The Red Sox: What To Do in the Offseason? Part One – Hitters
The Red Sox have now lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. With a payroll of approximately $225 million (3rd in the Major Leagues) there are clearly some problems, either with players, management, or perhaps both. It is easy to look back at the Sandoval contract (2017-2020) for $58 million or the Castillo contract (2014- 2020) for $72.5 million and ask what Red Sox management was doing. But that will not help.
So far, the Red Sox have fired the manager. Nothing positive yet. In what follows, data is provided on the key hitters along with my ideas on what should be done. Pitching will be covered in my next posting. Unless indicated otherwise, the data comes from Baseball Reference.
When it comes to hitting, the Red Sox are in the middle of the pack. But as the following table indicates, they are lacking power hits with home runs, extra base hits and slugging percentage near the bottom.
Consider next their individual hitters.
The table below provides data on Pedroia’s performance. In this and the tables that follow, I indicate “hopeful” indicators in green and worrisome indicators in red.
Right after the Red Sox were beaten by Houston, Pedroia came in for a lot of criticism from Red Sox fans for supporting Price against Eckersley, etc. There is also a justifiable concern about whether a knee injury can be “managed” for the rest of his career. Pedroia was never a real slugger but clearly admittedly mediocre power numbers have declined. On the other hand, his batting and on base percentages remain very good when compared to other team members. He remains an excellent fielder.
My recommendation: Pedroia has an expensive contract lasting until 2021. Let’s get him patched up and start supporting him and what he has done for the Club.
Table 2 provides data on Bogaerts’ performance. A couple of years back, many saw Bogaerts as one of the future greats. There was a bit of a fall-off in 2016 but this last year has raised serious questions. His batting average continued on a downward trajectory and his slugging percentage was also way off. Also, his fielding is going in the wrong direction. Bogaerts is not cheap. But he has demonstrated real talent. The Red Sox give him another year but in addition, get someone to work with him in the off-season in hopes of turning his game around.
Devers has been a pleasant surprise. He needs to work on his fielding. One hopes the Red Sox will provide him with good tutelage and keep him happy.
d. Catchers (Leon and Vasquez)
Vazquez had a good year. His batting improved dramatically. On the fielding side, he has a strong arm but others parts of his fielding game need work.
Leon has had one great batting year. One wonders what the future holds. He is more expensive than Vazquez. What the Red Sox do with him is of little significance.
When Ramirez was younger, he was an excellent ballplayer. In 2018, he will get another $22.75 million. His average and slugging percentage fell in 2017. It is not just that he appears to be somewhat disinterested, his talents are declining. I hope that management can find a constructive role for him for one more year.
Until he was injured, Nunez was a solid player for the Red Sox. And he is versatile. He will be a free agent but management should certainly explore hiring him again.
Moreland regularly hits 20 plus home runs and is a pretty good fielder. For that, he can earn $5 million+ annually. He will not play a significant role in future of the team.
Benintendi did not have as good a year as he did when he played for part of the prior year. But he remains an excellent prospect for the future. And he will be cheap. He made what appeared to be foolish errors last year that hopefully will not continue.
Betts had a great 2016 year. And while he remains extremely popular in Boston, his game fell off significantly in 2017. One hopes he is not in an irreversible decline (like maybe Bogaerts is). But he is cheap and certainly deserves a couple more years to turn things around.
Bradley might be the best outfielder in the Major Leagues. However, his hitting has always been a problem and it is not getting better. He has demonstrated he can hit well, but only on short streaks. His coaches know better than I whether he has the potential for hitting consistently. He is getting expensive.
The Red Sox to look for a new center fielder and shortstop. And they need power hitters. I will cover pitching and an overall assessment in my next posting.