Where the Red Sox Stand as Truck Day Looms

Since capturing David Price in early December, the Red Sox have been awfully quiet. Admittedly, handing a 7-year, $217 million contract to a premium ace just weeks after acquiring an All-Star closer is cataclysmic in baseball terms, and Dave Dombrowski can be forgiven for taking some time to regain composure. However, this isn’t a complete roster by any measure, which means the Red Sox still have work to do as attention turns to Truck Day.

Red Sox

Without a doubt, adding Price and Craig Kimbrel made the Red Sox a much better team. In fact, Fangraphs projects Boston to have the best record in the American League this year. Yet, beneath the data, this is a team with several question marks and unsatisfying holes. Once again, the human reality casts doubt over the statistical romance, as fans are left yearning for more.

Quite frankly, when Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello are currently slated to take the ball in Games 2 and 3 of a prospective playoff series, it’s difficult to be overly optimistic about the Sox’ chances. Similarly we have no idea what to expect from Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez, though initial reports indicate they’re working into better physical shape. And as for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo? We saw exciting flashes last season, but whether they can take that next step into becoming regular stars remains to be seen.

Last year, the Red Sox won 78 games and finished in the AL East cellar, fifteen games behind the Blue Jays and eight adrift of a Wildcard berth. The introduction of Price and Kimbrel should help bridge those gaps, but there is no guarantee. The Yankees have also improved, theoretically, by trading for Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro, while the Orioles managed to retain a majority of their club, which looked to be falling apart at one stage. Again, we see that the Red Sox still have plenty of building to do.

So, what is left on the market for potential upgrades? Well, not a lot. The pool of adequate free agent starters has been reduced to Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Mat Latos, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, while the best remaining outfielders are Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson. Of course, a trade is still possible, with the usual names lurking on the rumor mill, but the Red Sox may not be willing to use any more prospects as trade chips following the earlier blockbuster.

Ultimately, the Red Sox are now in their best position since October 2013. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t say much considering how bad the intervening years were. Boston can certainly rely on Price and Kimbrel to produce, and Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia are primed for big seasons, but a string of questions will need to be answered in the affirmative for Boston to truly rebound.

There’s still just over two months until Opening Day, so Dave Dombrowski has time to continue dealing. He inherited a core and has begun to build diligently around it. Perhaps those efforts just need to be accelerated, if the dreams of Red Sox Nation are to be realized soon.

Where Will Dombrowski and the Red Sox Strike Next?

The Red Sox got their ace, and they got a solid closer as well. So, the question is now where will Dombrowski and company go from here? On paper, the team looks like a team that should be in the playoffs next year, assuming they can stay relatively healthy.

Dave Dombrowski has said that acquiring David Price will most likely be the last “major Dombrowski Red Soxmove,” but I disagree with that to an extent, and here is why: The Red Sox are not a World Series team yet. They have an ace in Price, but I believe the Red Sox still need either a number 2 starter or another solid reliever. Right now, the greater need is probably bullpen help because 2 of their key guys, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, have struggled with inconsistencies over the past season and a half or so. And Koji is nearing the end of the line at 40 years old, so I don’t know how much gas he has left in the tank. And no team can win without a good bullpen (see: Kansas City).

True, acquiring Craig Kimbrel was a good start, but I think they still need at least one more 7th or 8th inning guy in front of Kimbrel to really shore up the back end of the pen up and take some of the pressure off Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.

In my opinion, getting another starter behind David Price is less of a need than another bullpen help because if the starters we already have pitch like they can, then the rotation should be set. And getting Price will take the pressure off guys like Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello, as well as help the young guys we have develop, since they can definitely learn a lot from a great pitcher like David Price. If they go out and get a #2 starter, that would be good, but if it came down to it, I’d like to see the Red Sox go after another bullpen arm instead of resting on what they have now, as good as it is at the moment.

