Hello and welcome to Blogging the Red Sox, I am your host Brendan Campbell. I am currently a college sophomore who lives in the Boston area and I have been a Red Sox fan my whole life. I figured I might as well create a blog to express my thoughts on the team more thoroughly than I do on Twitter. Hopefully, this blog will be full of previews, predictions, recaps, and news stories. Thanks for visiting and go Sox.
After a very long offseason, the Red Sox have finally got their guy. There were rumors, there was staring contests, there was a little drama, but at long last, JD Martinez found the team best fit for him with the Red Sox. The two sides reportedly came to terms on a five-year deal worth $110 million dollars this evening. As part of the deal, Martinez will have the option to opt out two seasons in after making $50 million. At 30 years old, it’s a bit strange that took a hitter with the abilities Martinez has to find a new home, but the Red Sox should be thrilled with the results. President of Baseball Ops. Dave Dombrowski had himself a strong offseason, and he capped it off by getting his guy for a reasonable price. Lest we forget, Dombrowski helped put Martinez on the map when both were employed by the Detroit Tigers. The $110 million dollar man was once but a fringe prospect with the Houston Astros to start his professional career, and was straight up released from the team in March of 2014. In that same month, the Tigers signed Martinez to a minor league deal and he made his big league debut for the club on April 21st. Since that day, the Miami native has transformed himself into one of the better hitters in baseball. In 520 games with both the Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Martinez has slashed .300/.362/.574 to go along with 128 home runs and has averaged 3.8 WAR per season.
Despite all the offensive struggles the Red Sox had as a team last season, they still finished tenth in runs scored. Adding Martinez to this lineup should only boost these numbers. Imagining Martinez in the same lineup as Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers has been something I had been doing recently, but now it’s going to be a reality. This was the best move the Red Sox could make to counter the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton. It took two months, but these teams are going to be closer in the standings than people think. Over at FanGraphs.com, they have the Red Sox projected to finish five games better than the Yankees in 2018, and that was before the Martinez signing. Unlike last season, the Red Sox and Yankees will play each other more later in the season, and there will be a three-game series at Fenway to close out the season. Those games are way down the road, but they are clearly going to be vital to the AL East crown.
Since the Red Sox need to make room on the 40-man roster, expect a corresponding roster move to be made in the coming days. As it currently stands, this Martinez contract puts the Red Sox roughly $2 million dollars above the luxury tax threshold of $237 million. If they want to stay under that number, which I’m 99% sure they do, something will have to be done to trim this year’s salary.
FINALLY, something concrete! It’s just not speculation, folks, we have some legit news from the Boras Corp. spokesman himself, Mr. Jon Heyman. Both sides appear to be moving towards a deal, according to Heyman. Nothing has been finalized YET, but it looks like an agreement will be coming into fruition soon. The stare down between Dave Dombrowksi and Scott Boras lasted the entire offseason, and now it seems it is coming to a close. Just the other night, Eric Hosmer, a Boras client, inked an eight-year deal with the San Diego Padres worth approximately $144 million dollars. I pray this potential deal for JD Martinez does not look like that, hopefully we’re talking about a five-year/$100-$125 million dollar contract. I will have more on this if the signing happens tonight.
There it is, he is back. After it was reported on Thursday that the Red Sox had a deal in place with Eduardo Nunez, the team did not make it official until Sunday morning. It appears that Nunez arrived at Fort Myers on Friday to take a physical. That was followed by a workout, one that was pretty grueling, according to Nunez, “They almost killed me. They gave me a lot of stealing bases, running, hitting, ground balls, diving, everything, and I passed it.” A day later, team officials made sure there was no swelling in Nunez’s right knee, and they were satisfied with the results. With Nunez back in a Red Sox uniform, Dustin Pedroia will more than likely be out for an extended period of time to start the season. At 34 years old, there is no reason to rush Pedroia back, especially since that has had negative effects on both the team and Pedroia in the past. Nunez can provide stability at second while Pedroia is absent and provide a spark at other positions in the infield as well. Last season, after he was traded from the San Francisco Giants on July 26, Nunez played 2B, 3B, and SS, and posted the best OPS+ of his career (129) in 38 games with the Red Sox.
