Last season, the Boston Red Sox were coming off a season in which they finished last, and were huge buyers in the off-season. The story is drastically different this winter, as the Red Sox went 93-69 in 2016, finishing first in the American League East. Their postseason run ended early, as they were swept by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, but the Red Sox are still in a very good position to compete again next season.
The biggest loss for the Sox is, of course, the retirement of designated hitter David Ortiz. Ortiz was the biggest run producer for Boston in 2016, and his bat, and perhaps, more importantly, his leadership, will be sorely missed next season. However, with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox have the young core needed to be successful for years to come.
Positions of Need
Left-handed Bat: The loss of Papi was a big one, but the free agent market could provide the boost needed to fill the hole he left. While Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would undoubtedly perform well at Fenway, their right-handedness could keep the Red Sox front office away from spending the money on them. Boston’s offense is already stacked with solid right-handed hitters, so if they do end up signing a bat, expect it to be one from the left side of the plate.
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Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel will be returning as the closer, but outside of him is a big question mark. Boston is losing Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler to free agency, leaving Kimbrel without much help in the bullpen. Their solid starting rotation makes the bullpen less of a need than most teams, but they would absolutely benefit from solid setup man in front of Kimbrel.
Left-handed Bat: With Carlos Beltran signing with the Houston Astros, the Red Sox will have to look a little harder for a replacement for Ortiz. One guy that comes to mind is Brandon Moss, who can DH for the Sox, as well as play first if needed. Moss went deep 28 times in 2016, and while he won’t perform at the level Ortiz did, he would definitely be a valuable addition to the team. A similar player that would also fit is Pedro Alvarez, who hit 22 long balls in 109 games with the Orioles last season.
Bullpen: They haven’t ruled out bringing back Ziegler or Uehara, and one of them may be the best option at this point. I’d say signing a top closer is out of the question, especially with Kimbrel, but bringing back Ziegler would provide them with a solid one-two punch at the back of the bullpen. Ziegler saved 22 games in 2016, with a 2.25 ERA in 68 innings.
Potential Trade Pieces
The Red Sox are in a pretty good spot. They’re young, balanced, and only in need of minor improvements. I don’t see them making a big trade but if they were to move someone, it would be a starting pitcher, namely Eduardo Rodriguez or Clay Buchholz. Neither are game changers but could be useful to a team desperate for starting pitching.
One Bold Prediction
The Red Sox will stay relatively quiet this winter. They may add a minor bat to help give the offense some variety, but don’t expect them to make a huge splash. Even with losing Ortiz they are still in a great spot to compete for a division title in 2017.