The Boston Red Sox don’t seem to be heading into this offseason thinking they’re going to need massive changes. With most of their key players locked up, it looks like adding a formidable slugger for the DH role and figuring out their relief pitching situation, and especially the bullpen setup man role, are the two priorities.
Most of the focus, at least from the media, is on their look for a David Ortiz replacement. Ortiz retired despite hitting 38 home runs, driving in an AL-best 127 RBIs last season. He also had .620 slugging and 1.021 OPS. MVP numbers, not the stats you expect from someone about to enter retirement. But approaching 41, with three World Series rings on his hand, it was enough. And so the happy hitting Red Sox, losing in the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians, are off to find some home runs.
With age and cost a factor, it seems the Red Sox are most interested in Carlos Beltran. Beltran is also approaching his 40th birthday, but he’ll be less costly than Edwin Encarnacion or Kendrys Morales. He played for both the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers last season, hitting 29 home runs while batting .295. Overall he’s had two very good seasons with 48 home runs and .830 OPS. That’s not Ortiz numbers, but with the other power sources in the lineup, that’s more than enough, and something that won’t be as expensive as other names in free agency.
Of course, Encarnacion is being mentioned. There’s a lot of competition for him, including from his own team until now the Toronto Blue Jays. But he’ll be looking for a four or five year deal, and getting paid over $20 million a season. The Red Sox don’t see themselves locking up someone for the DH position for so much money and for such a long time, which could put Encarnacion out of their radar. Kendrys Morales and Matt Holliday, both seeking shorter deals for less money, could be more reasonable solutions. Morales could still end up going back to the Royals, but he’s hoping for something like a three-year deal. Holliday is almost 37, Morales is 33.
Despite what happened in the playoffs, the Red Sox aren’t looking for changes in the rotation, at least not major ones. However, the bullpen is going to be overhauled, and the first order of business is the 8th inning pitcher. The Red Sox are hoping Carson Smith get back into action at some point, but they don’t think it’ll happen in the first few months of the season. Both Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara could return, but not in the setup role, and it’ll probably one or the other. Fernando Abad is likely to stay, which means we’re probably going to see the Red Sox going after right handed pitchers to fill up their bullpen.
With the catcher position, which looked questionable heading into 2016, a bit more secure than before, the Red Sox really don’t have that many question marks about their roster. One big change, one minor change, and working around that. It was enough for an AL East title in 2016 and their first playoff appearance since 2013. The question that needs to be asked is whether keeping almost everything the same is stability or stagnation.