As far as the contract details, Nunez will make approximately $4 million dollars this upcoming season to go along with a player option worth up to another $4 million in 2019. I don’t know a ton about the financials of baseball yet, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is a great deal for the Red Sox. Bringing in a super utility guy like Nunez on that inexpensive of a contract is a bargain. He’s familiar with the team and he has already thrived here. Bringing him back also helps Devers, as Nunez seemed to have taken the young third baseman under his wing last summer. As long as Nunez can stay healthy, this is a positive move all around, and it leaves the Red Sox with money to spend and still stay under the luxury tax threshold, looking at you J.D. Let’s make it happen.
The first weekend of spring training is officially underway. With that in mind, I thought I would provide some insight on every position group that makes up the current 40-Man roster. Let’s start with the starting pitchers, shall we?
The starting rotation should be a non-issue for the Red Sox in 2018 if guys can stay healthy. Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, and Eduardo Rodriguez is what I would expect a healthy starting rotation to look like. Then on the outside looking in, Steven Wright, Hector Velazquez, and Brian Johnson provide flexibility. Velazquez and Wright already have big league experience coming out of the bullpen, and Brian Johnson is quoted as saying, “Any way you can help the team out, no matter what it is, as long as you can help. If that’s what the big league team needs me to do, I’ll do it.” Besides Johnson, Jalen Beeks is the best pitching prospect the Red Sox have on the 40-man. He posted a 1.24 WHIP in 17 games started for the PawSox last season. He’ll look to take over for Johnson as the ace in Pawtucket, and maintain his spot on the 40-man roster. Last but not least, there’s Roenis Elias, the other guy in the Carson Smith trade back in 2015. Elias is a bit of a mystery, as he has only appeared in a grand total of four big league games over the last two seasons. At 29 years old, the expectations for Elias have to be decently low as a fringe, AAAA type of pitcher.
Overall, this position group may find the most success out of all the others in 2018. Sale, Price, Porcello, Pomeranz, and Rodriguez has so much potential if things work out the right way. That being Porcello bounces back and Price and Rodriguez stay healthy. This is also the final year of Drew Pomeranz’s deal, so I expect him to be just as good, if not better than he was in 2017. An ERA of 4.06 is what Red Sox starters posted as a group last season, according to Fangraphs. If everyone is able to stay healthy, I fully expect that number to drop in 2018.
In lieu of the solid season Red Sox starters had in 2017, you could say the Red Sox bullpen was even better. As a collective group, Red Sox relievers finished second in the league with a 3.15 ERA, only trailing the Cleveland Indians bullpen, who finished with a 2.89 ERA. Despite the fact the bullpen has gotten thinner during the offseason, I believe they can maintain the level of success they had in 2017 this upcoming season. A full season of Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith will help pave the way for Craig Kimbrel, who is coming off one of the most dominant seasons a closer has had in the American League. Losing Kimbrel via free agency next winter would be a real shame, but I’m still looking forward to what the flamethrower has in store for this season. I’m also interested to see how the dynamics of the bullpen change throughout this upcoming season. John Farrell had his guys he went to in different situations, now it is Alex Cora’s time to determine who will pitch in what situation.
Christian Vazquez was better than expected for the Red Sox last season, and that earned him more playing time over Sandy Leon as the season progressed. With a new manager in Alex Cora, there is no clear-cut choice on an everyday catcher at this point. I would not be surprised if once again, Vazquez and Leon essentially split time behind the plate, at least for the beginning parts of the season. As for Blake Swihart, things have been tough since he injured his left ankle playing left field back in 2016. Now, the once promising prospect finds himself third on the catching depth chart. The best thing he can do right now is get at bats and spend more time behind the plate. Both Leon and Vazquez are better defensive options than Swihart, so that experience is still necessary, especially after the injury-riddled season Swihart had in Pawtucket last year.
