a shut down reliever out of the bullpen.
The Sox have one of the better rotations in baseball with Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, but health concerns have have led to some inconsistency in recent years. Slotting Eovaldi into the #3 starter role would give them arguably the best rotation in the game. The question becomes affordability. Mid-level teams on the fringe of contention: Philadelphia, Minnesota, St Louis and others may be willing throw the type of money at the righty that prices the Red Sox out of the market. However, there’s little reason to believe that Dave Dombrowski won’t go down without a fight.
Drew Pomeranz / SP:
Despite being added to the World Series roster, and a 2017 season that saw Pomeranz go 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA, his struggles in 2018 were so glaring that he’s all but thrown his final pitch in a Red Sox uniform. A small market team like Oakland, or even Miami, may be willing to take a shot on him. There’s minor upside potential for these clubs, but it would make little sense for a team such as Boston to hand out any sizable amount of money to Drew.
Craig Kimbrel / RP:
This perhaps the most interesting discussion, as Kimbrel isn’t far off from being one of the more dominant closers in all of baseball. The last few off season’s have seen closer’s sign record deals. Coming into 2018, it would be easy to project Kimbrel getting a contract in the Aroldis Chapman (5 year / $86M) or Kenley Jansen (6 year / $90M) stratosphere.
Despite a 2018 season that saw Kimbrel convert 42 saves and have an outstanding 13.9 K/9 rate, his struggles in the postseason were on display for everyone to see. The baseball world was able to see that he’s no longer the automatic closer of the past, whether that be due to tipping pitches, or not. The normally light’s out Kimbrel had Red Sox nation holding it’s collective breath far too often. The front office would surely like to have him back, but a record breaking deal is no longer part of that equation.
Joe Kelly / RP:
Kelly did almost as much to raise his stock in the postseason as Nathan Eovaldi. He was one of the best Red Sox relievers in October and quieted any doubts that existed in a magical run through the World Series. He showed wonderful command of his premium velocity, brilliant use of his off-speed stuff, and an ability to be a shut down reliever in high leverage situations. However, Red Sox fans know the Jekyll & Hyde that is Joe Kelly.
After emerging as the primary set-up man in the season’s early stages, he went through a horrific stretch in late June that carried into the season’s final weeks. There were some questions as to whether or not he’d even be on the postseason roster. Credit manager, Alex Cora, for having confidence in Kelly.
Joe would be the natural fallback plan if the Sox were to move on from Kimbrel, but with Kelly facing his own free-agency the Sox find themselves in a difficult position. The front office will certainly make sure to address the late innings relief situation, but with Kelly’s postseason performance, the likelihood of being able to afford both him and Kimbrel seems to be a long shot.
David Price / SP**:
Price can opt of his remaining deal with the Red Sox and become an unrestricted free agent. The question remains whether, or not, he’d leave the immense amount of money that’s still on the table in Boston.
Frontline starting pitching is still the most sought after and most lucrative deals in free agency, age and performance are probably working against Price. For the Red Sox, his 2.25 second half ERA, followed by his postseason heroics, could not have come at a better time. If Price does choose to opt out, the Sox will have gotten all they could hope for from the player that signed the richest contract in team history.
Price played a major role in the Red Sox World Series title and will likely slot in as a mid-rotation starter for the remainder of his career. He’s likely not going anywhere, so no matter what happens over the next four seasons, Red Sox Nation will always have the memories of 2018 postseason David Price.
Verdict: No Opt Out