The blueprint presumably has been drawn up. It’s time for the Boston Red Sox to start putting a hammer to nails.
While one could argue the foundation of Boston’s 2016 roster already is built, the reality is the Red Sox are positioned to collapse unless they add support before Opening Day. Too many areas — very important crevices of the roster, mind you — look susceptible as the offseason begins.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they have the materials to build something sturdier. Boston has an extremely talented farm system, which could come in handy for trades, and the financial resources to plug holes via free agency.
So, what exactly do Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and Co. need to accomplish in the coming months? Let’s go over what that aforementioned blueprint should look like.
Land an ace
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
It’s no secret the Red Sox want and need a legitimate No. 1 starter to front their rotation. It would go a long way toward stabilizing the unit, in large because it would allow Boston’s other starters to fit into more natural spots. Clay Buchholz isn’t an ace, for instance, but one could do worse than having him as a No. 2 or a No. 3. And Rick Porcello could bounce back under the right circumstances.
The only question: Who should the Red Sox target?
The Red Sox could take the easy route and open up the checkbook for David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann. Or they could get creative and use their surplus of quality prospects to land their next ace via trade. It’s up to the Red Sox’s front office to identify the correct player — a tall task given the difficulty of pitching in Boston — and do whatever it takes to land him.
Build a bullpen
While the Red Sox at least have internal options when it comes to building a formidable rotation for 2016, they’re dealing with a whole different beast when it comes to bolstering their bullpen. Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa literally are the only two relievers on the roster that Boston can feel confident about at this point, and even those veterans come with questions based on age and workload.
Matt Barnes could provide a boost. Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne also are viable options to fill out the unit, I guess. But where are the impact arms? If we’ve learned anything the last two seasons, it’s that an effective bullpen is becoming a prerequisite to postseason success. See: the Kansas City Royals.
Now, can the Red Sox build a bullpen as dominant as the Royals’ bullpen overnight? Of course not. But Boston does need to add some firepower to its ‘pen. And that mission is complicated by the Red Sox’s lack of internal options and the year-over-year volatility of the relief market.
The Red Sox could bring in a couple of free agents, like Darren O’Day, who Boston is rumored to be interested in. But it also might be time to consider some bigger fish, like Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds or Craig Kimbrel of the San Diego Padres. A facelift is necessary.
Add an outfielder
Perhaps this should read: “Figure out the outfield.”
There’s a chance the Red Sox could trade either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo this offseason to improve in other areas — Bradley would have more value based on his age, potential and contract — and Mookie Betts really is the only lock for a starting outfield gig. But assuming the Red Sox begin the season with Betts, Bradley and Castillo penciled into their starting lineup, Boston still needs to add outfield depth. And Dombrowski made it clear at the offseason’s onset that it’s on his to-do list.
An interesting tidbit surfaced this week at the MLB General Managers Meetings, where the Red Sox were scheduled to meet with free-agent outfielder Chris Young. Young presumably wants a starting role — he played in 140 games last season with the New York Yankees — so the reported interest suggests the Red Sox are keeping an open mind with regard to the outfield.
An open mind is essential for a team coming off back-to-back last-place finishes.
Determine Hanley Ramirez’s fate
Dombrowski met with Ramirez and his agent, Adam Katz, this week at the GM meetings. According to Dombrowski, it was to make sure everyone’s on the same page going into the offseason. Do you buy it?
Perhaps that really was the nature of the discussion. After all, there’s nothing right now to suggest Ramirez won’t be back with the Red Sox in 2016. But it’s impossible to overlook the atrocity that was Ramirez’s 2015 campaign. And there’s no guarantee he’ll succeed in his transition to first base.
The Red Sox need to decide whether Ramirez fits into their plans — his hefty contract makes a trade difficult to execute — and how they’ll tackle first base if they decide to move on or if the soon-to-be-32-year-old can’t adjust.
Travis Shaw’s future is intertwined in this whole situation, too.
Consider contract extensions for Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts
This clearly isn’t a top priority for the Red Sox. Bogaerts isn’t set to become a free agent until after the 2019 season. Betts won’t hit the open market until Boston concludes its 2020 slate.
But there’s always a chance the Red Sox could consider contract extensions well before that point. The 23-year-olds have the potential to be franchise cornerstones for the next 10 to 15 years.
“I think every situation is different. It depends upon the player,” Dombrowski told MassLive.com at this week’s GM meetings. “I don’t really have any specific rule on it, other than that you want to make sure you feel comfortable that when you give it to the player that you feel their abilities merit it, that you’re going to get the performance.
“It’s an exchange of they’re getting a long-term contract and you’re getting some end of it back yourself. Maybe you’re getting some free agency-type years. But I don’t really have any set formula when to do that and I think every player is different.”
Back-burner stuff? Sure. But intriguing, no less.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@985TheSportsHub