Two years ago, the Red Sox were among the worst teams in baseball. They traded away all their awful contracts in August of that year. Then they were the best team in baseball. And now, after all the injuries and disappointments that could have happened this year are now happening (along with the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury), the Red Sox are back to being bad and trading everybody. They're looking to next year again, for the second time in three years.*
Back in 2012, I wrote a post on this blog about what the Red Sox should do in the coming offseason to stay in contention while still rebuilding. They followed almost all of my rules. I said not to sign any big-time players who are not going to get better -- they stayed away from Josh Hamilton. I said to overpay for up to 3 years of older players -- they got Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew for short deals that were quite lucrative. I said to stop getting relievers through trades -- they picked up Koji Uehara in free agency. I said they needed a manager that would mesh with a veteran team -- John Farrell came back. I also said that they should not totally ignore clubhouse culture -- they picked up known good clubhouse guys like Victorino, Gomes and Napoli. The one thing they didn't listen to me about -- trading Will Middlebrooks when his value was at his peak -- would have been an awesome move, seeing as he's struggled and been hurt, and that he didn't even play third in the 2013 playoffs. ALWAYS LISTEN TO ME, RED SOX. They did something similar to this by trading Jose Iglesias for Jake Peavy, but that's beside the point.
So following up on my legendary 2012 post, I'm going to give the Red Sox some rules for retooling this offseason, as the rules I gave in 2012 proved to be unbelievably awesome. The Red Sox definitely read this blog and base all their decisions on it.
1. Don't feel like you have to go after Jon Lester. Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded for the very high-potential Yoenis Cespedes, is going to be 31 next year. If he's successful with the A's, he's going to get a 7-year contract from someone. That does not have to be you, Red Sox. The same goes for Max Scherzer and James Shields. Stay the course with the young pitchers you have, and pick up veterans who you can get for 2-3 years. The luxury of having the Red Sox's payroll, as I noted last year, is not that they can be tied down to gigantic contracts for aging superstars. It's that they can give 1 year, $13 million. As we saw with the Red Sox in 2012, and sort of with the Yankees now, even the teams with the highest payrolls can be held back by bad long-term contracts.
2. Bolster short-term starting pitching as promising prospects develop. The Red Sox have a bunch of somewhat promising starting pitchers, including Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. While it's foolish to think that all of these guys will work out and be solid starters, it's a good sign that they're all young and now Major League-ready (or at least probably will be next year). If a guy like Ranaudo needs more time next year, be sure you pick up a veteran starter or two to stopgap. You already have Buchholz (who hopefully will stop being unbelievably awful) and Joe Kelly, so make sure those 4 guys have enough time to be ready shouldn't be too hard. They'll be there when injuries happen.
3. Leverage Yoenis Cespedes for something even better. Yoenis Cespedes is a very good player who had an awesome rookie year, but is pretty overrated. He could improve drastically with the Red Sox, but he's already 28 and is basically a guy with power and an arm. Shop him around to teams who are looking to sell, and get a really big impact player. There were rumors of the Marlins being interested in parting with Giancarlo Stanton (LOL Marlins) or the Rockies dealing Troy Tulowitzki. Cespedes is the type of big-name, high-talent player to actually make a deal like that happen. Package him with some other lesser pieces and make it happen.
4. Keep Xander Bogaerts at short. He's literally 21 years old. He's struggled this year when he's played third, and he's a good defensive shortstop. This should be your guy. Stop trying to figure out shortstop and putting Bogaerts at third, and just put him at short and figure out third. Middlebrooks may or may not be a fine, healthy player, but either way, people who can play third base and be decent hitters are a dime a dozen compared to shortstops who can be okay hitters. The post-Nomar shortstop carousel has gone on long enough. A lot of those guys have worked out, and a lot haven't. You have a very young guy who has a ton of promise. Give him time at his real position, and see how he matures. This is why you develop prospects: so they can, y'know, play.
5. Don't be tempted to trade for relievers again. We've been through this before, but the Red Sox traded away Andrew Miller -- who has been awesome for them this year -- and Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow are free agents this offseason. They could be missing basically their three best relievers in 2015. Pick up guys in free agency (or keep the ones you have), overpay a little if you have to, but don't blow it and trade a decent position player for a GD reliever. No more Mark Melancons.
6. Find a balance between Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Grady Sizemore. This year, those two were the Red Sox's plans A and B. While either of them could be either Plan A or Plan B for centerfield, it's bad if they're each a plan on their own. If you want to keep Jackie Bradley around and give him another shot to see if he can hit (he is only 24), go for it. But pick up a Colby Rasmus, or a Delmon Young, or even a Michael Cuddyer to play the outfield if he just simply doesn't work out. Don't have Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts be Plans A and B.
With those rules in mind, this is what the Red Sox should do this offseason:
- Once again, keep Ortiz. Give him another 2-year deal if that's what he wants. Ride that pony until it dies.
- I know Oakland will probably want to keep Brett Anderson at his $12 million club option, but if they don't, that'd be a nice guy to pick up for a reasonably long (5ish years) contract. He's had injury problems, but he's very talented and only 27.
- Top priorities in the free agent starting pitcher market should be Hisashi Iwamura (if the Mariners don't exercise their option), Jorge De La Rosa, Roberto Hernandez, and Gavin Floyd. Those aren't names that will necessarily put asses in the seats, but they're good innings-eaters who won't need contracts longer than 2 years. See what guys like Lester, Scherzer and Cueto want, but if it's more than 4 years, sayonara.
- Keep Middlebrooks around for now since his trade value is basically zilch and he's still a young guy with power, but be prepared to go with Brock Holt. He's actually, y'know, been good this year, and deserves a spot in the lineup. If you want to go with Middlebrooks, be prepared to pull the trigger and make Holt your everyday third baseman REAL quick.
- Try your best to keep Uehara and Breslow, and add any of the millions of capable relievers who will be free agents this offseason. Dip into free agency for 1-2 years of a decent veteran reliever rather than trade anybody. I'm rooting for Luke Gregerson to come to the Red Sox because his name is funny and he's been excellent this year.
- Be ready to have a platooned, 5-person rotation in the outfield by picking up a capable outfielder in free agency to complement Cespedes and Nava/Bradley/Betts/Victorino/Allen Craig (whoever's around and healthy), so that one injury doesn't mean you're relying on people who aren't ready or can't hack it.
That's it! Here's to a 2015 Red Sox title run based on these recommendations.
*By the way, everyone sort of treats the Red Sox being bad as just a part of life. I got news for you: the Red Sox had not had a losing record since 1997 before 2012. It's weird for the Red Sox to bottom out ever, let alone 2 out of 3 years. I'm not upset, since they did happen to win the World Series between those two "bottoming outs," but I just wanted to note how weird it is for the Sox to be in this position. Fine.