The 2016 World Series is here, with game one between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs tonight. That means the MLB offseason has not started yet, but it is very close. One team that is preparing for 2017 season is the Boston Red Sox, who lost to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Divisional Series after winning the AL East with a 93-69 record.
The Boston front office is in a state of flux at the moment, as former General Manager Mike Hazen was recently hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks as their Executive VP and GM. That leaves the Red Sox without a General Manager at the moment, but the team does have President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski has been the face of the team’s front office since August 18th, 2015. He essentially runs the show, with all final decisions running through him.
So what does Dombrowski have moving forward. First things first, the team will be losing a cornerstone, as David Ortiz is going to be retired come 2017, meaning the team will have a hole to fill at DH. It is possible Pablo Sandoval could end up taking the slot, especially if Yoan Moncada cements himself as a capable everyday third baseman. Catcher is still a bit of a question, with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez possibly in line to split duties. Blake Swihart should be back for Spring Training from ankle surgery, but was being tested out in the outfield before his injury. Mookie Betts is the only one who is locked into an outfield spot, with the other two slots open for competition.
As for the pitching staff, the back-end of the rotation could use a bit of an upgrade. Moves to upgrade the starting staff will certainly be in the mix this winter. In the pen, Craig Kimbrel is not going anywhere and is locked into the closers role. The rest of the bullpen will be losing some pieces, so moves to bring in some relievers are likely.
Below we take a look at the teams impending free agents, possible trade chips, what they need and finally five possible moves the club could make this winter.
Impending free agents: Koji Uehara, Brad Zeigler, Junichi Tazawa, Clay Buchholz ($13.5 million club option), Ryan Hanigan ($3.75 million club option)
Possible Trade Chips: Jackie Bradley Jr, Brock Holt, Pablo Sandoval, Blake Swihart
Potential Needs: Catcher, Designated hitter, Third baseman, Outfielder, Starting Pitcher(s), Relief Pitcher(s)
1. Sign Jose Bautista
The team is in need of a big bat to fill the shoes of Big Papi. No one is going to have any faith Pablo Sandoval is going to be the answer. So the team is likely to check out the free agent and trade markets to get themselves a big bat. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are certainly two names who would fit that bill. Both men could easily step right in to the DH slot, or play the field. Given the team could use the help in the outfield more than first thanks to the presence of Hanley Ramirez, I would see Bautista as the better fit.
Bautista may be a power bat, but he does come with his fair share of questions. He will be entering his age 36 season, so any team who signs him should not be going too long on the years. He is also coming off a down season, as he only hit .234 and slugged .452. He hit 22 homers, which was his lowest total since 2009. That is partially due to the fact that he only played in 116 games thanks to injuries to his quad, toe and knee.
So the Red Sox need to ask themselves, is the former Blue Jay going to bounce back following an injury plagued season? He did hit 40 home runs in 2015, so we know he has the power even if he is aging. It is all a matter of staying healthy for Joey Bats, and if he gets to be a full time DH with the occasional start in right field, that could potentially do the trick.
2. Sign Carlos Beltran
Another aging option who could provide some power fromthe DH slot. Beltran essentially serves the exact same purpose as Bautista, as he is a guy they would sign to hit homers while DHing and possibly playing a few games in right field. Technically the team could sign both men, with Bautista playing right field everyday, but that is not a likely scenario.
Beltran is a few years older, as he enters his age 40 season. He is looking at either a one or two year deal with a contender in the American League. He will look to go out on top, and the Red Sox did win the AL East in 2016. In 2016 Beltran hit 29 home runs while batting .295 and driving in 93 runs. He would immediately step into the slot left by David Ortiz, even if his solid numbers are not quite as high as Papi’s in 2016.
The team has been linked to Beltran in the past, and were one of the finalists when he signed with the New York Yankees a few seasons back. Given the teams need for a power bat, it would simply make sense he is once again on their radar. He proved this past season he has some more left in the tank, and he could very well finish off his career wearing the Boston B on his hat.
3. Trade for Josh Harrison
Josh Harrison could be a potential buy low option for clubs this offseason. The versitile utility man is coming off an injury plagued season that saw his miss 31 games, resulting in stats that were a little under what fans had come to expect (not by too much tho). Come 2017 he should be fully healed from his groin injury and ready to go.
The 29 year old has two more seasons left on his contract, plus another two club options. So he could be under team control for up to four more seasons, making him an appealing trade chip given he is still in his prime years. The Pirates could be looking to shake things up and cut some salary this winter, meaning Harrison could very possibly be made available. The Pirates will likely ask for a nice return for Harrison, it will take someone like Dombrowski to be able to finagle a deal to acquire him if he really wants him.
Harrison could play third base and the outfield for the Sox, while also serving as the backup to both Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. He would essentially would replace Brock Holt, who could be sent to Pittsburgh in this deal, or another deal the team makes during the winter. Sure Holt is a cheaper option by roughly six million, but Harrison makes up for that difference in the difference in production. The Sox could potentiall dangle some of their younger pitchers like Eduardo Rodriguez in a deal for Harrison.
4. Trade for Sonny Gray
Will this finally be the winter Sonny Gray goes to Boston? The team has been linked to Gray for several seasons now, and he is coming off a down season. Gray was clearly pitching hurt all season, as he ended up with a 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. He was placed on the DL with a forearm injury on August 7th, only to return for one inning at the very end of the season.
While his late season return gave him a bright spot to end the season and heading into 2017, it is obvious his value is not going to be as high as its been in the past. Now is the time for clubs to take a shot on the soon to be 27 year old. The Red Sox need another solid arm in their rotation, and a healthy Gray could easily become the ace of the staff in Boston.
Billy Beane is not going to let Gray be had for cheap however, even if the return is not going to be what it could have been last offseason. Beane is no dummy, and he would still require a nice package in return, and it just so happens Boston could make that happen. Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr, Blake Swihart, Brock Holt, Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens are just a few names who have already played in the Majors who could be involved in a deal.
5. Trade for Miguel Montero
The Red Sox catching situation is a bit of a mystery right now. The first decision comes in the form of whether or not the club will pick up Ryan Hanigan’s option. My guess is they decline. Then they have both Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez, neither of whom will scare opposing teams with the bat. As things stand right now, those two are likely in line to compete for the starting role in the Spring. Then there is Blake Swihart, who is rehabbing from ankle surgery, and may be poised to be an outfielder.
With no clear cut favorite behind the dish, the team may look to the trade market. The Chicago Cubs really do not need Miguel Montero moving forward, and he only has one year left on his deal. It is 14 million dollars the Cubs could use elsewhere, meaning they likely will not ask for much in return. So the Red Sox could easily acquire the former All-Star for a fairly low price. The 33 year old would be an upgrade with the bat over the current options.
The Sox could decline Hanigan’s option, and take on of their current options in this trade. The Cubs could use either Leon or Vazquez as a backup next season with David Ross set to retire. Or if they prefer Swihart, the Red Sox could very well be ready to move on from the former top catching prospect. Maybe the deal could be expanded to include Jason Hammel to help bolster the rotation a bit as well. But when all is said and done, they would only have to pay Montero for one season, and can look to take a look at the position again next winter.
So what do you think the Red Sox should do this winter? What moves do you think they should make?