 

Red Sox Sign David Price to Historic Deal

According to multiple reports, the Boston Red Sox have finally captured their ace, with David Price signing a 7-year, $217 million contract to become the most expensive pitcher in baseball history.

Red Sox sign David Price

The Boston Globe broke the news on Tuesday night, heralding a fresh era for New England sports. After years of reticence to pay huge salaries to ageing pitchers, ownership has altered its philosophy, allowing Dave Dombrowski to consummate an historic deal. No Red Sox player has ever earned more than Price will, as his pact eclipses the 8-year, $160 million deal with Manny Ramirez in 2000.

This record-breaking deal includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, which could be beneficial for both sides, while the Red Sox smash through the luxury tax threshold with authority. Incidentally, Boston will now pay $140 million more to Price than what they offered Jon Lester in the run up to his free agency. Undoubtedly, that speaks to Dave Dombrowski’s roster-building aggression and his fresh power on Yawkey Way. This is now his team, and it will be managed in his win-now vision henceforth.

In Price, the Red Sox get the defining free agent of this stacked class. Through seven full seasons, the 30-year old has averaged 16 wins, 227 innings pitched and 216 strikeouts, to compliment a 3.09 ERA and 1.132 WHIP. In every way, he is the ace personified, a horse you can rely on for dominance and leadership. He’s another pivotal building block in Dombrowski’s revolution, joining Craig Kimbrel and the homegrown core of Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart.

Accordingly, genuine hope has been rekindled in Red Sox Nation, which can once again smell World Series contention after an inconsistent era. Work is still to be done, and nothing is ever certain in baseball, but with a warrior like David Price spearheading a revamped rotation, Boston’s most obvious weakness can almost be considered a strength, which is a testament to Dombrowski and his swift work.

Red Sox Baseball is Exciting Again

The standings may not show it, but the Red Sox have been a pretty good baseball team in recent months. Boston is 35-33 since the All-Star break; 24-14 since Dave Dombrowski was hired; and 20-11 since Hanley Ramirez last played defensively. Once a basement-languishing mess, the Red Sox have risen accordingly to third place in the East and ninth overall in the American League, with tangible hope resurfacing that this team can finally be competitive again next year.

Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the Red Sox have just been fun to watch recently. After months and years of acrimony and borderline crisis, it’s great to be able to smile when watching games again, as the team looks more alive and enthusiastic. Maybe that’s a testament to interim manager Torey Lovullo, who seems more relaxed and well-liked than John Farrell, or perhaps it’s a reflection of homegrown talent replacing overpaid failures like Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. But whatever its genesis, the energy is back at Fenway Park, which was sold out 94.8% of the time this year despite obvious disappointments, a quite incredible statistic.

When Mookie Betts made his stupendous catch at the right field wall last week, taking a home run away from the Orioles’ Chris Davis, the old ballpark was rocking like times of yore. That ferocious buzz, that hearty Bostonian roar, was back at the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street. The fans were pumped up, no matter the record or the standings. Fenway Park was an exciting place again, which is not only good for Boston and the Red Sox, but also for Major League Baseball and sports in general. Everything is better when the marquee franchises are playing great at packed and passionate stadiums.

Such moments of drama have rekindled optimism around the Red Sox and thawed some of the skepticism that greeted Dombrowski’s hiring. Now, there is genuine excitement about his vision for the future; real belief that The Olde Towne Team is on the cusp of another great era. Everything Dombrowski has done so far has worked, from aligning the electric outfield of Bradley Jr., Betts and Castillo to giving extended playing time to farm graduates like Travis Shaw. His early moves have inspired Red Sox Nation, which is ready for the next phase of his plan to be enacted.