Mitch Moreland will surprisingly be back in a Red Sox uniform back in 2018. I was a bit surprised by it and I think Moreland was too. The 32-year old, when healthy, was a solid contributor in the 2017 lineup. There was nothing Moreland did great last season, but he did do a lot of good things. The plethora of doubles he stringed together in April earned him the nickname “Mitchy Two Bags” and he finished the season with the most doubles (34) of his career. A broken toe took away from what could have been an even better season for Moreland, but his performance last year did earn him a new contract, and he seems excited to be back with the Red Sox.
As for Sam Travis, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to make any assumptions. I was actually saw Travis’ first career AB back in May of 2017, but nothing really came of the time he spent in the big leagues. That’s why Moreland is back and that’s why Travis needs all the at bats he can get at Pawtucket.
Staying healthy is something both Holt and Pedroia struggled with last season. Playing a total of 169 games between them, neither put together their best season. Holt’s season was riddled with concussion issues, while Pedroia’s season was riddled with left knee issues. Because of that, it’s presumed that Pedroia will miss the start of the season recovering from offseason surgery. It has been reported that the Red Sox have come to terms with Eduardo Nunez on a one-year deal, but nothing is official yet.
Although he will probably never be the same player he used to be, a healthy Pedroia can still be valuable to this lineup. A healthy Brock Holt on the other hand, well he provides some value as well. Having the ability to play seven positions made Holt one of the best parts of the 2015 season a few years back, and even though his role has been reduced since then, the 29 year-old provides this Red Sox team with depth.
This group looked much different about a year ago. The departure of Pablo Sandoval back in July of 2017 was great news for Red Sox fans, and it opened up a spot for then prized prospect Rafael Devers. The 21 year-old Dominican native made his debut on July 25th in Seattle and hit his first career home run a day later. Finishing with 10 long balls in total, Steamer Projections has Devers finishing with 19 in 2018, so it would not be surprising if the second-year third baseman reaches the 20 HR plateau. The most worrisome part of Devers’ game is his defense, as he finished 2017 with an Ultimate Zone Rating of -3.5, which is well below the average.
In the two seasons he has spent with the Red Sox, Marco Hernandez has only accumulated 116 plate appearances to go along with 31 hits. At 25 years-old, Hernandez may not have a prominent role with the big league club, but he has been recognized as a plus player. Back in November, Dave Dombrowski had this to say about Hernandez: “We do like Marco Hernandez a lot, we think he’s a really good player. And all you have to do is come to the meetings to know that other organizations think he’s a good player too.” At best, Hernandez can fill in around the infield and get more at bats in Pawtucket, At worst, perhaps he can be used as a trade piece around the deadline.
Rounding up what has to be the youngest position group on this list is none other than Tzu-Wei Lin. He really came out of nowhere in 2017 when he got called up in June from Portland. In 25 games, Lin provided a spark while providing solid defense at numerous positions around the infield. Again, I don’t know if there’s a spot in Boston for him right now, but like Hernandez, he provides value as a plus fill-in who can play more than one position.
2017 was an interesting year for Xander Bogaerts. Coming off his first All-Star appearance in 2016, it looked like Bogaerts was going to continue that pace last year. His Batting Average topped off at .339 on May 30th and he proceeded to slash a measly .242/.319/.369 with an OPS of .687 after that. A HBP to the hand July 6th was most likely the root of his offensive struggles, so a healthy Bogaerts should be able to bounce back in 2018.
As for Deven Marrero, well he’s coming off his best year in the big leagues. Before Devers got the call up, Marrero provided the Red Sox with stability at third base, which isn’t even his natural position. The offensive numbers were not there, but you take what you can get with Marrero with the plus defense he provides at multiple infield positions.
Entering his second full year, Andrew Benintendi is coming off a solid rookie year, finishing as the runner-up in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Mashing 20 home runs and swiping 20 bases in your first full year is a great start and something to build on for this upcoming season. Baseball Reference has Benintendi’s numbers going down in 2018, but I politely disagree with those. Is expecting a 30 HR/100 RBI/30 SB/.800 OPS setting the bar too high? Maybe, but watching the 23-year-old mash like that would be quite the surprise.
