The offseason is finally over and the Red Sox take the field, turf, today against the Tampa Bay Rays! Rick Rowand writes about some of the things that have happened over the winter and in Spring Training and questions that remain for the Red Sox.
At long last, the Winter of Our Discontent is over and Opening Day is upon us!
The Red Sox and their new manager Alex Cora have set their roster with staff ace Chris Sale set to take the mound against the Rays today. The roster remains largely the same as the one that finished the 2017 postseason with a loss against the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. J.D. Martinez, the slugging free-agent, eventually signed with the Sox for five years and $110 million at the end of the Tepid Stove Season.
Despite the speculation that Jackie Bradley Jr. would be traded for a bat or arm in the off-season, the Boston version of the Killer B’s remain intact . Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, and JBJ will be manning their usual positions in the infield and outfield.
The other spots on the field will all be taken by familiar faces, despite the absence of Dustin Pedroia while he continues to recover from cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee.
Eduardo Nunez will handle second after opting to re-sign with the Sox in the off-season. Rafael Devers will be at the hot corner once again. First will be handled by some combination of Hanley Ramirez and the re-signed Mitch Moreland. Catching will be Christian Vazquez, who recently signed a three year, $13.3 million contract that will take him through his arbitration years. Sandy Leon and a healthy Blake Swihart. Swihart might also see some time at third and in the outfield.
Even though he’s listed as an outfielder, Martinez will be the primary DH with some time spent in the grass against mainly NL teams. Ramirez will also see time as the DH. The utility role will be in the hands of the man who has played every position on the field but pitcher and catcher: Brock Holt.
Joe Kelly will have to find new yearbook photos for the bullpen. Bruce Poyner and Marcus Walden are the two newcomers to the pitching staff after having successful springs. Joining them in the pen will be fellow right-handers Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Carson Smith. Yes, Virginia, there are no southpaws in the Red Sox pen to start the season.
At this point, the back end of the starting staff is a big question mark for the team and remains a work in progress. Three starters are on the 10-day disabled list to start the season: Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright. Joining Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello will be southpaw Brian Johnson and Mexican League veteran Hector Velazquez. Until two of the three DL-ed pitchers are healthy enough to return to the mound, the Red Sox will have to make do with a patchwork rotation.
In 2017 the Red Sox scored 785 runs, good for 6th in the AL and 10th in MLB. That number should get better with the addition of Martinez and his 166 wRC+ in 2017 and projected wRC+ of anywhere from 134 to 147 in 2018. Without Martinez they finished 1st in the AL East, despite the team averaging only 92 wRC+ because almost every regular underperformed, but the Yankees also improved in the off-season adding that Giancarlo Stanton guy to an already potent offense which helped make them the favorites in the AL East.
In addition to the rotation, other questions for the season include: Will Benintendi improve his hitting against left-handers? Has Devers improved his defense, and what will a full season look like on offense? How much will Moreland and his superior glove play at first, and will Ramirez be able to make it through the season without a significant injury? Will Pedroia contribute at his past levels and can he make it through the season without a significant injury? Which versions of Betts and JBJ will we see? And, of course, how will the players respond to first-time manager Alex Cora?
Let the games begin and we will see.
Featured image courtesy of bleacherreport.com
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