The next stage of that vision will be built by a newly aligned hierarchy that has been stitched together in recent weeks. Dombrowski will be the chief arbiter on all baseball matters, with Mike Hazen serving as General Manager and Frank Wren coming aboard as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations. In layman’s terms, Hazen, a noted sabermetrician, and Wren, a renowned scout, will work as two halves of one organ, from which Dombrowski will seek detailed wisdom to moderate his views and validate his decisions. Elsewhere, Sam Kennedy will oversee the Red Sox’ business operation, while Larry Lucchino will slide into an emeritus role almost as an honorary advisor.

Freshly assembled front offices usually inherit a dire situation. After all, executives are typically fired for under-performance. However, while this is true of the Red Sox in that Boston has reached the postseason only once in the last six years, Dombrowski, Hazen and Wren could barely ask for a greater foundation from which to build. The Red Sox have an excellent farm system and an even better young core at the big league level. Accordingly, the team’s biggest objective this offseason will be supplementing that base with quality imports, rather than totally starting over.

Therefore, Red Sox fans have a lot to be happy about, at the end of another trying season. The sun is once again shining over Fenway Park, and the cheer has returned to Red Sox Nation. We’re experiencing the start of a bright new dawn. Hopefully twilight doesn’t arrive for another generation.

With New Red Sox Veteran Core, Prospects May Excel

red sox veteran

During the public autopsy on the disastrous 2014 Red Sox, plenty of theories were offered as to why the team just totally fell apart. Persistent injuries, under-performing coaches and World Series hangovers were all cited, but one important factor was often overlooked: Boston’s lack of a star veteran core.

Previous Red Sox teams always had a nucleus of superstars on which to rely for Red Sox Veteranleadership. In 2004, it was Schilling and Martinez. In 2007, Ortiz and Ramirez took center stage. In 2013, how about Pedroia and Lester? Traditionally, these Red Sox veteran players provided a cornerstone around which the front office could build; a bedrock in which fans could believe; and a framework to which rookies could adhere. In essence, they were the heartbeat of the Boston Red Sox.

However, once Lester was traded and Pedroia got hurt last year, The Olde Towne Team found itself short of bona fide stars for the first time in living memory. Yes, Big Papi was still around, launching homer after homer, but even the most ardent sentimentalist must admit he is no longer among the elite. Thus, the Sox found themselves in a bind.

The lack of star power not only hurt the team commercially, but also in philosophical and leadership sense. After years of consistently developing homegrown Major League stars, the system spluttered somewhat in 2014, with Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks and Anthony Ranaudo all struggling to adjust to the big leagues. This, I believe, can be largely attributed to the lack of a robust veteran core in Boston for the first time since the 1990s.

Previously, raw rookies could venture to the Majors and blend into the background somewhat, growing acclimated while the established Red Sox veterans—stars—soaked up attention and carried the burden of production. For instance, when Pedroia was promoted, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were there to inform and advise, promote and protect. Similarly, Jacoby Ellsbury felt less pressure due to the presence of Jason Varitek, JD Drew and Kevin Youkilis. In both cases, the young guys weren’t expected to be immediate superstars, because the Sox already had that covered.

However, last year, who could Bogaerts learn from? Who could Bradley Jr. look to for advice and guidance? Aside from an increasingly surly Papi and an increasingly injured Pedroia, there was nobody to teach the neophytes, nobody to deflect the overbearing scrutiny, and nobody to lead a rudderless ship.

Thus, in 2014, the Sox had a galaxy of homegrown stars but, unlike years gone by, there was no sun about which it could orbit. Accordingly, the planet fizzled and died a horrid, 91-loss death.

Therefore, it was pleasing to see the Sox address their dire need for star power this winter, acquiring Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to effectively re-grow the Red Sox veteran core and erect a new frame of reference for the team’s philosophy. Now, with genuine superstars attracting much of the attention and doing a majority of the heavy lifting, perhaps Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart will be afforded a little more breathing room. Liberated from the instant need to provide leadership and create drama, perhaps they’ll finally flourish as prospects, becoming stars in their own time and fashion, just like Ellsbury and Pedroia before them.