Dubious future ahead for Boston
During this COVID-19 outbreak that will delay the MLB season, I decided to take a look at the Boston Red Sox.
Through nineteen games of Spring Training, the Boston Red Sox currently sit in the bottom half of the standings with a 9-10 record. I know what you are thinking, “Andy, Spring Training records don’t matter, it’s about getting a look at each organization’s players for the future.” To that, I respond by saying- you are absolutely right.
The problem with the Boston Red Sox is that there is not a plethora of talented prospects on the way to rebuild. Don’t get me wrong, there are some solid guys at the top such as first basemen Triston Casas, third baseman Bobby Dalbec, and outfielder Jarren Duran. During my preseason top 150 dynasty baseball prospect rankings (that you can find on my twitter @DynastyLewis_), I had Casas ranked #52, and Dalbec ranked #132. But overall, Boston was ranked the 28th best farm system by Bleacher Report heading into the 2020 season.
Another glaring issue for the Boston Red Sox has been everything leading up to Spring Training. This off-season saw the departures of valuable pieces in the Boston organization— from Mookie Betts, to David Price, Rick Porcello, and Brock Holt. Chris Sale missed the final six weeks of the 2019 season with elbow inflammation and it looks like this issue will extend into the 2020 regular season.
As an aside, let’s take a look at the fantasy values of the erstwhile sox mentioned above.
From a fantasy standpoint, Mookie Betts should endure minimal change in his value. Small factors such as his new ballpark in LA lowering his batting average and having to adjust to facing a ton of new pitchers could play into the equation. But overall, there should not be much to worry about and fantasy owners should still chalk Betts up as a Top 10 fantasy pick in both redraft and dynasty leagues. Although David Price is no longer an ace in the MLB, Price had pitched to an ERA in the low three’s before his wrist injury last season. Now in the National League and in a pitcher-friendly environment, Price may have some quality mid-round value if he can churn out 150+ innings.
Rick Porcello and Brock Holt do not hold much value outside of deep leagues. Porcello, now a member of the New York Mets, may have some appeal as an innings-eater at the backend of a fantasy rotation in a 14+ team league. Holt will attempt to scavenge playing time in Milwaukee in his usual, super-utility role. Last year alone he played first base, second base, third base, left field and right field for Boston. Definitely a guy with more real-life value than for fantasy purposes.
But let’s get back to the team these guys used to be on. As of now, this is approximately what the starting lineup will look like on Opening Day:
Andrew Benintendi, OF
Rafael Devers, 3B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
J.D. Martinez, DH
Michael Chavis, 2B
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Kevin Pillar, OF
Christian Vazquez, C
Jackie Bradley, OF
Good, but not great. I am hard-pressed to find a scenario where the Boston Red Sox will not be missing Mookie Betts’ MVP caliber production right from the start of the season. Nonetheless, this starting nine still looks the part of a potential playoff team.
The real problem lies in the pitching staff. Your guess is as good as mine, but here is what I believe the rotation will look like:
Barring any major trades, this just is not going to get the job done competing in the AL East. When trying to figure out how Boston went from having one of the best farm systems in all of baseball just a few seasons ago to where they are at now, it is important for us to discuss Dave Dombrowski, former baseball president of operations for the Red Sox. Dombrowski had been hired in August of 2015 to replace Ben Cherington. He was not shy about targeting superstars at all means necessary to make a more competitive MLB roster. There is nothing wrong with going for a championship when it is evident that an organization has a chance at winning the World Series (insert 2018 Boston Red Sox). It just better explains why in 2020 Boston is in a dilemma of “what do we do next?”
Dombrowski’s tenure in Boston saw plenty of success including three AL East titles in a row (2016, 2017, 2018). And oh yeah, the World Series title in 2018. After a disappointing campaign for Boston in 2019, the organization decided to part ways with Dombrowski. Thirty-six-year-old Chaim Bloom was brought in from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace him. Bloom had been serving directly under the Vice President of baseball operations and general manager, Erik Neander.
Bloom’s resume includes being a vital part of player development and experience with a low payroll in Tampa Bay. Working with a low payroll will be extremely beneficial to Boston when working towards bringing out the best in homegrown talent for the future of the organization and not solely relying on free agency.
According to statista.com, the Tampa Bay Rays had the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball. Compared to the Red Sox, who were fortunate to have the third most wealth in all of Major League Baseball. Tampa Bay was able to win ninety-six games last season working with under a seventy-million dollar payroll. This was just ⅓ of the total payroll that the eighty-four win Red Sox had to work with. New baseball president of operations, Chaim Bloom, knows as well as anyone how to maximize what little is given.
Despite this, even Bloom must know that it may be in the better interest of the organization to begin a rebuild. An observer does not have to squint too hard to understand that the AL East is the Yankees division to lose this year, that the ninety-six win Tampa Bay Rays from 2019 reloaded this off-season, and that the young core in Toronto will eventually force the Blue Jays to become competitive in the AL East again. Hell, with new upper management in Baltimore I would not count them out from being competitive in a couple years as well.
This just seems like the right time for Boston to at least start listening to offers on players such as J.D. Martinez, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley, Mitch Moreland, Chris Sale, and any reliever on the roster of any value. If not, we could be looking at an organization uncommitted to a clear-cut plan, that could leave Boston stuck in the middle of the pack for years to come. Just ask a team like the Los Angeles Angels if a decade of mediocrity has been an enjoyable experience.