Since he got drafted by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2010 draft, it did not take Bryce Brentz too long a time to work his way up through the farm system. However, since he arrived in Pawtucket in 2012, he’s essentially been stuck. He has made 26 appearances for Boston since 2014, and now he has the chance to make the 25-man roster as the fourth outfielder. Fans were disappointed that he did not get called up last September, now an opportunity has opened up for Brentz to provide power off the Red Sox bench. He hit a career-best 31 home runs in Pawtucket last season and now he has the chance to prove himself at 29 years of age.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
If it weren’t for Byron Buxton, I would not be afraid to say JBJ is the best defensive center fielder in baseball. His highlight reel with a glove in his hand is impressive, but with a bat, not so much. Bradley’s slash line took a big dip in 2017, and that includes his OPS dropping more than 100 points from 2016 to 2017. If he can ever figure out how to hit consistently, then the rest of the league is in trouble. Until that happens though, Red Sox fans just have to deal with the fact there will be times when Bradley is red-hot at the plate and times where he disappears.
The best position player on this list, Betts is the only right fielder on here. That’s saying something because no less than four years ago, Betts was regarded as one of the best second baseman in the Red Sox farm system. Because of Dustin Pedroia though, Betts made the position switch and has not looked back. He is without a doubt the cornerstone of one of the best outfield’s in the American League. I fully expect the 25 year-old to bounce back from a mediocre 2016 and pick up another Gold Glove and finish top 5 in MVP voting.
The three full seasons Hanley has spent with the Red Sox have varied from very good to bad. He got off to a great start in 2015, mashing 10 of his 19 home runs in April alone. The rest of 2015 for Hanley was injury-riddled and it was clear the left field experiment was a failure. He opened up 2016 as the everyday first baseman for the first time in his career and he was great. 30 home runs, .505 SLG, and an OPS of .866. Not only that, Ramirez provided above average defense at first base and that was a pleasant surprise. With David Ortiz retiring, it was clear Hanley wanted to take over as the Designated Hitter in 2017. He got what he wanted and put together a very disappointing season. Giancarlo Stanton almost had as many home runs (59), as Hanley had RBIs in 2017 (62). The power numbers were down, the on base numbers were down, and quite frankly, Ramirez did not look interested at times. He did have stretches where he looked like the Hanley Ramirez of 2016, but his season fell short of what many were expecting from him. As of right now, it’s not clear if Hanley will even maintain his role as everyday DH. The potential addition of JD Martinez would most likely mean less at bat’s for Hanley. It will be interesting to see how he does this spring if his role does become minimized.
On the same day the Chicago Cubs are making deals for aces, here I am writing about a hypothetical. The past few days have provided us with varying reports that the Red Sox have looked in on free agent first baseman Logan Morrison. Morrison, 30, has spent the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, and is coming off the best season of his career in which he mashed 38 home runs and drove in 85 runs. With the way things have been this winter, Morrison has gauged little to no interest until just recently, and is arguably the best first baseman available behind Eric Hosmer.
The funny thing is, what Hosmer decides to do will most likely determine what Morrison does. If Hosmer leaves the Kansas City Royals for the San Diego Padres, then Morrison will more than likely land there. The Kansas City native grew up a Royals fan, so it makes sense that he would want to play there. If Hosmer somehow resigns with the Royals, things could get interesting. The only other team that has shown some interest in Morrison just so happens to be the Boston Red Sox, a team in need of a power bat.
Adding Morrison to this current roster puts the Red Sox in an interesting predicament. JD Martinez would have to be out of the equation for this to happen, and then you’re looking at three guys who can play first as well as DH, Morrison, Mitch Moreland, and Hanley Ramirez. That’s a lot of platooning right there. From what I have read this offseason, it appears that Ramirez is going to see a drop in at bats this season for contractual reasons. I can’t imagine he is on board with taking a reduced role, but I haven’t heard him voice any concern he might have. Morrison will probably never hit more than 38 home runs again in a single season, so is it really worth it if the asking price is too high?
