The Boston Red Sox are going to get better this offseason. It’s unfortunate, but there’s no way around it. It’s going to happen.
Part of the reason for that is just the natural progression of the game: The New York Yankees are back earlier than expected and trying to stake their claim to the AL East for the next five-to-seven years. They probably can’t swing another dynasty — that’d require not just Aaron Judge to hit his 99 percentile outcome, but Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield and Luis Severino (yeah, he’s great, but what if he got better?), along with signing Bryce Harper and, I don’t know, pick a great young pitcher.
It’s hard to do a dynasty these days, and the playoff format changes haven’t helped. But New York is going to once again be the real thorn in Boston’s side, and the way team president Dave Dombrowski has shown he’s dealt with thorns in the past is to trade for or buy some players who can help him right now. These, then, are the three players Boston should make a run at this offseason.
You know I typed “Drew” there the first time I wrote that name? Just a little Red Sox humor for the fans at home. Martinez is the best fit on the market for Boston, who need a middle-of-the-order hitter in the corner outfield position so they can move Mookie Betts back to center and either trade Jackie Bradley Jr. or relegate him to fourth outfielder duties.
Given how good the last two years have been for JBJ’s stock and Dombrowski’s proclivity for wheeling and dealing, I’d say a trade is the more likely of the two.
The main problem with the Red Sox lineup, at least the way that 2017 tells the story, is that they can’t hit for power. There were significant regressions from 2016 across basically the entire offense, and not just because David Ortiz retired.
Mookie Betts, for example, was probably never going to be a perennial MVP candidate and instead most years just be a pretty great player; JBJ probably was never going to be a perennial four-win player at the plate; Xander Bogaerts …well, some of the trend lines on Bogaerts are genuinely concerning, but it’s not time to panic yet.
Since leaving the Astros for Detroit, J.D. Martinez has become one of the game’s premier power hitters. He rarely got his due on the national level — his move to the Tigers coincided with them no longer being a playoff team — but his trade midway through 2017 to the Diamondbacks set off even more long ball theatrics, with an utterly nuts 29 home runs through 62 games. Martinez isn’t that good, but he’s good enough to give this team some added oomph in the middle of the order.
To the people who claim “you can’t just sign Mitch Moreland-level first basemen forever,” I respond: what if you can? Morrison had a “breakout” season in his age 29 year that was fueled by an honestly unsustainable number of dingers and was one of the main beneficiaries of the alleged juiced ball this year.
But there’s always the chance that some underlying change in his approach is For Real and there’s no qualifying offer attached to him. Thanks to the relative breakout out of Rafael Devers, the Red Sox don’t have to worry about pursuing a Todd Frazier-type for third base, so it makes sense to apply those savings here. He also fits the city and the team’s aesthetic, which is to say he’s a brash loudmouth that local reporters will be loath to turn on for any number of reasons.
Didn’t I just say that the third base position is locked up by Devers? I did, but Nuñez deserves a target for — explicitly and intentionally — a super-utility role on a championship-caliber team.
He’s not there to start; he’s there to play the field once a week, then step in when aging second baseman Dustin Pedroia gets hurt, or when Bogaerts goes into a death spiral for three-to-four weeks, or if Devers has a real bad sophomore slump. You can DH him the rest of the time and come away with a fairly competent major league bat in that spot, because Morrison and Martinez will be playing the field.
Or you can play Hanley Ramirez in that spot, but frankly the better option might just be to try to deal Ramirez back to the Marlins, eat half the contract and maybe throw in a minor prospect or two to see if they’ll bite. The Padres might work here, too; who even knows what that team’s trying to do these days?
There are no pitchers on this list because as far as pitching goes, the Red Sox are kind of set, especially when Tyler Thornburg is healthy again. They can certainly make some marginal moves for fifth starter and middle relief, but those aren’t what Boston needs to focus on to gain ground on the Yankees. They need to supplement the lineup, and a big bat and two complementary pieces are precisely what free agency is for.
- Column | Tony La Russa will add value to Boston
- Heyman | Boston expected to target Eric Hosmer this winter