Red Sox 2016 Wrap-Up
By Peter Santo
The Boston Red Sox gathered one last time at Fenway Park today for exit interviews following a disappointing and shocking three game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.
It was mostly typical end of season press conferences with Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell giving the same answers we’ve heard all season.
What did we learn this time around? Well, for one, John Farrell and all coaches will return to the team in 2017. This is going to be a highly scrutinized move, one that many will question going into next season.
I understand the criticism, if a Farrell-led team with the best offense in baseball couldn’t win a playoff game against a team missing two of its three best starting pitchers, how can you expect more in 2017.
I don’t necessarily agree with this move, especially after the Sox mailed it in the last week of the regular season to give David Ortiz a retirement ceremony and cost themselves home field advantage.
However we can’t ignore the previous 162 games because the Sox played three bad games. Farrell got this team to win 93 games and win a division that sent three of its five teams to the postseason. If someone said in April the Sox were going to win 93 games and win the division, you would’ve taken it for sure.
Dave Dombrowski said today that he considers the manger’s motivational abilities to be far more important than his in-game strategy, which is a good thing for Farrell after what we saw this season.
Dombrowski also said today that he thought David Price had a “strong season.” While I thought Price didn’t fall off a cliff like some have said, he had a strong season for someone making about a third of his 30 million dollar salary. However I’m not ready to write off Price just yet.
I know he gave up about a million home runs and didn’t come up big when we needed him most in the postseason, but let’s not write him off as another Carl Crawford quite yet.
Look at other former and current Red Sox pitchers who struggled to handle Boston in year one but rebounded to have more success and become leaders in the rotation.
John Lackey struggled initially after the Sox gave him a big contract, but he bounced back to become one of the leaders of the 2013 World Series team, and there was no questioning that guy’s guts.
And even more recently, Rick Porcello struggled mightily last season before rebounding and winning 22 games in 2016. Don’t let one tough postseason outing take away from what was an excellent season for Porcello.
As far as needs go for Boston, there doesn’t appear to be too many holes on an offense that was the best in baseball and had three MVPs in 2016. There is the obvious need of replacing David Ortiz, which is pretty much impossible, but Hanley Ramirez should do as well a job as anyone as he looks to build off a career-resurrecting 2016.
Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and the other young guns should only get better in 2017, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the American League.
The obvious need for Boston is pitching, particularly in the back end of the bullpen. The starting rotation is solid, with Rick Porcello and Steven Wright (before getting injured) putting together Cy Young caliber seasons, and Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and even Clay Buchholz putting together solid seasons behind them.
However the bullpen, which was supposed to feature a lockdown 9th inning with Craig Kimbrel, struggled mightily. Kimbrel wasn’t the flame-throwing shutdown closer we all expected, and Koji Uehara may retire as he is getting up there in age.
That leaves two huge question marks at the back end of the bullpen. The Indians proved that a shutdown bullpen can be the key to postseason success.
Possible internal options include Joe Kelly, the hard throwing right-hander proved he could be a successful bullpen arm after making the move from the starting rotation, as well as Drew Pomeranz, who was effective out of the pen in the postseason.
As far as free agent options go, Aroldis Chapman, who the Red Sox tried to trade for last offseason before landing Kimbrel, will be the most sought after, and look for the Red Sox to be in on him again.
Behind him are solid closers Kenley Jansen and old friend Mark Melancon, who since leaving Boston has been one of the best bullpen arms in baseball. The Red Sox also could entertain the idea of bringing back Brad Ziegler, who was solid after being dealt from Arizona at the trade deadline.
If you’re wondering who could be this year’s David Price, the top free-agent to be pitcher is likely Dodgers lefty Rich Hill, who will likely be grossly overpaid. On the bright side, you won’t see Dombrowski throw another 200 million at a potential ace.
Red Sox Nation. Please look at more than just these three games against the Indians. You have the best offense in baseball, a solid pitching staff, and a core of young talent that will be around for years to come. This team has been through a lot of turmoil since the collapse of 2011, and they’ve done remarkably well for themselves.
Expect a solid Red Sox club to contend once again in 2017.