It’s time to face reality: Life without David Ortiz has begun for the Boston Red Sox.
Ortiz’s career officially ended when the Cleveland Indians swept the Red Sox out of the American League Division Series. That leaves Boston with the unenviable task of replacing a guy who just posted one of the greatest final seasons of all time and was a rock in the clubhouse.
The good news for the Sox, though, is that they won’t lose much beyond Ortiz. A young core led by the likes of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to jell, and a rotation that pitched very well down the stretch remains pretty much intact.
But there still will be some notable changes for Boston this offseason. First, let’s break down the status of each player’s contract entering 2017.
Free agents: 3B Aaron Hill, RP Koji Uehara, RP Brad Ziegler, RP Junichi Tazawa
Under contract: 1B Hanley Ramirez, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Chris Young, SP Rick Porcello, SP David Price, RP Craig Kimbrel
2017 team options: SP Clay Buchholz, C Ryan Hanigan
*Arbitration eligible: 3B Brock Holt, 3B Josh Rutledge, SS Xander Bogearts, C Sandy Leon, C Bryan Holaday, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., SP Drew Pomeranz, RP Joe Kelly, RP Robbie Ross Jr., RP Fernando Abad
**Pre-arbitration: 1B Travis Shaw, 3B Yoan Moncada, OF Mookie Betts, OF Andrew Benintendi, C Christian Vazquez, C/OF Blake Swihart, SP Steven Wright, SP Eduardo Rodriguez, RP Matt Barnes, RP Heath Hembree
*Under team control; must be offered contract by Dec. 2
**Under team control; guaranteed major league minimum salary
Here’s a look at who likely will and will not be back at each position in 2017. The logic, of course, is based on several factors, but we’re just speculating with an eye toward an interesting offseason.
Likely staying: Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart
Likely going: Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday
Leon’s poor second half could make catcher an interesting position to watch in spring training, as young guns Vazquez (26) and Swihart (24) both should challenge for a starting job. That makes Hanigan and Holaday all but disposable.
Likely staying: Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw, Brock Holt, Yoan Moncada, Marco Hernandez
Likely going: Josh Rutledge, Aaron Hill
The same characters should return in 2017; the only real debate is who will start. Sandoval should win back his third base job, but Moncada, Shaw and Holt all will be nipping at his heels. That logjam means Boston shouldn’t re-sign Hill in free agency or tender a contract to Rutledge. Shaw also could switch to first base if the Red Sox want Ramirez to serve as the designated hitter with Ortiz gone.
Likely staying: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Chris Young
Likely going: None
Boston’s outfield also should look the same. Bradley and Betts have center field and right field locked down, respectively, while Benintendi has the fast track on the starting left field gig, with Young serving as a valuable platoon option. Swihart also could join the outfield if Boston gets outside catching help. Bryce Brentz is another depth option in the minor leagues.
Likely staying: Ramirez, Sandoval, Shaw, Young
Already gone: David Ortiz
This is the Red Sox’s biggest offensive question mark entering 2017. Ramirez seems like the most likely internal candidate to fill Ortiz’s massive shoes, but a DH rotation involving Sandoval, Shaw and Young also is an option. Externally, soon-to-be-free agent Edwin Encarnacion would be Boston’s dream candidate, but he’ll come at a steep price.
Likely staying: Rick Porcello, David Price, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz, Clay Buchholz
Likely going: None
As much as Red Sox fans clamored for Buchholz’s departure earlier in the season, his strong second half and ability to pitch as a starter and reliever means Boston likely will pick up his team option for 2017. He might begin the year outside of the rotation, though, especially if Wright makes a healthy comeback. This is another area where the Red Sox could look to improve in free agency.
Likely staying: Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Brad Ziegler, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Robbie Ross Jr., Robby Scott, Noe Ramirez
Likely going: Koji Uehara, Fernando Abad, Junichi Tazawa
Uehara turns 42 next April, and his 3.45 ERA this season suggests it could be the end of the line for him. Abad wasn’t really effective since joining the Red Sox at the trade deadline, and Tazawa got lost in the shuffle amid a disappointing season. Ziegler is a free agent and also isn’t guaranteed to return, but he posted a 1.52 ERA against the American League East this season and should have a spot on this team next season.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images