By Cam Giangrande
Now that the Yankees have Giancarlo Stanton, all I’ve been hearing about is that The Red Sox need to make their move to counteract the seismic shift that’s occurred in the American League East. At the winter meetings, cries of, “What will the Red Sox do now?”, are echoing up and down the corridors.
Here’s the reality; The Red Sox can’t do much. Their 2018 payroll already sits at 200 million dollars…(30 million from Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo). And they do not want to go over the salary cap. It leaves them standing pat.
Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez will each command contracts well over 20 million per year, so neither will seriously be considered by Sox brass. The fact is the Sox have boxed themselves in a corner with some bad contracts, and are now paying the price.
— WEEI (@WEEI) December 14, 2017
Because of those bloated contracts, the Sox have to hold onto their young talent, (Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers), who all have team-friendly deals. They can’t acquire players via free agency because they can’t afford them, and they can’t trade away these players to get players like, hmm, someone like Giancarlo Stanton, for the same reason. So for Red Sox fans, what you see, will be what you get in 2018.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia will be out to start the year, with a knee injury. The Sox will replace him internally with the likes of Brock Holt or Marco Hernandez. First baseman Mitch Moreland is a free agent, and it’s unlikely they can even afford to re-sign him; or any other viable options like Mike Napoli, Logan Morrison or Carlos Santana. … nevermind Hosmer. It will be rookie Sam Travis’ time to shine. Most likely, first base will belong to the 24 year-old, the way third base belongs to 21 year-old Devers.
They have two serviceable and affordable catchers in Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez. And the outfield of Benintendi, JBJ, and Betts is more than adequate. Let’s not forget that this team did win back-to-back division titles with over 90 victories each year. They are not a bad team. They are just helpless at the moment to do anything against this Yankees onslaught.
Ultimately the season will depend on their pitching, not unlike the 29 other teams in the league. In a way, this team was built on pitching. They have David Price and Drew Pomeranz for at least one more year, and Chris Sale and Rick Porcello for at least two. If Porcello can pitch somewhere between his 2016 and 2017 seasons, it will be an improvement. If Sale can be Sale, and if Pomeranz can build off of his 2017 breakout year; as well as Price pitching the way he did down the stretch last year, the team should be competitive.
The only move the Sox can and probably should make this off-season is to trade Craig Kimbrel. He is in the last year of his contract, earning 13 million dollars. Although 13 million won’t get any top tier free agents, it may get the depth they need, either offensively, with another starter, or both. Names like Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia come to mind. Affordable guys who can play either corner infield spot in case Devers or Travis don’t pan out. Pitchers like Andrew Cashner or dare I say John Lackey could be innings eaters at the end of the rotation. For 13 million, either hitter and either pitcher could both be acquired. In this scenario, one of the Sox internal options would be needed to close: Joe Kelly, Tyler Thornburg, Carson Smith, or Matt Barnes would need to emerge. Thornburg and Smith have closed in the past on other teams.
If you are a Red Sox fan and were expecting fireworks this off season, you’re in for a disappointment. Not only will Giancarlo Stanton nor Shohei Ohtani be under your Christmas tree this year, neither will Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas, Yu Darvish, or Jake Arrieta.
Not only will there no counterpunch to the Yankees onslaught, it looks like it’s already time to throw in the towel.