Red Sox Add Kimbrel, Send Signal of Intent

When the Red Sox traded for San Diego closer Craig Kimbrel last week, shock waves reverberated around the baseball world. Such a trade can be viewed as a defiant signal of intent, a confirmation of Boston’s rekindled commitment to acquiring elite talent.

Red Sox add kimbrel

In Kimbrel, the Red Sox added a genuine star. The bullpen ace will turn 28 in May, but has already amassed 225 saves in five full Major League seasons. Only thirty-eight pitchers have ever saved more games in baseball history, which is indicative of Kimbrel’s prodigious ability. Given his relative youth, Craig figures to have a legitimate shot at 500 saves, a plateau reached only by Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman thus far.

Of course, the Red Sox didn’t want to give up dazzling prospects such as Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen, but the opportunity to rebuild a woeful bullpen around one of the two best closers in the game was too good to pass up. Dave Dombrowski has often struggled to construct a strong relief corps, but Kimbrel gives him an enviable cornerstone.

Moreover, this trade was highly symbolic. From a philosophical perspective, it indicated that, after years of indifference and indecision, the Red Sox are ready to go all-in and recommit to investing heavily to win now, rather than just stockpiling assets for a tomorrow that may never arrive. Dombrowski is the ultimate win-now architect, and ownership has clearly granted him autonomy to reshape the Red Sox into a powerhouse.

So, what is his next move towards achieving that objective? As every baseball fan on the planet knows, the Red Sox need a bonafide ace, a bulldog to head the rotation. And, as Dombrowski indicated recently, that piece will likely be acquired via free agency. Accordingly, Boston figures to compete heavily in the market for David Price, who seems the perfect antidote to the franchise’s pitching problem. Alternatively, Zack Greinke may be a target, although his advancing age will test ownerships’ resolve, while Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann will also be worthy of consideration.

However, I think the Red Sox need two, not one, additional starters. At present, the perpetually inconsistent Clay Buchholz will start on Opening Day, while Wade Miley or Rick Porcello would likely pitch Game 4 of any potential playoff series. Quite frankly, that simply isn’t viable if the Sox hope to seriously compete for a world championship. Therefore, I expect Dombrowski to finally solve the ace problem before wading into the secondary market for a strong mid-rotation arm like Mike Leake, Doug Fister, Jeff Samardzija, or Mat Latos.

Hypothetically, a rotation of Price, Leake, Miley, Buchholz, and Eduardo Rodriguez would instantly improve the Red Sox beyond measure, and go a long way to redressing the balance between offence and pitching that was so distorted last year. Dombrowski could possibly offset the salary burden by working some kind of trade including Joe Kelly, Porcello, or, ideally, Hanley Ramirez.

At this point, speculation is the lifeblood of baseball fans. A lot can happen between now and Opening Day. However, with one trade, one sacrificing of homegrown talent in order to obtain elite external reinforcements, the Boston Red Sox made a new commitment to their fans, and fired a warning to their rivals. Dave Dombrowski wants to win immediately, and the journey to that end promises to be greatly intriguing.

A Tribute to the Consistency of David Ortiz

Seemingly every year, David Ortiz gets off to a slow start, and Red Sox Nation freaks out. Fans look on mournfully, remembering better days. Media members ask questions about his age, health, and tendency to hit balls into defensive shifts. Executives worry about this team’s post-Papi future.

David Ortiz

In June, we typically find ourselves contemplating whether the end is finally near for our most beloved player, as his average sags and his demeanor sours. Then, out of nowhere, he begins hitting, and hitting, and hitting some more. The balls that were being caught suddenly fall in; the doubles off the wall begin to fly over it; and, before long, September arrives and David Ortiz is once again on pace for 30 home runs and 100 RBI. It’s like clockwork.

This year was no different. Papi hit .236 in April, .214 in May and .237 in June, as the extreme shift finally seemed to have defeated him. Moreover, Ortiz struggled with the lower strike zone many umpires seem to be deploying and, as a result, he was all too often in negative counts that left him at the mercy of pitchers.

However, just when people really began to doubt him, David Ortiz rediscovered his magic touch. In a microcosm of his career, Papi triumphed through adversity, hitting .298 in July, .352 in August and .292 thus far in September. Furthermore, his OBP has risen from .326 in the first half to .403 in the second, while his OPS soared to an unbelievable 1.111 from just .762.

David Ortiz Boston StrongIn essence, David Ortiz has been swinging the bat as good as ever in the last three months. Accordingly, the slugger currently has 31 home runs and 87 RBI with 24 games remaining. In the remaining weeks, he could quite conceivably break through the 100 RBI plateau for the ninth time in his remarkable Red Sox tenure.

Thus, I find it absurd that some fans were less than delighted when Ortiz’ option vested for 2016. Sure, the DH spot would be absolutely ideal for Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval, but why would you willingly tamper with that position when you’re receiving from it perhaps the closest thing to guaranteed production as currently exists in Major League Baseball? David Ortiz has been consistently sensational in thirteen years as the Red Sox DH, averaging 33 home runs, 106 RBI and a .378 OBP per season in Boston. Aside from unfounded conjecture about advancing age, why would you even question his ability at this point?

Papi will be 40 this winter, which undoubtedly brings new challenges, but that is just one number offset by the mine of data that represents his brilliant track record of success. However you dice it, David Ortiz has been a hero for the Red Sox since 2003, and, even after all he’s done for this town, I still think he deserves more respect.

Accordingly, when Papi blasts his 500th career home run, possibly this month, there will be an outpouring of praise and support from around the nation. That’s all good and thoroughly deserved, but I feel our sentiment could be better used in more mundane moments, or moments of struggle. We have a duty to respect and admire David Ortiz’ wider body of work, and his immense fortitude in continuing to deliver against all odds for the Red Sox.

Papi has been a model of consistency. We should aim for similar uniformity in our admiration of a Boston sports legend.