Like many free agents, the market for Morrison remains to be seen. The best comparison I can make right now, in terms of contracts, is Todd Frazier, who just received a 2-year/$17 million dollar deal from the New York Mets. Paying a player with 35+ home run potential seems relatively cheap, especially for the Red Sox, but things are changing in this league. Let’s not forgot, this is just a back up plan. If JD Martinez signs on that dotted line, this is all thrown out the window. Thanks for reading.
Earlier today, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox have had trade discussions over the winter revolving around outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and designated hitter/ first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Nightengale did not go into depth on this, but it’s still something to think about. When I first saw this, I immediately was against it. If these two were the only big league players involved, it’s tough to say who wins this trade. On one hand, the Indians are losing their best power hitter, as Encarnacion lead the club in HRs, RBIs, and OBP in 2017. On the other hand, they are getting one of the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball. The Indians lost Austin Jackson to free agency, so it’s understandable why they would want to upgrade at that position. Is that defense worth parting ways with one of the best home run hitters in the American League? Probably not.
From the perspective of the Red Sox, acquiring Encarnacion while parting ways with Bradley creates holes and log jams. If this were to happen, I would need to see some corresponding moves and those moves would revolve around Hanley Ramirez and JD Martinez. First, I can’t imagine Hanley Ramirez would stick around if Encarnacion were acquired, he’s essentially an upgrade. Take Hanley away and replace him with EE, and you’re looking at him as the primary DH and Mitch Moreland as the primary first baseman. With that in mind, a hole is created in center field. Sure, Benintendi or Betts could be moved over there, but there is no other player on the Red Sox 40-man who could play a corner outfield position everyday. Brock Holt, Bryce Brentz, and Rusney Castillo all have positive qualities, but I would not want any of those guys handling a full-time position with the Red Sox. That’s why, ideally, JD Martinez would be brought in via free agency to take over for Benintendi in left field. Although his defense is lacking, Martinez and Encarnacion would be one hell of a power duo.
This is the ideal situation. A “big three” of Betts, Martinez, and Encarnacion would be awesome, but it could have happened sooner, and at a lesser cost. Remember, there was interest between Edwin Encarnacion and the Red Sox last year, but nothing transpired because of luxury tax complications. Now, we’re talking about giving up one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball for a 35 year-old Encarnacion, who will be making much more than JBJ will over the next two years both are under contract. If it were me, and Martinez was not signed yet, I don’t think I would do it. Give me the bargain in Bradley and let me try to plug power into my lineup through other avenues.
Per Ken Rosenthal, free agent outfielder JD Martinez ‘has become “fed up” with the lack of flexibility on Boston’s part and may prefer playing elsewhere.’ This all came out last night, and it is not a good look on Martinez’s part. Whatever sense of entitlement he’s earned in his playing career, the 30 year-old is using all of it this offseason. Since free agency started, there were rumors that Martinez was looking for a seven-year offer worth around $200 million dollars in total. Last time I checked, the only offer Martinez has available to him right now is a five-year, $125 million dollar offer from the Red Sox.
Right before the World Series ended in November, Martinez left his old agency, RMG Baseball, for super-agent Scott Boras. If you were to look at the top free agents in baseball who have yet to sign with a club, you will notice that a majority of them are indeed Boras clients. The man is known for getting the largest and longest contracts for his clients and he is really putting that to the test this winter.
From the perspective of Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox, I do not take this as bad news. If there are no favorable offers on the table for Martinez now, why would that change as Spring Training begins? I’m not an insider, but I can’t imagine a team who plans on contending in 2018 would sign Martinez to a huge deal in March if they could have done so in January or February. Realistically, the Red Sox have been the most persistent team pursuing Martinez. There have been rumors about the Giants or Blue Jays trying to lure him, but those rumors carry less weight than the Red Sox ones do.
Evaluating the market for Martinez is not even that much of a challenge. There are not many teams out there willing to sign a 30 year-old outfielder with one of the worst gloves in baseball to a deal worth more than $200 million dollars. The fact that there’s still an offer on the table worth more than $120 million dollars is crazy. Why does it matter if there’s an extra two years on it or not? Just take it and show you are worth that deal.
Martinez may be fed up with the Red Sox, but Red Sox fans are beginning to get fed up with him.