Red Sox Still Have Solid Core, Should Be Contenders In 2017


BOSTON — The Red Sox’s 2016 season ended with a thud after they were swept by the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series, but they’ll still be a team to look out for in 2017.

Boston exceeded the expectations of many when they ran away with the AL East and finished with a 93-69 record, but it doesn’t look like a one-year fluke. The Red Sox’s offense was legitimately dominant, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t come back and do it again next year.

“I’ve not thought anything beyond (Monday’s) game,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Tribe. “And that’s the approach I take every day, through 162 games and through the postseason. But given where this team finished last year, there’s a lot for them to be proud of.

“We had a chance to talk right at the end of the ballgame. We’re AL East champions, and I know that doesn’t mean much sitting right now, but there’s been sizable progress made on the part of so many individual players for us as a team. This is a big stepping-stone for a lot of players in our clubhouse. This team is in very good shape as we move forward.”

The Red Sox probably will make tweaks to their roster in the offseason, but most of their players will be back next year. Third baseman Aaron Hill and relievers Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa are the only players who’ll be free agents this offseason. And even though they’ll be without David Ortiz, they’ll still have Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, David Price, Rick Porcello and many more.

The franchise improved greatly from 2015, when Boston finished 78-84. The Red Sox had scraps of a rotation then, which they addressed by adding Price. Porcello adjusted to life in Boston in 2016 and turned into an AL Cy Young candidate. The offense started to pick up at the end of the 2015 season when it was too little, too late, but they carried that into 2016 and never stopped mashing.

There are so many takeaways, especially from that offense. Betts matured into a front-runner for this year’s AL MVP. Ramirez thrived at first and became one of Boston’s best power hitters as one of three Red Sox to turn in 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs (Betts and Ortiz were the others). Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have some kinks to work out, but they proved they’re hitters that can cause trouble for other teams. And Andrew Benintendi was one of the calmest rookies you ever saw, batting .295 with 11 doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs in 34 regular-season games.

In other words, things still are looking up.

“Last year, we obviously didn’t win a lot of games,” Bogaerts said. “This year we did. So, looking forward to next year, and with all the good guys we have on our team, hopefully we can come out on top again next year.”

Barring unforeseen circumstances such as injuries, the Red Sox should be able to repeat their success. This was a team that got along very well together, and that chemistry should remain with plenty of guys sticking around.

Plus, Pedroia thinks Ortiz left the club with somewhat of a parting gift.

“We made a ton of steps,” Pedroia said. “We’re in good shape. I think, especially what David did leadership-wise with a ton of guys, he’s leaving us in good shape. We’ll be all right.”

Thumbnail photo via Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports Images

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